The System

And how to save it



TUCSON (A-P) — The impulse to save the world, or some part of it, is a universal. The “how” is the tricky part, and save it from what? Maybe a Global Caliphate is really what is needed as hundreds of millions believe; maybe Democracy Now; maybe Freedom; maybe a New World Order; maybe full Equality; maybe Majority Rule; Minority Rights; a truly Free Market; Justice for All; Equal Rights; a People's Party; a Pax Christianity; Anarchy for All; Fraternity; Peace & Love; Human Rights; Pluralism; Sustainability; maybe Get a Life.

All of the above reference one supremely important thing (to humans), the one thing that matters: ourselves—humans getting what they want—though they may quibble or kill one another over the details. Of course by “human” all understand that humans are those within one's social system, whether it is a tribe or nation-state or other magisterium (e.g. sect, faction). All the maybes (except the first) are part of the currently dominate SYSTEM's narrative we are all taught to think in terms of, for or against, as distinct from outside of.

Unlike Islamist ideology, Christianity is part of the current SYSTEM (as empire) and has been since the final ending of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 when organized religion finally gave up (overtly) making claims to political power, settling for coalitions with whatever political powers that be. The rise of democracy created the perfect soil for political factions to contend, each competing to see who could best serve SYSTEM (as empire) interests. Like competing religious sects, political factions offer belief-based certitudes (solutions) to the faithful in speeches (instead of sermons).

"Solutions" are to politics as "salvation" is to organized religion. Both are promised on the basis of no compelling evidence (data) or reason. Belief in "solutions" and/or "salvation" is faith-based and always feels good. Apologists, both political and religious, fill bookshelves with "evidence" and "reasons" why they are certainly right, though their arguments are convincing only to the converted. The slightest grasp of history shows that "solutions" are the chief source of unforeseen consequences (new problems) for which new solutions, devoutly believed in, are forthcoming from all factions. Salvation is merely a peculiarly religious solution to a peculiarly self-inflicted religious problem (e.g. karma, sin). Whatever problems, real or not, the public may feel the presence of, every politician will (had better) have a solution, and if people are not going to like the solution that might actually work, every politician will pick (invent) another or be replaced. By chance or happenstance, some "solutions" will work and be retained.

Organized politics and organized religion are purveyors of social control. A politician must have problems they love to talk about solving (and someone or something to be against, to hate) as a priest must have sin to talk hatefully about (and someone or something to be for, to love). As Jianzhi Sengcan noted 1,400 years ago, "The struggle between 'for' and 'against' is the mind's worst disease. When the Way is not understood, the mind chatters endlessly to no avail." Political and religious minds chatter endlessly.

We don't understand complex systems predictively. They (whether ecological or socio-politio-religio-economic) are not only more complex than we understand, but more complex than we can understand in terms of predicting "and then what?" when we imagine we are just changing (solving) one thing much further into the future than we can predict the weather. Having all our eggs in one global empire, instead of four to five thousand watershed-based management units, is off-the-scale inecolate. Believe me (or not—doubt and inquiry being alternative).

In medieval times all but an unimaginable few did not believe in salvation at risk of being martyred. Today few do not believe in political solutions. They quibble over whose solution is the one true solution. But as there are problems, there must be solutions. Ignored is the fact that most problems are caused by prior "solutions." In the 6th century BCE Solon, an Athenian politician, freed the serfs (ended hektemorage). The resulting labor shortage lead the Athenians to import slaves, transforming Athens into a prosperous slave society, not at all what Solon intended. "Solutions" intended to do good typically have unforeseen consequences. "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." —Thoreau

Presidents, CEOs, Emperors of Rome or China, serve the SYSTEM, and are constrained by it. "I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me" noted Abraham Lincoln. "I find it almost impossible to get the actions and results I should go through the experience of trying to get any changes in the thinking, policy and actions of career change like punching a feather bed" noted Franklin D. Roosevelt. "People talk about the powers of a President...the principle power that the President has is to bring people in and try to persuade them to do what they ought to do without persuasion. That's what I spend most of my time doing" added Harry S. Truman. Even an Emperor of China (e.g. Shenzong), whose word was literally law, was constrained by the social system/events.

Like meteorologists, neither politicians nor voters can see very far ahead, but all want solutions (that feel good). The next president of the USA may turn out to make Caligula look like a benefactor to humankind. But what if Bernius Sanderus had been emperor instead of Caligula? Yes, Roman history would have been "different," but one emperor or another difference would matter little to the trajectory of raise and fall of empire. The outcome, plus or minus a few years, would have involved a fall no matter what reforms Sanderus may have been able to force (temporarily) upon the elites. But let's go full fantasy and imagine Sanderus does something consequential. He ends slavery. Rome looses, secondary to economic chaos, the Jewish-Roman wars. Jewish zealots exterminate the apostate Christians to the last martyr, and Rome falls three centuries sooner.... Some changes (typically unintended) can be attributed to individuals, but the "great man theory of history" is so 19th-century, at least to historians, though seemingly alive and well in the public mind whose opinionated love to vote for them.

