META-NOMAD

Look upon my Likes, ye Mighty, and despair!

I’d like to expand on a recent tweet of mine which was so compact that it omits vast amounts of detail. The tweet was this:

“The real psy-op is a globalised form of ADD induced by increasing usage of social media based dopamine stimulation devices, resulting in a global temporal attention deficit where we have no understanding of the past or deep-time, and live entirely in the nano-present.”

There’s a lot going on here, but it outlines another one of the major problems we face as individuals trying to regain our grip on truth and reality, and the combination of the two; what is your true reality? The one which you want to inhabit, the unaltered state you wish to exist within.

Firstly, we have this notion of a ‘psy-op’ or ‘psychological operation’, these are reportedly operations in which governments or groups use selected information to emotions, feelings, motives and objective reasoning in a way which benefits them. This has lead many people to state things such as ‘Everything’s a psy-op!’ and I certainly understand where they’re coming from, but with that said, the advertising and marketing isn’t covert in its aims, so it can hardly be considered an ‘operation’ as much as it is simply doing what it’s supposed to be doing. The difference with a psychological operation is that you’re presented with something which has far more going on behind the scenes. I don’t want to get too deep into this sort of thinking, not because I don’t believe it, but because it’s largely unproductive. Discerning whether or not something is X, Y or Z is useless if my real aim is simply to discern whether I actually want, need or agree with it. It doesn’t matter where it came from, what matters is if and how I can get away from it.

But what is it here that I consider the real ‘psychological operation’? – a globalised form of ADD induced by increasing usage of social media based dopamine stimulation devices – This is relatively simple, basically our increasing smartphone and social media usage is shredding our attention span – supposedly from 12 – 8 seconds in the space of 20 years – and it’s also feeding our reliance on dopamine feedback response, that is, the chemical we release when things make us feel good is being utilized by social media mechanisms to get us addicted to their systems. We are quite literally rats clicking a button for a bit of cheese over and over again, all day, every day. But actually, the metaphorical cheese in this scenario isn’t as clear as one might like to think, hence the idea of a ‘psy-op’.

So, what’s the cheese then? Well the cheese that us rats are perpetually running after isn’t some malleable ‘thing’, nor an item, nor is it some clear idea, in fact, by its very nature it cannot be able to be grasped, otherwise, the chase ends. So, what is it we’re after? What is it these dopamine-feedback-loops and pleasure-response-systems have us scuttling towards? Well, a few things, all of which come under some rough label such as ‘desired abstraction’ or ‘created desire’ or ‘idealistic utopia’, everything these systems target us towards is simultaneously seemingly reachable and yet continually buildable.  What I am specifically talking then? Well, specifics are tough with things like this, because, once again, if the ‘things’ we were searching for were specific we would be able to grasp them in some manner, right? So, if you want someone to keep on using your system and keep on plugging-into your feedback loop, the endgame needs to be both desirable and both supposedly attainable yet corporally unattainable.

Status is the clearest example of this, in fact, status encapsulates most of what happens on social media. Everything posted, every little update, every extroverted appeal for attention is in some form a plea for an increase in status. If one posts an obscure text they wish to seem cultured, if one posts a picture of their flashy car they wish to be seen as wealthy, if one posts a cute picture with their girlfriend they wish to be seen as ‘that couple’, of course, I’m generalising, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘sharing’ your life with other people, if that’s what you want to do. It’s only that once you apply mechanisms such as ‘likes’, ‘retweets’, ‘hearts’ etc. to your personal life and posts, then it is immediately subsumed into a system of quantifiability, it can be compared with other lives and posts upon a simple binary metric of positive and negative, your life, becomes reduced to data, this is the psy-op.

What does this psy-op achieve? in a global temporal attention deficit where we have no understanding of the past or deep-time, and live entirely in the nano-present. – Once again, relatively simple, but it begs a little more explanation. When we look at that previous feedback-loop and take status as our example once again, we begin to realise that our relationship with time is entirely constricted by something as simple as likes and retweets, everything about them begs reverence and attention only at the present. One could argue that one is attempting to build something for more likes and more status, but that is always held in abstract, and one’s understanding is that achievement is made via more quantity of social-media’s dopamine feedback responses. In that, yes, one might be abstractly targeted at the future in some manner, but it’s a future which is inherently tied to a mechanical notion of the now. The past spans ‘back’ billions of years, the future is the abstraction of all potential, and we’re being drawn into the most minute of presents, ones which have not only passed us by, but are being continuously remembered, not as an exercise in learning, but as a social proof. ‘Here is my present! Look at it and see how great it was! See how cultured I am!’

The ’nano-present’ isn’t the present as it’s understood in the philosophy of time, it isn’t Deleuze’s retention of the past and expectation of the future, it has nothing to do with Bergson’s duration, it isn’t Heidegger’s existential ensemble, nor is it even part of any ‘common-sensical’ linear conception of time; the nano-present is void of all connection to anything that surrounds it, to the extent that it refuses the existence of the past and the future. The nano-present is the pure atomization of time into distinct islands of abstraction, so small and ignorant in their existence that they have no means of communication, and believe only in their own essence, they are presents which exist within themselves. The next nano-present doesn’t arrive in any form of connection, but as a teleportation, we are all at once within an infinity of presents which are too nauseated by the acceleration of atomism to ever reach out and care for another present, however vapid it might be.

The action is relatively clear here, because nothing I’ve written is anything new, and everything I’m doing is within the same systems I critique. How does one avoid getting trapped then? I would advise creating a mental habit, in that when you check your phone or PC, before you do anything, you question why it is you opened that certain tab, app or page etc. Is it out of use and utility, out of creation and personal choice? Or have you become a slave to a habitual dopamine-response-routine?


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Death Happens

This is an essay which has basically been a long time coming, not that I ever actually planned to write it, only, it has always been in the background and a recent experience solidified it as perhaps one of the most important ideas which structures my thought.

I don’t think about death and suffering all the time and it’s certainly not infiltrating my thought all that regularly, at least as far as I’m aware. But recently I had the – supposedly – unfortunate experience of seeing a loved one in those true last moments, the last few hours where the human body has quite literally nothing to do but clutch at an attempt of existence, and once a person hits this point, the reality of that ‘person’, their ego, their I, anything that can be considered to be of their character completely fades away and you’re left with mere flesh.

