Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Friday, February 12, 2021

Cassandra has Moved

  


Professor Sabine Hossenfelder engages in a performance about Cassandra. Nice song, well sung, and it catches something of Cassandra's story and character. Although I am reasonably sure that Cassandra would not wear that kind of clothes. 


Cassandra's blog is closed. It will remain on line, but it will not be updated anymore. Ugo Bardi has moved to a new site called "The Seneca Effect."  It may be a bit more philosophical than the old Cassandra blog, but it will not be very different. 

You may also follow Ugo Bardi at "The Proud Holobionts" blog, a more optimistic blog dedicated to -- you guess to what! -- holobionts! A new concept that favors collaboration over competition in the evolution of the biosphere. 

And don't forget Ugo Bardis' musings about history and myths at the Chimera blog, with some fictional interpretations of Cassandra's story: An Interview with Cassandra  and "The True Story of the Fall of Troy"

Finally, if you like to hear Ugo Bardi rather than reading what he writes, you can find his youtube channel. It is still al little experimental, but it may grow to something interesting in the future. 

Thank you to all those who followed this blog for nearly ten years. It was a pleasure, but things keep moving and we have to move, too!

UB


Monday, February 8, 2021

Cassandra is Dead. Long Live Cassandra!

 

After the fall of Troy, Cassandra was taken as Agamemnon's "pallake" (concubine) and taken to Mycenae where she was killed by Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife. The destiny of prophetesses is never so bright, especially when they turn out to have been right. Something similar, although fortunately much less tragic, is happening to the Cassandra blog, censored on Facebook by the powers that be. So, I guess it is time to call it quits. But Cassandra is not dead! She will return in some form.

 

On March 2, 2011, I started the blog that I titled "Cassandra's Legacy." 10 years later, the blog had accumulated 974 posts, 332 followers, and more than 5 million visualizations (5289.929). Recently, the blog had stabilized at around 2,000-3,000 views per day.

A small blog, by all means, but I always had the sensation that it was not without an impact on the nebulous constellation of the people, high up, whom we call "the powers that be." It is a story that reminds me the legend that George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq in 2003 after he had learned about peak oil. Reasonably, it can't be but a legend, but are we sure? After all, the people who take decision are not smarter than us, just way richer. And they can misunderstand things just like we all do. Of course, their blunders make much more noise.  

And so, it may well be that many things that we are seeing around us have a logic. For sure, it is past the time when a certain kind of message could be eliminated simply by ignoring it. Now, it has to be actively suppressed. And that seems to be what's happening with censorship rampant in the social media. Even the Cassandra blog, even though not important in itself, attracted the wrath of the powers that be. It was censored on Facebook and it seems to me that it is also kept nearly invisible in the search engines. As I discussed in a previous post on Cassandra, we knew it was going to happen and it did. 

Of course, this blog could survive even while boycotted by Facebook, but when you discover that you are in the crosshairs of someone big and powerful, it is better to take notice, duck down, and take cover. It makes little sense to insist to keep an indefensible position. It is time for Cassandra to fold. 

But this is not a defeat. It is, on the contrary, a badge of honor that the PTBs noticed this blog and acted against it (O.K., maybe it was just a glitch of some complicated AI program, who knows?). In any case, closing the blog simply means recognizing that the memetic war follows the standard rules of war. It is all about movement. And that's what Cassandra is doing. It is moving. We all do. The only things that never move are the dead, and we are still very much alive! And "Cassandra's Legacy" will remain on line, although it won't be updated anymore.

I am working at renewing a blog that I had already created, called "The Seneca Trap."  It will be online soon with the name "The Seneca Effect". We'll see if it becomes another target for the PTBs!

In the meantime, I am passing to you a few paragraphs that I took from Dmitry Orlov's book "The Five Stages of Collapse." (2013) where he correctly predicted how the West was moving along a path that's taking it to follow the steps of the old Soviet Union, even in terms of censorship. Orlov describes how, at that time, people defended themselves from an obtrusive and obtuse regime. I guess we'll have to adopt the same techniques.


The Rise of Steganography

by Dmitry Orlov -- From "The Five Stages of Collapse" (2013)


I am sure that certain readers will at this point recollect schlocky American Cold War novels they wasted their time reading, or automat-ically conjure up secret codes and communications technologies used Financial Collapse45to play a spy vs. spy cat-and-mouse game with the KGB, while others will want to think that the KGB was sufficiently incompetent and/or demoralized to just let all that secret communication slip by (I assure you that it was not). Well, having seen how it all works in practice, I am happy to disabuse you of all such notions. The only technologies involved were spoken word and pen and paper; the good results were achieved thanks to mental fortitude and solidarity.

The technique I saw used was an instance of steganography, which “is the art and science of writing hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message, a form of security through obscurity. The word is of Greek origin and means ‘concealed writing’ from the Greek words steganos (στεγανός), meaning ‘covered or protected’, and graphei (γραφή), meaning ‘writing'. There is the outer, public message, which is innocuous or insipid or annoyingly redundant (except for a few easily overlooked details); then there is the inner, private message, which can only be discerned by the intended recipient, who has prior knowledge. The key security feature is that the recipient needs to know that the message is a message at all, never mind decipher it.
My mother and my grandmother kept up a voluminous correspondence augmented by regular telephone conversations. They discussed everything from the weather to their reading to what they ate for breakfast. They also seemed to be curiously obsessed with pieces of porcelain: which tea set was a present from whom, who would have liked it, who had owned a similar one at one time or another, from whom they may have purchased it and how much they may have paid for it, how many cups were cracked or broken, whether they could be repaired, who was the clumsy one and broke a cup, who had been particularly skillful at gluing together a broken cup so that it is now as good as new and so on and so forth, all seemingly innocent prattle between two dotty women reminiscing about sentimental bits of bric-à-brac—but for someone in the know, laden with secret meanings. Cups were thousands of dollars. Tea sets were tens of thousands. Cracked cups were expenses incurred. Broken cups were deals that had fallen through. Any persons mentioned were not referred to by full name but by informal diminutives and endearments and referenced not to actual places and times but to private, shared memories. But there were also passages of general interest, such as soup or cake recipes, sometimes supplied with a passing comment addressed directly to the KGB censor, such as “Others who are reading this might find this interesting as well.” Who could possibly suspect secret, nefarious, conspiratorial intent in someone so seemingly guileless? Not even the KGB!

