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Apocalypse as Wish-Fullfilment

I'm hoping to get John Michael Greer on C-Realm in the near future. Here's a paragraph from a recent blog post of his that shows what I think he would bring to the program:

Look for proposals for responding to the crisis of industrial society these days and you’ll find that nearly all of them fall into three groups. First are those who want to organize a political movement to throw the current rascals out of office and put a new set of rascals in. Second are those who talk about building ecovillages in the countryside, to provide a postapocalyptic version of suburban living to today’s smart investors. Third are those who plan on holing up in a cabin in the mountains with guns and canned beans, and waiting until the rubble stops bouncing. I’ve argued elsewhere that none of these is a viable response to the future we’re most likely to face, but there’s another point worth noting: each of them is also something many people in today’s American middle class want to do anyway. Quite a few people nowadays think they ought to have more political power; an equally large number like to daydream about moving to a new exurban development far out in the countryside; and of course, the appeal of firearms collections and fantasies of self-reliance remains strong in an age that has problematized traditional images of masculinity. To a great extent, peak oil has simply become another excuse for the pursuit of activities, real or imagined, that many people find desirable for other reasons.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 12th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
Peak oil, stripping away the social veneer? One mask at a time? Rings true.
Sep. 12th, 2008 03:18 am (UTC)
I moved from a major metropolitan area about two years ago. When we made the decision to move and put a bid on 10 acres with a house, we hadn't even heard of peak oil yet. We just knew that we were fed up with population centers. The crime and violence in our neighborhood are what got us to take actions. After putting in our offer and waiting to sell our house in the city, we had lots of time just to twiddle our thumbs. Going to the bookstore was how be killed some of our time. During one of these trips, I picked up JH Kunster's Long Emergency. My life was never the same. I was absolutely freaking out and could hardly concentrate on doing the things I needed to do to keep this whole move afloat. I was so glad that we had picked a place with plenty of land, away from major populations (1.5 hours drive to get to nearest big city). Should we need to, I think we could make a meager survival living off our land. We really lucked out all told. I recently got information from an old neighbor that our old house sold for half of what we sold it for! It appears that the ones we sold it too were foreclosed. After checking the market in our old neighborhood, I realized we got out at the last possible second. I remember we thought we were taking a HUGE hit when we agreed on the offer for our old house. We were just so fed up that we just decided it was worth it to get it off our plate and to start moving forward again. Looking back on it now, we were fracking lucky!

I do own my own share of guns. Even without peak oil, we're on our own out there at the house. I think the average response time for the local deputy would be in excess of 30 minutes. If anything happens, regardless of societal collapse, we're mentally prepared to handle the situation ourselves and then call the Deputy to tell them about it. There's really no other option.

So I guess I kinda fell into the third scenario listed above by semi-accident.

On another note, I visited the local farmer's market for the very first time today. Got some wonderful pickling cucumbers and some dill. Time to fire up the canner and make some pickles! I've done so much canning this season from our own garden that I have to go buy some more jars! It's nice to practice these skills for fun and not for absolute necessity. Its a great way to build up some confidence in sustainability.

Take Care,

Sep. 12th, 2008 11:29 am (UTC)
You're one of the C-Realm audience members who is succeeding where I have thus far failed. I've made two attempts to get away from major population centers and live on more self-sufficient life-style.

I'd like to read your account on the podcast, if that's alright.
Sep. 12th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow!
Sure, KMO, I'd be happy for you to use that on the podcast. ;)

Toucan Sanctuary
Sep. 12th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow!
It's interesting how you are talking about "getting away from major population centers" here... one of the things I have done recently that I think has made my lifestyle a lot more green is just the opposite- moving from the suburbs to perhaps the most major population center in the world. In Tokyo I never drive a car, but exclusively walk and use public transportation; I can be satisfied with a much smaller personal living space than I had in the 'burbs, etc.
What's most striking to me when I think about it is how much the simple act of moving there has changed my habits in this regard FAR more than any choices I made before I moved, e.g. trying not to drive when I didn't have to using greener appliances in my (much larger than now) living space, etc.

While I applaud those who make the massive effort required to move away from the population centers AND become mostly self-sufficient, for most people, who aren't going to base their entire lives around channeling their effort into being more green, the greenest / least oil-guzzling thing they can do is to move closer into the population center.s
Sep. 12th, 2008 11:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow!
Hey tragemorph,

That is interesting. I should note again that our decision to move away from population centers was made before we learned about Peak Oil. We were tired of the drive-by shootings, murders, blight, etc. The incident that finally pushed things over the edge was my car was burglarized. When I called our local PD to report it, they told me that they didn't send out officer's for that anymore. She just issued me an incident number over the phone and that was that.

