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.]


  1. Hi Jason,
    Well spoken. I have also noticed the serious emotional heat that has been prevalent since Brexit and also Trump winning the US election. I sort of put the heat down down to people understanding that there has been a shift and that may impact upon their perquisites. You are correct in that people are basically ga-ga about the realities behind these two events. Respect to for pointing the way forward as few people seem to want to point to the future and say this is what it can look like. So many people have lost themselves in the massive dummy spit that they forgot to ask the important question: What now? It ain't a hard question to ask, but a lot of people seem to want to return to a time that is now past. It is done.

    1. Nicole Foss said we are entering an age of broken promises. I think that the 'promise' offered by what we might call the 'information industry' to tell us what we need to know in order to keep us safe and somewhat informed, is clearly being broken.

      In its place is a plethora of alternative media made by living and breathing people, rather than corporations - and I find this pretty exciting. I mean, who trusts the MSM any more? Maybe a few older people - but certainly not younger ones. I'd personally rather watch something cobbled together on a vidcast by a talented and intelligent amateur in their bedroom, than see some synthetic looking human reading out synthetic news from a script in a multi million dollar studio. Trump kicking out the likes of CNN and The Guardian from the Whitehouse last week was the funniest thing I've heard in ages. What he should do now is invite in a range of bloggers and small independent newspapers to take their place - there could be a weekly lottery, or something, to see who gets invited.

      The corporate media is gasping for breath like a fish out of water at the moment - at this point I actually think they are beaten.

    2. We live in extraordinary times - when anybody with a laptop or an iPhone can challenge the corporate media giants and beat them.

    3. +1 to that. The less I see those unctuous MSM faces and hear their fascile voices, the better I feel.

  2. "In effect, 'progressive' neoliberalism is a death cult." Interesting, thanks for that! And thanks for the recommendation of Puzzling People: The Labyrinth of the Psychopath. I was reading up on this stuff recently and hadn't come across that one which I'll be picking up. The best that I've so far found on the topic is Jane McGregor's short little book The Empathy Trap. She describes in it how there's the sociopath, the empath (whom sociopaths love to target and take advantage of), but also the rarely (or even never) mentioned apath, used by sociopaths and their wily ways to gang up on others. Well worth a read in all that spare time we've got.

    [And I don't know what's going on with Blogger, but when I tried previewing my comment it didn't preview but just deleted.]

    1. Thomas Sheridan refuses to use the term 'sociopath', saying it was invented by pharma as a way of making money from treating (i.e. curing) psychopaths - something he says is impossible as their brains are wired completely differently from normal humans. Incidentally, the same thing is going on right now with paedophilia, with soft focus documentaries and articles being produced (notably by the BBC and Salon) attempting to normalise the behaviour. This is the psychopathic control grid in action.

      My favourite term, however, is Dmitry Orlov's 'robopath' i.e. a person who robotically carries out their job even if the system in which they work is psychopathic in nature. Think bailiffs evicting people onto the streets or municipal code enforcers tearing down someone's lovingly-created house. "Hey, we're just doing our jobs."

  3. Yeah, I've been avoiding social media these days as best I can. The other day I was wondering why I had zombie-movie themes going through my head all day, and it occurred to me that it was because people on the Internet I used to think of as rational and enlightened have become not much better than the cyber-equivalent of a hoard of zombies!

    1. Social media is a battlefield. In the past we would have gone out and killed one another with swords and arrows, these days we do it on Facebook. I've suffered a few psychological wounds in this way, but luckily they have healed and I consider myself a better warrior because of it. Some people literally end up dead from interacting on social media - it is a danger zone.

      TBH I used to think that social media was a bad thing and that nothing much good could come of it. I've changed my mind on this. Now that the media giants are quaking in the boots, losing money hand over fist (you watch - CNN will be dumped by Time Warner pretty soon) and screaming 'fake news' and 'look - evil Russians!' it seems like a new era of information dissemination is dawning upon us.