 

 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Censorship: How the West is becoming more and more like the old Soviet Union

 

A message I received from Facebook on Jan 29, 2021. Five of my posts were deemed "spam" and erased. Some were somewhat "political" although non-partisan, but two were purely technical. That these posts were erased is an indication that censorship is by now applied to all forms of dissent, not just political ones. It was not unexpected, but it was still somewhat shocking after decades of propaganda that had convinced most of us that the Western world was a place where you could enjoy "freedom of expression." But we are quickly moving toward a Soviet-style management of public information, as Dmitry Orlov noted already in 2013. It had to happen and it did.

 

Last year, a Spanish climatologist, a friend of mine, had his Facebook page erased. Apparently, it was because it was deemed as too "catastrophistic" (or for whatever reason had caused the opaque fact-checkers of Facebook to take it as a target). He protested and he also tried to convince other climatologists to start a boycott of Facebook. 

The answer was a little disappointing, to say the least. It may be best described as a resounding worldwide "meh." Those climatologists who bothered to reply to him expressed the concept that, yes, censorship is bad, but, you know, you can't allow deniers to diffuse their fake science around. 

It was on that occasion that I discovered that most people like censorship. It is just that it should be applied to those they disagree with. In that case, they actually love it and protest because Facebook doesn't censor enough (you can read that, for instance, here).

The problem with censorship is that it is a little like playing the apprentice sorcerer: once you start the mechanism, you don't know how to stop it. What's happening now is that censorship is becoming widespread, wide-ranging, and pervasive. Everyone can be affected and it takes unexpected forms. I was surprised when Facebook decided to erase two rather technical posts of mine, apparently because they were critical of the concept of a hydrogen-based economy. Apparently, censoring doesn't just apply to political dissent. Any dissent is now considered bad

Of course, Facebook is not the government, but it would be silly to dismiss the whole story by saying "it is a private company." Facebook has now almost 3 billion users, close to half of the world's population. No other entity in the world -- governments included --has such a reach over so many people. Do governments have any power on Facebook? Or does Facebook own the governments?

It was expected, we knew that it was coming. Already in 2009, Dmitry Orlov had noted in his book "Reinventing Collapse" how the Soviet and the American Empires had been moving along parallel tracks, with the American Empire poised for collapse just a few decades after the Soviet one. In a later book, "The Five Stages of Collapse" (2013), Orlov described the mechanisms of censorship in the Soviet Union and discussed many remarkably prescient concepts on how electronic surveillance in the West would dwarf anything that the old and clumsy Soviet system could do to spy their citizens. 

And so, there we are. Covering the whole story of the Soviet censorship would be very interesting exercise that not even Orlov attempted in his books. I can't claim to be an expert in these matters (*), but let me just note that censorship in Russia was a nuanced story, not just a clumsy dictatorship dictating to people what they had to believe. In part, yes, censorship was imposed by the government but, in part, it was also enforced "from below." Russian newspapers often carried comments by the "korrespondents" (Корреспондент), people who were not professional journalists. They seem to have had a certain leeway in criticizing the government, of course only as long as they didn't express doubts about the founding myths that kept the state together. They were similar to our commenters on newspapers and social media who have a list of no-no's that's probably as long as they had. The Soviet Union had an efficient trolling system that could demolish a dissenter, just like our trolls can. (the story of how Boris Pasternak was demonized for his "Doctor Zhivago" novel is a good example of the mechanism)

Overall, it is clear that censorship is developed by societies under stress to try to keep the social fabric together as much as possible. If you think that Russia had been invaded 4 times by powerful Western armies over less than two centuries, you can also understand that the fear of the West was not paranoia, but a reasonable attitude for Russians. And many of them preferred to support a bad government rather than risking that the US would bring democracy to them by the usual methods.

About the West, nowadays, I don't think we need to note how stressed we are. And, as a result, we are clearly heading in the direction of a Soviet-style management of public information. Is it unavoidable? Most likely yes. It is a desperate, last-ditch effort to keep together a political system that's rapidly crumbling away, but which is doomed in the long run (perhaps even in the short run). But it is probably unavoidable: we'll have to live with censorship because it is the simplest way to try to stop the forces that lead to the disintegration of society.

So, what should we expect for the future? The analogy with the Soviet Union holds only up to a certain point. In Soviet times there was no Internet, or it was in its infancy. The new communication technologies are disrupting everything, as we saw in the recent "Gamestop" story (see this interesting discussion by Chuck Pezeshky) and we may well be moving toward some completely different information exchange system that, for the time being, remains difficult for us to understand. Maybe it would be something like the glasnost (transparency), that Mikhail Gorbachev introduced in the Soviet Union in 1986. But glasnost didn't prevent (and perhaps eased) the collapse of the Union. Eventually, if collapse has to come, it comes.

 

Additional note: A commenter defined this post as a simplistic way to cry, "but free speech!" I understand his point, but that was not what I wanted to say. By comparing the US with the old Soviet Union in terms of censorship, I noted that the experience of the Soviet Union can tell us a lot on what is in store for us in the future. They did suppress dissent rather efficiently. But the result was a rigid society that eventually crashed very quickly. It is always the same story: The Seneca Effect. The more you try to stave off collapse, the faster it is when it arrives. 

 

(*) Russians and people from other areas formerly being part of the Soviet Union are welcome to correct my interpretation of censorship on the other side of what once was called the "Iron Curtain." I did my best to inform myself, but I never lived there.


Friday, January 29, 2021

Donald Trump: The Sacrifice of the Sacred King


"In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Wood. ..  In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier."

