Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Fabulous Phil Mattson Reunion


Reunion En Plein Air
Jean-Antoine Watteau
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.
---Albert Einstein
The buds swell imperceptibly without hurry or confusion, as if the short spring day were an eternity.
---Henry David Thoreau
Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.
---Wallace Stevens
I've titled this particular piece of pondering so that Google will pick up "Phil Mattson," and I'd better get right to the reason why. A couple years ago I wrote the first of a few articles about this remarkable vocal teacher, which you still can take a look at here http://jazzolog.blogspot.com/2006/11/phil-mattson-brings-us-jazz-choirs.html and a few other places on the Internet. The followup articles, like this one, came because of response from former students, who wish to express gratitude and make contact with each other. One of Phil Mattson's students from 25 years ago, Roy Turpin, has gone so far as to propose a reunion celebration next July in Creston, Iowa, where the venerable teacher continues to inspire young people. I'm trying to help spread the word a little bit. Contact me if you want referral to more information.
But what about this urge to reunion? It seems to be one of those traits we humans have come up with that's nowhere else in creation. I understand elephants have graveyards they revisit to mourn and remember relatives from the herd...but that's like Memorial Day. Some flying creatures migrate to the same places, but I guess they don't do that to say hello to each other. I wonder if dolphins and whales have reunions with those who have gone away from the pod.
Many of us who came up through the 1950s probably remember family reunions, where as a kid you didn't know anybody but hoped there might be distant cousins there you at least could play with. There was a lot of food, chiefly baked beans as I recall. Then came school reunions which rebellious outsiders like me tried to avoid at all cost. I enjoyed seeing old friends, but didn't want to risk rejection again by people who didn't like me in the first place. I phoned up a friend from college a few years ago, told him I'd be in town, and suggested we get together. He said he didn't see the point in visiting the past and so refused to see me. I never went that far, but I guess I can understand where he's at.
I still felt I didn't particularly want to go to my 50th high school reunion even as I registered for it...which I succeeded in putting off until I had to do it late. But now I thought it was sort of my duty to show up, and I admit to curiosity about some of the other old duffers with whom I'd lost contact. Surely most of our class of 350 or so would be there...unless they'd died---and quite a few have. So it was I drove the 6 hours---well, 7 now that I honor the gas conservation of the actual speed limit---up from Ohio to Jamestown, New York, where I was born, raised, and schooled all the way through.
The first meeting was Friday afternoon at JHS itself for a tour of the expanded facility. I got there 5 minutes early to find a group of 75 people standing around in the parking lot. Some few were talking together, but mostly we apparently were strangers. This was the first indication we were not going to know automatically who people were anymore. There's a bit of a shock to that because you figure you haven't changed that much (in 50 years---heh heh) so what's happened to all these other folks? Finally a guy turned to me just to make small talk, said his name, and then I recognized him immediately. I would have that experience over and over again for the next 2 days.
A picnic was to follow that evening, and I must say we 75 now had an edge on everybody else. At last the nametags were distributed, with a little photo on it of what we looked like in 1958. Of course quite a few people stayed in Jamestown through these years, and most of them knew each other. They formed the core committee that planned all this. But like many small cities, this one suffered loss of industry and jobs and many of us, who didn't move away to go to college and live somewhere else, were forced to do so to find work. Now I stood in line to get my nametag and try to be cool and not show any anxiety that people might not recognize me at all even then.
What happened from then on seemed to happen similarly to other people too. At first I tried to remain the mature, accomplished fellow I am today---harrumph---but as I met more and more people, particularly those I had known since grade school, I began to enter the Reunion Time Warp. There were reminiscences, some of which I had forgotten, or TRIED to forget, and other memories I knew very well. Mostly there was laughter, but sometimes we paused over something serious that had happened during our development or to mourn a lost friend. At one point, at the big dance Saturday night, I stood before the 3 "girls" I had had crushes on prior to high school. Such an event never had happened to me before. By the end of the evening I was 18 again.
So obviously I had a whale of a time---and if whales don't have reunions, they should. Maybe they don't need to, because they don't wander off the way we do. We leave the tribe on our walkabouts, and we don't come back. We become men and women and we set up somewhere else, maybe form a new tribe or decide to do without. Some of us keep the same job and family for 30 years. I used to change jobs every couple years...until the times began to get rougher. I was divorced once, had 15 years of being on my own, and now celebrate a marriage and new family of 26 years.
The drive back home was revelatory for me. It was like all my formative years had passed before my eyes. My wife reminded me it would be natural if the days just following this would seem like a letdown...and that's true, they have. My ego has had to get back down where it belongs. Reunions are good, whether you have to grow into them as I have, or you've been at it all along. There's a human trait to reunite, probably because we think about things. We want it to be all one package, understood and organized, when finally we breathe our last. We want to be able to pass on in joy, with a smile and thanks.

10 comments:

Quinty said...

The last line is quite beautiful.

I hope this decent and basic desire in life is yours when the time eventually comes.

mowrey said...

Fine writing on one of the classic American dilemmas---to go or not to go. I usually do & haven't regretted one yet. Hey, Pops, I was in Jamestown Mon afternoon lookin' for a good place to eat. Could've used some advice.

jazzolog said...

Thank you Quinty for your best wishes. I'm assuming Mowrey attempted a meal in downtown Jamestown. Except for a couple of the usual chains, downtown was decimated within months of the great Reaganomics revolution. Obedient blue collars were promised there'd be trickle-down upon them...and when it came, hundreds were laid off in a single day. The big industry that did it (TRW) abandoned the city shortly after. Of course Jamestown was not the only community to watch this happen in the 1980s. There are interesting restaurants now on the outskirts of town, but you need to be a native or research ahead to know about them. My sister took me to a great spot called the Nickel Inn. It's on the Bone Run Road, between Frewsburg and Onoville. See what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Tribes privilege social ties, and... they take care of their own!

