Sunday, January 29, 2012

nazis: the occult conspiracy

black sun rising

vril hanebu

Vril, the Power of the Coming Race is a 1871 science fiction novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, originally printed as The Coming Race. Many early readers believed that its account of a superior subterranean master race and the energy-form called "Vril" was accurate, to the extent that some theosophists accepted the book as truth. A 1960 popular book speculated on a secret Vril Society in pre-Nazi Berlin.

The Coming Race by Baron Edward Bulwer Lytton

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why I Hope the Search for Extraterrestrial Life Finds Nothing - REDUX

Where Are They? Nick Bostrum in the current Technology Review;

What could be more fascinating than discovering life that had evolved entirely independently of life here on Earth? Many people would also find it heartening to learn that we are not entirely alone in this vast, cold cosmos.

But I hope that our Mars probes discover nothing. It would be good news if we find Mars to be sterile. Dead rocks and lifeless sands would lift my spirit.

Conversely, if we discovered traces of some simple, extinct life-form--some bacteria, some algae--it would be bad news. If we found fossils of something more advanced, perhaps something that looked like the remnants of a trilobite or even the skeleton of a small mammal, it would be very bad news. The more complex the life-form we found, the more depressing the news would be. I would find it interesting, certainly--but a bad omen for the future of the human race.

How do I arrive at this conclusion? I begin by reflecting on a well-known fact. UFO spotters, Raëlian cultists, and self-­certified alien abductees notwithstanding, humans have, to date, seen no sign of any extraterrestrial civilization. We have not received any visitors from space, nor have our radio telescopes detected any signals transmitted by any extraterrestrial civilization. The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been going for nearly half a century, employing increasingly powerful telescopes and data-­mining techniques; so far, it has consistently corroborated the null hypothesis. As best we have been able to determine, the night sky is empty and silent. The question "Where are they?" is thus at least as pertinent today as it was when the physicist Enrico Fermi first posed it during a lunch discussion with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory back in 1950.[...]

From these two facts it follows that the evolutionary path to life-forms capable of space colonization leads through a "Great Filter," which can be thought of as a probability barrier. (I borrow this term from Robin Hanson, an economist at George Mason University.) The filter consists of one or more evolutionary transitions or steps that must be traversed at great odds in order for an Earth-like planet to produce a civilization capable of exploring distant solar systems. You start with billions and billions of potential germination points for life, and you end up with a sum total of zero extraterrestrial civilizations that we can observe. The Great Filter must therefore be sufficiently powerful--which is to say, passing the critical points must be sufficiently improbable--that even with many billions of rolls of the dice, one ends up with nothing: no aliens, no spacecraft, no signals. At least, none that we can detect in our neck of the woods.

Now, just where might this Great Filter be located? There are two possibilities: It might be behind us, somewhere in our distant past. Or it might be ahead of us, somewhere in the decades, centuries, or millennia to come. Let us ponder these possibilities in turn. Originally posted May 7, 2008.

Alien Abductions and the End of White People - REDUX

Another oldy but goody. This time from subrealist commentator Annalee Newitz;
Let us consider another, even more widely discredited, theory about UFOs and extraterrestrial intelligence. A few members of the scientific community and certain elements in the UFOlogy community claim that the US Government has been in contact with extraterrestrials since the late 40s. It has been suggested that the government actually possesses alien space craft and has captured aliens who crash-landed. The government is covering up its secret knowledge by ridiculing and threatening those who attempt to make public the existence of these alien 'visitors'. This theory can hardly be proven true or false without further evidence. However, it certainly seems like the kind of thing the US Government would do if confronted with something uncontrollable and highly organized. In other words, just because the aliens may be a hoax doesn't mean the government hasn't lied to us in similar situations. During the civil rights protests of the 50s and 60s, one of the ways the government attempted to quell social unrest was by pretending nothing was going on or claiming that the protesters were just a bunch of crazy children. This strategy backfired when people across the country began receiving images on television of African-Americans being beaten and menaced with firehoses during peaceful protests in the South. People formerly unaware of the civil rights violations endured by African-Americans were galvanized by these images and a national movement was born. What I am trying to point out here is that whenever the social status quo is threatened by a united group, the US Government's position has always been one of official denial. For the government, the civil rights movement was just a 'fantasy' in the minds of a socially isolated group of people until widespread publicity made it 'real'.