Social Control Subsystem



Promise Solutions Salvation
Deliverance from Problems Sin, Karma, Rebirth
Source of troubles Predecessor solutions Sinful nature, evil, ignorance, unbelief
Characterized by Machinations Pontifications
Orientation This world Other world
Focus Party line Doctrine, the Word
Goal Best of all possible worlds Heaven, best of all possible other worlds
Hierarchical organization Party Church/Mosque/Temple
Love Supporters, Party platform Sinners, the Book (Koran, Bible, Dianetics...)
Hate Opponents, alternative solutions Sin, false doctrines
Disorganized into Factions Sects
Unquestioned belief in Democracy Higher Power
Narrative We have the solutions We know the path
For good people to do bad: It takes politics It takes religion
Common ground Belief in belief Belief in belief
Curries support from Religious believers Political believers
Claims based on Faith Faith
Enforcement of decrees Police, military Shame, shunning, indoctrination
The Word delivered by Speeches Sermons

Humans do have problems and sometimes miss the mark (sin), but neither religious nor political ideology is about understanding what-is, as the purveyors of both salvation and solutions require, are fundamentally concerned with, being in a position of power to exert social control by spreading the virus of true belief to create true believers like themselves, beginning with their own children. Organized religion and organized politics are recent (neolithic) afflictions; they depend entirely in being believed in. Freeing the mind from its belief in belief is possible. Questioning one belief and replacing it with another (or not) is not transformative nor curative. Questioning our belief in belief is potentially revolutionary (transformative).

When humans think about "the system" they almost alway reference the human system they happen to live in and its subsystems of social, political, economic, religious, legal, information, military, financial, .... Few humans think of themselves as "Milkywayans" or even as "hominids." Some like to think of themselves, at least briefly, as "Earthlings," but only in a sci-fi sort of way to distinguish their earth-tribe from whatever aliens they believe there may be.

Currently most technoindustrial humans see the environment (Nature) as peripheral, as a subsystem of their economic system (reality being the exact opposite). Having to pay for carbon credits is an intrusion of the "environment" into economic planing (business-as-usual) to maximize growth. Environmental issues may require a somewhat annoying but minor tweak to the growth economy to placate "environmentalists," believers in "environmentalism" who parse issues through their political lens to come up with political "solutions."

Alternative to viewing environment as one peripheral issue in the vast scheme of human self-interests is to view the human system as a minor, infinitesimal subsystem of the natural system which includes the Milkyway. This is radically alternative, as in a diametrically opposite (to politico-religio ideology) way of seeing things. It is also the evidence-based way of seeing things, as in paradigm shift different. The two ways of thinking about "system" are different and which one is being referenced matters. Inventing new words to make the distinction clear is tempting, but if only one meaning has priority, then only one word is needed and may the better conception win. (The underlying issue is "human exceptionalism" as in we are or we are not. "We are the environment, the natural system, as a subsystem," or "We the People lord over ALL!" Both cannot be true.)

Because humans like to capitalize words that reference things that matter to them, perhaps the human system could be "the System," to allow "system" to reference "lesser" meanings as in "planetary system, life-support system, ecosystem, solar system...." The problem is that at the start of a sentence the lesser meaning would be capitalized too. Because what really matters to humans is worth yelling about, let's use SYSTEM! (with or without an exclamation mark) to reference the human socio-polico-religio-money growth SYSTEM that is supremely important (to technoindustrial humans).

Most tribal names, what members of a tribe call themselves in their language, can be translated as “the People” or as some would have it, “We the People” wherein the “We” references those born or naturalized into the nation-state, but same thinking—just on a different scale. If a SYSTEM becomes global (global hegemon), those who insist (like me) on being citizens of the world to transcend nationalist identity by rebelling against the nationalist paradigm...., are doing the SYSTEM's work, not rebelling against it. Nation-states have been subsumed by the empire of global commerce. Living local and consuming global serves the SYSTEM. For the first time in history there is only one SYSTEM (apart from a few indigenes not yet assimilated) of which all others are subSYSTEMs. Some retain the illusion of sovereignty. Some Americans, for instance, recognize that the TPP does not serve their imperial interests. But it isn't supposed to, it is intended to serve the SYSTEM which doesn't need a name (e.g. Euro-Sino Empire) since there are no others it needs to be distinguished from. If it turns out there is a Klingon Empire, then it will need a name, and as things are going, it will not be called the Federation.