Sharing, and caring are all qualities that are associated with tribal traditions. Though, there is also the pervasive belief that, in hard times, it was the custom amongst some tribes when the elderlies became too weak for the arduous journey that they be left behind: presumably, knowing that food and resources would be in short supply, the elderlies, who had already lived a full life in the eyes of their society, knew that it was time for them to leave, and they did so quietly. But we are much more civilized now, we don't leave the weak and the elderly on the ice to die: the "invisible hand" of the market does it for us.

Barbara Ehrenreich reports here that in this day and age suicide is becoming an increasingly popular response to debt:

India may be the trend-setter here, with an estimated 150,000 debt-ridden farmers succumbing to suicide since 1997. With guns in short supply in rural India, the desperate farmers have taken to drinking the pesticides meant for their crops.

Dry your eyes, already: Death is an effective remedy for debt, along with anything else that may be bothering you too. And try to think of it too from a lofty, corner-office, perspective: If you can't pay your debts or afford to play your role as a consumer, and if, in addition -- like an ever-rising number of Americans -- you're no longer needed at the workplace, then there's no further point to your existence. I'm not saying that the creditors, the bankers and the mortgage companies actually want you dead, but in a culture where one's credit rating is routinely held up as a three-digit measure of personal self-worth, the correct response to insoluble debt is in fact, "Just shoot me!"

jazzolog said...

I've spent the past few years being very careful to distinguish between tribe and democratic community, but I think I'm beginning cave in and allow the distinction is pretty moot~~~

COMMON SENSE AND SURVIVAL, By William Kotke
Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The graph line of the global population explosion now goes upward almost vertically. The graph line of reserves of resources that fund that explosion falls precipitously. The point at which population crosses the food production line is the point of the beginning of the coming mass die-off of human population.

Since Babylon, the type of human culture that we live in has featured an emperor or surrogate who is surrounded by a handful of wealthy militarist/financiers. These people own and rule the realm. This class has historically gained their power and wealth by feeding off the people and by growth/conquest. This class has always urged growth as the means to increase their power and wealth. There were always new fertile lands to conquer and peoples to enslave. The configuration of the culture of empire which we call civilization, has not changed in six thousand years. Today in the U.S.A. less than one per cent of the population has more than three quarters of the wealth. Certainly they have enough wealth to buy and run the government and have a land ownership pattern that rivals the land barons of Guatamala.

This culture has increased its population by running a net deficit of the fertility of the earth. The soils, forests, fish stocks, pure water and over-grazed and desertified landscapes have been sacrificed to the god of growth. Now there are no more fertile lands to conquer and exploit, but the population continues to grow and the fossil fuel production reaches peak and begins to decline. The culture that has no vision of the future and no purpose other than material consumption hits the wall.

In the past few centuries the elites have gained a new method of growth/conquest. The lever of Science/technology has been used to further their power. Through the creation of industrialism, we now live in a manufactured environment. We civilized people have created machines and been conditioned by the machine world until we begin to act in a machine-like manner. Powerless, we are thoroughly dependent upon the machine for our food and shelter survival. Alienated and atomized, we move around trying to fit into a niche in order to obtain survival. The pressure to move to a job breaks nuclear families apart and certainly precludes the existence of extended families. We have become interchangeable ciphers in the industrial machine. We have been culturally conditioned from birth to have great regard for non-living manufactured items and have been alienated from living things. We have more regard for the dead wood of a church than for a living forest.

Today, when we look at the numbers and look back at those millions of acres of exhausted and eroded soils, common sense tells us that this is the end. The Patriarchs of empire have committed us to a fundamental biological error. Any organism that wantonly kills that which feeds it will not endure very long. The culture of empire does not have a political problem; it has a biological problem. It lives in a bubble of self-created definitions and has a dysfunctional relationship with the life of the earth. One might say that if the humans can't keep the planet alive, they certainly can't live here.

For several million years our successful ancestors maintained adaptation to the ecological energy flows of the earth. Now, humans have become so biologically maladapted that we are in the third mass species die-off, the last one being the dinosaurs.

It's just common sense that we throw out the whole of the culture of civilization. If even a small part of the human species is to endure, we must return to foundational principles.

The millenniums-old project of the imperial elites to control every thing in front of them and indeed, wishfully, the universe, has failed.

THE SHIFT

The human species is seriously out of balance with the natural world. The obvious answer to this is for the species to regain balance with the natural world. Simple common sense morality would say that first we need a society that agrees that each of us is alive and not a bio-robot and that each of our lives have intrinsic value. We shift from a war/competition - death focus to a principle that all life has value. Life is the growth system. Consuming living ecologies in order to amass piles of baubles is ultimately not a growth system.

Common sense morality would say that we humans should aid the living earth and that the simple morality would be that we humans aid in the complete ecological restoration of the earth back to its climax condition. This is the least that we could do given the grievous damage that has occurred. Of course this is also the pathway toward our survival.

A modern human normally enters the world in an austere hospital, possibly experiencing birth trauma. The child is baby-sat by a TV and then later turned over to a mass education institution for further conditioning. After graduating they get to work in a cubicle until they retire and die.

In a culture in which the growth of life is the paramount focus, the pregnant mother would become a center of community energy. Recent scholarship has shown us how important it is for both mother and baby to receive soothing and comforting energies. Great community energy would also be focused on the children. Just like all the other species around us, the "growing" of children would be a central activity. In a Life culture we would assume that the society would be formed in such a way as to encourage every possible talent of each individual. As we symbolically move out of the patriarchal/intellectual to the feminine/feeling mode the social dialog changes. The successful growing of life of all kinds requires a feeling for it and some application of the intellect. We would begin to follow perceptions and conclusions brought to us by our feelings rather than conclusions derived solely from intellection.

HUMANS ON THE CUTTING EDGE

It's just common sense. If humans want to live on this planet they will have to restore the life of the earth. This seems like a tall order but the imminent death of billions is also a large event.