In the early 90s, one might say civil rights movements of the late 50s and 60s have had a substantial effect on mainstream politics, culture and the law. A majority of people in the United States would probably agree that slavery and segregation were indeed 'real' abuses of power. While the plight of African-Americans was once accurately called 'invisible' by Ralph Ellison, it is now quite visible and deemed a force to be reckoned with. What I want to suggest at this point is that minority power and multiculturalism, like the old world order, are predicated upon keeping a particular 'invisible' group of people hidden from sight. The group I mean is white people. This is an incredibly unpopular position to take in a time when white people are often blamed for global injustice. Asking a multicultural society to recognize white people as a marginalized group is perhaps as absurd as claiming aliens are abducting Earth people.

Proponents of minority discourse and multiculturalism claim white people spent most of history recognizing themselves and therefore don't need any more recognition; after all, isn't history written by 'dead white men'? I think the problem with the multiculturalist idea that white people must be stopped like this is that it perpetuates the same old problem of center vs. margin, with the margin coming out a bit whiter this time around. We still live in a divided society, but every race gets to be the people in the center. That is, racial minorities get to occupy the same position white people had in the old world order. As long as we tell ourselves that imperialism was the white people's problem, we make the mistake of thinking that somehow non-white people aren't capable of being just as fearful, ignorant and oppressive as those white people on the ships were centuries ago. Therefore when I say we must recognize white people, what I'm really saying is that we need to recognize the 'white people' in all of us. We are all — white and non-white — capable of taking advantage of each other for power or profit; a non-white ruler can be just as cruel and terrifying as a white one. But as long as the white person bears the burden of guilt for the horrors of imperialism, it will be too easy to forget that imperialist oppression can and does exist without white people at all. The invisible white person in the margin reminds us that oppressive power can exist even when non-whites rule the world.
Here ends the subrealist exposition for this morning. While I intended to take on the subject of dopamine hegemony as monster of the id, I got sidetracked a little bit. Ah well, the weekend's still young and we seem to be on a roll, what with cognitive dissonance and imperial dissolution at alltime historical highs. If we are to speak of action directives, it makes sense to look at the situation from the perspective of centuries, rather than decades, from the long view of possible psychological evolution, and from the new physics, rather than the Cartesian-Newtonian blind alley.

If the situation is going to cusp, and I believe that it will, I think that it is in the cusp and only in cusp that the long-term controlling variables reach critical instability. It is those momentarily unstable states within which small nudges can have big effects.

How can the controlling variables be identified? What is distraction and what is real? Originally posted March 29, 2008.

UFO Abductions and Race Fear? - REDUX

Steven Mizrach is an interesting subrealist.
Though UFO abductions do appear to be an international phenomenon, the lion's share of cases seem to come from Anglo-Saxon-rooted countries like the United States, England, South Africa, and Australia. Interestingly, all of these countries face race problems - whether it be with Aborigines, African-Americans, Zulu and Xhosa, or Caribbean blacks from the commonwealth. In the Third World, many people from these First World countries commonly encounter "organ removal" panics. Rumors have spread like wildfire that Americans in Guatemala are kidnapping small children and "harvesting" their organs for transplants. The similarity between these panics and UFO abductions should also be fairly obvious....

The connection between the UFO phenomenon itself (long before the current wave of abductions) and race is curious and bizarre. Many of the first group of UFO "contactees" - who went aboard the flying saucers willingly, to make love to gorgeous Venusians (but never producing offspring) - were loosely affiliated with the "Silver Shirt" movement of the 30s and 40s, a sort of homegrown American fascism which, among other things, opposed Roosevelt and WW II. The 50s contactees seemed to report that the majority of the saucer pilots were "Aryans" - long-haired, blonde, tall beings from Venus or other planets in the solar system. The "Aryans," when not warning humanity about atomic war, often gave messages promoting race harmony, but softly warning against racial intermixture and the "population explosion" of the Third World masses...
What ever became of the New World Order eruptions of the early 90's? Do you remember the vast conspiracy imaginings associated with pre-Katrina FEMA? Oklahoma City, Waco, Black Helicopters, etc.., etc.., etc..? Whatever became of all those folks now that they've had eight years of rule by the other side of the governance duopoly? Originally posted March 29, 2008.

jacques vallee discusses anomalous data - REDUX

Video - Jacques Vallee discusses anomalous data and how and why one might go about studying it.