Each subSYSTEM has its narrative and systems change, so each needs to change its narrative as the decades or centuries pass. The now global SYSTEM has its narrative that needs to change. The public, especially those who appoint themselves to be part of the intelligentsia [the opinionated, the "merely eloquent," or Eric Hoffer's men and women of words (often shouted rage), —so no intelligence implied], along with educators, those who provide content for the media (writers or video clip makers, both mainstream and social media), political and governmental people, along with all concerned citizens endeavor to tell the story that appeals most to them that will also be approved by those they care about. Self-interests, including the need to be selfless or appear so, are what appeals, but self-interests must be subordinated to SYSTEM interests and typically are when they are in conflict. Expressions of racial bigotry, for example, do not currently serve SYSTEM interests (when the economic system in the southern USA depended on slave labor, however, racism was obligatory), so those who advocate for or express micro-racism today are marginalized if not attacked by the servants of the SYSTEM, some of whom ironically consider themselves as radical reformers for being the first to protest/attack.

Does anyone not serve SYSTEM interests? Yes, those that cannot be ignored are called criminals or terrorists. Those who can be ignored are called nothing. Self-styled revolutionaries/reformers are slavishly (being unpaid) doing the SYSTEM's work. They push stridently for reforms, they protest, march, make loud demands, and if attacking sexism, racism, genderism, speciesism, homophobia, Islamophobia, linguistic hegemony, exploitation of the working class, inequality, elitism, greed, heterosexism, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, ageism, ethnocentrism, adultism, paternalism, lesbophobia, gynocentrism, biphobia, Eurocentrism, Orientalism, patriarchy, microagression, transphobia, misandry, gerontophobia, misogyny, heightism, ephebiphobia, lookism, pediaphobia, sizeism, colorism, linguicism, triuphalism, adultcentrism, androcentrism, mentalism, rankism, sexualism, weightism, anthropocentrism, Afrocentrism, Americentrism, Black supremacy, Christian supremacy, chronocentrism, indigenism, Sinocentrism, xenocentrism, White supremacy, tribalism, then they are doing the SYSTEM's work, are tweaking it, oiling it, to better enable (perhaps unintended by them) growth.

If reformers attack the above, the recalcitrant will direct their ire at them. Reformers will feel they are contributing to revolutionary change while those being changed will not direct their resentment at the SYSTEM, but only against the reformers who freely work for it and are expendable. A few radicals will always go too far. Those fighting racism may demand reparations be paid, but that would not be in the SYSTEM interest and those whose ancestors were slaves can be placated with lesser concessions. A consensus will emerge that reparations not be paid, and the “extreme” radicals will be marginalized. If they persist they will do something “criminal” and be marginalized by imprisonment.

Anyone who for any reason opposes the SYSTEM itself will be marginalized by all who support the SYSTEM narrative (the 99+%) and so will only be imprisoned if they become terrorists. For example, any citizen of the USA can point out, on a soapbox or by self-publishing on the web, that cars are the leading cause of death for citizens between the ages of 3 and 34. More humans are killed by cars in the US than guns or all forms of violence, including legal, combined (excluding suicide). They can argue that for those over 34, cars are also the leading cause of death secondary to the activity intolerance and impairment of heath thereby (cardiovascular disease, stroke, Type-2 diabetes, colon/breast cancers, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, et al. secondary to 38% of Americans being obese). Bicycles are alternative, are hazardous to use in a car-centric world, but a non-bicyclist is about 20 times more likely to die/be harmed secondary to inactivity than a bicyclist. They can point out that until the early twentieth century the streets of all cities were for people and were playgrounds for children. They can note that in 1921 over a thousand children in New York City, about 20 a week, were killed by cars, that by 1925, in cities with populations over 25,000, cars were killing two-thirds of those who happened to die from all causes. In the USA cars kill over 300 million vertebrates and over 30 trillion invertebrates each year. They can mention the major contribution cars make to air pollution, including carbon dioxide, so people can go faster—a manufactured want and rarely (or never) a need.

They can go on and on and virtually no one will care as few would ever, in the Car Culture, be exposed to such inconvenient facts or unpopular arguments and almost all would dismiss them if they were. The global climate change issue has been parsed into political speak by Democrats and dismissed by others. Political animals believe in global warming or not, and if it is true it is all bad, otherwise nothing to worry about.... Within a science-based universe of discourse it is entirely permitted to guess that measurable climate change is likely anthropogenic, and while the changes will be judged "disastrous" by most humans, the changes will also be beneficial to others (some humans, some species). In a science-based society a public forum focusing on the benefits of global warming (CO2 is a plant fertilizer) would not involve any yelling, and the information provided would be factored in with the long list of non-benefits.

In the current SYSTEM few realize that evidence-based concerns, all things considered, mean all fossil-fuel use worldwide should be phased out within maybe five years. That, however, would be unthinkable (to about 99+%), so people will feel better reading articles about “clean coal.” When all coastal cities are flooded, demands will be heightened, but keeping AC units running will be important too, so concessions will 'have to be made'. Local coal burning will be outlawed (the exporting of local coal will be overlooked), forcing the coal to be exported to China to make solar panels. We are short-term creatures; no one in power is thinking it through, and those thinking it through cannot tell people what they do not want to hear and so will never be in power under the current SYSTEM..