For the majority of people and for modernity in general this is, a priori,  a bad moment, there is quite simply no framing wherein this can ever be considered a possible/potential good etc. However, that’s not really what people mean when they think like this, is it? When people say things like ‘Oh it was awful’ what they’re really addressing is their own begrudging acknowledgement of a state which is perpetually hidden by them and for them. That is to say, death and suffering are always hidden, reconfigured and reworked in such a way that they are seen not as definite parts of life, but mistakes of civilization. Ok, so far this is a slight repetition of my previous essay on immortality, however, that essay dealt with what modernity does with death with respect to your will, the rest of this essay will be on what you can do with death and suffering in the face of modernity’s cold hard calculating machinic unconscious.

It pains my younger-self to say this, but I’m certainly heading towards a more vitalist philosophy (reading the work of Ludwig Klages acted as the catalyst), and yet, I don’t think that vitalism has to be of any cliché form, or of any stereotypical hippie-love-of-live vector, in fact, I’d argue that one can be a ‘machinic-vitalist’ or a ‘cosmic-vitalist’. That is – and forgive me is there’s already theorizations closer to this idea – a vitalism which is accepting of death and suffering as part of its own vivid ecstasy. Georges Bataille gets close with his philosophy of limit experience, Nick Land strays towards machines and neglects our reality, Deleuze & Guattari are too focused on economics, Cioran and Ligotti get caught up in their own bleaker-than-thou bias; we need a reversion of vitalism in which it eats itself. That is, death and suffering become a force for good.

Hold up, I’m not promoting death and suffering for their own sake, I’m not saying that one should get pleasure, comfort or positivity from the pain of another, I’m not endorsing any form of violence or torture here. What I am doing however is becoming accepting of the cosmos in a way which doesn’t succumb to the pitfalls of Lovecraftian-bellowing from the madhouse, nor become so utterly positive it stinks of ignorance; I am theorizing of a vitalism which accepts its own return to Zero. Death and suffering as part of the whole system. Sure, this is absolutely nothing new…but then, there’s nothing new under the sun, right?

This is an immanentization of death and suffering into modernity. Modernity is here to stay, and utilizing one’s finite energy trying to get rid of it or destroy is a serious waste of life, you’ll understand very little if you spend your entire life destroying X so you can arrive at some abstract Y; the grass is always greener etc. Death happens. Death happens and spending your energy trying to stop both its material and mental reality is not only an exhaustion, but it’s a maddening exhaustion which will lead you nowhere. The underlying idea of modernity is that everything can be fixed either by some form of technological innovation or by some form of societal tolerance, and guess what, death is the thing which can never be stopped. Modernity finds in death an idea so abhorrent that it ignores its existence all-together, and what is it that modernity finds? Modernity finds within death something which truly does what modernity wants to do, control everything. The only thing outside the constraint of death is nothingness, and once death has come, the concept of nothingness can no longer be.

What can we learn from death? When one is ill, or when one is hurt, or when one is falling apart, these experiences teach us just how much we’ve become accustomed to a certain way of thinking and being. One’s first thought when they have a fever, or when a new ailment alters their course of life is to attempt, with all their might, a return to a presupposed state or normalcy. This is how I should feel and how my body should be and any alteration from that is a mistake of cosmic programming, well guess what? Heraclitus’ river isn’t just something you step into every second of every day, but it’s also the current and circuitry of your own blood. You can’t avoid change because you’re of change.

When I looked at my loved one, I saw the loved one had gone, I didn’t know where, but it didn’t feel awful. What was awful was seeing some-thing plugged into the life-support machine that is modernity, existence for its own sake; modernity disallows existence its right to pass into the next stage both willingly and in a contently manner, modernity clings to life as if it always belonged solely to modernity itself. I saw blood, gasping, unconsciousness, entropy, croaking, struggling and mortality all within a single moment, and yet I saw nothing of the vitalism which had once possessed them, for such a vitalism would have nothing to do with such modernistic and civilizational ignorance of cosmic reality.

And yet, what can one think when they find themselves within such an event in time? Modern man would bleat, pray, whine, ignore, repress, suppress, suffocate and reason everything in front of him, he would make a leap of faith towards the idea that modernity would eventually save him from such a fate, even if his might be more pleasant. But what if one sits and looks and senses. What if one takes their time, accepts the reality, acknowledges this as part of the cycle, as part of the river, and goes about their day with that in mind? I’m not saying do not feel or mourn, I’m not saying ignore the event that is death; I am saying that the way in which one understands and reacts to death will ultimately affect how they react and enact their life; if death is denied, then life is too.

‘Everything you’re currently experiencing will die’ is another way of saying that ‘everything you’re currently experiencing is still here’, enjoy it, partake in it, and experience it with everything you’ve got.


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Immortality is More Profitable

“People, like civilizations, are mortal, and no matter how much money and technology gets poured into the task of keeping either one alive, sooner or later it won’t be enough.” – John Michael Greer, The Strategy of Salvage.

Once again, I’m going to alter the Greerean civilization angle towards one of personal sovereignty. Mortality is our reality, in all things. This is the truth that even the most Rousseau-hardened optimists have trouble accepting. People, states, families, heritages, traditions, fads and ideas are all mortal, they will all end. Unfortunately, we live within a system which finds this truth abhorrent for the fact it goes against everything it stands for. Ending, stagnation and stopping, there is nothing more troublesome to modernity and runaway capitalism than this. And so, wherever you look, you will find pitiful attempts at immortality…whatever the cost.

At risk of acting like modernity itself, I actually see this as an argument and reality regarding energy. There comes a point within all existences in which the energy ceases in its ability to be converted into life by the existence itself, the requirement henceforth then – if one wishes to keep that existence ‘alive’ – is an external source of energy, which acts as a life-line, or existence support machine. I am thoroughly of the opinion that if an existence can no longer support itself, it should be left to peacefully fade away…for modernity, this is the wrong opinion.

We see these life/existence-support-machines everywhere, but we’re just taught to understand them as ‘the way things are’, the underlying message we are taught is that death is the worst of all outcomes, worse, in fact, than suffering. And that life should be maintained, even to the detriment of its own quality, even if by keeping it going it has a net-negative regarding quality.

