I use the tag redux to signal that the topic of a previous blog post is being revisited, reinforced, and repurposed. The choice of title for this one could easily have gone instead to Your Brain on Postmodernism, Coping with the Post-Truth World, or numerous others. The one chosen, however, is probably the best fit given than compounding crises continue pushing along the path of self-annihilation. Once one crisis grows stale — at least in terms of novelty — another is rotated in to keep us shivering in fear, year after year. The date of civilizational collapse is still unknown, which is really more process anyway, also of an unknown duration. Before reading what I’ve got to offer, perhaps wander over to Clusterfuck Nation and read James Howard Kunstler’s latest take on our current madness.

/rant on

So yeah, various cultures and subcultures are either in the process of going mad or have already achieved that sorry state. Because madness is inherently irrational and unrestrained, specific manifestations are unpredictable. However, the usual trigger for entire societies to lose their tether to reality is relatively clear: existential threat. And boy howdy are those threats multiplying and gaining intensity. Pick which of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse with whom to ride to the grave, I guess. Any one will do; all four are galloping simultaneously, plus a few other demonic riders not identified in that mythological taxonomy. Kunstler’s focus du jour is censorship and misinformation (faux disambiguation: disinformation, malinformation, dishonesty, gaslighting, propaganda, fake news, falsehood, lying, cozenage, confidence games, fraud, conspiracy theories, psyops, personal facts), about which I’ve blogged repeatedly under the tag epistemology. Although major concerns, censorship and misinformation are outgrowths of spreading madness, not the things that will kill anyone directly. Indeed, humans have shown a remarkable capacity to hold in mind crazy belief systems or stuff down discomfiting and disapproved thoughts even without significant threat. Now that significant threats spark the intuition that time is running perilously short, no wonder so many have fled reality into the false safety of ideation. Inability to think and express oneself freely or to detect and divine truth does, however, block what few solutions to problems remain to be discovered.

Among recent developments I find unsettling and dispiriting is news that U.S. officials, in their effort to — what? — defeat the Russians in a war we’re not officially fighting, are just making shit up and issuing statements to their dutiful stenographers in the legacy press to report. As I understand it, there isn’t even any pretense about it. So to fight phantoms, U.S. leaders conjure out of nothingness justifications for involvements, strategies, and actions that are the stuff of pure fantasy. This is a fully, recognizably insane: to fight monsters, we must become monsters. It’s also maniacally stupid. Further, it’s never been clear to me that Russians are categorically baddies. They have dealt with state propaganda and existential threats (e.g., the Bolshevik Revolution, WWII, the Cold War, the Soviet collapse, being hemmed in by NATO countries) far more regularly than most Americans and know better than to believe blindly what they’re told. On a human level, who can’t empathize with their plights? (Don’t answer that question.)

In other denial-of-reality news, demand for housing in Sun Belt cities has driven rent increases ranging between approximately 30% and 60% over the past two years compared to many northern cities well under 10%. Americans are migrating to the Sun Belt despite, for instance, catastrophic drought and wild fires. Lake Powell sits at an historically low level, threatening reductions in water and electrical power. What happens when desert cities in CA, AZ, NV, and NM become uninhabitable? Texas isn’t far behind. This trend has been visible for decades, yet many Americans (and immigrants, too) are positioning themselves directly in harm’s way.

I’ve been a doomsayer for over a decade now, reminding my two or three readers (on and off) that the civilization humans built for ourselves cannot stand much longer. Lots of people know this yet act as though concerns are overstated or irrelevant. It’s madness, no? Or is it one last, great hurrah before things crack up apocalyptically? On balance, what’s a person to do but to keep trudging on? No doubt the Absurdists got something correct.

/rant off

Comments
  1. notabilia says:

    You’re a fine writer, and you make many strong and valid assertions about social reality in the US – but you are, to my mind, following murder chimps and drooling park-bench quislings like Jordan Peterson and James HK. These aren’t just isolated crank-loons – their comment pages are full of idolatry from culture-bound fellow raving idiots.
    The problem is that this cohort is part of the devious near-majority now winning back its last go-round of power and command in this corporate military failed state, and I ain’t got time to listen to them whistle while they work to kill off the last sad accomplishments of humanism. I’m putting my hands over my ears and trying to avoid the spluttering noise of these anti-human keyboard gangsters. Good luck.

    • Brutus says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’ve been puzzling over it for a bit, as we have different approaches to sensemaking in a badly polluted information environment, though not as divergent as it might seem. We both entirely shut out a variety of questionable influencers, but our lists differ. For instance, I have dropped all legacy journalists in favor of independent journalists, but even those I pull in only infrequently. I also filter out the bulk of mainstream political opinion and commentary as basically useless if not straight-up propaganda. The folks I’m willing to award some attention, though not without a healthy dose of skepticism, tend to be clearinghouses of information and opinion, albeit loose opinion. You characterize them as murder chimps, drooling park-bench quislings, crank-loons, and anti-human keyboard gangsters. I quite like the last term. But I don’t always see them that way. Additional commentary by raving idiots in the comments sections is probably an apt characterization. Further, I’m not shy about critiquing my sources as inadequate, wrongheaded, or naïve. Although I prefer “slow” information that comes in books and periodicals, that material is too late to arrive to partake in any public conversation. So the daily grind, or “fast” information, is how most discussion takes place, dismal though it may be.

      Years ago, I gave a speech about how the news makes you dumb. Among the arguments was that the periodicity of the news cycle requires churn, which forestalls thoughtful consideration. Most of us don’t go back to conduct research and analysis or read the work of those who do. So we end with a stream of hot takes. I also can’t overlook the weird entertainment value of, say, hearing Alex Jones spluttering incoherently about interdimensional aliens. Little of it passes the sniff test, but in the same sense that one can’t truly claim to understand a topic without being schooled in counter-opinions, I suppose I want some exposure to the cacophonous nonsense just to be aware of what passes for public opinion.

      • notabilia says:

        This seems like if a good friend in a seemingly stable marriage tell you that he is dating some hookers, and when you ask him why and what’s up, he makes very rational and coherent justifications for dating those hookers, he’s just exploring and knows what’s he’s doing, but you want to go, “Yeah, but you’re dating hookers – you know where this ends up, right?”
        Of course the dude is going to end dating more hookers, that’s his right, so long as it’s not you, we’ll see what comes with the Kunstler/Peterson/Shapiro/Pool/Crispin Miller/Carlson etc. outings.
        What advice could anyone give – watch out for the STD’s? Make sure you keep your wallet on you at all times?

  2. Brutus says:

    I appreciate your concern for my mental health as I risk exposure to mental sickness. As I pointed out, our lists differ. I never pay attention to Shapiro, Pool, or Carlson. Never heard of Crispin. If I were to jettison anyone who ever got something wrong or never revised their opinions, the list of available pundits would drop to zero. I’d have to excommunicate myself, too, and delete the blog.

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