So I received an email from Flow Genome Collective CEO Jamie Wheal. It was excellent. Granted, Jamie and I have differing world views on a lot of the content of the email, but there was some great nuggets of wisdom for sure.
The most profound was how so many people are caught up in theorizing and talking about all the problems we face without actually doing any real work or problem solving.
He describes a retreat he attended in Austin with a bunch of “do gooders” who could define in a hundred different ways all the problems we face without giving one real practical action item.
It got me to thinking about how in this rush to build utopia people are completely denying reality in many cases. This is a bad thing. Reality is indifferent. It can’t be made to suit your whims and fancies. It will punch you right in the face.
Here’s Jamie’s email and the podcast that it inspired.
|The Revolution Will NOT Be Spotified!|
|BY JAMIE WHEAL | READ AND SHARE ONLINE|
The Revolution will not be Spotified
Nor even Substacked
(though I suspect that low-fi blogging platform may persist for a bit longer than most)
As the old song goes…
“You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag (aka: Oxycontin)
And skip out for beer during commercials, because
The revolution will not be
Everybody’s got a plan, until…
Just wrapped a three day conference here in Austin that was ostensibly focused on existential risk, systems theory, and human development. A bunch of well-meaning folks convened from all around the world, to try and save it.
And boy howdy! I’ve never experienced a bigger disconnect from the actual stakes and the conversations to be had, in my entire life.
It reminded me of those cringe Youtube videos, titled in all caps: “Tai Chi master gets ABSOLUTELY DESTROYED by MMA fighter!!!”
Click on the link and said master, whose students have attested to his ability to send people through walls without even touching them, gets summarily dismantled by the scrappy MMA guy.
It’s never even close.
One journalist who was at the existential risk event asked me, “Why do you think these academics and theoreticians are so disconnected from realities on the ground?
Why are they so focused on re-diagnosing the problems and debating their pet theories, rather than actually standing up real projects in the real world to do something about it?”
Existential Scholasticism. Trying to outdo each other counting Angels of Death on the heads of a pin.
Tai Chi masters, the lot of ’em.
Waving their hands around in beautiful circles. Visualizing Whirled Peas, but wholly unacquainted with the laws of physics.
In some instances at that Austin event (lookin’ at you, Millennials), we weren’t even dealing with real Tai Chi masters. More like Call of Duty/Grand Theft Auto/MortalKombat masters.
“I’m not a real badass, but I play one in the metaverse!”
It’s not that these folks were withholding their most precious insights as to what do we do now??? It was increasingly, startlingly, tragically clear they had no. fucking. idea.
And that’s what I mean about the Revolution not being Spotified.
If you’re aching to keep your finger on the pulse of the Long Disaster, the ones to watch are going to be broadcasting less and less (if they ever were at all).
They sure as shit won’t be caring about subscribers on their podcast.
They will have unplugged from their screens and started digging in the dirt. Doing real things in the real world, with a degree of urgency and clarity utterly lacking in the poindexters-on-the-spectrum lot.
Remember that old Lefty bumper sticker “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention?”
We might revise it to read “If you’re not gardening, you’re not paying attention.”
Welcome to the Beginning of the End.
(the End of the Middle just happened)
Snakes and Ladders (and Maslow)
That old Abe Maslow Hierarchy of Needs that Boomers loved so much because it placed their own preferred “Self Actualization” at the tippy top also has a reverse gear.
We can slipslide back down to Food, Clothing and Shelter at the bottom of the stack just as easily as we can levitate to the higher reaches of spiritual bypassing.
(to be fair, Abe knew this too, and his unpublished papers put “self transcendence” above “self-actualization”––so after we become someone, we’re supposed to become no one and be helpful again)
But here’s Three Signs the hour’s getting increasingly late (aka: the Beginning of the End)
Thing One: Clean Up Set on the Horizon
Smart folks with their eyes on the horizon are warning of some serious cleanup sets heading our way. If we just sit around lollygagging on our boards, we’re going to get creamed. (a “cleanup set” is when, out in the ocean a giant wave comes and breaks further out than the ones you’re trying to surf, so if you don’t paddle your arse off to get further out to sea, it will come down on your head–just watch the video from Jaws, you’ll get it)
Ray Dalio’s most recent book The Changing World Order has all sorts of wonky charts and graphs, but one that doesn’t show up online, (but is in the hardback), is a map of mortality across the last 500 years or so of history––European Wars, Spanish Flu, World Wars etc.
And for each spike in deaths due to epidemics or battles, there’s an even higher spike for starvation. For everyone clipped by the first two horsemen of the Apocalypse (Pestilence and War) as many again get hosed by the third pony boy, Famine. (weirdly, we almost always ignore starvation stories in our history books and obsess on war and diseases, so we end up massively underestimating their role to play).
Hence, the gardening. Worst case, you have some fresh basil and oregano for your salads. Best case, you’re thriving on your own zucchini bread instead of moldy government cheese.
Peter Zeihan, a global strategy guy who advises the CIA, DoD, and like minded folks, just came out with his new book The End of the World Is Just the Beginning, and in a nutshell, his thesis is this:
We’ve enjoyed the last 75 years of the American Peace and it’s never coming back. For the rest of our lifetimes, life will never be cheaper, richer, more abundant or more peaceful than it has been so far in ours. Ever again.
Read that a few times.