From "The Golden Bough" - by James G. Frazer


Post by "Mon Seul Desir"

Hello Ugo 

You once asked, what was the meaning of Trump, it crossed my mind that without anybody’s planning or intentions, Trump became an immense collective scapegoating ritual where all the sins and impurities of the tribe are placed upon the king, who is then ceremonially driven out to purify the tribe. Since the 1960s this seems to have increasingly become the function of the American Presidency superseding its previous role which it has held since the days of George Washington, that of a near omnipotent God-Emperor who incarnates American collective power. It’s certainly corresponds to the sacred geometry of Washington DC, enclosed by its pomerium, the sacred regalias on display, the Temples to the Divine Emperors, the Axis Mundi rising through the centre of the Capitol’s rotunda. I personally visited the place a decade ago and was absolutely struck by the mystical religious layout of the place. It was effectively the centre of a secular City of God, destined to extend to, and redeem the entire world. I would say that Americanism is in fact the world’s dominant religious system, erecting its theocracy over the ruins of the British World Empire just as the theocracy of Diocletian Jovius was erected over the ruins of the Roman-Hellenistic Mediterranean Empire. 

Now I must point to the Ancients warnings against hubris and the prophecies of Christian mystics that the reign of God can only come with the return of Christ. When one pushes too hard against the Cosmos, it pushes back. Alexander declared himself greater than Hercules, he was assassinated, his family exterminated and Ptolemy Soter was one of the few of his Companions who lived to found a dynasty and die in his bed. 

 I think that when the history of the USA over the past century is written several generations from now, it will describe not the March of Progress towards the future, the description will be of an ever increasing surrender to hubris culminating in overreach and collapse. 

This is the consequence of giving the powers of an advanced culture to an archaic one, they see what they can do with the new powers, not what they shouldn’t do. The social structure is overwhelmed by the new powers, the effect is that of Dr Erskine’s Supersoldier Serum, what is good becomes better, what is bad, worse. 

Homeric society started out as heroic warrior communities ruled by chiefs and freemen’s councils, their cosmology was of Primordial Chaos forged into Order by the Will of the Gods, the earthly rulers were shades of the Gods, ordering the human community as the Gods ordered the Cosmos. As their knowledge advanced, they studied the Order imposed by the Gods, the regularities they shaped, the ordered structures, from this they developed basic mechanics, observations of nature and the skills to create ordered organizations of their own, the concepts of objective law and disciplined organizations led to basic state bureaucracy and when merged with the fury of the Iron Age warrior led to the Greek Phalanx and the Roman Legion. The Homeric kings who in the past had commanded a few thousands warriors who were the freemen of his kingdom became massively powerful monarchs who had armies of tens to hundreds of thousands supported by workshops and officials who could undertake campaigns for years and where bound to absolute obedience. They became the Incredible Hulk’s of the Ancient World capable of smashing through everything in their paths, the humanistic ethic of the original Homeric world was overwhelmed by a power system stronger than it, the exercise of power became increasingly arbitrary, society turned into a regime of slavery and terror, the lacks of ancient culture became evident, the lack of a deep sense of ethics, no real work ethic, the absence of culturally integrated large scale structures, even the rulers enjoyed no security, any courtier could be a possible assassin, simply eating lunch was a terrifying adventure, their own relatives couldn’t be trusted, the guards who protected them one day could butcher them the next... 

One sees this in Seneca who discussed the ethics of committing suicide under a despotism, of Boudicca who revolted and was massacred after she and her daughters were tortured by petty officials who had the power of life and death over even provincial aristocrats, the Gospels can be read as the testimony of common people living under the arbitrary will of the powerful. Boudicca could torture and kill any commoner under her power, imperial officials could do the same to her, the officials could be ordered by the Emperor to kill themselves on a whim and the Emperor themselves had to watch everyone... The Homeric values of personal freedom and dignity had lost any meaning and increasingly it became impossible to do science under the constraints of Hesiod’s metaphysics, the whole concept of a civilization ordered under its own collective will was dying. 

Ultimately this became unsustainable, the reaction came, the Christians stated power comes only from God, the Cosmos is not ordered by the Emperor or any God he represents, it was created by God as an intrinsically ordered structure, there no law of Man, only the law of God which Man can only discover and interpret, all this apparatus of temporal power is just the product of ambition and greed, there is no divine purpose here, a counterfeit of the true City of God. The theology of the Glory of Rome died, abandoned by a people that could not bear its weight anymore and just wanted to breathe freely. Deprived of the faith that sustained it, Rome collapsed under its weight its ruins to become spolia to its heirs who had turned to the City of God. 

Now Medieval Man stepped into the world with the certainty that it was God’s and that he had to live by His rules. Everything moved by His eternal laws, that could be understood and applied to both the human and natural realms. Rulers were as completely under God’s law as the beggar, a new institution was born, Medieval Kingship and Feudalism organized with the support of God’s Church, a massive body of law and customs was created to modulate, contain and control power, lord and vassal relationships, knighthood, the Estates, the Guilds, the Communes, ultimately reaching its fullest development in the great Medieval Courts like Versailles, war was codified into the sport of Kings instead of the genocidal total wars of the late Classical world. The much ridiculed Versailles functioned as a containment structure for power, the King could reign without ruling, he didn’t need to constantly torture and kill people to show he was in charge, he simply distributed perks and honours, he had great fringe benefits compared to a Classical ruler, greater personal comforts, minimal risks of assassination, eating his meals in peace, no worries about his guards, outside the palace a massive array of autonomous institutions ran the whole society without royal intervention, the king’s subjects lived in security and prosperity, the much maligned costs of Versailles were insignificant compared to the costs of despotism. The so-called Enlightenment pseudo philosophers could never have survived in Ancient Rome, they would have been lion food, in a 20th century tyranny it would have been concentration camps and bullets in the back of the head, they were in fact free because the containment structures of the Versailles system protected them, they thought France could be made into a better country if it was ruled by a Caesar, they got Napoleon who used up the wealth and manpower of France the way Alexander used up Macedon, people don’t realize what they have until they lose it... 