Answers have come bubbling up out of our mass intuition. For decades skills have been building in the practice of Permaculture so that seed communities can restore ecosystems, build soil fertility and produce more food per acre than the industrial system. Hand-made houses with solar advantages built from local materials are scattered around the planet. There are examples of hand-made houses with solar advantages that can heat and cool themselves without outside energy. The world-wide move to ecovillages is well under way with Russia alone having now over eight hundred.

Bill Mollison, one of the co-originators of Permaculture says that, "Without permanent agriculture there is no possibility of a stable social order." The intuitively forming ideal is extended families occupying their own private permaculture design with a number of these families occupying a watershed. A number of watersheds constitute a bioregion. This is a natural social/political framework in which the needs of the earth are re-presented in human society because the humans are advocating for the life and gaining survival from that life. We might call this biological democracy.

Human/earth centered, rather than object centered, this new movement promises to become the next human culture. Human social institutions tend to form around food survival systems and be resonant with the morals and purpose of those different activities to gain food; we would expect the new culture to do the same. When some or all of the seed communities make it through the apocalypse, they will be the ancestors.

Many flail about trying to save the dying beast of empire by recycling their tin cans or inventing free energy machines but it is just common sense that if we want to aid the life of our great, great grandchildren we will ignore the dying beast and put our living energies into the new way of life.

By Wm. H. Kőtke, author of the underground classic book: THE FINAL EMPIRE: The Collapse of Civilization and the Seed of the Future which can be viewed at: http://www.thefinalempirebook.com/. and Garden Planet: The Present Phase Change of the Human Species. seen at: http://carolynbaker.net/site/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/OLK1A6/www.gardenplanetbook.com .

http://carolynbaker.net/site/content/view/616/1/

Anonymous said...

William Kotke, Carolyn Baker and friends might be onto something here. The last echo-village I visited had a strong matrifocal foundation to it. Amusingly, one of the men there, in touch, no doubt, with his "inner goddess," had taken to wearing a skirt. To my regret, I didn’t get to stick around long enough to see what became of that and whether this earned him the respect of his fellow "goddesses" or possibly more clout with the village council. Personally, I must say that I find this kind of “Patriarchal/intellectual” vs. “feminine/feeling” reductionism a somewhat misguided cosmology, not to mention a little passé, but, still, the whole gynocentric dynamic there had struck my curiosity. Nothing outmoded about survivalism though, I’ll give you that.

Many are those who hope, or pray (for the religiously inclined) for End Times, so that the "dying beast" can be replaced with their own particular vision of what the world ought to be. As strong disagreements rage amongst the faithfuls over which vision is truer and exactly what the new world ought to be, one may wonder whether the post-apocalyptic world they imagine would prove any more enlightened than the world we live in today. But, for better or for worse, survivalism, it seems, is not just for survivalists anymore---so says, Alex Williams in this article published in the New York Times on April 6, 2008:

Duck and Cover: It’s the New Survivalism

Anonymous said...

Duck and Cover: It’s the New Survivalism
By Alex Williams [link]

THE traditional face of survivalism is that of a shaggy loner in camouflage, holed up in a cabin in the wilderness and surrounded by cases of canned goods and ammunition.

It is not that of Barton M. Biggs, the former chief global strategist at Morgan Stanley. Yet in Mr. Biggs’s new book, “Wealth, War and Wisdom,” he says people should “assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.”

“Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food,” Mr. Biggs writes. “It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, wine, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson. Even in America and Europe there could be moments of riot and rebellion when law and order temporarily completely breaks down.”

Survivalism, it seems, is not just for survivalists anymore.

Faced with a confluence of diverse threats — a tanking economy, a housing crisis, looming environmental disasters, and a sharp spike in oil prices — people who do not consider themselves extremists are starting to discuss doomsday measures once associated with the social fringes.

They stockpile or grow food in case of a supply breakdown, or buy precious metals in case of economic collapse. Some try to take their houses off the electricity grid, or plan safe houses far away. The point is not to drop out of society, but to be prepared in case the future turns out like something out of “An Inconvenient Truth,” if not “Mad Max.”

“I’m not a gun-nut, camo-wearing skinhead. I don’t even hunt or fish,” said Bill Marcom, 53, a construction executive in Dallas.

Still, motivated by a belief that the credit crunch and a bursting housing bubble might spark widespread economic chaos — “the Greater Depression,” as he put it — Mr. Marcom began to take measures to prepare for the unknown over the last few years: buying old silver coins to use as currency; buying G.P.S. units, a satellite telephone and a hydroponic kit; and building a simple cabin in a remote West Texas desert.

“If all these planets line up and things do get really bad,” Mr. Marcom said, “those who have not prepared will be trapped in the city with thousands of other people needing food and propane and everything else.”

Interest in survivalism — in either its traditional hard-core version or a middle-class “lite” variation — functions as a leading economic indicator of social anxiety, preparedness experts said: It spikes at times of peril real (the post-Sept. 11 period) or imagined (the chaos that was supposed to follow the so-called Y2K computer bug in 2000).

At times, a degree of paranoia is officially sanctioned. In the 1950s, civil defense authorities encouraged people to build personal bomb shelters because of the nuclear threat. In 2003, the Department of Homeland Security encouraged Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to seal windows in case of biological or chemical attacks.

Now, however, the government, while still conducting business under a yellow terrorism alert, is no longer taking a lead role in encouraging preparedness. For some, this leaves a vacuum of reassurance, and plenty to worry about.

Esteemed economists debate whether the credit crisis could result in a complete meltdown of the financial system. A former vice president of the United States informs us that global warming could result in mass flooding, disease and starvation, perhaps even a new Ice Age.

“You just can’t help wonder if there’s a train wreck coming,” said David Anderson, 50, a database administrator in Colorado Springs who said he was moved by economic uncertainties and high energy prices, among other factors, to stockpile months’ worth of canned goods in his basement for his wife, his two young children and himself.

