Published on The Doomstead Diner on August 14, 2016
Discuss this article at the Psychology Table inside th Diner
For those of you with some passing knowledge of "Great Works" of literature, non-fiction and history, you will no doubt recognize that the title of this blog is a play on the title of a book published in 1929 by Sigmund Freud (yes, that Freud), Civilization and its Discontents. It's one of those "must read" books they pitch out at you in college courses that track the history and development of Western Civilization. There are many others in this list of "must reads", The Prince by Nicoli Machiavelli, City of God by St. Augustine and Adam Smith's On the Wealth of Nations to name a few. You can get all these books in nicely bound leather volumes now published by Harvard Classics for the low, low price every day on Ebay of anywhere from around $50 for a full 23 Volume set ($2.50 a book including shipping!) on up into the hundreds, depending how good an Online Shopper you are. If you are really clever you can get all of those and thousands more as e-books for even less money or even for free. I love freebies on the net! 🙂
Many if not most of these books were written in the 16th-19th Century, although the examples I gave like Freud's tome came in the early 1900s and Augustine's take on civilization came in the 5th century, around the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire. All taken together though, they pretty much represent the way Western thought evolved after the Romans lost their hold on the world and as a new civilization in the west rose to replace it over the course of a full millenia of time.
In Freud's book, he postulates that general "unhappiness" that many people immersed in a "civilized" society comes from conflicts between the needs & desires of the individual, which get restricted and legislated by the competing needs and organization of the society as a whole. Being more or less obsessed with sexual issues, Freud focuses down on the insatiable desire for sexual gratification Homo Saps appears to have, versus all the laws, taboos and restrictions societies generate to keep this bizness under control. Since Freud himself was immersed in the western culture of the time, his viewpoint is obviously skewed by this, but there is still a lot of validity to the observations anyhow. They also do generalize to other areas BESIDES sex, like money, wealth, fame etc, but since Freud was so sexually obsessed himself, it permeates his writing and you just can't get away from it. Once you get past his sexual obsessions though, Freud has a lot of interesting observations on society, civilization and the individual. Carl Jung had similar sexual obsession issues, but Carl was a bit more cagey about it than Siggy was in his writings. lol. This seems to be a ubiquitous problem amongst people who gravitate toward Psycholgy as a profession. I don't think I ever talked with any psychologist who was not absolutely consumed with sex as a motivator.
OK, so that gives us a little history and background to get started with this discussion, which is focused on a more narrow slice of the civilzation pie through history, specifically what is going on RIGHT NOW in the world at large and then also in our own little slice of a slice of history, the collapse blogosphere. By no means of course am I Sigmund Freud, and by no means do I expect this blog to make it onto the Harvard Classics reading list, but on the upside here it is all available for FREE on the internet! So, since nobody except me has to pay for this, let me get rolling here!
On the gross scale of society in general, discontent is manifest all over the place these days. Terrorists are obviously not very content people and neither are crazed Psychos and Lone Shooters hitting various Malls, Bars, Restaurants and College Campuses either. There simply is NO WAY blowing away dozens or hundreds of innocent people demonstrates much contentment, if anyone can make a case for that one I am all ears. The Black Underclass is none too content these days in the FSoA, despite the fact they mostly are still getting fed on the SNAP Card program issued by JP Morgan Chase. See Ferguson, see Baltimore, see BLM for a snaphot of the discontent in this group. The Muslim underclass in Europe is none too happy either, nor are the longer term paleface residents of this neighborhood getting inundated each day with still more "rapefugees". Muslim women in France are discontented because "Burqinis" have been outlawed on the beaches of Cannes.
Burqini vs Bikini
You may indicate your preference on Female Beachwear in the comments
Our POTUS Candidates here in the FSoA don't seem too content with ANYTHING, even though they have absolutely ZERO in the way of reasonable ideas that could do a damn thing to assuage this discontent. Julian Assange obviously is not very content trapped inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last 4 years, although granted this is likely a much better prison to be caged in than GITMO. About the only people I can think of who might be somewhat content these days are folks like Lloyd Blankfein, doing God's Work as he runs Goldman Sachs or Elon Musk as he borrows endless amounts of funny money on the taxpayer dime to build space rocket toys and gigafactories in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Discontent is also on display every day in the collapse blogosphere as factions fight it out, Extinction vs Renewables, Economic vs Climate Collapse, Hyperinflation vs Deflation, Nuke Pro vs Con, Rich vs Poor…there's no shortage of disagreements. There is however a serious shortage of workable solutions to all these problems, thus the discontent.
On top of this problem is that by now everyone who writes on these topics has carved out his or her own space and acquired his or her ow commentariat, which tends to be a reflection of whatever the spin of the main blogger is for the site. Fed up with contrarians and trolls taking opposing viewpoints on their websites, these viewpoints are simply disappeared by the site owner, and eventually all opposing viewpoints are squashed out as these folks quit in frustration or just get outright banned.
By no means is the Diner immune to the problem here either. I've had at least a half dozen Diners quit over the years because they were discontent that their spin was not well received, and about 4 I have had to silence because of the constant stream of insults and ad hom argument coming off their keyboards. At a certain point "Free Speech" gets squashed simply because people can't be polite to each other when they are so discontented. They don't feel other people are paying enough attention to their spin on the "truth", and so they begin to lash out and good clean debate gets flushed down the toilet.
If it weren't for the fact I run the Doomstead Diner, I would be effectively cut off from just about every major blog commentariat concerned with issues of collapse. Dmitry Orlov, Guy McPherson, Gail Tverberg, John Michael Greer & Jim Kunstler all eliminate my posting nowadays. Ugo Bardi still approves my posts, but it's not a very active commentariat over there on Cassandra's Legacy. I can still post on r/collapse, but that is more of a news ticker than a blog.
My discontent with this situation is that the whole collapse blogosphere has become extremely polarized. When I originally began the Diner my hope was to unify all the people writing about collapse, so that together we might have a stronger voice and get more attention than by each of us playing in our own little sandboxes. The eact opposite has occured, and now each little sandbox has its own insular Group Think and the divisions between them greater than ever. I doubt you could bring Dmitry Orlov and Guy McPherson to the same conference and not have a fistfight break out. lol.
The biggest problem is with the blogs pitching the spin that the situation is Hopeless, both the ecosphere and the Human Race are irrevocably Doomed. First off, this provides a fabulous excuse for inaction which then turns the idea into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The second major problem is the commentariat of these blogs provides a home for fanatics who reinforce each other, while at the same time flaming anyone who does not toe the party line. You see this most clearly on Nature Bats Last and Our Finite World. Forget about participating in those commentariats, I don't even bother reading them anymore because you know precisely what everyone is going to say in every thread.
So, in ths Sea of Discontent what is the future? It looks like a One-to-the-Many break up, much like we see Europe breaking up these days on the geopolitical level. The heyday of what cooperation there was between the collapse bloggers probably came somewhere between 2006 and 2014 or so, and we have now passed Peak Cooperation and are moving toward Peak Isolation. Everyone has their own part of the Collapse Elephant they are examining and coming up with different descriptions of what the Elephant actually looks like. About the best the reader can do is surf between the sites and try to put together his or her own composite picture of the Elephant. If you are the chatty type, pick your favorite site with the spin most closely matching your own, believe whatever it is that makes you happy, and chat with other True Believers rather than be discontented all the time.