The SYSTEM has no Moriarty, no cabal of Illuminati types sitting in a smoke-filled room deciding what next (as for reptoid overlords, not so sure). No one asks, “So, if during our exponential growth phase we keep hunting whales for lamp oil, then what? … If we keep burning ethanol/turpentine fluid, then what? … If we keep burning kerosene, then what? … If we keep burning coal/oil/gas to make electric light, then what? When it takes as much energy to extract fossil fuels as is contained in them, then what?”

If hunting whales or using fossil fuel means to prosper in the short-term, the short time of a few generations, then it is done. Someone on Easter Island may have asked what happens after the last tree is cut down. There may have been protests and demonstrations. For a time a Palm Preservation Park is set aside for recreational use, but all SYSTEMs respond to the contingencies of short-term reinforcement (industrial humans rarely think beyond a five-year plan). Abstract concerns about exponential growth are put off. If cutting the last tree down means your family will prosper exceedingly when you have the last fishing boat on the beach, then you cut it down. Those who wanted fish to eat will be grateful that you did. The demand for the last solar panel to run the last AC unit will be immense as will be the rewards for shoveling the last ton of coal that can be extracted from the deepest mine. Industrial humans cannot ask, "And then what?" without experiencing cognitive dissonance. Ecolate humans can.

Without any fossil fuel use, if 'sustainable' alternatives, (solar, wind, water, geothermal) could power the SYSTEM and make just a bit more to make more solar panels et al. to increase available power to grow the SYSTEM...., then what? First, this is an 'if' question as it assumes a sustainable SYSTEM powered only by the Sun (including fossil geothermal and secondary wind/tidal/hydro) is achieved and that more solar panels et al. could be produced using only alternative power (an unproven conjecture) than needed to replace existing units. And then what? The preconditions for exponential growth are in place and humans could destroy the planet using only solar powered technology. The planet is already solar powered and life has been powered by Sol for going on 4 billion years. We don't need more alternative power to keep on doing what fossil fuels have enabled us to do for over 200 years. We need to degrow the economy and population of humans, pets, livestock, and industrial agricultural plant mutualists. "Alternative energy" is not alternative enough. Rethinking the SYSTEM in terms of limits to be willingly embraced is alternative to planetary destruction and possible human extinction.

As Emerson noted, “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” There is no one directing the play, The Tragedy Man. The SYSTEM self-organizes by a weighted consensus of all the actors who strut their stuff on the stage. A proposal that a maximum wage be set at 1,000 times the minimum wage will never be voted on. No politician (outside the Green Party) will think it a good idea; the media will never belabor the idea; no one will ever be rewarded for advocating for the cause. The concern for setting a maximum wage will be almost universally dismissed. And if a maximum wage 1,000 times the minimum seems thinkable, laws are passed, work arounds have to be found, and then what? Will the SYSTEM be transformed into its opposite? But if things get worse, and someone says that setting a maximum wage at 10 times the minimum is the SOLUTION!, that doing so will restore prosperity to the 99%, then, even if there is no reason to think doing so will change anything for the better, then as a political claim it may well be supported by The People who will march and protest to demand a $150/hr maximum wage be enacted NOW! A Green Party candidate will finally be elected and nothing, as usual, will be solved by their "solutions."

Today, if you want to stage a non-violent protest to loudly proclaim that Black Lives Matter, then you are doing the SYSTEM's work. (Perhaps unknowingly, you are also doing the work of the racist, founding ideologues of the movement.) Cops who go brutal are not doing the SYSTEM's work of compelling obedience to its rules with the least possible amount of disruption, violence, and bad publicity. The SYSTEM wants police officers who do their job to protect and serve using the minimum of violence. Protesting helps keep the SYSTEM going (growing).

To go full apostate, to commit blasphemy with sacrilege added, to be utterly ignored or marginalized, question the core value of the SYSTEM: Growth for its Own Sake. Just for good measure, question organized politics and religion, all alleged solutions and salvation too. There may be political and religious/existential issues, a need for policies and insight, but all belief-based ideologies are at best questionable.

The SYSTEM is not the President, advisers, appointees, senators, representatives, judges, military, CEOs of the multinational corporations, corporate scientists, engineers, technicians, business owners, employees...local officials, cops or even the "public." All of these people are servants of the SYSTEM, but in themselves they do not constitute the SYSTEM. The personal and individual values, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of any of these people may be in conflict with the needs of the SYSTEM. The SYSTEM requires respect of property rights, yet CEOs, cops, scientists, and politicians sometimes steal. Cops sometimes brutalize suspects (or are perceived to). Graft, corruption, bribes and other felonies happen, but none serve the SYSTEM, and so are disapproved by media, educators, citizens, and punished. Theft, brutality, corruption, violence, discrimination and victimization are not part of the SYSTEM but diseases of the SYSTEM. Yet, even when individuals are behaving badly, these people remain servants of the SYSTEM as long as they publicly maintain their support for law, order and property. No one need proclaim their support for growth as that is assumed. "In SYSTEM We Trust" should be on the money (or equivalent, "In Growth We Trust").

