Should you hate industrial civilisation just because it’s killing the planet and it’s too late to stop it?

”[What will it] look like as this all begins to disentangle, as the pressures of climate change drive the largest human migrations in history and the ability of national and international political institutions to defend the global flow of capital and trade begins to crack and fade[?]. Jacob Bacharach. Truthdig

That quote comes from a piece on Truthdig entitled The Trillion-Dollar Fantasy at the Heart of the Global Economy. It’s about the popular delusions that underpin starry-eyed stock investors’ valuation of Apple. Which, any way you look at it, amount to very little.

Apple’s ‘valuation’ has nothing to do with its potential earnings. It’s a business already showing signs running out of steam, control and ideas. The techno-Utopian hype mostly reflects people’s personal investment in the idea that Apple – along with Tesla and Uber – well, anyone willing to promise self-driving flying cars for everyone – embodies mankind’s manifest destiny: per handheld gadgets ad astra.

Apple never asked to be a talisman for a safe future for humanity, although it has been happy to run with the idea in general and the money in particular. It’s us humans who want to see a towering tech giant with colossal systemic dependencies as the stepping stone to an incredible future.

The reality is that all the dreamy reach and connectivity of what we may as well call ‘Civilisation 3.0’ depends utterly on the extractive, fire and steel economy of (industrial) Civilisation 2.0 … born c.1750, became terminally ill c.1970.

Civilisation 2.0 is still what keeps the 95% of the world economy afloat. Its successor is merely a thin veneer on top of it epitomised by the vanity skylines of the likes of Dubai – brittle progenitors of every cut-and-paste Sci-Fi movie megacity.

The system needs to grow at two to three per cent a year or it dies. Albert Bartlett was never fashionable and now he’s dead so hardly anyone groks what exponential growth means. Two to three percent means the system doubles in size every 23-35 years.

If it pulls off that trick one more time, in 2050 our civilisation will want as much in the way of energy, resources, demand and the rest as it got through in all the preceding years since Civilisation 1.0 got going on a dusty riverbank 10,000 years ago.

Hint. That won’t happen.

What we have is a huge, shiny, totally unsustainable system that is now eating away at its own life support system ever more rapidly. It is brilliant for the elites. They always have the best of everything, and “21st century best” is hundreds of times better than any previous era.

It is still pretty damn good for the next rung down; that is, middle class humans in developed countries (guilty m’lud). Which is why very few will admit that the system is nearing the tipping point, and fewer still would try to prevent that happening even if it were possible.

And it’s not possible. Whenever that train left – possibly between the First Oil War, 1914-18 and the Second but certainly in my lifetime – humanity voted to keep its feet on the station platform. Which now really is becoming a burning platform. Which in turn is rather ironic in the sense that ‘burning platform’ is corporate jargon for a situation requiring great willpower to resolve: humanity as a whole displaying almost no desire to kick the consumerist habit.

Industrial civilisation seems pretty well determined to shove itself into a bottleneck.


It will be much to the surprise and disgust of those of us in the developed world that the bottleneck will apply equally if not more to us than to those in countries we tend to think of being there to do the slaving and suffering on our behalf.

Civilisation is not to blame. We are. ‘Modern life’ is novel and exciting and extremely comfortable by any standards, let alone compared to pre-1950 ones. Such a shame the arrangement is auto-destructive.

Honestly, the best anyone can do is manage the transition through the bottleneck as humanely as possible. Or possibly not humanely in the sense of “having qualities befitting human beings”. Isn’t that how we got into this mess?

So let’s not hate civilisation. We should feel sorry for it. Even apologise. We set it up. Made it work hard for us. And when we saw where that was going, we opened the throttle hoping to maximise our own pleasures and die naturally leaving the bill to our descendants.

A few years ago I’d have thought that, as I’ll be nearly 70 in 2025, I had good odds on foisting that unpleasant little trick on the next generation. Now I’m not so sure.

The intended suckers – the Millennials and younger generations – aren’t buying the programme (shedloads of debt and shitty jobs to compensate for diminishing net fossil energy flows for supporting the elites). Hence the increasingly deafening volume of propaganda and visual distraction designed to keep the masses in their place while the elites prepare to withdraw to technologically-cushioned boltholes until it’s time to resume control in Civilisation 4.0 – which if the surviving masses are fortunate will be like Civilisation 1.0 but with proper dentistry and mass literacy.

One reason the system managers give Apple such a massive approval rating is its effectiveness at keeping people’s eyes hooked to its devices instead of what’s actually going on.

Bon chance, everyone!

Times extradition story turns out to be just another tiresome bullshit job

If The Times is, as the surtitle on its banner claims, ‘Britain’s most trusted newspaper’, the only question can be: ‘trusted for use as what? Composting?’

I’m featuring today’s Times front page lead story not because it is a particularly novel or blatant piece of common-or-garden spin, but out of a sense of wonder that the MSM are still going through motions of foisting pathetic, kludged-together tripe like this on their collapsing readerships in 2018.

Because it most definitely is just another tiresome bullshit job from the establishment typing pool formerly known as Fleet Street.

The structure:

  1. Scarcely-credible headline With Keywords
  2. Sub-head not borne out in the body copy
  3. Fact-lite, unsourced story, pretty much entirely contradicted in two key paragraphs.

The only noteworthy aspect of the piece is a para contradicting the headline at the half-way point. Unusually high up the story for this kind of job.

There’s no need to take it apart line by line. It makes a big claim – UK plans to extradite Russian poisoners – and then expends 450-odd words on putting precisely no substance behind it.

All it offers is a lot of ‘it is understood that’ and ‘it is believed that’, from ‘security sources’. But ‘government sources’ tell the paper no warrants are being prepared. Nor is an extradition application planned.

The one named individual in the story, a former British Army intelligence officer and chemical weapons expert – thankfully not the ubiquitous and compromised Hamish – says the police are under political pressure to come up with names for the perps.

But nine paragraphs earlier, the story, which took no fewer than three Times staffers to ‘write’, says: “Scotland Yard detectives are understood to be confident that they have identified the would-be assassins.”

Well, obviously not, according to our former Army intel officer.

The only other para worth quoting in full is the last one:

“The Metropolitan Police, CPS and Home Office refused to comment.”

Exactly. Unsubstantiated rumours from anonymous sources who contradict each other throughout. Not a shred of information from any of the bodies responsible for the criminal investigation or a prosecution/extradition should either of those ever take place. If I’d submitted this piece as a junior reporter, it would have ended up on a spike, not a front page.

In some ways, though, you have to give the article some credit as a slice of propaganda.

It’s primary role is put the headline out there on the supermarket and garage forecourt gondolas, where those keywords are the only element that passers-by take in.

…extradite Russian poisoners

And away go Mr and Mrs Public, vaguely sure that they’ve now learned that Inspector Knacker has absolutely definitely pinned Salisbury on the Russkies and that plucky Britannia is in the processes of forcing the big bully to hand over the miscreants.

And although the poison(s) used in Salisbury behaved nothing like novichok, and no-one has produced evidence that unequivocally ties whatever they were to Russia, our most trusted national newspaper manages to slip in mention that Charlie Rowley was “left seriously ill from the effects of the Russian-made nerve agent” as if Russian provenance were fact.

So there you go. Today’s cut and paste bulletin from State central. Disgusting but effective.

Like an enema.

(And maybe I shouldn’t pick on the Times. The Beeb, the Guardian and all the other Handmaids all ran much the same propaganda)