From a 2007 article on OurStrangePlanet, Vallee writes:
Then there is a third level, the mythological or sociological level. At that level, the physical reality of the actual UFO is totally irrelevant. Proving that Jesus Christ never existed would have little effect on our society in terms of belief systems; at this point, the influence of Jesus would remain even without a historical Jesus.
Important Element: An interesting focus on Jesus Christ throughout his writings, including his earliest books in the 1970s. Originally posted December 19, 2011.

national press club disclosure conference - REDUX

Video - National Press Club witness testimony.

Reuters | Ex-military men say unknown intruders have monitored and even tampered with American nuclear missiles

Group to call on U.S. Government to reveal the facts

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Witness testimony from more than 120 former or retired military personnel points to an ongoing and alarming intervention by unidentified aerial objects at nuclear weapons sites, as recently as 2003. In some cases, several nuclear missiles simultaneously and inexplicably malfunctioned while a disc-shaped object silently hovered nearby. Six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will break their silence about these events at the National Press Club and urge the government to publicly confirm their reality.

One of them, ICBM launch officer Captain Robert Salas, was on duty during one missile disruption incident at Malmstrom Air Force Base and was ordered to never discuss it. Another participant, retired Col. Charles Halt, observed a disc-shaped object directing beams of light down into the RAF Bentwaters airbase in England and heard on the radio that they landed in the nuclear weapons storage area. Both men will provide stunning details about these events, and reveal how the U.S. military responded.

Captain Salas notes, "The U.S. Air Force is lying about the national security implications of unidentified aerial objects at nuclear bases and we can prove it." Col. Halt adds, "I believe that the security services of both the United States and the United Kingdom have attempted—both then and now—to subvert the significance of what occurred at RAF Bentwaters by the use of well-practiced methods of disinformation."

The group of witnesses and a leading researcher, who has brought them together for the first time, will discuss the national security implications of these and other alarmingly similar incidents and will urge the government to reveal all information about them. This is a public-awareness issue.

Declassified U.S. government documents, to be distributed at the event, now substantiate the reality of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites extending back to 1948. The press conference will also address present-day concerns about the abuse of government secrecy as well as the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons.

WHO: Dwynne Arneson, USAF Lt. Col. Ret., communications center officer-in-charge

Bruce Fenstermacher, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

Charles Halt, USAF Col. Ret., former deputy base commander

Robert Hastings, researcher and author

Robert Jamison, former USAF nuclear missile targeting officer

Patrick McDonough, former USAF nuclear missile site geodetic surveyor

Jerome Nelson, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

Robert Salas, former USAF nuclear missile launch officer

WHAT: Noted researcher Robert Hastings, author of UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites, will moderate a distinguished panel of former U.S. Air Force officers involved in UFO incidents at nuclear missile sites near Malmstrom, F.E. Warren, and Walker AFBs, as well as the nuclear weapons depot at RAF Bentwaters. Originally posted September 30, 2010.

WHEN: Monday, September 27, 2010

12:30 p.m.

WHERE: National Press Club

Holeman Lounge

Event open to credentialed media and Congressional staff only

SOURCE Former U.S. Air Force Officer Robert Salas, and Researcher Robert Hastings

Chapter 13 - REDUX

The Fire Officer's Guide To Disaster Control by William M. Kramer, Ph.D. and Charles W. Bahme, J.D. is a totally serious book which is found in all fire and police department libraries across the United States. In June 1993, a new chapter (pp.458-473) was added to this book. Bahme himself saw "UFOs" fly over Los Angeles on Aug. 26, 1942, and they were subsequently fired upon by ground defenses which killed nine people. During the Korean War, Bahme was Security Coordinator for the Chief of Naval Operations. The Guide is published by the Delaware State Fire School and made available through the Fire Engineering Book Service at 800-752-9768.