Dying businesses get personal credit injections, dying trades get government subsidies, dying ideas get infected with nostalgic wills, dying traditions get riddled with parasitic clones, dying fads get their ironic rebirth and dying people are disallowed their reality entirely. We simply cannot allow death. We cannot allow it to appear, we cannot allow it to be seen and most of all, we cannot allow it to become a reality. Within modernity, death and suffering are not seen as outcomes of an unjust cosmos, but as accidents of a failed civilization; civilization as an idea has become synonymous with the eradication of pain and conclusion, there’s no money to be made from something which ceases to have an output.

But this idea of death is reliant on one’s definition of life, for there to be an antagonist or opposite, one needs the affirmation, the protagonist. The main character here is life, the idea of life. How ‘life’ is defined differs from person to person, and yet I imagine that there is a relatively accepted opinion that life is still living when one can actually do it; to live is an action. Modernity doesn’t see it this way. To modernity the subjective reality of ‘being alive’ is a matter of chemistry, politics and economics.

Modernity strips life of all its vitality and essence, one is reduced to chemistry in the manner of being monitored via various medication and intakes and blood tests, one is reduced to politics by way of being understood as a statistic in relation to various micro and macro political spaces, and, of course, one is reduced to an economic being by way of understanding that once one dies, they can no longer produce or consume, or more importantly, pay. 

Say what you like about the Deleuzoguattarian notion of machination, that we’re all just units which produce and consume, but it’s certainly the correct reading with regard to civilizational systems and underlying control mechanisms. One is understood, societally, simply as potential for economic input or output. The reason one is kept alive far beyond the point wherein all real life has left, is because if one is still chemically alive, then one is still economically life, and has the potential to create profit for some or other societal abstraction.

Unfortunately, the reason why these life-support systems seem so abhorrent to us, to the extent of causing a gut reaction of disgust, is because the living human finally seen to exist on the plane of existence they always existed upon, the plane of entropy and negentropy. When resource shortages interact with rising maintenance costs what one gets is a form of collapse. Now, we’re talking about a shortage of life itself, a shortage of pure being, which in turn is replaced by machinic appendages and tools, external aesthetic machinations of life which stand in for natural organs. This process is usually slow and steady, until one day, one is faced with their beloved all but gone, except for the process of breathing, maintained by various branded medical apparatus.

This is because immortality is more profitable; dying? How dare you! A dignified death is the gift of a dignified society. One where the definitions of life, death and suffering remain with those who truly partake in them and have not fallen into the hands of abstractions which don’t. There is nothing modernity is more hates more than something which not only wants to end, but wishes to choose when to do so. When something or someone says ‘I’ve had enough, I no longer want the drugs, I’ve had a good run…’, that isn’t seen by modernity as a separate agency making its will conscious, but is seen as a potential loss of control.

In Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West, Judge Holden – who for lack of a thorough analysis represents death, the devil and unforgivable entropy – states this: “Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.” Of course, for the Judge, as with modernity, the reverse is also true, that which dies without my knowledge dies without my consent. Modernity is Judge Holden forcefully cramming pills, splints and needles into you until the last iota of your life force has been drained.

It is a crime to die of one’s own choice, whether or not your life is over is not your choice, but the choice of that which defines what both life and death are, and for that we rely on something entirely undead.


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The Myth of Progress

There have been thousands of essays just like this one, but I never got around to writing my own, so here it is. Guess what, progress is…strange. The very concept of progress now is – as mentioned in my Free Floating Power essay – a signifier without a true object or concept of signification. Let’s look at some definitions:

Progress:
1. Forward or onward movement towards a destination.
2. Development towards an improved or more advanced condition.

So if we’re to take the first definition here as our starting point, then we first need to question our destination. If we’re progressing then we must be progressing somewhere, right? Well, I can’t say for sure whether we’re going anywhere because it’s relatively difficult to see who or what it is that’s actually pulling our strings. With that said, without any clear destination progress, advancement and improvement are pretty much impossible. If you have no quantifiable metric to go off of (within the socio-industrial framework) then you can be doing practically anything and call it progress. If we tell ourselves that we need to get to a state of X, or we need to invent or build Y, then we have enough data to correctly assess whether or not we’re progressing. But once the entire concept of progressing is understood in relation to a rather loose assemblage of sociological and political tolerances and statements, well then we’re at the whim of conjecture, and whoever can askew the facts in the most innovative way is the winner.

This leads me to the second definition – development towards an improved or more advanced condition – firstly one has to ask, an improved or more advanced condition for whom? And within what context is advancement understood. The first word there, ‘improved’, is the most precarious in this context. Improved means entirely different things for different people, this much is obvious. But another difficulty with ‘improved’ is that for many improvement isn’t synonymous with advancement in technological culture or abstract social freedoms. For some people a return to tradition would be an improvement, for some people the singularity would be an improvement and for others the levelling of all industry would be improvement, and once all these viewpoints are all flattened onto the plane of progress one understands that it’s nothing but impossible to have a unified conception of progress. The same applies for the idea of an ‘advanced condition’, one assumes that this is theorized in relation to an advancement in technology and potential for social freedoms once again, that there is, in the oh-so mystical future, an abstract state of society which we’re lunging towards.

If this is the case, that we’re heading towards a sort of collective subconscious future which we all apparently implicitly understand is the correct thing to head towards, then what we’re venturing into is a fiction, and as such, will be – more or less – extremely alike the past, if not a mirror image with a different aesthetic. For whatever is understood as our future can only be understood in terms relative to what has been, the entire notion of progress rests on a linearity of thought which excludes and actively shuns innovation. Innovation is the greatest enemy of progress, because it could potentially allow us to move away from the notion of progress altogether.

It’s a case of questioning once again, and because progress implies some form of action (advancement, progressing, moving-towards etc.) then further questions arise. Where are we progressing to? What are we progressing towards? Who is progressing? Why do we want to progress? And on and on they go, questions which will never find an answer because the concept of progression is so malleable and plastic that it exists solely as a form to be used by the highest bidder. So, my own definition of progress: Progress means whatever those with power want it to mean; progress means whatever those in control of history want it to mean. The victors write the history books, but they do so in such a way as to define progress, and unfortunately, our history books are rife with unbridled technological and industrial optimism, unquestioned notions of freedom and abhorrence of exit. Which ties one into an unforgiving abstraction, the target of which is whatever is happens to be that day.

