January 24, 2020


Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Peak Oil, Tower of Babel — Tags: , , — Russ @ 11:17 am


I’ve been writing this blog for near eleven years now. Have I made any progress? It seems not. My personal life never got any real benefit from it. More recently I’ve totally shipwrecked and the blog seems to mean nothing. Nor are my modest prayers for personal life being answered.
Has the rest of the world gotten any better? Not on the surface, though we might have some hope that the final collapse is accelerating.
Let’s start over from the point of view: The civilized have credited the inculcation of the ability to make promises, to take responsibilities beyond the self-indulgent whims of the moment, as a great civilizing step.
But in reality it’s a mistake to think responsibility is a trait unique or endemic to civilized people. On the contrary, primate ancestors and early hominids, on through to “savage” tribal groups and societies, all had tight group cohesion and responsibility of each for all and all for each. They embodied this as part of their natural character. If they hadn’t, group primates and hominids never could have survived to evolve into modern humans. Ironically, it’s only amid the breakdown of natural tribal cohesion that the conscious idea of contracts had to become a thing, and “taking responsibility” had to become a conscious shibboleth.
Meanwhile, modern capitalist-productionist-consumerist ideology and its religious reflections, “Prosperity Theology” and the New Age cult, through their explicit denigration of the very concept of promises and responsibilities, through their explicit proclamations that each individual hominid is a Randroid island that should do nothing but indulge its whims of the moment in the most narcissistic sociopathic way, are working to destroy civilization’s capacity for contracts, promises, responsibility. Since there is no longer any underlying natural-tribal basis for these human traits, what this means is these ideologies and religions comprise a movement to render humans feral and savage in the worst sense of the term.
When Hobbes wrote that life in what he called the “state of nature” is “nasty, brutish, and short”, he wrote it as nothing more than myth. Hobbes never thought his state of nature really had existed anywhere. On the contrary, he considered this the state of civilized, tamed man where men are not kept brutally in line.
Hobbes took the modern “civilized” individual, one domesticated into fear and mercenary greed, or indoctrinated into liberal individualist ideology, and pictured this monster in the absence of the overawing state power. He envisioned how nasty and brutish such persons would be under those circumstances. Then he fraudulently called this the state of nature. But in fact such an atomized, distorted hominid has nothing in common with an organic human being living within a natural society. This fraud is at the core of the bogus “competition” ideology which is 100% artificial and requires massive propaganda, bribery, threats, fear and violence in order for it to make any headway against our natural humanity. In nature, organic human beings are cooperative.
Nietzsche composed a similar civilization myth in his Toward A Genealogy of Morals, Essay Two.
According to Nietzsche, humans first came to see themselves as social beings with social responsibilities through evolving a “memory of the will” and the capacity to make a promise. This had to overcome our innate faculty of active forgetting which is necessary for sifting the dross of sensation and thought. It rendered us “calculable, regular, necessary”.
How did man become calculable and necessary in his actions? According to Nietzsche it was only through the long process of what he called the morality of mores:
..the labor performed by man upon himself during the greater part of the existence of the human race, his entire prehistoric labor, finds in this its meaning, its great justification, notwithstanding the severity, tyranny, stupidity, and idiocy involved in it: with the aid of the morality of mores and the social straitjacket, man was actually made calculable.
This morality of mores is the primal world view centered on mystery, ritual, taboo, fierce adherence to the traditions or else the rains won’t come. It’s the time of obsession with an inscrutable supernatural, and the stark cause and effect reasoning which knows that only strict fealty to the rituals can appease the terrible forces of fate. Groups assume this first out of hope and desperation and later, as power grows, out of assertion and the feeling of power.
For thousands of years groups judged according to supernatural and ritualistic causes and effects, and the rituals were designed to render the effects calculable and necessary. In the process the human psyche was melted and hammered and bent and distorted until it took shape.
In a dialectical gyre the rituals tightened tribal cohesion and empowered tribal, ritual promising. These promises bolstered the individual sense of communal responsibility, first instinctual and then conscious, and made members more firm and reliable in their ritual promises.
Arising in prehistory from the primal ecology and later to pull itself upward from the post-industrial chaos of a collapsed mass, the free-as-a-bird individual becoming a reliable maker of promises represents the potential for a new communal coherence. To realize this social coherence, movement integrity is then the presupposition for individual integrity. That’s what Nietzsche wrongly thought happened before, when in reality Gaia was the craftswoman of this primal capacity.
But what if humanity staggers through the self-destruction and collective suicide of the modern economic civilization and then attempts to build new societies upon some remnant? At least in the short run, there seems no prospect that Gaia shall show the way. Rather, people will cling to whatever they recall of the devastation and try to reprise it. Perverse as people are, there seems to be no other way.
All we see today from political and media and intellectual Leaders is the call for slave conformity. The great revolutionary promise of the sovereign individual was supposed to be that freedom would transcend itself, that autonomous individuals, precisely because they so cherished this great gift of sovereignty, would assume the highest social responsibilities, since only this could preserve and augment the aggregate freedom. The public freedom, the highest form of politics, would be the consummation of the human condition.
What went wrong? Concentrated wealth, especially the concentrations afforded by fossil fuels, machine technology and the capitalist mode of organization allowed the slave mentality (enslaved to materialism, greed, power-lust) to hijack autonomy and debase it to sociopathy. Freedom degenerated to promiscuity. Liberty became license and the “right” to be a private vandal. Public, positive freedom was rejected and overridden by the libertine primacy of private indulgence and crapulence. The citizens debased themselves to consumers. The idealists prostituted themselves to materialism. Every promise became a lie. Everyone came to believe religiously in the primacy of worthless material junk over living as human beings.
The decadent economic civilization has lost the ability, the will or right to promise; it has squandered it. There’s no legitimacy left, no authority. God is dead; religion, government, law, business, ideology, nationalism, tribalism, all are dead insofar as they pretend to exist within this anti-human framework. This framework has eroded everything beyond recognition, leaving just hideous cackling caricatures in a haunted house of mirrors now burning down even as everyone still staggers about inside, drunken and cackling and crying and screaming.
If we’re ever to be able to promise again, we need complete renewal, Renaissance, Return. This has to start with a new moral world, complete rebirth.
The economic civilization is hollowed out by its rot as the ground erodes and slides from under its supports. Its dollar and predator drone delusions prop it up for the moment. But everything is decaying. That’s the only exponential curve still steepening. That’s the only debt curve still arcing. Resource depletion, ecological collapse, the destruction of the exponential cancer economy and worldwide war and civil war shall be the secular and physical confirmations of the great spiritual event: The immolation of the modern atomized tribe on the pyre of its own burning altar upon which it stacked far too many sacrificial branches, the apex victim of its own lust for extermination.
What will it mean to start anew as reawakened tribes? We can’t foresee the new forms in detail. These will be extemporaneous, decided by the tempo of the flames and the motions of those running through them.
As we emerge, we’ll emerge with a new ritual, a new credo, a new way of living. We shall sing the song of the next circle of society and promise, debt and delight, responsibility and right, family and freedom, law and liberty.