Popular culture also provides reinforcement, in books like “The Road,” Cormac McCarthy’s novel about a father and son journeying through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and films like “I Am Legend,” which stars Will Smith as a survivor of a man-made virus wandering the barren streets of New York.

Middle-class survivalists can also browse among a growing number of how-to books with titles like “Dare to Prepare!” a self-published work by Holly Drennan Deyo, or “When All Hell Breaks Loose” by Cody Lundin (Gibbs Smith, 2007), which instructs readers how to dispose of bodies and dine on rats and dogs in the event of disaster.

Preparedness activity is difficult to track statistically, since people who take measures are usually highly circumspect by nature, said Jim Rawles, the editor of www.survivalblog.com, a preparedness Web site. Nevertheless, interest in the survivalist movement “is experiencing its largest growth since the late 1970s,” Mr. Rawles said in an e-mail, adding that traffic at his blog has more than doubled in the past 11 months, with more than 67,000 unique visitors per week. And its base is growing.

“Our core readership is still solidly conservative,” he said. “But in recent months I’ve noticed an increasing number of stridently green and left-of-center readers.”

One left-of-center environmentalist who is taking action is Alex Steffen, the executive editor of www.worldchanging.com, a Web site devoted to sustainability. With only slight irony, Mr. Steffen, 40, said he and his girlfriend could serve as “poster children for the well-adjusted, urban liberal survivalist,” given that they keep a six-week cache of food and supplies in his basement in Seattle (although they polished off their bottle of doomsday whiskey at a party).

He said the chaos following Hurricane Katrina served as a wake-up call for him and others that the government might not be able to protect them in an emergency or environmental crisis.

“The ‘where do we land when climate change gets crazy?’ question seems to be an increasingly common one,” said Mr. Steffen in an e-mail message, adding that such questions have “really gone mainstream.”

Many of the new, nontraditional preparedness converts are “Peakniks,” Mr. Rawles said, referring to adherents of the “Peak Oil” theory. This concept holds that the world will soon, or has already, reached a peak in oil production, and that coming supply shortages might threaten society. While the theory is still disputed by many industry analysts and executives, it has inched toward the mainstream in the last two years, as oil prices have nearly doubled, surpassing $100 a barrel. The topic, which was the subject of a United States Department of Energy report in 2005, has attracted attention in publications like The New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, and was a primary focus of “Megadisasters: Oil Apocalypse,” a recent History Channel special.

Another book, “The Long Emergency” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2005), by James Howard Kunstler, an author and journalist who writes about economic and environmental issues, argues that American suburbs and cities may soon lay desolate as people, starved of oil, are forced back to the land to adopt a hardscrabble, 19th-century-style agrarian life.

Such fears caused Joyce Jimerson of Bellingham, Wash., a coordinator for a recycling-composting program affiliated with Washington State University, to make her yard an “edible garden,” with fruit trees and vegetables, in case supplies are threatened by oil shortages, climate change or economic collapse. “It’s all the same ball of wax, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

Scott Troyer, an energy consultant in Sunnyvale, Calif., said he was spurred by discussions of peak oil — “it’s not a theory,” he said — and other energy concerns to remake his suburban house in anticipation of a petroleum-starved future. Mr. Troyer, 57, installed a photovoltaic electricity system, a pellet stove and a “cool roof” to reflect the sun’s rays, among other measures.

Mr. Troyer remains cautiously optimistic that Americans can wean themselves from oil through smart engineering and careful planning. But, he said, “the doomsday scenarios will happen if people don’t prepare.”

Some middle-class preparedness converts, like Val Vontourne, a musician and paralegal in Olympia, Wash., recoil at the term “survivalist,” even as they stock their homes with food, gasoline and water.

“I think of survivalists as being an extreme case of preparedness,” said Ms. Vontourne, 44, “people who stockpile guns and weapons, anticipating extreme aggression. Whereas what I’m doing, I think of as something responsible people do.

“I now think of storing extra food, water, medicine and gasoline in the same way I think of buying health insurance and putting money in my 401k,” she said. “It just makes sense.”

Nausicaa said...

Speaking of Matrifocality, it looks like Hollywood too might have picked up something of the same trend. Has anyone seen the 2006 remake of the Wicker Man, starring Nicolas Cage? It takes place within a fictional matriarchy in the state of Washington: Video Clip

More likely the only trend Hollywood was trying to pick up was the teenage girl market ($$$)---the new go-to demographic of the past few years---but I think teenage girls are smarter than that, and the movie didn’t do too well.

If you missed the remake, you didn’t miss much (I don't know what Hollywood was thinking, but I feel the movie was downright insulting to women, or to the intelligence of any viewer for that matter, so they may have missed their mark there.) The movie was nominated for five 2006 Golden Raspberry Awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Nicolas Cage), Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake or Rip-off, and Worst Screen Couple (Nicolas Cage and His Bear Suit).

If you haven’t seen the 1973 original version (which had nothing whatsoever to do with Gynecocracy), here is however a cult classic you may want to add to your must see list.

It’s a movie you will remember long after you have stopped watching it. Film magazine Cinefantastique described The Wicker Man as "The Citizen Kane of Horror Movies", and in 2004 the magazine Total Film named The Wicker Man the sixth greatest British film of all time.

One truly standout element of the movie is the music: Video clip

Willow’s Song (aka "How Do") has been covered or sampled by various rock bands.

jazzolog said...

The original Wicker Man used to show up on TV years ago, and I'll never forget the first time I saw it! Now meet Annie The Nanny, who lovingly advises us about the horror of our own time~~~

Annie The Nanny is a "parenting expert" up in Calgary. That's in Canada, a country to the north of the US---in case any middle school students are reading this. It also means when she speaks of America, she's talking about the whole continent and not just the United States. She gives advice on television and via the newspapers up there. Annie also has a website http://www.anniethenanny.ca/, which recently has added a feature called Peak Oil. Hmm, so what does such a current event have to do with bringing up children? Well, have your kids been screaming and moping because they can't get driven everywhere this summer, day and night?