The only universal, incumbent upon all, is a commitment to the SYSTEM—its security and its empowerment. What is good for the SYSTEM takes priority over self-interest, so it is SYSTEM over self. In private it may be self over SYSTEM, but openly putting self-interest over that of the SYSTEM is universally condemned in public.

What seems to organize the SYSTEM is the shared belief in the rich getting richer. Actually all are getting richer and have been for 300 years. The belief is that it can go on and on. The villager who can work to afford a pair of shoes this year is part of the SYSTEM as he is now demonstrably "richer" and believes he will have more in the coming year. The villager who works to sell something (labor or trinkets to tourists) in hopes that someday he will be able to get a bicycle is part of the SYSTEM, and so on. The shared endeavor to have “more” organizes the SYSTEM, is the SYSTEM, just as the behavior of organisms pursuing the contingencies of reproduction organize the ecosystem.

The ecosystem is driven almost entirely by solar energy input which is relatively constant as the millennia pass such that we've had nearly 4 billion years of life. The current inecolate human SYSTEM is driven almost entirely by fossil fuels. It takes one to four tons of coal in China (who is making the cheap panels thanks to cheap labor and lack of pollution control) to make one 100W solar panel that might last 20 years. There is no evidence solar can make solar with a significant net emergy yield, merely the sincere and deeply held belief that it can. Dams that are already built (using fossil fuels) may be high energy sources for a few centuries, but the future is not always going to resemble the past 300 years of more and more.

Oh, and to save the system? Could there be a Plan A that might work? If the current SYSTEM OS were rewritten slightly such that the meaning of “SYSTEM” was replaced with “system” as in “environmental system, planetary life-support system, ecosystem…,” then that would be transformative. The organizational structure would not have to be changed much, merely the elemental meme that organizes the growth culture. “WE CONSUME THE ENVIRONMENT!” becomes “we are the environment,” as the needs of the system transcends human interests. Our group-think pattern may be a given, but it could be refocused to ask “and then what?” where the needs of Nature, of the life-support system, come before human short-term interests. If educators and the media, the intelligentsia, if enough “leaders” were to consider system (geobiosphere) over SYSTEM! (humanosphere) where the environment is not seen as a governmental department, well, that would be different. To simplify, we growthers need to destroy the SYSTEM and replace it with system (stop yelling and get educated as in more literate, numerate, and ecolate).

Many today feel/believe in SYSTEM and NATURE (e.g. environmentalists), but that does not compute. With system=nature humans would again live in Nature (memeticly first) and serve Nature rather than SYSTEM as humanocentric Empire. Our group-think would be transformed into its opposite without having to do more than change the core meme or narrative, then work out the details that follow. Any attempt to reform the periphery without touching the core meme is futile. Like an Aztec priest, rip out the still beating meme of GROWTH! from your mind to destroy the industrial society one mind at a time.

Should any thinking being favor the destruction of the industrial growth society currently presiding over anthropogenic global mass extinction? Is a 58% loss of wildlife in the last 40 years irrelevant compared to global warming (that more directly affects human self-interests)? If the galactic ranger responsible for overseeing Earth were to come back from a mere 50K year vacation and see what has happened, a liberal application of humanocide might be expected. I personally and publicly declare that I favor the destruction of the current SYSTEM (industrial society), and sooner is better. Public discourse, the shared narrative, on matters religious and political, is pathological chatter to no avail. "There is no life without thought," or rather there is for a time, but it is a tale told by a carcinogenic SYSTEM presiding over another mass extinction event which, (not being a "current" enough event) is not belabored by the talking heads or typers in the media (mainstream nor social), nor entertained by the public mind who do not find all matters that matter entertaining. "Be not a cancer...." is not what we the people want to hear. Tavern/temple talk is not reality-based, a fact that does not go away because ignored.

Not living the consumer life is the revolution that destroys the growther SYSTEM one member at a time. The belief in growth must falter. A new narrative that is not belief-based would be alternative, would render belief-based models obsolete. The believing mind itself must pass away or at least go silent, starting with ones own. The inquiring mind, that which would rather know than believe, could be a new norm. This isn't the "solution" Aristotle's political animals want to hear, so none will. Just say "No" to ideology.

High status humans have the power to influence. Those perceived as among “the best and brightest” need to tell a different story, a new narrative. There are intellectual leaders, few in number, and the narrative of system=nature and system over self needs to spread among those “on high” whom lesser humans will listen to. The elite intellectuals/storytellers need to pay attention, notice where things are going, and figure out that changing the core meme is needed, then realize that they can make it happen one mind at a time by thinking it through.