How can we call it a myth then? Well, let’s go back to good ol’ definitions:

Myth:

1. A traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.

Now, progress is far from traditional, in fact, it has basically nothing to do with tradition in the sense that it only uses tradition to reach its own aim, as opposed to being tradition itself. It is most definitely a story, perhaps the earliest of stories, the one we’ve always told ourselves. Progress is the story in which the narrator is always correct, and everything the narrator has done is correct, and – most importantly – where the narrator is going is definitely the correct direction. It is the story with regards to one handing over their responsibility and action to an elusive abstraction. Sure, we tell ourselves lots and lots of stories in everyday life “I’ll do it later because X”, “I can’t do that now because Y”, “I always wanted to do Z but…” and on and on they go, but the overarching story which trumps all of these is the story of progress, the unconscious idea that even if individual things don’t get done, it doesn’t matter because we’re chugging along nicely anyway, a few mistakes, lacunae and occlusions don’t matter, because we’re always progressing.

What’s left to say of progress other than nothing, it doesn’t exist, except in extremely limited cases where there’s a clear metric and secure personal or collective context, but even then it can become flimsy quite quickly. Handing over your ideals to progress is giving up all personal sovereignty for the comfort of a controlled abstraction, and it’s not always easy to see who or what is doing the controlling.


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Free Floating Power

Within semiotics there is the concept of the ‘floating signifier’ or ‘free floating signifier’. The concept designates a signifier which doesn’t have a referent, or, in simple terms, in designates a word which doesn’t point towards any clear object, structure or form. It’s a little tricky to explain exactly how they come across in day-to-day life, but it’s my belief that we use them more and more, both as a way to quickly explain something, but more importantly as a way to abstain from understanding and responsibility.

Postmodernism is a clear one, we’re not entirely sure what the ‘hell’ postmodernism means anymore and it seems pretty clear that no one actually wants to go read the postmodernists to find out, hell, who even are the postmodernists anymore. The meaning of that word, ‘postmodernism’, has such a floating meaning that it can – and has – been used to explain and describe the most drifting symptoms of culture and society. Usually used in a derogatory manner, postmodernism means everything from the death of idealism to the reason there’s TikTok, and yet, such a vision is so vast and fleeting that it deems the signifier itself almost useless. Yet, it does retain a use; it becomes a word of pure power.

We hear these floating signifiers almost daily without ever questioning them, the recent Coronavirus pandemic has been rife with them, and yet, no one pays a moment’s notice to what it is they’re agreeing or disagreeing with. An empty, floating signifier takes over their potential for authentic opinion.  ‘Scientist’ or ‘science’ is the clearest one being thrown around at the moment. “The scientists have said X” or “The scientists have agreed upon Y.” We hear these sentences almost daily on the news, in the papers and on social media, and people trust them just because of their inclusion of a certain signifier, and yet no one ever takes a moment to think if there’s anything behind the signifier.

What are we buying into when we accept these terms without ever thinking about them? Let’s take ‘scientist’ as a clear example. Someone states that “The scientists agree on X”. What we’re accepting here is a free-floating signifier deciding what is correct or incorrect with regards to our health and our lives. No one asks which scientists, or what these scientists’ aims are, or whether or not we actually asked them in the first place, everyone simply agrees, subconsciously, that a decision has been made.

What we’re looking at then is a complete abstraction, we’re looking at people handing over all possible agencies and responsibility to a floating abstraction which can mean anything anyone wants. For some ‘scientist’ might mean security, others authority and others it might mean intelligence, either way, we’re handing over our own decision and opinion to an empty signifier. Simple steps can be made by news outlets and mainstream media to rectify this semiotic atrocity, by adding in where the scientists work and who they work for would direct the signifier towards something more solid, and yet they don’t, why is this?

These floating signifiers are useful for when wants to insert their opinion about something without having to own up to any consequences, or even explain why they have that opinion. Blaming everything on X is an age-old human trait and this is its latest form. What if the ‘scientists’ are wrong? It doesn’t matter because we never knew who they were anyway. The signifier was free-floating, it never latched onto anything stable, so there’s nothing there to agree or disagree with, only a nothingness to soak up resentment, bitterness and an irresponsible nature. My direction here is once again towards personal responsibility. I don’t care about mainstream media abstaining from responsibility; in fact, I don’t massively care about mainstream media at all. But one’s own thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are something to be consistently kept in check – ‘Do I actually believe that?’, ‘Do I actually agree with that?’ or – in the case of the news – ‘Has this person actually said anything at all, anything worthy of my attention?’

Because when you really think about the sentence ‘The scientists have agreed on X’, you realize that it actually means very little without any stable signifiers to connect to. For me, it’s simple; people accept these empty statements as a way to avoid thinking. It is – once again – a way for men and women to hand over their responsibility to the masses, the herd, the ‘they’.  ‘Well, looks like they’ve got it sorted!’, ‘We can always rely on them scientists!’ or my personal favorite ‘Ah, they’ll think of something…’ Is there any clearer sentence showing how easily man hands over his agency to the collective?

Once that agency is handed over, people no longer have to think, worry or partake in something which is affecting their lives. Once they’ve accepted the floating signifier everything is ok again, everything is back to normal. But you must think, you must ponder and criticize these empty assessments and analyses of things which are affecting you. Don’t let another sculpt what it is you believe, do or say simply by assuming that normalcy and general agreement is correct. Usually within the agreement of the ‘they’ there is actually little agreement, the only thing they agree on is that change is bad, and what is now should and shall be forever and any who think otherwise are silly.

When one thinks back over what a figure of authority told them there is almost always a reliance on a floating signifier, some presumed meaning smeared onto nothingness which vindicates the rest of their rhetoric.  Once you question that first step, the rest of the stairway quickly crumbles under the weight of ignorance, apathy and confusion.

“See, there’s X then Y then Z! That’s simply how it is!”

“But I’m not sure about X? What does X even mean?”

You won’t make any friends this way; people don’t like anything to be questioned, especially the foundations. But what’s more important, gaining popularity through agreement with empty falsehoods, or thinking for oneself?


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What Are You Waiting For?

As a culture, in fact, as a species, we have one clear obsession which we all share, the future. We’re absolutely obsessed with it, aesthetically, ideologically, politically, physically and – primarily – technologically. We can’t wait to see and use the latest car or latest phone, we’re enthralled with trailers for upcoming TV shows and movies, even the latest burger release warrants multiple prime-time advert slots, which is enough social proof to garner that we adore even the immediate future as opposed to any past or any present.