The Fire Officer's Guide To Disaster Control can be found in US local libraries. The Dewey Decimal number is 363.378. The ISBN # is 0-912212-26-8. Fire Officer's Guide to Disaster Control includes information on:

* training
* planning and procedures
* communication
* handling casualties
* infrastructure assessment
* recovery operations
* stress debriefing


1. Disaster Planning
2. Historical Lessons
3. Organizational Structure and Incident Command
4. Resource Management and Augmentation
5. Training and Preparation
6. Communications and Information Management
7. Catastrophic Fires
8. Civil Disorders and Riots
9. Weather-Related Natural Disasters
10. Terrain-Based Natural Disasters
11. Transportation Disasters
12. Hazardous Materials Incidents
13. Enemy Attack and UFO Potential
14. Mass Casualties and Mass Evacuation
15. Aftermath and Recovery

On March 30th, Chapter 13 was published on the Cleveland Tremonter. Interestingly, it's not there anymore. Originally posted April 5, 2008.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

indian government: no comment...,

Times of India | A reputed Israeli intelligence website has claimed that India is opting for gold to repay crude oil supplies from Iran. Given the US and EU embargo on Iran, payment in hard currency, such as the US dollar or euro, is very difficult; hence, this barter.

The website, Debkafile, said the transaction will be routed through UCO Bank, the Kolkata-based public sector lender. However, when contacted, a senior bank executive said he had not heard of any plans to settle oil payments in gold. A senior finance ministry official said he did not wish to comment on the issue. When reached over the phone, economic affairs secretary R Gopalan, who has been leading the talks with Iran, said he was busy in a meeting and did not respond to a text message.

The report on the Israeli website coincides with the visit of an Indian official delegation to Tehran last week to find ways to continue the bilateral trade between Iran and India in spite of the sanctions imposed for forcing Iran to forsake its alleged plans for developing nuclear weapons.

While the use of gold as currency may help India get around the proposed freeze on Iranian central bank's assets and the oil embargo that the EU foreign ministers have agreed to impose on Monday, any outflow of sovereign gold will not go undetected, bringing in the political consequences of flouting the West-imposed embargo.

Keeping the Iran crude oil tap running is crucial for India which depends on imports to meet around 80% of its oil requirements. Iranian crude accounts for a 12% share in India's total oil imports and any threat to this would have grave implications for the Indian economy.

On Wednesday, petroleum minister S Jaipal Reddy made clear India's stance on the sanctions and said that New Delhi would continue to explore "options" for paying oil from Iran. He added that India would abide only by UN sanctions, and not those imposed by a group of countries.

Officials said another option that the government was looking at was to pay with the Indian currency (India has had a rupee-rouble agreement with Russia). According to the mechanism discussed with Iran, the exports and imports will be netted out and India will pay in rupees through Uco Bank. India is a net importer due to crude from Iran.

India and Iran have been negotiating a payment settlement mechanism for over a year but a stable tool is yet to emerge. Under the last deal, payments by Indian oil firms were routed through Union Bank of India which transferred funds to a Turkish bank.

india to pay gold instead of dollars for iranian oil?

debka | India is the first buyer of Iranian oil to agree to pay for its purchases in gold instead of the US dollar, debkafile's intelligence and Iranian sources report exclusively. Those sources expect China to follow suit. India and China take about one million barrels per day, or 40 percent of Iran's total exports of 2.5 million bpd. Both are superpowers in terms of gold assets.

By trading in gold, New Delhi and Beijing enable Tehran to bypass the upcoming freeze on its central bank's assets and the oil embargo which the European Union's foreign ministers agreed to impose Monday, Jan. 23. The EU currently buys around 20 percent of Iran's oil exports.

The vast sums involved in these transactions are expected, furthermore, to boost the price of gold and depress the value of the dollar on world markets.
Iran's second largest customer after China, India purchases around $12 billion a year's worth of Iranian crude, or about 12 percent of its consumption. Delhi is to execute its transactions, according to our sources, through two state-owned banks: the Calcutta-based UCO Bank, whose board of directors is made up of Indian government and Reserve Bank of India representatives; and Halk Bankasi (Peoples Bank), Turkey's seventh largest bank which is owned by the government.