What is needed is not a new belief, but a reality-based way of knowing and living that transcends ideology. If a few elite minds were to transition, that could be the beginning. What will transform them is the recognition of necessity. There can be no choice in the matter. To summarize Spinoza, to understand something is to be delivered from it. Understand the human SYSTEM! (to be delivered from it assuming your understanding is that humans are not EXCEPTIONAL!) and Nature's system of which human concerns are sub-sub-sub-subsystems. For every impasse there is a way out. A few elite minds have to allow for a change of the core meme in their own mind and pass it on from the top down. Enlightenment is not likely to happen trickle-up.

The people of Easter Island disappeared, leaving only their monuments as an example to the world of what happens when culture cannot downsize to fit its environmental production. — Howard T. Odum

The people who put up 887 high-rise statues also devised the Rongorongo writing system. No one who could read it survived. Ergo the information content of their culture, 'the people', disappeared other than as remnant population.


The SYSTEM of monarchy/hereditary aristocracy, feudalism, e.g. 18th century Russia and France, was adaptive for warlike agrarian societies (the non-warlike were subsumed) where power (the actual energy fueling the social order) was based on agriculture. Elites maintained their governance using military power based primarily on heavy cavalry (armies powered by agricultural surplus) as had worked for the Indo-Europeans who had spread out from the Pontic steppes of Eurasia over seven thousand years ago. The Aztecs and Incas did likewise, just without the horse.

The coming of the fossil-fueled industrial society, based on values linked with "progress" or growth, in which the real power and wealth shifted to business, to corporate-mercantile concerns, was fundamentally (utterly) incompatible with a hereditary class society. The partisans of technology and growth (the new wealth funded a new men-of-words intelligentsia) forced revolution, the real thing in Russia and France, and socio-political revolution elsewhere, thus leading to the technoindustrial hegemon we live under today.

The transition from monarchy to democracy was the last revolution. The transition was well underway in Britain when the American colonists staged their so called revolution. The transition was merely sped up a bit on the American side of the pond. There was a continent for the taking and the British elites were too distant and needed to be replaced by resident elites per the new business-as-usual model (which is what worked). The American Revolution was an armed rebellion to see who would take the continent as no revolutionary change was involved that wasn't already happening. Democracy won over aristocracy globally and got to write history. Even the People's Democratic Republic of Korea was subsumed, at least nominally.

The values of the industrial growth SYSTEM/democracy, in turn, are utterly incompatible with sustainability values, such that the tension between the two systems of values cannot be resolved other than by revolutionary change. As Orwell noted, this will involve the kicking in of rotting doors, or just waiting for them to fall, which is to say fundamental change tends to occur only after the current SYSTEM falters, weakens, as will happen with continued exponential growth/extraction/consumption of the planet for the taking. The fossil-fueled SYSTEM is still being fueled (thanks to fracking) and will not curl up and die because self-professed revolutionaries demand that it does, or even sacrifice their lives to make it so. The technoindustrial SYSTEM will collapse of its own folly.

Unfortunately, as the SYSTEM weakens, those who rise up and lead the rabble (true believers, both) are almost certain to commit their own folly (self-interest/ideological "solutions"), replacing the SYSTEM with an even worse one of their own, just as the feudal Machiavellian princes did by aligning their agrarian political governance with the remaining Empire of Belief that dominated the Middle Ages. In the 21st century the remaining Empire of Belief may be focused on Mecca instead of Jerusalem.

Basically the problem is the old social order, the increasingly unfueled industrial SYSTEM, will need a new operating system (OS) as the one based on "progress/profit" (the optimum OS for exponential growth) will be what destroys it. The old OS is responsible for our collective "inability to understand the exponential function." If the new OS is supplied by whatever political or religious movement inherits the rubble, then when the revolution (the chaotic one) comes, expect it to be another empire of one sort or another. Revolution is a given, and alternative to chaotic-as-usual would be an Empire of Understanding based on the Laws of Nature. Humans have spent the last 10,000 years acting like self-taught five-year olds with machetes (now cars) who just do what they feel like without thinking it through. Alternative would be an OS that allows us to understand the exponential function, to see the implications: an OS that would allow us to "grow up" and replace our infantile narratives with reality-based ones in order to "get a life" sustainable.