We like to think we’re no longer utopian, that we no longer lust after any of the – seemingly – archaic visions we did way back when, we believe we’ve gone beyond the World of Tomorrow ideals, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. The problem is the utopias we now subconsciously believe in are ones in which no change is enacted. There’s nothing different about new cars or new technologies, they’re simply previous technologies with aesthetic alterations. You could argue an electric car is something different, but ultimately it still runs on the same premise of an engine, fuel etc. It’s still reliant on a massive disruptive system of roads and networks which are ghastly to look at and dull to partake in.

We don’t want change, we just want the illusion of change. Aesthetic progression is apparently enough for us to not demand anything different, anything new. Except, even the aesthetic progressions of our ‘future’ aren’t anything new, if one is to look back at films made in the 60’s and 70’s which predict the future we have today, you’ll find that much of what is being built today is simply a creation of a past fantasy. Star Trek told us what phones and communication would be like, so that’s what we turned it into. Futuristic sci-fi films gave everything round edges and curved design styles, so that’s the way we’ve designed things. This is a shoddy example of hyperstition if there ever was one, those kitsch, lame ideas of what the past thought the future would be like, actually becoming the real future.

When you look at this from afar it becomes quite clear that we don’t really want change, the onboarding process for any drastic change is far too sharp. Everything is built and constructed from pre-defined parameters we’re all comfortable with. KFC have released a new burger which is a chicken burger between 2 donuts. It’s as if the whole thing has reached its end and no longer has anything left in the burner, we have a limited amount of options and our future is simply the reiteration of different mixtures of these items. Actual innovation, difference-in-itself…genius, is thrown out in favor of complacency and acceptability.

We’re focusing on the future to make sure it doesn’t stray too far from the present. Buddhists and Taoists have been telling us for years to be more present and to be mindful of the now, I don’t think they meant for us to stretch the general present as far as it will go until it breaks. In fact, this is the antithesis of ‘living in the present’. If your idea of living in the now is simply attempting to stretch the now on forever, you’ve missed the point. The ‘now’, the ‘present’, is ever-changing, it’s something you have to accept will change and alter whether you like it or not. Being mindful, being present is a way of being which is averse to ignorant ideas of control and authority. You can’t tame the river, but it seems like we’re trying really hard to.

Once again, the things of primary and secondary importance have switched places. We believe that regarding the future what’s going on physically is of the most importance, whether or not things appear new and progress continues in the stereotypical manner, these are what seem to be important and we’ve relegated our mental state to the sidelines. But we need to turn back to how we think about the future, how we feel about it, how we are going to act towards it. But also we need to revert to a more personable and local form of thinking, the way we think is global, hegemonic and downright authoritarian.

Our thoughts regarding the future are gargantuan; we’ve allowed the realm of abstraction to become so commonplace that the general public has an understanding of relatively niche subjects. We talk about global and national debt, dopamine fasts, min-maxed lifestyles and diets, foreign policy, meta-levels of society and behavioral psychology to name just a few, we’re mentally tied up with a bunch of abstract assessments, arrangements and arguments regarding the future that we have no say and no real feelings about. Whereas we should be targeting our energy and our analysis to that which can directly effect: ourselves and our immediate surroundings. (There are of course the Musks, Gates and Thiels of this world, but they’re rare, not everyone can be a genius or a multi-millionaire entrepreneur, that’s not how things work.)

Begin to ask yourself ‘Is this actually how I want my future to look?’ Well, is it? Did you ever agree to this consensus, that this is how the future has to be?  The general consensus is that the future has to be futuristic, and yet, the word ‘futuristic’ already has inherent connotations relating to technology, social arrangements and speed. When you hear ‘futuristic’ you think of Neuromancer or Blade Runner, you think of the information and attention economy running wild and immanentizing themselves into a cyberpunk aesthetic. But is that even close to the future most people are going to get? I don’t think so, I think most people’s future is one of complacency and acceptance, complacent in the fact that nothing will change in its essence, and acceptant of the comfortableness of stagnancy.

Your ‘futuristic’, your future can mean whatever you want it to mean, it can feel how you want it to feel. Within the general consensus of the term ‘futuristic’ there’s no space for leisurely strolls through the woods, day-dreaming or taking-your-time, but there can be, if you simply alter your perception. Are you simply waiting for what is going to be given to you? Are you simply waiting for whatever happens to become your future, or are you actively creating the future you want, both personally and locally?


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Boomers, Millennials and the Sovereign Individual

The Boomer, with their minds that seemingly crave work for its own sake, determine whether one is successful by what they own and determine whether one is authoritative and in control by the amount of awards and letters next to their name; the boomer, in short, is completely controlled by bureaucratic abstraction, the niceties which they developed to prove to themselves that they were doing ok and that everything they were doing was good, proper and correct.

Except, such things as goodness, properness and correctness aren’t universal or cosmic, they’re developed under the systematic control of some culture or other, whether or not those morals and etiquettes are agreeable to you isn’t entirely your choice…until you really start to question your absolute base assumptions.

As to why the boomer generation are as they are, I simply don’t know, but this essay isn’t about dunking on the boomer generation, it’s about questioning the notion of the ‘boomer’ and where it comes from. I briefly defined the boomer generation in the opening paragraph, a generation which adores control, authority and status whether they believe it or not and a generation which adores material comforts over anything else and can only understand much of the world via some form of materiality. They’re often called out for their incessant desire to be awarded, their incapacity for empathy, their mindless consumption and their status grabbing games, and yet, if you look at these things one-by-one, you’ll notice that no generation has ever really differed, has it?

Many millenials will berate the boomer generation for needing countless objects, things and trinkets as a means to fulfill their desires and their life, and yet, the millennial generation is ignorant to their own abstract-material worship. The boomer’s clarity of purchase (cars, houses, handbags etc.) makes them easy targets for the label of ‘mindless consumer’, but at least they’re only consuming a clear material end as opposed to a lengthy identity. Where the boomer consumes the object as the desire in itself, the millennial consumes what the object represents and assimilates it into their identity. Say what you like about the boomers who proclaim ‘I drive a Porsche!’ it seems clear to me that they see it as an externality as opposed to extension of their self.