An Indian delegation visited Tehran last week to discuss payment options in view of the new sanctions. The two sides were reported to have agreed that payment for the oil purchased would be partly in yen and partly in rupees. The switch to gold was kept dark.

India thus joins China in opting out of the US-led European sanctions against Iran's international oil and financial business. Turkey announced publicly last week that it would not adhere to any sanctions against Iran's nuclear program unless they were imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

The EU decision of Monday banned the signing of new oil contracts with Iran at once, while phasing out existing transactions by July 1, 2012, when the European embargo, like the measure enforced by the United States, becomes total. The European foreign ministers also approved a freeze on the assets of the Central Bank of Iran which handles all the country's oil transactions.

However, the damage those sanctions cause the Iranian economy will be substantially cushioned by the oil deals to be channeled through Turkish and Indian state banks. China for its part has declared its opposition to sanctions against Iran.

debkafile's intelligence sources disclose that Tehran has set up alternative financial mechanisms with China and Russia for getting paid for its oil in currencies other than US dollars. Both Beijing and Moscow are keeping the workings of those mechanisms top secret.

saving the "world" economy from Gaddafi - REDUX

Video - Russia Today - Saving the world economy from Gaddafi

Video - Gold dinar silver dirhan

originally posted May 25, 2011

RT | Some believe it is about protecting civilians, others say it is about oil, but some are convinced intervention in Libya is all about Gaddafi’s plan to introduce the gold dinar, a single African currency made from gold, a true sharing of the wealth.

­“It’s one of these things that you have to plan almost in secret, because as soon as you say you’re going to change over from the dollar to something else, you’re going to be targeted,” says Ministry of Peace founder Dr James Thring. “There were two conferences on this, in 1986 and 2000, organized by Gaddafi. Everybody was interested, most countries in Africa were keen.”

Gaddafi did not give up. In the months leading up to the military intervention, he called on African and Muslim nations to join together to create this new currency that would rival the dollar and euro. They would sell oil and other resources around the world only for gold dinars.

It is an idea that would shift the economic balance of the world.

A country’s wealth would depend on how much gold it had and not how many dollars it traded. And Libya has 144 tons of gold. The UK, for example, has twice as much, but ten times the population.

“If Gaddafi had an intent to try to re-price his oil or whatever else the country was selling on the global market and accept something else as a currency or maybe launch a gold dinar currency, any move such as that would certainly not be welcomed by the power elite today, who are responsible for controlling the world’s central banks,” says Anthony Wile, founder and chief editor of the Daily Bell.

“So yes, that would certainly be something that would cause his immediate dismissal and the need for other reasons to be brought forward from moving him from power.”

And it has happened before.

In 2000, Saddam Hussein announced Iraqi oil would be traded in euros, not dollars. Some say sanctions and an invasion followed because the Americans were desperate to prevent OPEC from transferring oil trading in all its member countries to the euro.

A gold dinar would have had serious consequences for the world financial system, but may also have empowered the people of Africa, something black activists say the US wants to avoid at all costs.

“The US have denied self-determination to Africans inside the US, so we are not surprised by anything the US would do to hinder the self-determination of Africans on the continent,” says Cynthia Ann McKinney, a former US Congresswoman.

The UK’s gold is kept in a secure vault somewhere in the depths of the Bank of England. As in most developed countries, there is not enough to go around.

But that is not the case in countries like Libya and many of the Gulf States.
A gold dinar would have given oil-rich African and Middle Eastern countries the power to turn around to their energy-hungry customers and say: “Sorry, the price has gone up, and we want gold.”

Some say the US and its NATO allies literally could not afford to let that happen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Kunstler | On last week's podcast, Duncan and I yakked about an important concept introduced by Nicole Foss at The Automatic Earth blog site. This concept was "the trust horizon," which outlines how legitimacy is lost in the political hierarchy. That is, people stop trusting larger institutions like the federal or state government and end up vesting their interests much closer to home. Thus, life de-centralizes and becomes more local by necessity. Your own trust horizon extends only as far as other persons, businesses, institutions, and authorities immediately around you - the banker who will meet with you face-to-face, the mayor of your small town, the local food-growers. At the same time, distant ones become impotent and ludicrous - or possibly dangerous as they flounder to re-assert their vanishing influence.