Now armed with the concept of God’s law, the development of philosophy took new directions first under the scholastics and then under the natural philosophers taking the development of science well beyond that of ancient world, a new Christian work ethic fostered the Guilds of free craftsman who took technology beyond that the classical era with the clock, navigation skills, new architecture and art and eventually an Italian named Volta but together the first electric battery, opening a new unsuspected realm to science, knowledge that would overturn the Medieval metaphysics and lead to the Quantum Realm and the world of Relativity. 

 By the 19th century the world saw the emergence of a new form of organization, Technocracy, to manage the new railways and telegraph system, the first components that would grow into the Technosphere and a schizophrenic type of Man, Medieval Man in family and public life and Technospheric Man at the railway station, telegraph office and engineering and science lab. 

The concept of regularity and intrinsic order in Homeric society lead to technologies and forms of organization that overwhelmed its ethics and social structure, the Roman Empire was a supersized Homeric chiefdom with the bureaucracy and military of King Philippe the Second but without the customs and institutions that restrained and stabilized his regime, before the power system Homeric society was completely helpless, only the replacement of its values by Medieval ones, accompanied by the collapse of the Roman system allowed the people to become free. 

Today Technospheric Man has carried out a similar revolution, Technocracy, Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, it’s technology, it’s conception of Man as taught by Freud and Jung, its achievements that have obliterated the old sense of limits, the Atomic bombs that can level mountains in minutes, the contraceptives that have removed immemorial fundamentals of the relations between the sexes, the medical advances, the communication systems and so much more. Today’s Western system is simply a collection of decayed Medieval courts surrounded by the modern equivalent of the Fuggers and Medecis in the corporate lobbyists attempting to use structures taken from Black Panther’s Wakanda and Doom’s Latveria to create some sort of City of God on Earth, they’re as completely overwhelmed as the Classical rulers were, they wanted absolute power, they have it and everything that goes with it, they’re afraid of each other and of the people they rule, they’re quickly finding that absolute power burns the hands that attempt to wield it. But do they even truly understand what they’re attempting to wield? Does their Medieval mentalities even contains the concepts and cognitive patterns that would allow them to understand? 

That the problems the world is facing are problems in managing the Technosphere, they’re not political and the accepted techniques of financial and legal manipulation don’t work, traditional assumptions are obsolete, essentially what is required is Apollo Mission Control style technocratic management. Do these skills even exist in the current elites? Or they will simply persist in enforcing superstitious rituals of purity and redemption? 

Today I point out the Internet, consider what the printing press did to the power of the Medieval Church, the first printed books came in 1455, 62 years later in 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 theses and the rest is history. The Internet is the printing press on gamma rays, it’s Big, Mean and Green, consider that the properties of any substance is dependent on the nature of its bonding patterns whether its chemical or social bonds, the current system is dependent on vertical bonds converging on small groups of people, the Internet allows the creation of very large numbers of horizontal bonds across this structure, eventually sufficient to overwhelm the vertical structure and cause it to collapse. I don’t think their pathetic attempts at censorship will work anymore than burning printed tracts and heretics worked for the Church. Can the current governments even survive into the age of the Internet? 

Now this was a long one Ugo, when I start writing I’m never sure how it’s going to come out!

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Ghost Shirt Rituals: Preparing for the End of the World

 

Ishi, (c. 1861 –  1916), the last member of the Native American Yahi people, photographed as he was in 1911 when he came out of the woods in California. How did the Yahi react when they saw that the Whites were going to exterminate them? Perhaps not differently from the way we are reacting to the prospect of the collapse of our civilization: going crazy. The overreaction to the current Covid pandemic is just the first stage of the wave of madness that's engulfing humankind.

 

Imagine you are a Native American living before the arrival of the Whites. Maybe you are a Lakota, hunter of the central plains. Or maybe a Yahi, living in the thick forests of California. Or a member of any of the many Native American nations that existed back then. 

As a Native American, you have your family, your friends, your day-to-day routine of things and tasks. And you are busy with that, except for one thing: you know that there is a big problem. A VERY big problem. There is an entire nation, out there, bent on exterminating you and your people: the Whites. 

At first, you try to ignore the problem: those Whites are far away. Or maybe you'll deny that they are coming, or that they are so many as they are said to be. But, at some moment, the truth cannot be anymore ignored or denied. The Whites are there. They are coming for you, for your family, your children, your friends, your people. And you know that there is really no way to stop them. So, what do you do? 

You go crazy. And so does everyone. Suddenly, you are catapulted into a "new normal," a world where the routines of everyday life have disappeared. You are now into a sort of "heroic space" where you are supposed to go through mystic rituals that involve dancing yourself to a trance, wearing "ghost shirts" that are supposed to protect you from the Whites' bullets. Even more extreme dances, called "sun dances," involve hanging oneself to a pole with a rope with hooks at the end that pierce one's breast. That is supposed to make warriors braver in the coming fight

A contemporary representation of the "sun dance" involving people hanging themselves to poles with metal hooks stuck inside their breasts and other forms of self-inflicted tortures. This image was probably made to emphasize the "barbaric" aspect of these rituals, but it is true that the Native American society, under heavy stress, had developed these bloody self-punishing dances.

We don't know how exactly the Native Americans of those times saw these bloody rituals. Did they really believe that ghost shirts made them invulnerable? Did they really think that their problem was that their warriors were not brave enough and that to become braver they needed to hang themselves to poles by the breasts? We can't know, and we can't know if someone understood that it was way too late, that the Native American peoples should have acted much earlier to face the Whites as a united nation, instead of scattered tribes. But so moves the great wheel of history, mercilessly crushing everything and everyone when their time has come. After the massacre of Wounded Knee (1890), nobody could anymore think that ghost shirts were a solution.   

The Native Americans were not the only culture that went crazy when facing their own demise: Mon Seul Desir (see the text below) calls this phenomenon the "Indian Reservation Syndrome" and he lists other cases of societies gone into a frenzy of mysticism and rituals when they faced problems that they could not solve. One was the Nongqawuse cattle-killing cult in South Africa, another was the Boxer Rebellion in China (the latter also believed that their spiritual powers made them invulnerable to bullets). 