The allegory of Lord of the Flies is one of boys behaving questionably. They may have done the best they could, modeling the industrial society they came from. They were doing okay for a time, but their experiment in living was having a bad outcome. They were having doubts, nearing a teachable moment (without a teacher), when the naval officer in a clean white uniform shows up. His presence was enough to collapse the social system, the hierarchy among boys. One reading is that someone else dressed in white (Jesus) was being foreshadowed. The appearance of a Kogi máma would have been potentially more transformative as he or she would think about it and say to the boys, "Okay, let's think about this." The ecolate would not organize them into factions or sects to find "solutions" or "save" them, nor think that taking them aboard a cruise ship headed for the pole was going to solve anything or save them. The race on the island between self-education/maturation and catastrophe was being lost, as is happening on a larger scale. The naval officer's SYSTEM is just taking longer to go too far. If someone in white is needed, perhaps someone who has had occasion to put on a lab coat could be of service.

If the claim "humans act like self-taught five-year olds" means something it is that average humans unthinkingly give way to (create) SYSTEMs where certain types dominate (e.g. opportunists pursuing self-interests). The "self-taught" references our collective ignorance which is where we get our ideas for how to live on this planet. The key point to consider is that not all humans are the same. There is a bell curve of difference such that not all humans function like "five-year olds with machetes." The Kogi mámas may be examples of humans who do not act like five-year olds, who can handle machetes (technology) without destroying the planet. Perhaps "there is no life [sustainable] without [ecolate] thought." There are individuals (who would rather know than believe) who are more grown up and less ignorant than average. If "ecolate" describes such humans, perhaps their ecolate understanding should rule (not individuals but their best guess understanding) as alternative to rule by Machiavellian princes (warlords, elected or not) and priests. The "Federation" as teacher listens to Nature, is alternative to self-taught, would be the new OS that might be an improvement over the old. The only certainty is that the old OS will be replaced or pass away. The coming "change" may lead to human extinction or could be an opportunity to "get a life" sustainable, the best thing to ever happen to us.

I am not a reformer, I see no possibility of reforming the global growth SYSTEM to become its opposite. The changes envisioned, the values and goals, are utterly incompatible with the corporate Euro-Sino growther narrative. This requires the destruction of technoindustrial society, which implies revolution as alternative to reform. Revolutionaries with bombs see themselves as the destroyers and they must have an enemy, someone or something to hate, to destroy. Alternative is to create a different narrative to replace the old one when its promises (of endless growth/progress) can no longer be believed in by we the people and our intelligentsia. What may be needed is not a cadre of determined revolutionaries to seize the day, but a teachable moment when a majority of humans (beginning with the leaders of their intelligentsia) are willing to do a clean install of a new OS. Developing a new OS to replace the dysfunctional one is also revolutionary even though no enemy is required nor is anyone to hate needed (love and understanding are required). We've had political empires based on military power and legislated laws, empires of belief based on divine laws, and alternative would be a global empire of understanding based on natural laws. "In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete. That, in essence, is the higher service to which we are all being called." —R. Buckminster Fuller


The Ecolate Message: A timeline

System (as Nature) over self

  • First peoples, who may have learned the hard way, knew their place in biophysical Nature, but no written record.
  • Thomas Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population, 1798
  • William Forster Lloyd, Two Lectures on the Checks to Population, 1833
  • J. S. Mill, for the sake of posterity, Principles of Political Economy, 1848
  • Henry David Thoreau, in wildness is the preservation of the world, Walden, 1854
  • Charles Darwin, Alfred Wallace, 1859, both independently came to a theory of evolution by natural selection after reading Malthus.
  • John Muir, Nature conservation, Sierra Club, 1892
  • (intermission for WWI)
  • Alfred Lotka, biophysical reality and energy laws matter, 1925
  • Frederick Soddy, energy as "real wealth" is basis of economy, 1926
  • Howard Scott, replace money with energy certificates, technocracy movement, 1932
  • (intermission for WWII)
  • Aldo Leopold, wildlife matters, A Sand County Almanac, 1949
  • Fred Cottrell, Energy and Society, energy and cultural evolution, 1955
  • M. King Hubbert, models peak production and descent of non-renewables, 1956
  • Rachael Carson, Silent Spring, 1962
  • Kenneth Ewart Boulding, The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth, 1966
  • E. J. Mishan, The Costs of Economic Growth, 1967
  • Garrett Hardin, Tragedy of the Commons, 1968
  • Paul & Anne Ehrlich, Population, Resources, and Environment (The Population Bomb), 1968
  • Al Bartlett, Arithmetic, Population, and Energy, 1969 - 2013
  • H. T. Odum, Environment, Power, and Society, 1971, 2007
  • Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, economics as subset of ecological economics, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process, 1971
  • Meadows et al., Limits to Growth, 1972, 2004
  • E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: a study of economics as if people mattered, 1973
  • Herman Daly, Steady-State Economics, 1977, 1991
  • R. C. Christian, Georgia Guidestones–leave room for Nature, 1980
  • David Suzuki, Planet for the Taking, 1985
  • Elder Brother's Warning, 1990
  • World Scientists Warning, 1992
  • Teodore John Kaczynski, Industrial Society and its Future, 1995
  • Serge Latouche, global degrowth, Farewell to Growth, 2009
  • Kogi second warning, Aluna: There is no life without thought, 2011
  • Consensus Statement from Global Scientists, 2013
  • Haydn Washington, Demystifying Sustainability: Towards real solutions, 2015

All the above: marginalized by the intelligentsia of the Growth Hegemon as their narrative of system over self, of enough is enough, is not consilient with SYSTEM! over self, or MORE! so all can get richer as members of the SYSTEM that firmly supports PROGRESS and DEVELOPMENT as material wealth/consumption without limit. That this narrative can still be believed in by most (and their intelligentsia) is what keeps the SYSTEM going (along with unsustainable high energy inputs).