It is obvious that we are in the early stages of this process in the USA (and Europe), as giant institutions such as the Federal Reserve, the Executive branch under Mr. Obama, the US Congress (the ECB), the SEC, the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, and other engines of management all fail in one way or another to discharge their obligations.

The people of the USA, having been let down and swindled in so many ways by the people they placed their trust in, and even freely elected, appear to be in a daze of injury. Maybe this accounts for the obsession with zombies and persons drained of blood - who yet seem to carry on normal lives (at least in TV shows). This odd condition is best defined by the familiar cry from non-zombies: "where's the outrage?" Which brings me to today's point.

Investment guru James Dines introduced another seminal idea on Eric King's podcast last week. Dines's work over the years has focused much more on human mob psychology than technical market analysis - which he seems to regard as akin to augury with chicken entrails. Dines now introduces the term "murmuration" to describe the way that rapid changes occur in the realm of human activities. The word refers to behaviors also seen in other living species, such as the way a large flock of starlings will all turn in the sky at the same instant without any apparent communication. We don't know how they do that. It seems to be some kind of collective cognitive processing beyond our understanding.

Dines goes on to suggest that the political stirrings and upheavals of the past year represent an instance of human "murmuration" that will lead to even greater epochal changes in geopolitical and economic life. Now, I've often said 1) history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes [thank you, Mark Twain], and 2) that these times are like the 1850s. To be more precise today, these two concepts of "the trust horizon" and "murmuration" point to a moment in time that I believe we are now rhyming with: the revolutions of 1848 and the events that grew out of it.

national popular vote?

WaPo | Last Thursday’s GOP presidential debate was a doozy. Some of the commercials weren’t bad, either. My favorite was the ad from the National Popular Vote movement, promoting legislation in the 50 states to guarantee that the people, not the electoral college, choose our president.

Mind you, I’ve always found it kind of fallacious to worry that our current system elevates popular-vote losers to the presidency: that’s because popular votes cast in a state-by-state contest for 270 electoral votes do not reflect the national will. Rather, they reflect the results of a competition in which candidates tailor their messages and deploy their resources according to the rules of the electoral college; they would do everything differently if the goal was a popular-vote majority.

So when Al Gore got about 500,000 votes more than George W. Bush in 2000 but still lost, I was pretty much unmoved. Complaining about that — as opposed to the different issue of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore — was like griping that your basketball team lost even though it made more free throws.

In a contest for popular votes, Bush would have had an incentive to scrounge for every vote in states he had locked up, like Texas, or the ones he had consigned to Gore.

Still, it’s easy to see why the electoral college is so unloved. It is inconsistent with the idea of one-person, one-vote; every 677,000 Californians get one electoral vote, while the 563,000 inhabitants of Wyoming get three. And it gives presidential nominees an incentive to cater to the interests of “swing” states while treating the rest as flyover country.

The National Popular Vote plan would, at least in theory, solve those problems. Instead of trying to abolish the electoral college through a constitutional amendment — which small states might block — National Popular Vote devised a way to get around it: States agree by law to cast all of their electoral votes for the first-place finisher in the national popular vote; and the law becomes operative as soon as it is adopted by enough states to total 270 votes in the electoral college.

So far, nine deep-blue jurisdictions with a total of 132 electoral votes — including Maryland, the District and California, the 55-elector behemoth — have signed on to this proposed interstate compact.

charles murray on cultural inequality - the "new" american divide

WSJ | America is coming apart. For most of our nation's history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. "The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. "On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day."

Americans love to see themselves this way. But there's a problem: It's not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.

People are starting to notice the great divide. The tea party sees the aloofness in a political elite that thinks it knows best and orders the rest of America to fall in line. The Occupy movement sees it in an economic elite that lives in mansions and flies on private jets. Each is right about an aspect of the problem, but that problem is more pervasive than either political or economic inequality. What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality.