And then, of course, there is our civilization. We are facing a disaster even worse than anything the Native Americans ever faced: the collapse of the whole planetary ecosystem. And, like them, we are going crazy. 

You can see the ongoing craziness everywhere in its many forms, but the overreaction to the Covid-19 pandemic is perhaps the most pervasive, the most destructive, and the most misunderstood form of craziness that has hit us. The parallels with the rituals of the Native Americans are evident, with the role of the ghost shirts taken by the face masks as a visible garment signaling the beliefs of the wearer, and by vaccines as magic tools making people invulnerable to the enemy. 

The most evident parallel is how the current rituals include various forms of penance. Westerners are not hanging themselves by the breasts, but they undergo segregation, limitations to movement, loss of personal freedom, economic ruin, and more. The idea is to turn the whole story into an obsessive-compulsive ritual carried out with the same stoicism and indifference that Native Americans showed in their bloody rituals. 

It is part of the way the human mind works: when things go bad, the first reaction is to look for someone to blame. But, sometimes, when things go not just bad but truly rotten, then the culprit may turn out to be yourself. So, with the Covid pandemic, that's the reason for the general acceptance of rules and laws that, in other times, would have been unthinkable. It explains the demonization and the mistreatment of those who are the victims and not the perpetrators of what's happening: single human beings, treated as the one cause of the pandemic.

It was probably unavoidable. The Covid is not the real problem, we all know that. The problem is another: it lurks in the background, but it is there. No ghost shirt (and no vaccine) will send away the ecosystem collapse that we are facing

 

Note: What I wrote is not meant to disparage the Native Americans, nor their beliefs. The Sun Dance was a deeply felt ritual developed by people who were trying to cope with an impossible challenge and I am sure that they genuinely believed in what they were doing. I personally met some Lakota men who were still doing the dance and, years ago, even an Italian man who had converted to the rituals and was doing the dance, including the metal hooks stuck in his breast. These people deserve our respect for their courage and their dedication. About the current Covid rituals, I am sure that many people in the West genuinely believe that they are doing something good and useful by punishing themselves with masks, distancing, home segregation, and all the rest. But there are differences. One is that the Sun Dance was meant to unite the people, whereas the Covid rituals are explicitly meant to separate them. Also, the Sun Dance rituals originated from the people, while the Covid rituals, no matter how sincere are the believers, have been inflicted on the people, not developed by the people. 

_________________________________________________________________


The message from "Mon Seul Desir" that inspired this post

Hello Ugo,  

Thanks for the data, it confirms what I’ve was perceiving through feel and anecdotes, you’ve put hard numbers on it. It’s something I’ve been observing building up for a number of years, increasing drug use, alcoholism, and mental illness, I call it the Indian Reservation Syndrome, it’s the product of cultural collapse. I think you have heard of how primitive people can leave themselves to die when they lose their traditional way of life, it was hubris to say that this is confined to allegedly primitive tribes. Any culture can collapse when it comes into contact with a more advanced one. 

A couple of years ago I started having the feeling that collapse would start with massive mass psychoses, like the Nongqawuse cattle-killing cult, the Ghost dance, the Boxers, and the Cargo cults, I’ve been amazed by the Covid cult, it has turned into a collective obsessive-compulsive disorder, disconnected from any reality and resembling witchcraft and demonic possession hysteria, it has the common factor of having been embraced by the elites and much of the educated, with Mr. Fauci and Ferguson in the role of Herr Kramer and Sprenger. And it’s not isolated but part of a massive collective frenzy extending into every aspect of society. The processes that led to this, I’ll take up in a later message... 

Now for the Galla Placidia text, I see you as pointing to a non-linear transition, a complete change of state of the system, where the Homeric world gave way to the Medieval World, the City of God replacing the Glory of Rome. For this to occur implies that Medieval potentialities already existed in Late Rome, the collapse of the Empire allowed actualization of them. We are all chimeras, modernity is a chimera with a younger culture as a ghost in the shell of an older one. The Late Bronze Age had the Homeric world growing within itself, the Roman Empire had the Medieval world within and the modern West which is simply Medievalism in its late form has the Technospheric world growing within itself. 

How do you recognize the new culture? When its mythology emerges in a recognizable form, in pagan Rome the Gospels were regarded as crude tales for the credulous and uneducated, in the Bronze Age, Homer was probably seen as folklore for simple soldiers and sailors. I needed to find something similar, in December 2017 Me and my wife purchased movie tickets and sat down to watch Thor Ragnarok and I found it, Technospheric Mythology right in front of my eyes, it’s regarded as just entertainment for children, I thought about the utterly alien feel compared to movies from the 1950s like the 1959 Ben Hur movie. That earlier movie represents the Medieval Myth, you could show it to an audience from centuries ago and it would be fully comprehensible, but show Thor to even a 1959 audience and it would be surreal and insane, the motivations and morality of the characters would be mostly incomprehensible. 

I’ve seen the way many people react to it, it’s just special effects, it’s action, they can’t see why these movies are so popular. The Christian Myths are the Neoplatonic- Aristotlean weltanschauung turned into a narrative, the Marvel, DC, Inception and so on are the Relativistic-Quantum-Jungian weltanschauung similarity turned into narrative.

_____________________________________________________________

This is a moving and beautiful song by the Italian singer Fabrizio de Andre (1940, 1999) inspired by the massacre of Sand Creek of 1864 where some 700 Cheyenne and Arapaho people were killed, most of them women and children.

 
 
 
They took our hearts under a dark blanket
Si son presi il nostro cuore sotto una coperta scura

Under a small dead moon we slept without fear
Sotto una luna morta piccola dormivamo senza paura

He was a twenty year old general
Fu un generale di vent'anni

Blue eyes and the same jacket
Occhi turchini e giacca uguale

He was a twenty year old general
Fu un generale di vent'anni

Son of a storm
Figlio d'un temporale
 
There is a silver dollar at the bottom of Sand Creek.
C'è un dollaro d'argento sul fondo del Sand Creek.

