Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXXIII

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Todays’ contemplation has been once again prompted by a great article posted by The Honest Sorcerer, this time the second part of some observations regarding the complex and evolving European energy and economic situation.

Well said!

One of the things I have come to believe is that the ruling caste of our world is driven primarily by one overarching motivation: the control/expansion of the wealth-generation/-extraction systems that provide their revenue streams and thus positions of power and prestige.

Everything is leveraged towards this endgame. EVERYTHING!

The political/media arm of this caste spins/markets their policies/actions in ways to give the impression that they serve the masses, but this is simply a epiphenomena of their machinations. While some — even perhaps a majority — of their ‘ill-gotten’ wealth is directed towards ‘public’ services, much is siphoned off and directed up the power/wealth structures inherent in all complex societies to individuals/families within the privileged class. It is a skimming/scamming operation that takes no prisoners and encompasses all of society’s systems; in particular, our socioeconomic one where our financial institutions create credit/money-from-thin-air and then ‘invest’ it or charge interest for its use.

As the world’s current dominant hegemon, the United States does this ‘better’ and more broadly than everyone else.

What we seem to be experiencing with economic sanctions, energy infrastructure sabotage, false flag attacks, significant transfers of armaments and other military support, and finger pointing when events arise whose responsibility is in question, is a concerted effort by the United States and certain allies to not simply justify/rationalise/spin (re)actions but to assert and attempt to sustain its dominant role in global wealth-extraction/-generation.

Here I am reminded of a passage by Noam Chomsky from his 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance:

Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom — even to decent survival — should recognise the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure the ‘great beast,’ as Alexander Hamilton called the people, does not stray from its proper confines. Controlling the general population has always been a dominant concern of power and privilege…Problems of domestic control become particularly severe when the governing authorities carry out policies that are opposed by the general population. In those cases, the political leadership may…manufacture consent for its murderous policies.

As we continue to bump into the hard reality of biogeophysical limits to growth on a finite planet and the diminishing returns that inevitably result, I expect we will witness much more of this consent manufacturing — along with concomitant ‘devolution’ towards increased tyranny across the globe, but especially within the alliance of the United States and its supporters that repeatedly claim to be fighting for liberty and democracy.

We will likely also experience increased intervention in various sociocultural arenas but especially the economic realm, particularly as it pertains to increasing exponentially the creation of fiat currency (possibly in digital form) to ‘paper’ over out-of-control price inflation — which will likely be ‘controlled’ via continuing statistical manipulations of its measurement (if its measurement continues at all), with the ‘success’ of fighting it spread far and wide by the propaganda arms of the State.

The situation is no better in the nations that are challenging US hegemony. Controlling one’s domestic population, through overt force or covert narrative manipulation, is — as Chomsky points out above — a dominant concern of the ruling caste in every complex society in order to garner necessary support from the hoi polloi.

These machinations and legitimisation activities, however, are completely and totally unsustainable upon a finite planet for they require constant energy and material resource inputs. And in a world experiencing ever-increasing stress due to constant expansion of the human experiment (both on a resource extraction and an ecological systems destruction front), things appear to be approaching a significant inflection point.

Here I will close with a review of what archaeologist Joseph Tainter argues in his 1988 book The Collapse of Complex Societies with regard to peer polities caught in a competitive spiral while encountering the inevitable phenomenon of diminishing returns and the probability of global sociopolitical collapse.

Collapse today is neither an option nor an immediate threat. Any nation vulnerable to collapse will have to pursue one of three options: (1) absorption by a neighbor or some larger state; (2) economic support by a dominant power, or by an international financing agency; or (3) payment by the support population of whatever costs are needed to continue complexity, however detrimental the marginal return. A nation today can no longer unilaterally collapse, for if any national government disintegrates its population and territory will be absorbed by some other.”

Past collapses have occurred in two different political situations: a dominant state in isolation or as part of a cluster of peer polities. With global travel and communication, the isolated dominant state has disappeared and only competitive peer polities now exist — this, of course, will eventually change as our complex global systems breakdown due to energy shortages.

Such polities tend to get caught up in spiraling competitive investments as they seek to outmaneuver others and evolve greater complexity together. The polities caught up in this competition increasingly experience declining marginal returns and must invest ever-increasing amounts leading to greater economic weakness.

Withdrawing from this spiral or collapsing is not an option without risking being subsumed by a competitor. It is this trap of competition that will continue to drive the pursuit of complexity regardless of human/environmental costs. Incentives and economic reserves can support this situation for a lengthy period as witnessed by the Roman and Mayan experiences where centuries of diminishing returns were endured.

Ever-increasing costs and ever-decreasing marginal returns typify peer polities in competition — a negative feedback loop that a State’s ruling caste will not abandon for fear of losing their privilege/power. This ends in either domination by one state and a new energy subsidy, or collapse of all.

Collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole. Competitors who evolve as peers collapse in like manner.”

Be it from ecological overshoot (the root cause of all the above) or sociopolitical machinations of our ruling caste, the writing would seem to be on the wall for this latest hominid experiment we have, in a self-congratulatory manner, termed ‘wise man’…

Please consider visiting my website for related links/articles and an introduction to my ‘fictional’ collapse novel trilogy: Olduvai.

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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...

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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...