Now another website, www.EnergyBulletin.net, which is run by a guy in California, but has international hookups, has begun to publish Annie's Peak Oil stuff. That development has widened her distribution considerably, and last week she got this rather profound reply from someone named Bob~~~

Dear Annie:

Re: Your recent posting “What Happens When the Reality of ‘No’ Becomes Clear to Middle Class America?”

I came to your site via the Energy Bulletin. I’m assuming you know it, but if not, I highly recommend it.

You raise an interesting question, which closely relates to a key question I have. I come at the question from the perspective of peak oil and climate change but the question really is about the abrogation of parental responsibilities and the tacit usurping of those responsibilities by an entity that is far from benign.

After almost a year of regular study and analysis, I have cross referenced various theories and independently performed countless calculations using data from a variety of sources including my own empirical evidence. As they say, "I'm from Missouri".

I have concluded for myself, and to a certain extent by myself, that we are entering an era that involves a change so massive that few people can comprehend it, and perhaps more importantly, fewer still are willing to comprehend it. We are in denial that the present paradigm is not sustainable and no amount of tweaking will fix it. As you accurately point out, we are on the cusp of the era of "No!"

The ramifications are wide ranging and profound, almost endless. Rather than dwelling on them, I now am trying to unravel what the endgame will look like.

I have been labeled a cynic, but I think cynicism has been given a bad rap. Evolutionary theory has shown that self-interest is essential for the survival of any species. I define myself as a realist with experience. But I digress; I am not a Cassandra (yet) but I have few illusions.

The reaction to being told no will be determined by a number of factors;

The maturity of the individual.
The general mindset of the society as a whole and the local community (peer pressure).
The mental and physical skill set that each person possesses and the skill sets that exist as a whole.
In a nutshell, this means the ability to accept and adapt. As these abilities will vary widely due to socioeconomics, local climate and political environment, so will the success of adaptation vary widely. This is where it gets murky for me, but it is likely smack in the middle of your home turf. I welcome your take on my theories.

Through a sustained and methodical process lasting almost 100 years, our priorities have been hijacked and our values have been perverted. In the truest sense, I believe that the USA is a very sick society. It is less so in Canada, but that doesn't mean it deserves the Gold Star. To be clear, these are not personal value judgments. I am not a religious fundamentalist nor am I a social activist. I make these assertions simply on the basis of common sense and critical thinking. To wit, a result of simple observations of trends and analysis of the observed consequences.

The "American Dream", perhaps better called the "American Folly" is by far the No. 1 export of the USA. It is the foundation of most, if not all of what is produced by the USA and has made many individuals obscenely wealthy. Sadly, the USA now produces very few physical things, as most of its revenue-generating physical output is produced by proxy. Many of the country’s wealthiest people, such as marketers and stock traders produce nothing at all. Sadder still is the fact that this deluded concept has been very effectively propagated throughout the world.

This unbridled growth has been driven by consumerism. I won't rant about consumerism per se although I could easily do so. That said, I will make the following assertions and clarifications:

I differentiate consumerism from the legitimate exchange of goods and services. Consumerism is a process of producing goods for the consumer that is no longer a symbiotic process but a parasitic one, with little regard for the well-being of the host:



No products are produced which are expressly for the benefit of the customer. Some products may actually be beneficial, but this is predominantly a pleasant side effect. Most products produce no benefit above tradition methods and cost substantially more. Hand sanitizer is a classic example, as it is no more effective than soap and water and has been promoted through fear mongering.
Products, promotion methods and production methods that are detrimental to the consumer or society are limited only by potential legal liability or loss of reputation. Anything else is an externality.
Customer satisfaction is important only to the extent that any lack thereof would impede future sales. This is less of a problem than you might think, as the consumerism contract is often fulfilled simply through the mere possession of the product. To express dissatisfaction is to attack the basic tenets of the delusion.
No producer has ever made a product any better than necessary, and succeeded in a mass market.

A far more troubling aspect than consumerism itself is the intentional process of establishing a new mindset and belief system in the collective public mind that is necessary in order for consumerism to succeed. The first step is to break down any existing value system and any cognitive skills which could thwart the marketing effort. This involves:



Suppression of the rational mind.
Suppression of personal responsibility.
Suppression of potential consequences arising from personal actions.
Prioritizing the needs and wants of the individual above that of society.

Once this mindset is established, the misguided mind (or perhaps unguided mind) is then ripe for destructive and brilliantly executed messages:



Exploitation of existing rational fears.
Creation and/or exploitation of irrational fears.
Creation of unrealistic expectations.
Creation of an unrealistic sense of entitlement, assuming entitlement is not itself unrealistic.
Creation of a false sense of abundance, both generally and personally.
Creation of false needs and continuously advancing those false needs.
Denigration of anything which is old or "obsolete" be they physical items or societal values.
Assertion that "standard of living" equates to “quality of life".
Intentional avoidance of anything implying restrictions, limits or boundaries.
Assertion that consumption equates to living well. Replacement of a possession needs only the most trivial of justifications.

Generally, anything which is "unpleasant", i.e. reality, is ignored or discounted.

In this Alice in Wonderland existence, the oft-used economic term “discretionary spending” is perhaps the biggest red flag. The term now only addresses where the money will be spent, not if it will be spent. Considering that personal savings in the USA are at the lowest level since 1933, and credit card debt is outpacing income growth by over 150%, this assumption seems to have merit. In the world of consumerism, spending involves little or no real discretion, to the extent that the spending is not determined by any available funds after essentials are covered, but by the spender’s available credit. This is a testament to the success of the above campaign.

A byproduct of this barrage, in concert with reduced education standards and poor parenting is the reduction of key skills such as literacy, numeracy and critical thinking. This loss of abilities that are essential to self-direction further advances the decline.