Our warriors too far on the bison trail
I nostri guerrieri troppo lontani sulla pista del bisonte

And that distant music got louder and louder
E quella musica distante diventò sempre più forte

I closed my eyes three times
Chiusi gli occhi per tre volte

I found myself still there
Mi ritrovai ancora lì

I asked my grandfather. is it just a dream?
Chiesi a mio nonno è solo un sogno?

My grandfather said yes
Mio nonno disse sì
 
Sometimes the fish sing at the bottom of Sand Creek
A volte i pesci cantano sul fondo del Sand Creek

I dreamed so hard that my nose bleed
Sognai talmente forte che mi uscì il sangue dal naso

Lightning in one ear in the other heaven
Il lampo in un orecchio nell'altro il paradiso

The smallest tears
Le lacrime più piccole

The biggest tears
Le lacrime più grosse

When the snow tree
Quando l'albero della neve

Bloomed with red stars
Fiorì di stelle rosse
 
Now the children sleep in the Sand Creek bed
Ora i bambini dormono nel letto del Sand Creek

When the sun raised its head between the shoulders of the night
Quando il sole alzò la testa tra le spalle della notte

It was just dogs and smoke and upturned tents
C'erano solo cani e fumo e tende capovolte

I shot an arrow in the sky
Tirai una freccia in cielo

To make it breathe
Per farlo respirare

I shot an arrow in the wind
Tirai una freccia al vento

To make it bleed
Per farlo sanguinare
 
Look for the third arrow at the bottom of Sand Creek
La terza freccia cercala sul fondo del Sand Creek

They took our hearts under a dark blanket
Si son presi il nostro cuore sotto una coperta scura
.......

Friday, January 22, 2021

Requiem for Universities: A Historical Cycle is Over

 

After some 10 centuries of existence, universities have arrived to the end of their historical cycle. It is the way things are: it is the great cycle of life. The universities will be gone, something else will come that will help people who want to learn and people who love to teach to find each other. And the cycle of life will continue. Even Simba the Lion knew that. 

Here, Sinéad Murphy has kindly given me the permission to reproduce her recent post "Requiem for Universities" on "Cassandra's Legacy." Her conclusions are similar to mine, as expressed in the post I wrote with the title of "The Fall of the Citadels of Science."

 

Requiem For Universities

Published 21 January 2021 on "Lockdown Sceptics"

by Sinéad Murphy

Universities have been dying for some time. As their prospectuses have grown glossier, their gateway buildings more spectacular and their accommodation for students more stunningly luxurious, the Humanities subjects have been gradually hollowed out.

Academics’ intellectual work has been streamlined by the auditing procedures of the ‘Research Excellence Framework’ and by growing pressure to bid for outside funding, which is distributed to projects that address a narrow range of approved themes – Sustainability, Ageing, Energy, Inequality…

Student achievement has been dumbed down by the inculcation of a thoughtless relativism – Everybody’s different; That’s just my interpretation – and by the annual inflation of grades.

The curriculum has begun to be tamed by continual revision – never broad enough, never representative enough – and by the drive for ‘equality and diversity’.And teaching has been marginalized by the heavy requirements that it represent itself on ever proliferating platforms and review itself in endless feedback loops.

Universities, in short, have been gradually transforming into what they proudly trumpet as a Safe Space, a space that has been cleared at greatest expense to Humanities subjects, a space in which the slightest risk – that a thought might lead nowhere, that a student might be uninterested, that an idea might offend or that a teacher might really persuade – has been mitigated by so many layers of bureaucratic procedure that most of everyone’s time is spent in wading through them.

Safe Space universities have been divesting themselves of real educational content, their plush marketing ploys concealing the decline – of their Humanities subjects at least – into little more than holding patterns for directionless youths.

But up until March of last year, there was still some space and time to act as if. To attempt, in the midst of the decline, to teach, to learn, to think, as if it were really possible to do so.

Because you could still meet your students, and use the small chance you had to teach them to introduce ideas which they might just be taken by and which you, in the process, might deepen your understanding of. And because students could still meet each other, form friendships, gather together, lift themselves out of the lives they grew up with, if only as a temporary reprieve.

It was not much, that is true. And acting as if can too easily collapse into the corruption of an all-out cynicism – quoting Heidegger in the original German to students who are visibly disengaged.

But acting as if can also, sometimes, work; the pretence can actually catch on. Two centuries and a half ago, Kant urged us to act as if human beings are rational, convinced that that would eventually make us so; and it did seem to work… for a while, at least.

But even the pretence is over now; even acting as if, no longer an option. Safe Space universities have come to their culmination. No space is safer than an empty space. And universities are empty at last. The shell has cracked and fallen away. The university is no more.


A couple of weeks ago, following a year’s leave, I stood in a tiny office on the tenth floor of a university tower.

From here, all teaching for the coming semester was to be done.

Lectures were to be given into the void, recorded for access in a space and at a time of students’ choosing. Hour-long tirades, with only your Panopto reflection for your guide, without even commonplace reference points to scaffold the event – the time of day, the weather outside, the furnishings, quirks in the technology: no experience shared, nothing to bind you to your crowd.

Seminars were to be run from here too. These, at least, were to be ‘live’; when it was morning for you, it would be morning for everyone else too. But – open and earnest discussion with students locked up in their family home, sitting on the bed they tossed in as a child? I am told that they turn off their video, sometimes their audio too, attending the class in name only, suspended in a box on the screen.

A brand new desktop computer blighted the tiny office on the tenth floor. Its oversized screen: the black hole into which teaching and learning were set to disappear.

For how long? Long enough, I am sure, for the sheer implausibility of the prospect to lose its edge. Long enough for what is now deemed necessary – the remote university – to begin, at last, to seem possible.

But it is not possible. Philosophy, at least, cannot be taught by giving a speech to yourself in a room on the tenth floor. Philosophy cannot be taught by orchestrating a grid of nametags. Philosophy cannot be taught on a screen.