People will now be calling me out for muddling up desire, getting it all wrong. Post-structuralists and post-modernists will be up-in-arms, ‘These acts of consumption signify the desire-structure!’ Yes they do. Everyone desires and what everyone desires is relatively empty, fleeting and changing, you can’t get a hold on desire as much as you can get a hold on what the object of desire represents.

The boomer desires the status handed to them by a large corporate event, the millennial desires the status handed to them via countless likes and retweets on a post-ironic meme; the boomer desires an accountable award for each course they undertake, the millennial desires to know they’ve completed X amount of TV series etc. The list goes on, each has its counter…and why is that?

It’s because there’s no such thing as generations. Or at least, there’s no inherently verifiable difference between generations except on an aesthetic level, which is to say, there’s no difference of essence. In Rome there are written complaints about teenagers joy riding in their chariots, the Victorians rallied against the new classical music liked by the youth, people went crazy over the thought of a car hitting 30mph, each war has had its anti-war demonstration, each king his jester, each generation has had its ‘We’re the best generation and here’s why’ essay and each generation has had an essay just like this one, explaining why there’s no such thing as a greatest or worst generation, because generations are made up of individuals, movements, leaders, companies, events and catastrophes.

Generational thinking is for those who believe generations exist, those who believe that things can be neatly summed up into chunks and explained in comparative and binary manners, namely, the herd. Outside of the sleeping herd are individuals and individuals like to think. The notion of the sovereign individual isn’t one that’s really sympathized with anymore. Many people believe it to be a Randian notion or a pro-capitalist notion, the idea of the entrepreneurial thinker who’s out only for himself. In reality the sovereign individual is someone who simply doesn’t get caught up in the form of thinking which has one believing in generations, or catch-all isms and universals.

Being an individual is hard work, especially in a world and society that doesn’t respect such an idea. There’s a certain amount of scorn targeted at those who would rather go it alone and do all the work themselves, it’s seen as not-sharing, as opposed to self-improvement. It’s also difficult to be a sovereign individual because everywhere you turn is another torrent attempting to drag you into its binary, collective and complacent ways of thinking, the ones which wish to atomize your thought into a multitude of pithy currents which can never adhere to a whole, a collective that wishes not for you to use yourself, but to use you as its own collective-self. A thousand institutions that structurally cannot work without the formal notion of collective, group and communal action being agreed as good prior to undertaking any work.

When I hear ‘boomer’ or ‘millennial’ all I hear is laziness, ignorance and resentment. It’s a form of language used by those who are content with the top layer of thought, the easy route. They don’t want to try understand people, ideas or vectors of energy, nor do they want to ask why, how, who or any question at all, they are complacent with confinement. They don’t want to understand, they want simply to know, and their definition knowledge consists of collective blocks being placed together neatly. Knowledge isn’t something that can be owned, only worked with and understood. To own knowledge is to end thinking, is to stop the journey and accept conclusions and truth. Once you’ve accepted a truth, you’re already latched to a one way track heading straight towards intellectual death.


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Identification and Normalcy

“Knowing many stories is wisdom. Knowing no stories is ignorance. Knowing only one story is death.” – Knowing Only One Story, John Michael Greer.

When I started Hermitix one the major things I wanted to achieve was to have such an eclectic array of guests that as many stories as possible were heard. I’d seen multiple left-wing podcasts, a few right-wing ones and a lot of ‘hot-take’ podcasts. These all bored me, why you ask? The answer is simple; they all only knew one story. Their entire world view could be filtered through a single lens. Often these lenses take odd and unexpected forms. Some people funnel their entire existence through Marxism, others Kant, but then again, some people will find the meaning of everything to be in the study of UFOs or microbiology. Sometimes it’s always chemicals, other times it’s always spirits or outside forces. The point being – as Greer states quite clearly – that viewing life this way is death. Not a literal death, but an intellectual one.

We all have that one friend who can find a way to fit whatever it is you’re talking about into their latest interest or phase, what they don’t realize however is that we live in a world of communication, production and consumption.  Everything communicates, whether parasitically as an invader, as amicably as a gesture. Certain things are antagonizing others and certain things are helping others. Sometimes X will produce Y, sometimes Y will consume Z, and on and on it goes.

The problem with a single story is that it is always going to be utopian, it’s a false limitation applied over various growing and decaying structures, which unfortunately for Hegel, can’t be constrained in such a manner. Once again there are constraints, but this time, instead of constraining your general freedom, they’re constraining your freedom of common sense, they are making you believe that everything makes sense within a single framework. Whereas the only framework which can intuit the whole is one which is ever-changing, dynamic and fluid.  So then we have this singular representation of reality which we abide by and try to form all things to fit, such a way of thinking is purely identification.

Identification and consciousness (pure awareness) are opposites of each other, you can’t identify and continue to be conscious of yourself, it’s simply not possible. When you believe you desire a certain food you’re identifying with something, possibly with some advert which has ahold of your will. When you identify with a character from a TV show, you’re identifying with a box-of-tropes made for your consumption; someone else’s idea of what it is you should be.  Your experience of these singular stories isn’t meant to include your consciousness of your engaging with them, they are the master and you are the slave. But it’s not the story itself which acts as master, but the authority you allow it.

Think of identification as a form of fascination or subtle hypnosis, the more you identify with something, be it a story of personality, the more it takes you away and takes away from you. You even identify with emotions, especially negative ones. The problem with identification is that it’s often apathetic, like watching TV, it doesn’t actually take any effort to identify. It’s just something that happens. One moment you’re consciously sitting down, the next you’re believing in the creation of ego.

You wake up and identify with a certain kind of Western life, filled with comforts, enjoyments and entertainment. You get in your car and identify with a form of normalcy and work, believing it’s the thing that good, normal people do. You identify with the need to promote excess chatter and fill the workplace with random opinions on things you didn’t really pay attention to. You identify with lunch-breaks even though you’re not hungry, productivity reports even though nothing of merit has been produced and most of all, you subconsciously identify with the idea that this is how it is, and this is how a person is formed, slowly, with no shocks.