  1. I have been reading your posts for at least 10 years both here and, briefly, on NC. Sorry for your current troubles. You have taught me alot. As AS said “All work that is worth anything is done in faith.”

    Comment by farmappraiser — January 24, 2020 @ 12:14 pm

    • Thanks much. Is this Ellen? At any rate, the quote sure is true.

      Comment by Russell Bangs — January 24, 2020 @ 2:46 pm

  2. Dear Russell,

    Sorry to hear of your “shipwreck.” In general, I share your rather downcast outlook. Personally, although it is of course regrettable, I think it would be indicative of blissful ignorance or gross delusion if any attentive individual blessed with at least reasonable intelligence, decent eyesight and functional hearing were not at least somewhat depressed at this juncture. What were the words Joyce put into the mouth of Stephen Daedulus in the telemachia portion of “Ulysses”? Oh yes: “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.” Nonetheless, I look forward to spring and, in a few short weeks, I will start broccoli seeds in my back room to be transplanted into the soil in April. There is relief and remedy for me, time to time, in my garden.
    All the best!

    Comment by Joseph Patrick Quinn — January 24, 2020 @ 2:17 pm

    • Thanks Joseph. Actually I like to be reminded of history (and I often think of that quote), since it reassures me that this horror is almost over, even if I personally won’t live to see its end.

      Depending on the weather, March can be brassica time around here in NJ. I haven’t yet tried starting those indoors earlier.

      Comment by Russell Bangs — January 24, 2020 @ 2:49 pm

  3. Hi Russ,

    It was with a feeling of dismay that I read the first two paragraphs of this blog. The tone conveyed to me that you were ready to throw in the towel and with good long overdue reasons.

    As I read on I realized this was not necessarily the case and that your inherent profundity of thought and expression was still the crux of this post and not a declaration of resignation.


    Your writings have become a keystone in my continuing education and understandings. Other blogs which I frequent continue to expose the growing excesses and depravity of the world we live in but few go beyond reporting and attempt to delve into the underlying root causes of why things are as they are and continually grow worse. You explore the philosophical/psychological/ecological/evolutionary conditions that have lead humanity to the brink. Unless this is understood by well-meaning people (whichI believe are at their core the vast majority of humans) there will not evolve a efficacious path forward and transcendent. Your writings, although probably not widely read, are a gem of importance and will be a radiant guide beyond the immediate. I am sure of this and will do my best to expose others to your brilliant expositions.

    For what it may be worth to you, and I hope it is a lot, your writings are vastly important and valuable to me and I would be willing to wager, to many others who continue to check in with you here.

    P.S. after reading Joseph’s post; our bantam chickens are responding to the increasing light (here in VT) and gifting us with their remarkably delicious organic eggs. Life continues to be good in spite of civilizations excesses.

    Comment by Juannie — January 24, 2020 @ 5:28 pm

    • I need to get back to Vermont. Or somewhere in New England.

      Thanks for the good words Juannie.

      Comment by Russell Bangs — January 24, 2020 @ 6:19 pm

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