The classic model of Western Philosophy is Socrates, who wandered about asking questions of those who would listen, inviting his fellow citizens to discussion of the good life. The gadfly method, it is called – meant to get under your skin. Exactly the opposite of Covid-compliant.

Philosophy does have other models – the grand treatise, or, most suitable now, the solitary meditation. But for teaching Philosophy, dialogue has never been bettered. And dialogue is live, up close, and between bodies.

In any dialogue, most of what is communicated is non-verbal, even if the dialogue is formal, even if it is aimed at instruction. You pause for effect, your muscles stilled. You raise your eyebrows in scepticism. You circle your hands in approximation. You deepen your tone for emphasis. You move from side to side to keep your thoughts in train. You repeat yourself at the sight of a furrowed brow. You re-energise at slumped shoulders. You play for laughs. You stop for hands in the air.

And philosophical dialogue goes even deeper, making your stomach churn with existential abandon, your heart beat at the reason of humanity, your head throb at the nature of the sublime.

Add to this the surface body-language of dialogue generally – the still muscles, the raised eyebrows, the circling hands and the rest ­– and the room in which Philosophy is taught should be a theatre of bodied intensity, a far cry from the tenth floor with its grotesque blank screen.

In the tiny office on the tenth floor, you cannot begin your lecture with a question, or an accusation, or a taunt, or anything else that might get your students involved. There is no one there and you cannot be a gadfly alone. You must speak instead as if from the podium, body hemmed in, a talking head. Except that, from the podium, you might still at least feel your audience there, and what you say might still have a chance of sinking in.

In the tiny office on the tenth floor, you cannot act as if. There is no one to play to, nothing to get the show on the road.

And what must it be like, to sit on your bed in a room in your parents’ house and switch on a tirade-from-nowhere? With your social life (or what passes for it) pulsing through competing portals, does the window to your Philosophy class let in any light at all?

Real learning is done by our bodies – by heart, it used to be said, though the phrase is out of favour. An argument should be grasped, rhetoric should be savoured, and metaphysical truths should make our hairs stand on end. Anything else is just words.

And just words are not only lifeless and cold; they suck the life from you, they leave you cold. Remote teaching and learning actually do you harm.

The university now continually directs its students to its twenty-four-hour support service, in implicit acknowledgement of the harmful effects of its remote provision, which does not merely fall short of the mark but imposes the kind of out-of-body experience that most students find disheartening and many cannot cope with at all.

We are told that it is necessary, the Safe Space university of just words – to save lives. (Our union has just invited us all to an event called “Saving Lives At Work”.) But that something is deemed necessary does not suffice to make it possible – of all lessons, that is the one we ought most to learn from this past year.

We are told also that it is temporary. But we will only ensure that it is temporary if we do not act as if it is possible. We should refuse to carry out their exceptional arrangements, or their exceptional arrangements have a chance of becoming the rule.

The Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, as early as May of last year, wrote what he titled a “Requiem For Students”, in which he described very well the impossibly corrupted character of the Covid university, whose technological barbarism he called out for what it is, and whose students he exhorted to refuse to enroll.

As educators, we are supposed to lead forth. We should go first, and refuse to teach on screens.

It is time to stop acting as if.

_________________________________________________________________________

 


Sinéad Murphy teaches philosophy at Newcastle University. She is the author of "Zombie University

 



Monday, January 18, 2021

Eco-fascism and Overpopulation

 

A post by Jacopo Simonetta

 

"Eco-fascist" is the usual insult directed at anyone who dares to mention overpopulation. This is funny to me because, as far as I know, fascists are usually concerned with denatality, race purity and similar morbid fantasies, but not with overpopulation who is just about the number of persons and not about skin color and so on.

Here, I will not go back over the purely demographic aspects of the issue to which several posts have already been devoted (on "Effetto Cassandra" and on "Apocalottimismo", both in Italian).  Instead, I would like to talk about this singular cultural taboo, characteristic (though not exclusive) of industrial civilization.

To begin with.

To understand what we are talking about, let us consider that today there are almost 8 billion of us with a growth rate of about 80 million per year, it means 220,000 per day, over 9000 per hour, 75 per second.  This means an estimated human mass of about 400 million tons.  The world's average human population density is 55 people per square kilometer (excluding Antarctica), which means a square of not much over one hundred steps per side per head.  In Italy we are about 200 per square kilometer, which means half a hectare per person, but if we consider only the agricultural surface the square becomes only 40 steps per side (about 2000 square meters).

However, the number of people is only one of the factors involved because we use livestock, fields, industrial structures, buildings and much more to live.  All in all, the 'anthroposphere' (i.e. us with all the trappings) weighs about 40 trillion tons, which is something like 4,000 tons of concrete, metal, plastic, plants, livestock and so on for each of us. On average and very roughly.

But number is not the only element. Since 1800 the population has increased 8 times, but total consumption 140 times, and if it has started to fall in some countries, like ours, it is still growing globally.

The third determining factor, which is related to the other two, is technology, the effects of which are complex, but which, on the whole, makes the most of the remaining resources, but cannot create new ones.  Ultimately therefore, technology increases rather than to reduces both consumption and the degradation of the planet.  A fact already empirically observed by many authors (starting with Jevons as early as 1865) and scientifically demonstrated by Glansdorff and Prigogine in 1971.

The result is that the biomes, i.e. the great ecological systems into which the Biosphere was divided and which maintained climatic and environmental conditions on the planet compatible with life (including our own), no longer exist and today we speak about Anthromes.

Of the 21 anthromes identified, only 3 are considered "wildlands", i.e. deserts, tundra, and the remains of primary tropical forests, for a total of just over 20% of the earth's surface (excluding Antarctica).  

But even these territories are subject to severe and very serious degradation phenomena such as wildfires, melting permafrost, droughts and so on. 

All the rest, about 80% of the dry land, is occupied by totally artificial ecosystems, such as towns and countryside, or heavily modified ones, such as almost all the surviving forests and grasslands.   In the sea it is even worse.

This means that properly 'natural' ecosystems are practically vanished and that what scattered remains of wildlife survives in the interstices of our 'global anthill'.   In fact, it is miraculous that so much life still exists on Earth.