When Americans used to brag about "the American way of life"—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity.

Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America's core cultural institutions.

To illustrate just how wide the gap has grown between the new upper class and the new lower class, let me start with the broader upper-middle and working classes from which they are drawn, using two fictional neighborhoods that I hereby label Belmont (after an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston) and Fishtown (after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been home to the white working class since the Revolution).

To be assigned to Belmont, the people in the statistical nationwide databases on which I am drawing must have at least a bachelor's degree and work as a manager, physician, attorney, engineer, architect, scientist, college professor or content producer in the media. To be assigned to Fishtown, they must have no academic degree higher than a high-school diploma. If they work, it must be in a blue-collar job, a low-skill service job such as cashier, or a low-skill white-collar job such as mail clerk or receptionist.

People who qualify for my Belmont constitute about 20% of the white population of the U.S., ages 30 to 49. People who qualify for my Fishtown constitute about 30% of the white population of the U.S., ages 30 to 49.

I specify white, meaning non-Latino white, as a way of clarifying how broad and deep the cultural divisions in the U.S. have become. Cultural inequality is not grounded in race or ethnicity. I specify ages 30 to 49—what I call prime-age adults—to make it clear that these trends are not explained by changes in the ages of marriage or retirement.

In Belmont and Fishtown, here's what happened to America's common culture between 1960 and 2010.

the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world

RealitySandwich | This interview is excerpted from Duncan Crary's The Kunstler Cast: Conversations with James Howard Kunstler, from New Society Publishers, available here.

James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere, Home From Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, and The Long Emergency. His work addresses the suburban and urban environments, and the challenges posed by the coming permanent global oil crisis, climate change, and other "converging catastrophes of the 21st Century."

Duncan Crary: You have what you call a "Long Emergency" view of where civilization is heading. What is "The Long Emergency?"

James Howard Kunstler: I've labeled this situation we're heading into "The Long Emergency" because I think it's going to be a protracted experience for mankind and for us in the United States in particular. It's really about how we are heading into a period of resource scarcity and the disruption and depletion of our oil supplies. It's about the allocation of this crucial resource all around the world, and the geopolitical implications of those inequities. And how these problems are going to combine with climate change to cause problems with everything we do, from how we produce and distribute our food to how we're going to have trade and manufacturing when Walmart dies. And not least, the destiny of the suburban, car-dependent, happy motoring living arrangement. Which is probably, for me, the biggest part of the equation.

And you don't see good things in store for the suburbs in the Long Emergency?

Suburbia is going to fail a lot worse than it's already failing, because we're not going to have the energy to run it the way it's been designed to run. For that reason I refer to suburbia as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. We took all of our post-world war wealth -- and actually quite a bit of the wealth that we had accumulated for decades before that -- and we invested it in this living arrangement that had no future. And now we're stuck with it. And to make matters worse, we didn't build it very well in the first place. So as it begins to decay it decays very rapidly and becomes a very unrewarding place to live in.

Jim, it seems almost impossible to persuade suburbanites that there's anything wrong with suburbia or that it could ever "fail." I've tried, and it almost feels like arguing with someone about deeply held religious beliefs.

Again, one of the unfortunate repercussions of building suburbia is: now that we've built it, it provides a very powerful psychology of previous investment. Which means that you put so much of your wealth into this system already -- into this structure for daily life with no future -- and you've invested so much of your national identity in it, that you can't even imagine letting go of it or substantially changing it or reforming it. And that, I believe, is what's behind our inability to have a coherent discussion about what we're going to do about our problems in America. Because the psychology of previous investment has got us trapped in a box -- we will not allow ourselves to think about how we're going to do without this crap.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

where did religion come from?

SSRC | I start with Clifford Geertz’s definition of religion in his “Religion as a Cultural System,” which I should give in my abbreviated version to clarify what I mean and don’t mean by religion: “Religion is a system of symbols which, when enacted by human beings, establishes powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations that make sense in terms of an idea of a general order of existence.” I should point out that neither Cliff nor I use the terms gods or God. What Geertz meant by a cultural system is very dependent on his reading of Alfred Schutz, particularly his paper on multiple realities or multiple worlds, terms which Schutz took from William James. Besides what Schutz called the paramount reality, the world of daily life, what Weber called “the everyday,” Schutz distinguished the world of science, the world of religion, and the world of art.

