On Magical Thinking
My last article on the future of electricity has received quite a few critical comments both from proponents of nuclear as well as solar energy, accusing me with ‘denigrating’ their favored solution. The aim of this is project, the Honest Sorcerer however, was not — and never will be — to focus on a narrow set of magic bullet ‘solutions’, intended to solve a specific issue, while presuming that the rest will be taken care of automatically.
There are a few things, however, which must be understood before we can move on. If you are not on board with the following, no problem, give yourself a break and let them sink in, in their own pace.
- This civilization is just as unsustainable as the hundreds of others it now follows into the dustbin of history. High tech modernity exemplified by, but certainly not limited to, the Western states is way past redemption: there are way too many trends working against it. The end of a civilization is a classic example of a predicament becoming fulfilled: it happens no matter what you do and there are no ways to stop it. People can still do a lot to adapt to the situation as it evolves and ease the passing of an old system though; making its death less painful then it otherwise would be, and saving at least some of the cultural achievements from perishing.
- It follows that there is no such thing as individuals redeeming their own civilization, especially this one. Unlike its predecessors, this civilization has went global. Individuals and their decision making groups (aka corporations or even nations) have become part of a much bigger system: a human superorganism which carries out it’s own mindless agenda, no matter what certain individuals think of themselves, their importance or their powers. This mindless hive of humans will consume all cheap energy and resources available to it until the system, people have unintentionally created and participated in, crumbles under its own weight and complexity. No hidden conspiracies, no alien species, no evil villain needed. Just watch.
- We — Homo sapiens sapiens — are affected by the forces of nature and the rules of ecology (defined by flows of energy and carrying capacity) just like any other living being. We were temporary made believe though, that through the widespread use of technology (all eventually powered by fossil fuels) these rules don’t apply to us and crossed too many limits as a result. A species fate or survival, however, never depends on what it thinks of itself. If circumstances are favorable, it will spread around the globe. If these circumstances change for the worse or it runs out of energy, the species either adopts, or if the speed of change is too fast, it simply goes extinct. That which is unsustainable will simply not be sustained.
- The use of technology is a trap, not a solution. It ‘solves’ problems only temporarily but makes us believe that there are no limits we cannot cross. The many side effects of a given technology — be it farming or automobiles — tend to arise with a delay though and proves to be an even bigger problem with time: requiring even more technology coupled with an even higher amount of energy consumption than before. It is because new technologies either create more pollution than it was originally intended to prevent (the famous horseshit problem of New York was replaced by air pollution, traffic jams, accidents and so on), or causes our numbers and social complexities to swell, condemning us into a spiral of ever higher energy use. At best we keep kicking the can down the road a bit, while having a great time in between two kicks. In the meantime turning back ceases to be an option: we are constantly being forced by our past ‘decisions’ to continue down this path until the gradual depletion of resources and the overwhelming effects of pollution (a hallmark of all technologies) makes the perpetuation of high-tech civilization impossible. It is not possible to pick only the good parts of technology, it comes as a package.
From where I’m coming from it makes no sense to push more technology on the people and more importantly on this planet. It has done enough harm already, the consequences of which are now coming home to roost. Not that we have a choice here: there are much larger forces (both at the geological, ecological and at the societal scale) at play here, which will simply not allow for too much wiggle room. The sooner we come to grips with these terms, the sooner we can start saving what can be saved and leave behind the things which cannot be sustained.
Today, however, there is an ever larger gap between what seems to be realistically achievable to us, and what our leaders and corporate managers envision as a future for our civilization. A gap, which by now has grown into a yawning chasm — especially in Europe. The magical thinking patterns which are so abundant in our late stage civilization thus must be dispelled; no matter how many of us pin their hopes on them.
Hence the name of the blog: The Honest Sorcerer.
As you’ve probably noticed, as a result I’m not writing about how rosy things could be, or what a fantastic future we are ought to be seeing, but rather what is really happening on the ground, and most importantly: why.
I’m pushing no hidden agenda. I don’t want to sell you any products or services. I’m not interested in investment ideas. I don’t want projects to fail or succeed. All I care about is showing the big picture, to sketch out a map on a terrain extending many millennia into the future. By doing so I’m serving a probably very small audience of like-minded people, who probably just want to know and would like to understand what is actually going on behind the cheerful propaganda and this charade of ‘marvelous’ technologies pushed on us by mindless corporations.
What you do with the help of this information, Dear Reader, is completely up to you. You are free to throw it away, or use it to draw your personal map into the future and act on it. You are also free to contemplate it, and embark on a philosophical journey in search for the meaning of life or the role of humanity in this mindbogglingly complex universe. It’s up to you.
With that said I don’t expect the world to follow my advice. People will keep believing what they want to believe. Those who care to listen, might come to a new understanding of the world. Those who don’t, will keep acting the way they did before and use this information in a distorted way to promote their ideas of the world. This is the danger of the work I’m doing.
In the meantime things will continue to play out the only way they can play out, as each of us plays his or her role in this grand theater play. As C. Wright Mills brilliantly observed and I keep emphasizing it on this blog:
“Fate is shaping history when what happens to us was intended by no one and was the summary outcome of innumerable small decisions about other matters by innumerable people.”
Keep this in mind.
Soul #4,536,996,762 has finished his ramblings for now. Stay tuned for the next post in which we discuss fairy tales, noble heroes and evil dragons.