      Sure, there are hordes of mind zombies (and demons), but there are also many valiant knights with gleaming swords and stout shields. At least, as long as the internet lasts.

  4. I'm finding it all deeply disturbing, particularly now that the 'Join the Resistance' meme is being propagated.

    When are these buggers going to run off to the Maquis with only a beret, leather jacket and bandolier and rifle?

    An old college friend told me that his little daughter, aged 12, spoke in favour of Brexit in the debating class at school -a very posh, Catholic, school in Hampstead.

    She was rounded on not just by the majority of pupils, but also the teachers: when other pupils called her a racist and so on, the teachers joined in.

    All more than a little Cultural Revolutionary, isn't it?

    1. Yeah - it is pretty scary to watch. But also funny, in its own way. Many of these social justice warriors are infected with the same kind of mind virus that the Bolsheviks had. It does not take too much imagination to picture them setting up torture chambers and education camps for anyone they deem to be in need of a little 'correction'.

      I mean watch this and tell me this person isn't possessed ...

      Here's a school anecdote to add to yours: when Trump won, the Head at my daughters' school invited in a priest to give a talk about 'the dangers of fascism'. He asked the assembled school "Who would have voted for Hillary? and about 80% of the kids put their hands up. Then he asked "Who would have voted for Trump?" and one or two boys put their hands up (apparently they were the class clowns who would always do the opposite of everyone else). The rest of the kids abstained from putting their hands up - probably because they had no idea who either of them was and cared even less.

      The priest, who clearly wanted to equate Trump with fascism but couldn't alienate the two boys, then proceeded to ask everyone to "Pray for Trump" - his meaning, I believe, was of the order of "Let us pray that Trump makes the right choices" rather than "Let us worship our new Orange Overlord." Alas, the nuance was lost on some kids, who went home and told their parents that the school was making them pray to Trump.

      Apparently there was a line of angry parents outside the Head's office the next morning.

  5. Hi Jason,

    I just managed to track down a definition of the word "Fate" which I thought that you may be interested in.

    Fate is defined as: In human experience, a future that happens to us regardless of our own actions; as defined by sociologist C Wright Mills, the summary outcome not intended by anyone but resulting from innumerable small decisions about other matters by innumerable people.

    Thought you might enjoy that definition as it is quite profound. It was taken from the book Overshoot by William Catton Jr.


    1. Overshoot is a great book, if a little depressing ;-)

      Fate is an interesting concept isn't it? I think it's recently become even more interesting now that the quantum field has been identified by science, as has the possibility of parallel universes. I think it's entirely possible that there are other Earths 'out there' populated by versions of us, and on those planets we collectively made better decisions.

  6. I wonder how the oxymoron "neoliberal progressive" came into being. You use it frequently, but my understanding of the terms "neoliberal" and "progressive" would put them in nearly opposite political camps.

    It is easy for us doomers to shrug off the drama that many people have found in Brexit and Trumpism. Of course neither will make a dimes worth of difference to the fate of our high-tech civilization. I wonder if any "Leave" voter or Trump supporter has the faintest grasp of the irrelevance of their victories.

    But consider the anguish of those Americans who have suddenly come face to face with the fact that the big day has finally come. What day? As H.L. Mencken put it "On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

    1. I don't think 'neoliberal progressive' is as oxymoronic as it might seem at first glance. After all, liberalism comes from the idea of liberating people, which is presumably progressive in that its ultimate aim is to liberate everyone from tyranny (tyranny being what you decide it to be). And progressive is, well, progressive i.e. going forwards in a positive manner to achieve an aim.

      But as someone once said (was it Nietzsche?) everything in life is paradox. The only thing "neoliberalism" is good at liberating is the forces of death and destruction in the form of predatory corporations and resource wars (which they can't even dress up as idealogical wars any longer). And progressive has come to mean .... what? Progressing towards uniform homogeneity on planet Earth, I suppose.