Step back. What stories, narratives and structures are you identifying with? You wake up at a certain because… And that life you identify with, the 2-up-2-down 5-day working week life, the one you were taught in school, did you ever step back to see how much of your identity had been formed around this thing you never had any say in? What about work, commuting, eating certain things, chatting, opinions, productivity and complacency, did you ever stop to question whether or not ‘you’ (your ‘I’) had been built upon false building blocks, on foundations which aren’t supporting your authentic self, but simply dragging it under?

And that’s the story of the average Western person isn’t it? Identification with presupposed normalcy. 8 hours work, 8 hours at home, 8 hours asleep, 3 meals a day, suburban housing, 1 hour commutes, unquestioned-enjoyment, no striving. That’s the problem with identity and identification, it builds an idea of what you supposedly are without the actual you ever interjecting. Fortunately, it only builds externally, but these external barriers can be quite tough to break. But guess what? They can’t be broken externally, an internal flame is needed, a deep-seated desire to be prepared to suffer and undertake training and exercises, finding yourself takes discipline and work, especially in a world which means and wishes for you to become lost.


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Thoughts on Joseph Azize’s ‘Gurdjieff’

 

George Gurdjieff, like the majority of occultists, mystics and esotericists, is someone who is extremely difficult to define. In fact, the very act of definition would be something I imagine Gurdjieff would frown upon. It is an oh-so modern trait to pick up and book and consider a subject ‘complete’; it is the modern trait to consider the possibility of completeness. It is this ambiguity and purposeful inaccessibility which draws me to Gurdjieff’s work and makes me wonder how books can be written about him. There have been quite a few books written about him or his work, though rarely both together. The works that have been written about him are usually written by students or students of students, and the texts on his work are oddly specific. This isn’t the case with Joseph Azize’s Gurdjieff.

Gurdjieff is a Gurdjieffian book. There’s very little pomposity about it, it’s to the point and yet it begs further study. Azize’s method of writing, heavy with references, makes it immediately clear that if we can say anything of our understanding of Gurdjieff it’s that it is always fragmented. One of the overarching messages I get from both this text and Gurdjieffian study is that one should be suspicious of completion, unification and universal conclusions. Gurdjieff’s system wasn’t necessarily a mismatch of other systems, but more a working through of connections, routes and pathways. He understood that it would be ignorant to assume that each system was an island, and that there was a form of circuitry connecting all things, even if this circuitry was ultimately hierarchical.

This brings me to the first two points in my title, modernity and accessibility. The latter can be subsumed into the former in abstract. I always thought one of the reasons Gurdjieff’s work never quite made its way into public light as much as Crowley’s or LaVey’s was because he made it very clear that it was work…very hard work. Arguably another reason could be because Gurdjieff’s systems lack the sexiness and danger of Crowley or LaVeys, but in balance, his systems also lack their stupidity. The idea that something is being purposefully obscure or difficult is no longer seen as a challenge, a bet or quasi-wager by society/modernity, but it is seen as a chore, or insult. If something isn’t immediately accessible in infantile terms then modernity turns its nose up at that thing and declares it useless, hucksterish, too-complex or a waste of time.

The last entry here is of note. A ‘waste of time’ implies a correct usage of time, which within modernity usually means profitable work. Many of these systems are seen by modernity as a waste of time not because of the actions themselves, but because the presumed conclusions should be able to be purchased, and the idea one has to work towards what one already has within them is an abhorrent idea. Both Gurdjieff and Azize’s Gurdjieff make it strikingly clear – The tasks, exercises and contemplative routes are here, work at them, or don’t; either you push through the inaccessibility with the force needed to break into it, or you don’t deserve what’s on the other side. Of course, once again, modernity hates the idea that something can’t be had right now via purchase, and anything that doesn’t fit into this schema is quickly named ‘stupid’.

Azize’s biographical sections on Gurdjieff are as enlightening as any other text on Gurdjieff, that is, rather vague, yet inquisitively intriguing. It often seemed to me that a keen reading of Gurdjieff’s past – what one can find of it – would be an exercise in itself, a reading between the lines of what it is one  is ‘supposed’ to do. And this is the difficulty of accessibility, if I give away all that I have learnt, then what value is it? And not only this, anyone who’s undergone any type of training, whether mental or physical, understands that quickly explaining the conclusions to someone is not the same as undergoing them yourself. This is also the difficulty of writing any text on mystical or occult practice, if the conclusion/answer/enlightenment could be put into words then the practice wouldn’t be needed! Suffice to say, many initiate into many different schools often forget the ‘work’ part of any system.

Yet what can we say of mysticism now? If Azize’s book told me anything it’s that our distrust of anything immaterial or non-profit-oriented is only increasing. It’s clear to me that Azize utilizes many endnotes for need of academic referencing, but it’s also clear to me that this begets a larger picture. That is, the death of the mystic. If such a text were presented without referencing, as if the feats were all real, or at least could be considered real, then such a text falls by the wayside and is deemed unserious. The overton-window of reality is ever-tightening and as each side moves in more and more ambiguities get pushed out. All that will be left soon will be quantifiable material which can be plugged into the economic circuit.

What of the mystics, the monks, the ascetics, the druids, the wanderers, the nomads and the outsiders? The space of modernity expands into the mind and the mind follows you everywhere, even a brand new rainforest can be economized; you’re never free of modernistic thinking, unless you free yourself of patterns of thought. This is the same normalcy routine I often recite, who ever said X and Y is normal? And why do you follow that as truth.

Azize’s text is one of sincerity. There is little in the way of defense, nor discussion on whether there is even an attack. What stands is what is there, what is written. This may seem like nothingness, but almost ritualistically there are introductions and prefaces jumping to the beck-and-call of a constrained materialist history.  What is needed – and what Azize achieves – is a book that takes itself seriously and doesn’t bow to an abstract etiquette authority. There are other routes, they are allowed to be taken and they don’t have to defend themselves against suffocating normalcy.

Quarantined: Freedom From Limitation

In December John Michael Greer posted “Wind is Changing!”, in which he recounts the passage from The Lord of the Rings in which:

the cavalry of the kingdom of Rohan hurry to the rescue of their allies in the city of Minas Tirith. Hostile armies block the way and all seems lost, but in the nick of time Ghân-buri-Ghân, chief of the tribespeople of the White Mountains, comes to their aid, showing the king of Rohan a hidden route that gets them past the enemy and into striking range of the battle that matters. All the while vast clouds of volcanic smoke have blotted out the sun. As the riders of Rohan and their guides reach the edge of the battlefield, however, something shifts:

“Ghân-buri-Ghân squatted down and touched the earth with his brow in token of farewell. Then he got up as if to depart. But suddenly he stood looking up like some startled woodland animal snuffling a strange air. A light came in his eyes.