The damage to the quality of life, both for the individual and the society is enormous. This has taken several forms;



The goal of consumerism is to reduce an individual, or limit a developing individual to a developmental stage somewhere between infancy and adolescence, thereby limiting or eliminating any opportunity for true self-actualization.
In the ongoing, frantic drive for ersatz success, parental responsibilities have been neglected or ignored, and influence from the extended family has been greatly reduced. Through these multi-generational actions we have all but lost any contact with, or access to, key values and knowledge which will be critical to our upcoming survival needs.
Further reduction or elimination of these positive parental influences has severely impaired the very capacity needed to expose and counteract the above fantasy world. Indeed, once the first generation that is in a state of arrested development starts parenting, the process is almost self-sustaining. You are one example of people bravely trying to fill that gap. We have lost our tribe.

Once the link between material acquisition and so-called fulfillment is forged, the consumer is placed in a never-ending destructive cycle, resulting in sustained discontent, emotional imbalance, and often depression. As the victim is rarely able to discern the error in the underlying premise, correction of this psychopathy often requires professional treatment.

True social interaction, the sense of self-worth and the sense of place that comes from existing in a community has been largely lost.
Consumerism has achieved a Nirvana where shopping is now a recreational activity in and of itself, irrespective of any real need or the means to support the purchase.


As damaging as the above is, I feel that the biggest loss of all has been perpetrated by the insidious repackaging and promotion of negative values by presenting them as positive attributes. While many of these labels have some merit in a rational environment, they should not be confused with the doublespeak that has permeated the present skewed society.



“Rights”, are foisted upon us with no mention of the accompanying responsibilities (see Entitlement below).
"Empowerment", is in reality selfishness.
"Liberation", is in reality sanctioned irresponsibility.
"Independence", is in reality denial of the individual as a part of the society.
"Entitlement", is in reality the disconnection of reward from effort or accomplishment.
"Self Worth", is in reality egotism.
Obfuscation of the difference between "quality of life" and "standard of living" completely ignores the very real emotional and spiritual needs of a society and the individual.
The trivial is exalted as important and anything of depth is ignored or met with vacuous stares. Dysfunctional behaviour is celebrated.
True, healthy values have been palmed and replaced with false, unhealthy ones. This bit of legerdemain puts control in the hands of the magicians and quashes the very attributes that they purport to provide. This is slavery sold as emancipation. I see little difference between this conduct and drug dealers that present their product as a solution to one’s woes.

As you well know, an individual raised without limits or boundaries becomes a very unhappy and insecure person. Further, I believe that there is an intrinsic drive in a developing child to establish a framework and belief system unconsciously. He or she is akin to a sponge, which through the laws of physics has no choice but to soak up water, regardless of whether it is mountain spring water or sewage.

I acknowledge your question of how responsible the individual is for this situation, but it is largely moot or at least a starting point for another discussion. There is a lot of blame to go around. We are where we are, with a lot of deluded and damaged people on the loose.

All of the above is little more than preamble, as the key question is still “How will we behave when we are told no?” The length and success of the adjustment period is dependent on how we choose to adapt. A big part of this question is “How adaptable are we really?” This is a question that I do not have the experience or knowledge to answer but it begs some fundamental questions about human development. Allow me to explain.

During the stages of an individual’s development, there are windows of opportunity during which physical, emotional and cognitive attributes are established. Outside these windows, development of a given attribute is more difficult and in some cases impossible. This has been clinically shown for the immune system, sight, speech, spatial orientation and motor skills to name a few.

In practical terms, we are not the same generation or even the same grounded society that was largely agrarian and accustomed to physical labour, which survived the hard scrabble existence of the great depression. We have neither the experience nor a point of reference. Whereas those entering the depression were faced with a new reality, many of us must first confront reality at the same time that reality is in great flux. This does not bode well for the future.

So, my question to you, if you have been patient enough to read this far is:

“Will the adults that have been kept in a state of dependency and adolescence be physically able to reject these artificial, but nonetheless entrenched beliefs and develop the skills that were denied them during their critical development periods or will those neural pathways be inaccessible?”

In other words, will we see petulant children or mature adults face the challenges?

The answer to this question will be the difference between discomfort and not surviving. It will play a big part in how the endgame of peak oil, overpopulation and climate change is played out.

Regards,

Bob

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A couple days ago Annie developed a new article in reply to Bob~~~

Monday July, 28th, 2008

What are the real implications of peak oil in a culture where common sense has been suppressed by consumerism?

A lot of parenting is about common sense. Deep down as parents, we realize that if a child gets showered with gifts, they become unappreciative. If they receive things because they stamp their feet and scream, that behavior will continue because it has been rewarded.

In the last few decades however, common sense seems to be on the decline and its commonality is certainly fading. Let me give you an example. When I was growing up, my parents would have a birthday party for me with perhaps five or six friends at maximum. There would be sandwiches, cake, balloons and big back yard in which to play. There might be a treasure hunt or a simple game, if my mother was feeling energetic. For the large part though, I was instructed to entertain my friends on my own, hardly an onerous task. The end result was an enjoyable afternoon and a few small gifts for me to play with, once everyone else had gone home.

Fast forward a few decades and you see something very different. The birthday party has been organized by an outside company bought in to make the birthday wishes of the ‘Fairy Queen’, a reality. The house is decorated in an inspired fairyland design and the mothers arrive at the house with their very own princess darlings who clutch enormous presents. You watch the numbers, two, four, six and it just keeps going. “How many are coming?”,you ask mom innocently. “The whole class”, she answers, removing her fairy wings before deftly maneuvering a pile of brownies through the door. The party lasts for an insane three hours of…fun, punctuated by the occasional melt down amongst the clearly overwhelmed kids. At last the party goers waddle out the door, stuffed with cake and brownies and clutching a goody bag equal in value to the GDP of Montenegro. The fairy queen instead of extolling the party’s virtues lies in a heap exhausted, ripping off her wings and yelling “How come I didn’t get the pirate party!”

If this sounds like something only those with big fat purses would think of doing for a child’s birthday, I would urge you to think again. In my experience as a parent educator, this scenario or ones like it are played out all over North America on a daily basis. It’s not that people don’t know good sense, it’s that they can’t seem to put it in to practice.