      But yeah - I like to think that red pill swallowers i.e. doomers, are more realistic than your average person in the street, and realise that Brexit and Trump etc. are just window dressing for worsening energy and resource constraints. It's been interesting to watch people scramble to defend their special interests, quickly sloughing off their proclaimed idealogical positions. For example, I know quite a few British hippie types living in Spain who would describe themselves as 'anarchists'. Now, with Brexit looming, they are scared to death that they will all be deported back to Britain (which is a much harder place to survive in, if you're at the lower end of the economic spectrum, which they are) - and so they are siding with George Soros, David Cameron and the establishment in general.

      Another example, one of my friend's mothers who was/is an unapologetic xenophobe and supports the British National Party. But then Brexit came along - threatening to ruin her retirement in France - and suddenly she is a leftie globalist and wants all the borders to remain open.

      Interesting times we live in ...

    2. Perhaps it is just due to my reading the Economist, but I always thought that the definition of "liberal" included the same preference for laissez-faire capitalism that North American "conservatives" express. Thus neoliberalism is the return of the 19th Century glorification of the "invisible hand" of the marketplace and the "freedom" to rise or fall by making money.

      "Liberalism" should not be confused with American term "liberal", who are very similar to progressives. A neoliberal, like an American conservative, would only have scorn for an American liberal.

      Progressives believe in the active involvement of government to counter the excesses of free market "liberalism" and preserve a more equal playing field for everyone, particularly including the poor and otherwise disadvantaged. One tiny step leftward for a progressive means becoming a socialist.

      I agree that there is plenty of hypocrisy to be found all across the political spectrum, but I do think you are missing a critical bit of information about the anti-Trump "resistance" movement.

      Left leaning Democrats have seen the success of the Tea Party in dominating the Republican party and getting Trump elected. They figure that they have no choice but to use the same kind of scorched-earth tactics that have been so successful for the hard-core conservative wing of the Republican party. Hence the demand for a litmus test of zero cooperation with Trump or any Republican.

      I suspect that the US is headed for a long period of all-or-nothing politics, with zero cooperation between the dominant political parties. I expect that if Democrats ever again control the congress and the presidency, they will attempt to undo everything Trump has done, including his selections for the judiciary, using impeachment if necessary. I can easily imagine such a politically polarized society degenerating into violent civil disorder.

      As an American who has watched this time coming for the last forty years or so, ever since the development of the southern strategy by the Nixon administration, I have no doubt where most of the blame is due, but I still think it a terrible shame that it wasn't avoided somehow.

      We are entering a period of extreme political antagonism just when, to have even a tiny bit of hope in mitigating some very serious predicaments, we need a period of extreme political cooperation in making dramatic changes to the underpinnings of our economy and financial systems.

      All I hope for now is to avoid a massive nuclear war as the climate, political order and the global market economy disintegrate. Although all other hope is lost, I still cling to that one.

  7. I find myself fortunate that I was of age during the Vietnam era and paid close attention as the war was drawing to a close. It was during this time that I would read, not the headlines, but the small articles buried deep from the front pages near ads and the like. One report told how a major oil company was packing up and leaving S. Vietnam because no viable deposit was found. About a year later or so we left. No amount of distraction can cloud the fact that we (the world) are approaching a choke in the pipeline that allows us to live the way we do. Trump? Brexit? Does it matter?

  8. "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"

    I have made this round trip, and still find myself quite able to hate Banksters, Politicians and all flavors of Pigmen.


  9. Part of being an American patriot is we get to blame the other party for all the world's problems. More Americans died in our Cival War than all our other wars combined. I'm hoping having Mr Trump displaying his creaping Alzheimer's give the right wing enough power to hold off a bloody rebellion. The seeds are there. I fully expect the last two years of Trumps four year term to have a divided Congress. Then expect an equal and opposite reaction when we get a progressive in the presidency. With all the debt, peak oil, climate, environmental karma coming due this sucker will go down. It will get ugly! So it is obvious to me that the only solution left is too plant some radishes and some Snow Peas. Enjoy the day.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.