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C-Realm Podcast #111: Stop Digging

C-Realm Podcast

"C" stands for consciousness

111: Stop Digging

KMO welcomes Peak Shrink, Kathy McMahon of PeakOilBlues.com back to the program to talk about practical steps people can take to move in the direction of independence and preparedness. KMO also reads a passage about denial and social inertia from The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilization by Thomas Homer-Dixon.

26 things you can do to RIGHT NOW manage your anxiety

by Kathy McMahon

You can hear my 2007 conversation with Thomas Homer-Dixon here:


And my conversation with Michelle Espinosa here:


At the end of the episode, I mentioned that I had scripted something to read in place of my usual ad lib closing comments. Here's what I wrote:
Being a cheerleader for collapse.

A while back, I posted a poll to C-Realm.org about whether people wanted to see global oil production peak in the near future. Sixty five people participated in the poll, and here are their responses:

First, I would have you notice that the two most popular answers are both flavors of "yes." The most popular answer involved a desire to live in balance with the interdependent natural systems that sustain us. The second most popular answer involved a desire to see the end of global corporate capitalism. Most of the people who said they didn't want to see global oil production peak said it was because they wanted to avoid the human suffering that would accompany Peak Oil. One person said that they wanted to see the end of cheap oil because they hated humans and welcomed the Malthusian Correction, but nobody said they didn't want Peak Oil to arrive because it would cause the destruction of global corporate capitalism.

Now, obviously, people who find themselves at the C-Realm website do not provide representative cross sample of opinions and attitudes about global corporate capitalism. If I'd designed the poll for the general public, I would have added one more answer: "Peak Oil? What's that?"

Even so, I think the poll results tell us something about the inner lives of the supposed beneficiaries of cheap energy and the system of high tech, global corporate capitalism it makes possible. We live longer now than we did before the coming of the industrial age, and most of us, even those with very little financial clout, don't have to do much physical labor. In fact, the opportunity to do physical labor in exchange for wages is now a much rarer thing thing that it was a generation ago. Even those of us who aren't exactly "making it" in this post-industrial landscape live long lives compared to people in pre-industrial history, and we don't have to toil for our bread, and yet we have no love for this system which has brought us to this seemingly blessed state.

I'm getting ready to travel to the Peruvian Amazon. I like to visit the two thirds world because at least in the places that I've visited, it seems that people enjoy a better quality of life there than we do here. There are certainly parasitic forces at work in their lives, and they have adversarial institutions in their lives just like we do, but those institutions don't seem to intrude into their lives and consciousness to nearly the extent that they do for us. People are more physically engaged with their world than we are. They know their neighbors, and they have a lot more free time. And yet almost all of the people there with their copious free time and rich community connections would gladly trade places with me and willingly spend all of their time working in an office, driving to and fro, and spending the bulk of their non-working hours in solitude in their suburban castle watching television. They've never experienced that life, but they're pretty sure it would be an improvement on their current situation.

One (or perhaps both) of two things seems to be at work here:

Either I am fantasizing about the quality of life value of the free time and sense of community that these people enjoy, and/or people in the two thirds world are fantasizing about the quality of life that I enjoy here in the post-industrial first world. I suspect that both processes are at work here.

I should make it clear that I've never been to Africa. My impressions of life in the so-called "third world" were formed by my experiences in South America and Southeast Asia. Also, I've never been to Europe, and I understand that Europeans enjoy more of what I find lacking here in the first world: free time and a sense of community. My impression of the life of people living in societies shaped by global corporate capitalism comes from my experience of having lived in the United States, Japan, and Australia. I freely admit that I haven't seen the worst of life in the two-thirds world or the best that life in the first world has to offer. So yes, I'm probably conjuring up some romantic fantasies here.

On the other hand, my counterpart in the two thirds world may live on a dirt floor, but he likely has access to a television, and that television depicts an image of first world life that we now recognize as a fantasy construction but which he takes to be an accurate depiction of the benefits of hooking in to the global corporate capitalist system. He sees endless commercials for consumer debt, (and really all commercials these days should be seen as enticements to get deeper into debt -- even the ubiquitous commercials encouraging you to engage the services o XYZ & associates' law firm for the purposes of suing somebody -- even these can be seen as commercials for consumer debt because a big influx of cash will allow you to live, for a time, like the people on TV seem to live with their personal physicians, new cars, stylish clothing, immaculate, well-appointed houses and manicured lawns, traveling to exotic locations and eating in fine restaurants. The lawsuit settlement money will likely run out before you adjust your expectations and habits to match your actual financial means.