It’s an abundance of energy that makes possible the kinds of excess that many parents practice with their children. It is also energy that elevates and continuously upgrades our expectations, which then in turn become the new societal norm. Our common sense tells us these expectations as to what is normal, have little basis in reality and in many ways are harmful to our children. So why then do parents that know all the reasons that they shouldn’t do something, do they do it anyway? Whatever force it is that encourages moms and dad to throw away the parental rulebook must be effective indeed and the only way that rulebook can be ignored, is if a definitive effort has been made to render it obsolete.

Is it possible that then that there is a force out there that is purposely trying to render us mentally impotent? A force that makes us unable to distinguish what we need from what we want. If so, what would they have to gain? The answer to that question relates to the pursuit of the almighty dollar. The ability to sell us stuff that we neither need nor really want is the brainchild of the marketing industry. It had its birth in the work of Edward Bernays, Freud’s American nephew, a man often thought of as the father of public relations.

So what is the definition of ‘public relations’ and how does it connect with selling us thing we don’t need? Public relations is the business of generating goodwill toward an individual, cause, company or product. Bernays believed that you could persuade the public to do things they would not normally do, by tapping in to their unconscious desires. In the late 1920’s, he illustrated this to his contemporaries while working for the American Tobacco Company. He arranged for a group of young models to walk in a New York City parade and to light Lucky Strike cigarettes at a predetermined time as, ‘Torches of Freedom.’ Photographers who had been warned ahead of time, eagerly snapped photos, which were later printed in the New York Times on April 1, 1928, under the headline of ‘Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of Freedom.’ These photographs helped to break the taboo that women were not supposed to smoke in public. Bernays cleverly tied in women’s freedom and equality with a product, supplanting ordinary desire for a cigarette with the strong underlying motivator of gender equality.

Bernays’ theories were very successful and corporate America must have felt that its train had arrived. However, it had not counted on the depression or the war years. It was really the post war boom that allowed corporate America to have the blank canvas they’d hoped for. In earlier generations, the masses simply didn’t have enough money to make a difference but after the war and as the years passed, wealth seemed everywhere. Good jobs abounded and prosperity ruled, which was of course, largely a function of the oil age.

Along with the economic boom came the baby boomers, the first generation that threw off the constraints of the past. This was not just on a political level but on a social level too. Suddenly, the parental constraints deemed necessary by parents that had lived through the misery of the depression and the war years, looked old fashioned and completely irrelevant. And at the same time as the baby boomers threw off the cloak of parental rules, they leapt keenly in to a world where it was not only ok but encouraged that they fulfill their most innermost desires.

As consumerism gained a strong foothold, it suppressed parents’ natural ability to say ‘no’ because parents felt that if they denied their children they would be judged by societal norms as an ‘improper’ parent. As a result, children began to lack the boundaries necessary to grow in to well-rounded adults. With every generation now, the broken chain gets harder to re-forge because the constraints that once occupied the parenting landscape are no longer present, at least for the time being. The reason for them has become more and more obscure, and has finally faded from our society’s collective memory.

I wish I could say that this kind of manipulation occurs only a commercial level and they limit of it’s power is whether or not we buy a pair of jeans. Instead, it pervades every aspect of our modern lives, including our political processes. The latter is an area where Bernays theories found equally fertile ground. He believed that the manipulation of the masses was an important element of democracy. He saw that by fulfilling the unconscious desires of people, a society could then be manipulated and saved from itself and the dangerous ‘herd like’ impulses that lurk beneath the surface of the human mind. It is in this way that the government and the corporate sector have become complicit in using mind manipulation to achieve their various and frequently similar aims.

So will peak oil change this scenario and allow us to throw off all that impedes common sense? Will we refuse to be manipulated? Will the economic troubles ahead allow all of us to make the right choices that will no doubt determine our long-term survivability? One of my readers posed that very question, asking whether adults that have been kept in a state of dependency will be able to adapt successfully in a rapidly changing society?

I think acceptance of our new reality, is key. Because peak oil is not a temporary setback, I suspect people will behave in one of two basic ways, neither of which immediately lead to the acceptance necessary for an orderly transition. The first route is one where I have a feeling that the ‘petulance’ that my reader suggested, won’t even begin to describe the feelings of your average American, Canadian or for that fact, European. Let’s face it, will the Cadillac Escalade owner now faced with the reality that his dream machine is a worth a fraction of it’s former value, react in outrage or be so dumbstruck as to not know what to do? Whatever the reaction, the net result is that the victim is ripe for manipulation. Consequently, whatever ‘Messiah’ comes along is likely to find fertile ground.

When the masses find out that their consumerist dreams are an empty promise and that their democracy is a shell, their disillusionment will turn to anger. I believe this is the moment when ‘adults’ will ‘grow up.’ It will be this point when the state of dependency and adolescence will begin its death throes and I have a feeling that the result will not be pretty. Inequities, which before were barely noticed will become glaring. The gated communities will still be gated but this time perhaps with razor wire on top and a mob outside, fended off by armed guards. When the prospect of consumer bliss is no longer achievable, what will be used to keep the masses in line? I don’t know entirely but I suspect it will be something altogether repressive. No doubt we will end up with an angry population that is revolutionary in nature. Whether or not they are successful, is entirely an open question.

Route two, follows the path of least resistance and follows what happens to societies that are inflicted with ‘shock therapy.’ According to Naomi Klein, author of the recent book, ‘The Shock Doctrine’, societies that receive the kind of economic shock we’re talking about often go through a period of a sort of collective paralysis. Although peak oil is not an economic doctrine that is imposed by one group upon another, it shares many of the same facets. If the rate of change is rapid, people do not have time to adapt. The paralysis delays the beginnings of adaptation in the very same way that rebellion does and cruelly prevents action when it is most needed and when it would prevent the worst hardship. The Government may also exhibit the same paralysis, confounding matters. In the end, acceptance comes to the occupiers of both routes and probably at much the same time. Route one’s chaos would be unpleasant to live through but would no doubt lead to a rapid equalization of resources, perhaps at the point of a gun. Route two, would quite conceivably give those that are already in positions of power, time to render a population completely under their control to the point that we may end up the equivalent of medieval serfs.

