Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXIII

Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)
3 min readOct 31, 2022
Chitchen Itza, Mexico (1986). Photo by author.

Pessimists Are Optimists That Have All the Facts

This contemplation has been prompted by another great article by The Honest Sorcerer. If you’ve not read their work, I highly recommend it.

A couple of thoughts in reading your splendid piece (they always serve as a springboard for some reflection regarding my own thinking).

First, I have to wonder if the notion that most citizens in democratic societies have of ‘democracy’ (that they have agency via the ballot box) has ever truly existed. It seems to me that this idea has been perpetrated by the ruling caste of society in order to help legitimise their somewhat precarious positions of power so as to avoid mass protests and revolution. If people believe they have a say in how a society is organised and the policies it adopts, they are less likely to withdraw support or participate in resurrection. This widely believed narrative seems to me to be one of the most successful frauds/scams (along with the fiat currency monetary system) ever perpetrated upon the hoi polloi. It’s not that we’ve lost it; we never truly had it — it was simply more believable in the past for a variety of reasons (not least of which has been the increasing difficulty of keeping the fraudulent aspects and wealth siphoning hidden due to significant surplus energy and other resources that have served to mollify the masses — paying off one’s supporters with a small portion of the ill-gotten loot has its benefits).

Second, what you argue about the economic realm of our world (basically, that it is held together by magical thinking that denies bio- and geophysical reality, and ‘creative’ accounting) seems so self-evident but is so raggedly opposed by almost all (perhaps because none of us truly wants to look behind the curtain of the gargantuan Ponzi scheme we are all a part of). The ‘priesthood’ of economists that weave narratives to help society deny/ignore/rationalise away the barriers to perpetual growth upon a finite planet (and the negative consequences of such a pursuit) seems to hold a mesmerising sway upon the land. Their stories of growth/progress dominate almost all aspects of our lives, but especially the political realm — what politician doesn’t promise the glittering chalice of a constantly improving, prosperous, and growing society? Speaking truth to power about limits has little discernible benefit when on the campaign trail; better to promise endless improvement, especially when there’s no real accountability to such a false promise.

Given that we walking, talking apes are prolific story-tellers in our quest to share our understanding of this complex universe we exist within, I expect the narratives that aid our ruling elite in sustaining/maintaining their positions of power, prestige, and wealth to harden in the sense of increased vilification/censorship/ostracization (perhaps even criminalisation) of dissenting voices.

In addition, the human penchant for denial/anger/bargaining in the face of anxiety-provoking realities will lead to many (most?) rejecting the thesis that ‘collapse’ can or will befall us — even when it is too obvious to ignore. The stories told are already in desperate straits to counter the self-evident nature of our decline and the consequences of ecological overshoot and quickly dwindling resources. Counter narratives about the need for degrowth are slowly bubbling up to the surface of the mainstream/legacy media. Collapse (i.e., death of our global-industrial complex society), however, will be rejected by people because that is our nature — optimism bias is real and greatly impacts our thoughts about the future.

It’s difficult to go against the majority narrative that all is well and any perceived ‘crisis’ is the result of some evil ‘other(s)’; however, I am reminded of a recent meme that I saw: ‘Pessimists are optimists who have all the facts’. ‘Collapse’ cometh most assuredly but as has been argued: it’s difficult to make predictions, especially if they’re about the future.

P.S.

My ten-year old thoughts about Orlov’s text on collapse: https://olduvaiblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/collapse-of-trust-and-faith-in-the-system/

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Steve Bull (https://olduvai.ca)

A guy trying to make sense of a complex and seemingly insane world. Spend my days pondering our various predicaments while practising local food production...