So, in a way, we feel lucky that we chose to move away from population centers after we learned of Peak Oil. Had we learned of Peak Oil before the move, I don't see how we really would have changed things, although I would have looked heavily into eco-villages. I'm not sure if I would have been to the right stage of mental/emotional healing to take the ecovillage plunge. I was pretty much done with most forms of society and just wanted to slough off the urban life and leave it in the dust. We specifically chose our property so that we couldn't see or hear our nearest neighbor while in our yard. Also, if anyone shows up on our property they fall into one of three cases:
1. They're invited
2. They're lost or
3. They're up to no good.

It's taken two years of relative solitude to come to a place mentally where I realize that community is necessary and that, in the event of collapse, we'd have a much better chance for survival by being a part of the community rather than as a recluse.

As far as comparing the differences between our two choices (city living vs country living), I think you're right about individual energy use by living in the city. But regardless, in order to get food into the city, you are still dependent on energy even though you are not the one burning the oil yourself. City living may be a very viable option, in the near term, to be closer to higher paying jobs. The trick is to save that money and invest in some sort of "life-raft" such as a piece of land or share in an ecovillage. Once energy becomes scarce, It's going to be very hard to continue living in a major city. God forbid it's a city like Phoenix or Las Vegas. Cheap oil has totally subsidized the mere ability for large numbers to survive there, much less prosper.

To wrap this up, I really applaud your conscious effort to use less energy and to live as easily as possible. I only wish to give you a little nudge to always remember to zoom out and see the big picture regarding how your daily needs are met.

I would like to point out that you are very correct in stating that country living is only laudable if you desire to strive for self sufficiency. If you don't, you'll use far more energy trying to keep an urban "standard of living" while living in a country setting.

Dmitry Orlov talks about structuring your life to be collapse proof in his book, "Reinventing Collapse." Going beyond using less energy in the near term, my efforts are to use the wonderful energy that we do have to modify my style of living to make it as collapse proof as possible before the feces hit the fan.

Nonetheless, this is a stimulating conversation and I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on the matter. ;)

Sep. 12th, 2008 04:48 pm (UTC)
"Apocalypse" (a misuse of that word, actually, but so be it) is a great wish-fulfillment fantasy. What ruins the fantasy is the realization that even they who are the most disgruntled with the present world, are still very much a part of it and dependent upon it.
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
Yes. Thanks to "post-apocalyptic" fiction like the Road Warrior "apocalypse" has joined "begs the question" and "could care less" in near-universal misuse. ("Catastrophe" would probably be the better word choice here.)

And yes, I hope that nobody who rails against "the system" misses the irony* that they are a part of it and utterly dependent on it for their "living." That's not to say that everyone who is dependent on "the system" for their "living" would die should the system crash, but many would, and those who make the transition would probably endure a time of painful uncertainty and likely material hardship as they scrambled to find a new way of "making a living" under new and unfamiliar circumstances.

*Arguably a misuse of the word "irony."
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:38 pm (UTC)
Re: "Apocalypse"
Why isn't that irony?
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Re: "Apocalypse"

Which definition do you think best fits my use of the word "irony?"
Sep. 12th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC)
Re: "Apocalypse"
It's most like tragic irony, I would say.

I like Wikipedia's article on this subject, it's more expansive than the dictionary.
Sep. 12th, 2008 06:13 pm (UTC)
Re: "Apocalypse"
In drama, the device of giving the spectator an item of information that at least one of the characters in the narrative is unaware of (at least consciously), thus of placing the spectator a step ahead of at least one of the characters. Dramatic irony involves three stages: installation, exploitation and resolution.

I'd say you could make a case for it, but it's not a slam dunk. I suppose the "dramatic narrative" needn't be fiction and could involve real people, and we the omniscient bloggers enjoy an awareness that they, the hypothetical but not exactly fictional punters, don't possess regarding their own situation. Bit of a stretch, so I'll hold with my notion that people criticizing a system upon which they depend and which they themselves help perpetuate is only arguably ironic.

I think a case could also be made for cosmic irony, but again, it's not a slam dunk.

Your icon changes too quickly for me to read it all. I'm a slow reader.

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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