“‘Wind is changing!’ he cried, and with that, in a twinkling as it seemed, he and his fellows had vanished into the glooms, never to be seen by any Rider of Rohan again.”

As it turned out, Ghân-buri-Ghân was correct; the wind was changing, and with it a tide of events that was shaping the history of Middle-earth turned and began to flow the other way.”

Now I’m fairly sympathetic towards Greer’s philosophy and work as you all know, and I have a fair knowledge of the Occult. I don’t think Greer had Coronavirus in mind when he realized the winds were changing, but he most definitely intuited something large. The reason I use Greer’s piece as a springboard here is because it’s very much a ‘Greerean’ future we’re heading into. Well, with a few odd anomalies and peculiarities thrown in.

Recently I spoke to Greer about Coronavirus and Collapse, we ended up treading much the same avenues we always do, but doing so juxtaposed with recent Corona news. I mentioned to Greer a cartoon I’d seen a while back in which there’s an image of two people holding farming tools, tending to their veg patch. One of them is saying “We have everything we need and we’re happy with that.” and below them the caption reads ‘Capitalism’s worst enemy.’. I foresaw a few things coming from Coronavirus which seemed inevitable – at least to someone such as myself who is rightward leaning – namely, distrust of governments due to bad handling of a transparent X-risk situation or; the government aint got yo’ back! Increased fragmentation within hegemonic bureaucratic structures such as the EU and a slight increase in personal sovereignty. I am however largely a pessimist, or realist, or whatever they call someone who doesn’t bow to giddy normalcy these days. So I was surprised to find that people are…thinking once again.

So what happened to cause people to think? They were forced into isolation or quarantine. They were forced into a physical limitation that made itself clear in a multitude of ways, and this limitation began to strip back desire quite quickly.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Pascal, Pensées

Well what if that man or woman was forced to sit in a room? Albeit not alone and I imagine not quietly, but for once in their entertainment and vitally saturated life they were forced to stop and adhere to a form of solitude. What would happen if such an event happened? And also what would happen if the clear risks of leaving said room were possible death, suffering and/or the causation of suffering to another or loved one? What would happen is what’s currently happening. A strange, stripping back of modernity and Western life in which is revealed its predatory and malicious roots.

People are being knocked out of their unconscious slumber and being forced to think, an act which in itself causes a positive feedback loop thinking, anxiety, worry and crisis the average Joe simply wasn’t ready for. But given the time and freedom to do so many people seem to be realizing that they’re not exactly where they want to be. A large percentage of the population have begun to realize they can do their job from home and that’s a possibility which is difficult to reverse, I mean, why would you now need to come back into the office? This has a knock-on effect of making people notice that they don’t really use or even see their homes and that the 6-10 hours a day they’re at work strips them of their health and energy. The limitations put on shopping, leisure, commuting and paid activities has been much like Wendy and co meeting the real Wizard of Oz. Those activities were just gimmicks, and much like work, simply filled the time and space that I can occupy. People are noticing that what they really miss is freedom, and what they really want is freedom. Freedom to choose and not choose.

So the winds are changing, but not necessarily in the way you might think. It’s not going to be some clear-cut overnight change, much in the same way that collapse is a long process. Greer calls collapse ‘the long descent’ and Kunstler calls it ‘the long emergency’, so perhaps it would be apt to call what we’re currently going through ‘the long exit’, or ‘the long revelation’, or even ‘the long revolution’. In much the same way that Fascism, Communism or Democracy don’t just suddenly show up one day, there isn’t sudden jackboots, red flags or committees, it’s a long, slow, drawn out process where little things are altered bit-by-bit, until eventually enough bits have been changed to alter the whole. That’s the parasitic nature of ideology, on personal, national and global scale. In much the same vein, the way in which Coronavirus will change our lives will not come all at once.

Already we’re seeing a lot more people than usual begin to understand that governments are just corporations, and the corporations they happened to be born within are run very badly by incompetent ‘leaders’ (CEOs). From this grows an understanding that perhaps complexity and unification is a bad thing and thermodynamically, sociologically and culturally unsound. We’re seeing forced critiques of consumption I never thought would see the light of day, people are being made to stay home and think about what they’ve bought, they’ve been given a limit to what they can do, repair, create and build, and from that we’re seeing many people realize they don’t need all that much stuff.

The economy’s worst nightmare is a momentary halt. Not because it will cause the economy itself to fail in its numeric and abstract existence, but because the halt allows for a chasm wherein a new cultural formation can take place. I’m not stating this will kill or end capitalism, anyone who thinks this way simply doesn’t understand capitalism; more than likely this halt will only make capitalism stronger. It will now have to find a way to commodify one’s existence at home and blank space in general. But this momentary halt and stopped the cycle of cultural consumption. Sure, people can still order things on Amazon etc., but the act of doing so is now so transparently attached to boredom that many are beginning to understand the purchase wont fulfill their desire. Not only this, but the secondary factor of having/wanting to save money for security purposes at the moment is making many question why they’d purchase what they ‘want’ to in the first place. ‘If we can get by without buying that thing now, why should we buy it at all?’ A sentence which sends shivers up the spines of many a stockbroker.

I like putting my neck on the line, so I’ll make a few predictions for the coming years:

– Religion – of all kinds – will make a clear comeback. People have had to deal with death and suffering firsthand again and they’re scared.

– There will be a momentous push/promotion of gardening, veg growing and homesteading.

– People will begin to shun government advice more regularly. Common sense returns!

– Van-dwelling, nomadism and communes begin a new era. More folk living in alternative means.

– More people will begin to demand to work from home. Atomization reaches its peak in the next 2 years and then slowly peters out into increased socialization.

– Less people will to get into debt and begin to understand what credit actually is.

– An even bigger movement of alternative and holistic health care, which is no longer deemed alternative, but simply sovereign.

– Nationalism is bolstered, but largely in relation to personal freedom, the competence of everyday living and useful traditions.

– Immigration policies are tightened under the guise of care, but ultimately the reasons are still the same ones as forever.