After describing what kind of multiple reality religion is, I wanted to look at the major forms of religious representation, the ways in which people engage in religious action and religious thought. Here I turned to the field of child development, not to look at the ways in which children become religious, though some have worked on that, but to look at the way infants and then children acquire the various capacities to relate to the world. Here was another big field to master, but one in which I have long been interested—especially the work of Jerome Bruner, one of my teachers in graduate school, who is the most important cultural psychologist still living and whose categories for the cognitive development of the child turned out to be remarkably relevant for my purposes. Bruner, himself adapting ideas from Piaget, sees the child as moving from enactive to symbolic to conceptual representations. I prefaced these with the idea of unitive events rooted in the original unity of mother and child but emerging later as religious experiences, usefully described by Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley’s psychology department in her recent book The Philosophical Baby. So Piaget, Bruner, and Gopnik were my anchors but I looked at a lot of other things as well, particularly the work that links cognitive development in human children with comparable development in the great apes and other mammals.

The major stages of ontogeny turn out to parallel the major stages of phylogeny as described by Merlin Donald in Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition. Donald prefaces his three stages by referring to episodic culture which we share with other higher mammals and that I see as analogous to unitive events in ontogeny.

I should note that in both Bruner and Donald stages are never left behind, but are reconfigured in new contexts when subsequent stages emerge, leading to my general rule that “nothing is ever lost,” by which I don’t mean cultural content which is all too easily lost (most of the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, for example) but the cultural capacities themselves, which never lose their essential and indispensible nature. Donald’s three stages are mimetic, mythic, and theoretic, paralleling Bruner’s enactive, symbolic, and conceptual.

I want to describe what Merlin Donald means by mimetic culture because it makes intelligible what happened during a long period of human evolution, most likely the period between the appearance of Homo erectus, 1.8 million years ago, and the emergence of our own species, Homo sapiens, during the last two or three hundred thousand years. Mimetic culture involves a kind of bodily communication more elaborate than anything comparable among the other great apes, lacking language but probably involving spoken or sung communication, what some evolutionary musicologists call musilanguage. Mimetic communication almost certainly led to ritual, though as yet without myth, which requires language capacities that were lacking.

In modeling the society itself as well as its constituent roles, mimetic culture provided the necessary resources for moving beyond the rather anarchic chimpanzee band to a larger group capable of controlling in-group aggression such that pair bonding and same-sex solidarity in various contexts could result. In-group solidarity did not mean these mimetic-culture based societies were peaceful. There is every reason to believe that they were not, that there was endemic conflict between groups and probably in-group aggression was only relatively successfully controlled.

The limitations of mimetic culture are evident. Donald writes:

Mimesis is thus a much more limited form of representation than symbolic language; it is slow moving, ambiguous, and very restricted in its subject matter. Episodic event registration continues to serve as the raw material of higher cognition in mimetic culture, but rather than serving as the peak of the cognitive hierarchy, it performs a subsidiary role. The highest level of processing in the mimetically skilled brain is no longer the analysis and breakdown of perceptual events; it is the modeling of these events in self-initiated motor acts. The consequence, on a larger scale, was a culture that could model its episodic predecessors.

It is well to remember that we humans are never very far from basic mammalian episodic consciousness, the awareness of the event we are in. Mimetic culture is an event about an event. Narrative, which is at the heart of linguistic culture is basically an account of a string of events, organized hierarchically into larger event units. But the moment when our predecessors first stepped outside episodic consciousness, looked at it and what was before, around, and would be after it, was a historic moment of the highest possible importance. Other higher mammals, although they are social, are more tightly locked each in their own consciousness. They are, as Donald says, almost solipsists. But humans, once mimetic culture had evolved, could participate in—could share—the contents of other minds. We could learn, be taught, and did not have to discover almost everything for ourselves. Mimetic culture was limited and conservative; it lacked the potential for explosive growth that language would make possible. But it was the indispensable step without which language would never have evolved.