The 'Demographic Transition”

The father of the 'Demographic Transition' was Adolphe Landry, a French politician of the radical left, who was repeatedly member of parliament and minister.   Decidedly in favor of natalist policies and a staunch detractor of Malthus's work, Landry actually espoused his assumptions, but came to the conclusion that there was no need to reduce the birth rate because a large and dynamic population was a nation's main asset.    Instead, economic prosperity should be increased and spread so as to cause a gradual stabilization of the population, but at much higher levels than at the outset.   In other words, compared to Malthus, he reversed cause with effect.

Originating in the early 1900s and then reworked by numerous authors, in a nutshell, this theory maintains that there exists a 'traditional' condition in which misery, disease and war lead to a high mortality rate, compensated by a high birth rate, so that the population remains substantially stable.  Progress and industrialization increase prosperity and reduce mortality, so that the population increases while, at a later stage, the birth rate decreases until a substantial balance is restored, but at a much higher population levels.  Factors such as the availability of resources, the resilience of ecosystems, pollution, etc. have no substantial relevance.

On the basis of the scientific and historical knowledge available until the 1970s, the theory seemed to explain well what had happened in Europe and the USA over the last two centuries, so that it became a reference point for all demographic models.

So far, nothing strange.  The point is, however, that over the last 50 years the best knowledge, especially historical and anthropological, has amply demonstrated that there has never been a something such a 'traditional' state similar to that assumed by the theory.  On the contrary, populations have adopted very different reproductive strategies in different places and at different times.  In very many cases, even in Christian Europe, more or less effective forms of demographic control were practiced, either by limiting the birth rate (with various combinations of infertile ways of having sex, condoms, prolonged breastfeeding, abstinence, abortion, infanticide and abandonment), or by increasing the mortality of the elderly (abandonment and killing).

Those who did not do so earned a place in the history books because they triggered invasions, or died out, crushed by their own numbers.   If anything, it was the very special combination of historical and environmental factors that allowed Capitalism to take hold that created the cultural, social and economic conditions that led to two centuries of unprecedented birth and population growth in Europe and the USA. 

Looking at the rest of the world, it has been amply documented that, almost always, it was European colonization that first led to a demographic decline, sometimes considerable, and then to the frenzied increase that in some cases still lasts today.

In short, the 'demographic transition' began as a political proposal, grew as a scientific hypothesis and finally became a 'pious legend' in the etymological sense of the term.


So what?

So why is this model still used today, not only in school books, but also in the work of the UN and other political bodies, till to a large part of academia?   To put it very brutally: because it suits everyone.

It suits the capitalists because it is an excellent viaticum for claiming that capitalism has done a great deal of good and that economic growth must be pushed to the maximum, "conditio sine qua non" for the definitive solution to human problems.

It suits governments because it exempts them from taking difficult and often unpopular measures.

It suits the "right wing", which is obsessed with denatality and the possible extinction of the hypothetical "white race".  But also the nationalists of every country and ethnic group, because it denies that the high birth rate they hold dear is a harbinger of disaster.

It appeals to the clergy of the dominant religions, all of them more or less misogynistic and more or less obsessed with sexuality, regarded as intrinsically sinful.  The reproductive goal is thus indicated, sometimes openly and sometimes subtly, as the justification for sexual intercourse.  The fact that the consequent burden and risk falls entirely, or almost entirely, on women does not seem to be a problem, if anything the opposite.

It appeals alzo to supporters of left-wing ideologies, such as the aforementioned Landry, because it supports the idea that progress is a natural and irreversible phenomenon, as well as exempting the proletariat from any responsibility for any mishaps.

Western racists like it because it makes them feel they are in the vanguard of progress, and other ethnic racists like it because it promises them revenge.  And it appeals  to militarist and fascists because they like large mass of “cannon fodder”, but like it also to pacifists who don’t want accept that crisis, violence and war are unavoidable parts of human behavior. 

It also appeals to the variegated environmentalist world because it allows them to overlook the most difficult and deadly of our actual predicaments, thinking that it will sort itself out while we deal with renewable energy and recycling.

The advocates of mass immigration like it because it allows them to think that there may be no limits to the number of people living on a given territory, but so do those who oppose it because it allows them to say that the cause of overpopulation is the 10% of people that are coming, rather than the 90% that are already here.

Many feminists even like it, despite the fact that it is women who bear the heavy burden that the lack of anti-natalist policies of governments places on their shoulders.  The Third-Worlders like it too, despite the fact that, among the consequences of colonization, high population growth is the one that, more than any other, has by now condemned many populations to centuries of misery, social unrest, wars, etc.
Yes, because overpopulation means environmental degradation and pollution, unemployment, misery and exploitation, competition and conflict.  It is never the only factor at play, of course, but it just so happens that it has always been one of the main drivers of the most serious crises in human history.  But it is the first time that it has appeared, albeit in different forms, all over the planet at the same time.

Then “Demographic transition theory” suits those who have power and affluence, but at the same time pleases to people sincerely involved with the poor and the weak.  And is very useful for those who want to rise to political power or, more modestly, to please their readers.   Real poor, women and weak pay for all of them, but nobody care, not even themselves because it is very difficult for facts to make people change their minds when it goes against their feelings, identity believes and personal interests.
However, overpopulation it is not an invention of some eccentric eco-fascist  or of a sect of pathological misanthropes, but an objective reality and to have ignored it is, by far, the most formidable obstacle now on the road to a hypothetical transition towards a "sustainable" society in the proper sense, and not just propaganda.

How will it end?  This is one of the few safe forecasts: we don't know how or when, but humanity will come back within the carrying capacity of the planet.  It certainly will, no questions. Just it is a pity that every day that passes, every mouth and every kWh more contribute to reducing this carrying capacity. So the longer we wait, the worse it will be because in a world where there is no space available for new colonization, migration is not either a solution because it only shifts the acme of the crisis from one place to another.

Where the birth rate and consumption do not fall fast enough, mortality will rise and that is all.











Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)