The current SYSTEM is one of profit (acquisition) and loss (cost/waste/harm) in which profit is privatized and costs (e.g. pollution, illness, harm) are commonized as much as possible. The functional difference between capitalism and communism is rhetorical, which is to say, both are growth systems pursuing the same end. When Khrushchev asserted, "We will bury you!" he meant economically by growing faster than the capitalist West. Pure (non-existent) capitalism would privatize both profit and loss, while pure (non-existent) communism would commonize profit and loss (unmanaged commonism). Socialism privatizes profit (but don't tell anyone) and commonizes loss, and both capitalism and communism soon become functionally socialist (but don't tell anyone). Commonism, commonizing profit and loss, is alternative, but if unmanaged, always has a tragic outcome, forcing any would-be commonist growth society (having more than 100-150 members) to become socialist. The current global SYSTEM is socialist as commonizing profit would not allow for economic growth. Commonizing profit while privatizing loss would not grow the economy either.

Alternative is a closed, no growth, largely egalitarian rationing system using mostly solar input for needed energy, no net profit, no elite material wealth, where the system is managed to minimize production and consumption to provide for needs rather than wants (managed by-the-numbers Natural Law commonism). This alternative would be sustainable (function long-term) and potentially be prosperous (other than no one dies with more toys than another). The acquisition/waste growth SYSTEM assumes an open, illimitable frontier/commons. Consuming the planet has a short-term payoff, and some may be laughing maniacally to the bank (e.g. 99% of Americans including those getting free food from the Food Bank), but a reasonable guess is that the SYSTEM will peak somewhere between 2030 and 2070 (~90% p), and will transition or humans will go extinct (maybe p=10% in next 100 years). Transitioning now to managed commonism would minimize extinction, that of myriad species which could include humans. The current SYSTEM cannot be tweaked/reformed into its opposite.

It will be a race toward either paradise or oblivion, right to the last moment. —R. Buckminster Fuller

Alternative to oblivion: choiceless obedience to the Nature of things. Freedom is the recognition of necessity.

Narrative of Empire: SYSTEM! over self

Humans and their subsystems matter, to which environment is a peripheral externality.


Narrative of the Ecolate: System over self

Environment matters, of which human affairs are sub-sub-sub-subsystems enfolded within.

We are the environment (e.g. geobiosphere) or we lord over Nature. Both are not actual. If human subsystems are a small part of a complex planetary life-support system, then what works, what allows a species to persist, to evolve, is not determined by the species or by choice. Nature doesn't care about your opinions (beliefs). The contingencies of survival follow natural laws in which obedience is linked to persistence as a life form. An ecolate narrative is alternative to a political/religious business-as-usual narrative. Extinction is an option. Human choice is based on preference (opinion), like and dislike, picking and choosing, for and against—what feels good. If one's understanding of Nature is a function of the nature of things, as in determined by, devoid of opinion, then choiceless awareness follows, for the price of an effort, assuming one would rather know than believe. Serving the system (Aluna) is perhaps our highest calling (the Kogi serve the system as ecolate humans, not the SYSTEM of human-centric special interests), hence the subsystem of their lives has worked sustainably for 1,100 years. Perhaps we too could/should say NO to EMPIRE.


The mind clings to its image of the world; we call it real only because of our ignorance. Do not seek after the truth, merely cease to cherish your opinions. —Jianzhi Sengcan

Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know... I was in New York in the 30’s. I had a box seat at the depression. I can assure you it was a very educational experience. We shut the country down because of monetary reasons. We had manpower and abundant raw materials. Yet we shut the country down. We’re doing the same kind of thing now but with a different material outlook. We are not in the position we were in 1929–30 with regard to the future. Then the physical system was ready to roll. This time it’s not. We are in a crisis in the evolution of human society. It’s unique to both human and geologic history... Soon all the oil is going to be burned and all the metals mined and scattered.—M. King Hubbert


The solar system matters (maybe): You are a speck on the pale blue dot below as seen up close. Get good with reality.

Parts of above paraphrased without quotes from The System's Neatest Trick, Technological Slavery (2008), by Theodore J. Kaczynski, and quotes from Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Truman from Anti-Tech Revolution (2016) p. 20-21.

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