Our only hope as a society, is that the right political leadership will emerge. Just as a parent should provide direction, so must our governments. I would like to believe that our capacity for change is a function of knowing what we’re faced with and the truth of our future predicament. In other words, we can manage what we know but we can’t manage what we don’t know. From my work with parents, I can tell you that people are remarkably adaptable once they are presented with the root cause of their problems and the necessity for change. Our adaptability then, will be determined by our ability to elect enlightened political leaders and re-learn and transfer long forgotten skills.

We are approaching the cusp. On balance, our long-term survivability will be largely a function of whether we shake off the manipulations that so cleverly direct us. We must acknowledge that our abilities and energy are best expended on acceptance of reality rather than on resentment and revenge. We must stave off collective paralysis and act together. As for leadership, who’s to say whether America will rise to the challenge or that Canada will find the kind of leadership it needs. If we do, we have a hope. If not…I think I’ll need a stiff gin and tonic...while it’s still available.

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Annie's column, Bob's letter, and a number of comments---and she's hoping you'll add yours---are all here~~~

http://www.anniethenanny.ca/peakOil.htm

jazzolog said...

The Sunday sermon is courtesy of Bryan Zepp. This is the first part of a post from yesterday. The rest of it doesn't seem to be at his sites yet, but eventually may show up at http://www.mytown.ca/zepp or http://www.zeppscommentaries.com ~~~

Life in the Pack
Of dog fights and social moralities
© Bryan Zepp Jamieson

A couple of sociologists wrote in to the Washington Post this week, suggesting, in effect, that schools could compromise on the issue of teaching science versus “intelligent design” by holding that human morality is separate from evolution, and that we are, in fact, separate from the animals in that regard.

One of the Weasels wrote in, noting that both the moral uncertainties of being animals and the concept of “social Darwinism” came at a time when racism and social bias were rife, and people spoke, without irony, of how the millennia-old cultures of India and China were “savage” and that they were obliged to take up the “white man’s burden.” What he didn’t say was that the concept of Darwinism as an amoral type of competition came at a time when Western Society was both vile and exploitative, and compensated for it with a stifling blend of rank hypocrisy, suffocating self-righteousness and prudery masquerading as morality.

The notion that humans were above “the law of the jungle” (while benefitting from it) was a comforting one to the movers and shakers of Victorian culture. The Post didn’t run the reply. The notion that if humans believe they came from animals they will be immoral (held most often by people who believe they came from dust) is based on the premise that without a god or gods to guide us, we would be capricious and immoral. That gods tend to be capricious and immoral themselves tends to totally escape their proponents. Jehovah, with his foreskin collections and great floods, wasn’t even the most erratic; Zeus, Kali, Shiva, Coyote and Loki are even worse. Gods are above and beyond human morality – it’s very nearly one of the prerequisites for being a god – and the result produces great campfire stories but little in the way of moral instruction.

If human morality doesn’t rest on the solid bedrock of usually invisible and silent cosmic sky beings telling us “Do as we say and not what we do,” where does it stem from?

“Societal norms” and “consensus” are the answers most often given, but like “gawd magicked it,” only partial answers, ones that suggest an underlying and unexamined cause.

Morality is societal, and often local. In fundamentalist Muslim countries, a woman is required to cover her face; imposing such an imposition on women is considered immoral in western countries. So a lot of what is judged “moral” consists of nothing more than local hicks concluding that their bad habits constitute natural laws of the universe.

But some moralities extend across all cultures, subject to local variation. All cultures have prohibitions against murder, although the definition of “murder” varies. All have some form of what we call “marriage,” although that can vary even more. Cultures have laws containing cannibalism, usually sublimating it into rituals so it doesn’t become a social problem. Same with theft, violence, and honesty in dealing with others. Morality forms around hierarchal patterns, as well. Those in power are expected to furnish justice and fairness to those below. Those below are expected to offer fealty and work.

What they have in common is that they make it possible for larger numbers of humans to function as a society. They are social impulses.

Individual morality? That’s best defined as “how you behave when you think nobody’s looking,” and while it varies wildly among individuals, it exists in most individuals, and makes a society possible.

Is it unique to humans?

I don’t think so. We had an old lab that we got three years ago to keep our Samoyed, orphaned from her pack, company in her declining years. The lab was pretty rickety, banged up from an old auto accident and ancient. The vet estimated her at 15 back then. The two more-or-less got along, in part because they were too decrepit and infirm from age to fight. Then the lab had trouble getting up. She got progressively worse, and in two weeks, couldn’t get up without assistance, and a week after that, couldn’t get up at all. For those reading with mounting concern, a few days later we had her euthanized. But in her final weeks, when she was utterly dependent on us to feed and water her and keep her reasonably clean and dry, we were surprised to see the other dog start grooming her and keeping her close company. Not only that, but the two cats, who had treated her as furniture, would come up to her and touch noses, and one would even lick her snout. She seemed to take comfort from that.

It’s easy to say that the dog was just acting according to her pack nature. But what of the cats? They had nothing to gain from it.

These were small, but utterly selfless acts. The cats in particular had no imperative to offer comfort. It suggests kindness and compassion, behavior that in humans would be considered moral.

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I wrote a thank you to Zepp this morning and referenced a comment I also had read just yesterday by marriage counselor Michele Weiner Davis, most famous probably for her 1992 book Divorce Busting~~~

"It's the idea that people like to give in the way they themselves like to receive---but that's not real giving. Real giving is giving to your spouse in the way he/she wants to receive."

Apply that outlook to other social interactions, how does it feel? I always thought there was something lacking in the Golden Rule.