So, the people in the two thirds world see the endless enticements to debt slavery, and they'd love to buy into it. They want to come here and get a piece of the good life. Part of the story endlessly reiterated on TV is the notion that a foreigner who barely speaks the language can join the system as the lowest level, and that one's personal dynamism, self-discipline, and drive can be translated into a fortune. And really, in some rare instances, that really does happen, but we who live here, in small but growing numbers, are coming around to the idea that this is no way to live, even if the system that makes the occasional Horatio Alger story possible had a long-term future, and we long for some aspects of life in the two thirds world that seem to come without effort, expense, or deliberate intention to many people living in so-called poverty.

Before you get the idea that I'm idealizing Third World poverty, let me make clear that in my experience the people who have the absolute worst of both worlds and the best of neither are the ones living on the margins of Third World cities. I love to visit Iquitos, Peru, but I hate Lima. The first time I visited Lima in 1999 I thought that the city looked as though it had been bombed. Buildings were falling down and people seemed to live in ruble. Children walked into traffic trying to sell pencils or toilet paper or whatever they could lay their hands on to passing motorists, and yet there were sections of Lima that were beautiful, where the streets were clean and replete with carefully tended flower beds, where you could walk by the ocean and purchase frozen yogurt, gourmet ice cream, and designer shoes. That's something we haven't seen here YET. Opulence right next to desperate, crushing, dehumanizing deprivation.

It doesn't really have an ending, and that's a part of why I decided not to read it on the podcast, but mainly, I think, those paragraphs represent a process of trying out a line of thought. I worked through it, and it may inform something that I put my official stamp of tentative approval on later, but for now I don't quite buy it. It seems to miss some rather important element.

And on a (perhaps not obviously) related note:


Also, this podcast interview with Joe Bageant was also fresh in my mind and jockeying for position and representation as I tried to put my thoughts together:



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2008 05:25 am (UTC)
Wow, I didn't even feel anxious until I started thinking about trying to manage it.
Jul. 10th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC)
I guess this show should have come with a warning label.
Jul. 12th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC)
odd..i was talking about living in two different countries/cultures to a friend today...just mere hours before reading your words...i think the key is to be detached from what's around you...people matter..family matters..community matters...comfort and survival matters..and good thoughts matter. everything else is nestled within community and the thoughts that fuel the functioning of the community. poverty and opulence cannot exist side by side without conflict. what i am trying to say..i think..is that the rich cannot truly enjoy being rich as long as the family next door is starving..not because his heart bleeds empathy, but because the poor guy will eventually revolt and try to bludgeon the rich guy. similarly, the poorest, but happiest person can never truly remain poor as long as there is a rich bugger constantly exhibiting his wealth leading to comparisons about lifestyles. the same thing is true for countries.

someone mentioned a uber-sexy filtration system that costs 15k usd dollars and how california restaurants are banning bottled water to save the environment. i was very excited. i think its the right thing to do. and then i thought of my old neighbourhood in india..where some families pay for drinking water that is delivered once in three days because the tap water isnt potable..how they boil it and filter it with cloth. and then the sexy san francisco filtered water in frosted bottles seemed less shiny. it suddenly seemed rather silly. at which point, i had to wonder if the excitement..the comparison..and the subsequent pricking of euphoria..if they were all just illusions. what *really* matters in our world and lives? who knows..i certainly dont anymore. but for now, i shall say a simple thanks to the things that i can afford and enjoy..and i promise to take only what i need...and hope for the best.
Jul. 21st, 2008 04:36 pm (UTC)
have you left for peru already? as you know, i dabble a bit with homeopathy and i recently came across an article on homeopathic ayahuasca. of course, i thought of you and was wondering if the c-realm pages on your previous trips are still visible.

in any case, have a safe trip and come back soon!
Jul. 24th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)
I´m in Peru now. I´ll be home next week.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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