It took me the first third of Recapture the Rapture to gently make this case in 2020––that if you’re a Boomer, GenXer, or Millennial, we grew up in a Post-War bubble that is 100% going to pop (but we can’t tell because it’s all we’ve ever known).
Just two short years later, Zeihan has boiled it down to the first page of his introduction.
He follows that bracing opener with 350 pages of methodical detail on precisely all the ways this is gonna unwind, with the sliver of hope (if you live in North America) that the US of A is still uniquely positioned (food and energy surpluses plus favorable transportation systems and demographics) to prevail for a Round Two of the shining City on a Hill experiment. It might not look pretty in the transition, but in the Settlers of Catan: MadMax Edition ™ we’re still holding some amazing cards.
Two bites at the Apple of Empire!
How’s that for privilege? (or dumb luck)
Civil war and climate collapse are about the only two things that could thwart that triumphant second act, and I mean, what are the odds???
Thing Two: Back to the Future
(speaking now to the End of the Middle)
Unless you have been under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the overturning of Roe v Wade. Super pivotal with wide ranging impacts, from women’s lives to midterm elections to our next president. But what you might have missed was the overturning last week of the EPA’s ability to regulate pollution.
That’s gonna kneecap global climate coordination at a time when we need to be making leaps of faith (on aforementioned bad knees).
As goes America, so goes the world.
No politician in their right mind is going to hold their own less rich, less populous, less culpable citizens to tougher standards than ‘Merica’s. We’ll always have Paris (Accords), I guess.
That means we’re increasingly likely to take the full impact of climate collapse right on the chin. No buffers, no last minute if-only-we-act-now changes of course to soften the blow.
Go back and reread those IPCC reports and instead of instinctively looking at the Best Case and Second Best Case charts (cause we’re not suicidal maniacs, right?), take a peek at the Third Best and Worst Cases. They’re not nearly so rosy. (the smart money to ride out the storm’s on the Great Lakes and New England)
But as all stats professors love to tell us, “it takes three points to make a trend!” And the third judicial sleight of hand that might truly mark the End of the Middle and the Beginning of the End is the winding back of voting rights across America. The quiet part, that some citizens deserve to vote more than others, is now out loud and proud (boy!).
The Civil Rights Acts of ’64 and ’65, EPA creation in ’70, Roe v Wade in ’73––were all watershed legislation/rulings that set the terms and conditions for modern, secular, progressive society. They all happened within a decade of each other.
And they’re all getting unwound by a deceptively activist “Originalist” bench who are happy to contradict past precedents and their own testimonies under oath to rewind the clock.
Welcome back to the 1950’s.
And they’re just getting started.
And they all have life terms.
(while Progressives were eating each other alive reacting to Trump’s Twitter and busy virtue signaling on Instagram, McConnel packed more court appointments into Trump’s first three years than Obama placed in eight! And we wonder why the Evangelical Right was so, so happy to overlook the moral turpitude of their Wrecker-in-Chief! #kingcyrusFTW)
So if you ask me, what should we be worried about? (and why I’ve been fairly relentless taking the piss out of more elaborate and misguided conspiracy thinking by otherwise well-meaning folks)
That would be the Scylla and Charybdis double whammy of unmitigated ecological crisis plus a looming White Identity Christian fascist takeover of the American Republic that’s already in the seventh inning. (and lest that sound unusually assertive, consider this backstory of the war for the soul of the Evangelical Church)
Coming soon to a school board near you.
Which brings us to…
Thing Three: Doing The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons is Better Than Thinking Thinky Thoughts (and Doing Nothing)
Because it’s only fair to note that those existential risk and policy wonks who had gathered in Austin were good-hearted people. They want the best for everyone, and are willing to have earnest conversations to try and help bring it about. Almost to a person, they’re do-gooder humanists.
And yet, with only a few visible exceptions, they were clueless about what needs to happen as we enter the Beginning of the End.
But you know who’s 100% getting after it?
Duck Dynasty preppers and survivalists.
Anti-Vax, sovereign citizen communities.
Great Reset “fight the Man!” resistors.
(The Bored Ape crypto bros are experiencing a temporary interruption in services but they’ll be back just as soon as their bitcoin comes up for air and Balaji shows them how to buy land in the Third World for their Digital Nations)
And that’s the weird part about Thing Three:
Fitness is beating the snot out of Truth. (check out the newsletter we wrote about this for further unpacking)
People all over, with completely distorted whack-ass ideas about “What’s Really Going On?” are nevertheless making more practical, self-sufficient and community based decisions than some of the smartest folks on the planet whose career is mapping those very things.
So what might that mean?
It means that the Great Afterwards that comes will be populated by survivors and their offspring. And those most likely to survive?
The Fit ones getting off Spotify and buying land with wells and ponds (never mind how muddled their methods).
Not the Truthy ones, still polishing Powerpoints and perfecting podcasts (despite their meticulous attention to the details).
And wouldn’t that kind of be exactly perfect?
America’s always been populated and shaped by wingnuts––the crazies who got run out of their own countries and hometowns to continually push the needle of Deluded (see Atlantic editor Kurt Anderson’s Fantasyland for a breakdown of centuries of exceptionally whacky American thinking––Trump is a uniquely demented American psyche, not an aberration).
So as we come out of this last glorious Independence Day, let us remember founding father Hunter S. Thompson’s immortal words:
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro!”
It’s the Beginning of the End, and we might as well get good at it.