— David Ricardo and Robin Hood of Sherwood
-S h i f t i n g is t h e GAME
P A R T — T H R E E
I hope that by now you have started to question science, for what it can do is undo us if we do not watch out. My second instalment on the journey to convey how Ricardo, Robin Hood, and most prominently, Richard Heinberg share ideas — was headed by the title; Prelude to the energy story. In the light of events in Texas, we might think the following to go in line with a failure of Western Big Systems to provide for its citizenry. But no this piece was written before Texas (BT) and has much more of a relation to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. How to leave oil, that is the question, really.
The energy story is now in full swing (see part two of BIG SCIENCE), but the focus here is more on philosophy. On the key historic events. Hey it is wild enough we might have to do this, and I agree with that view, but we are here to discuss not to convince the like-minded. The ideas of Rousseau figure large in the aftermath of 1789, logic is made into practical ability to change society. I will repeat that this piece will avoid talking about economics.
Mark C. Taylor´s book SPEED LIMITS has a cultural perspective on change. Such a view is refreshing, it takes human size via history.
Taylor in a sense takes the view I was looking for of seeing the crises from the inside out, not as does economics and Richard Heinberg of outside-in. A moral view.
Rollo May I will mention also, in the sense of Taylor the athropologist always abides by the law of accepting a cultural bias, a view from within the human mind, from or out of the concepts we know and accept (see further).
Anti-logic of the modern world
The frittering away of economics and science is a post-trauma of modern man, for Ricardo the problem is stated as follows; the essentially agrarian societies of Europe were expanding, yet there was no theory to explain how this was possible. Yes everybody knew it worked but there was no science to explain it. Things were moving but how? Science was one explanation i.e. in the form of medicine, and in terms of military economics in the colonial endeavours of Europe, which is a kind of hidden in that early age. Of course trade with spices and longer trunks of wood which enable larger ships, and more importantly the riches generated thereby all matter, of course they do. But how, and why? David Ricardo is mostly thinking in terms of Smith as he thinks about economics and of how things in economics might be weighed and measured and of how labour fit the bill as some general principle of all of this. Land after all was, according to physiocratic thinking the only value there ever could be — land once it produced calories, also produced labour, in that sense labour was redundant, a subsumed factor. Ricardo took another angle to that as he explored labour more intently — this gave rise to his theory of the exchange value of labour (Marx took it from Ricardo, Erich Fromm for more mundane reasons picked it up into psychoanalysis — Fromm is a holist, although it can be stated social psychology came out of it in terms of thinkers like Goffman. What strikes me as important is Fromm´s insistence on work as essential to man, I share that view and so did Marcuse). We know that the 18th century was a great boom in terms of trade, and in the boom-town harbour of Glasgow, Adam Smith tried to come to terms with what exchange was, as I have pointed out in one of my essays (Modernism part one). The point being made is Ricardo and Heinberg are prophets of change — both in the game of shifting so to speak.
Studying history we find is not an easy task, the science of economics hold more definite truthes. Yet we are moving opposite. There is little sociology in Richard Heinberg, his aim is to cogently display our dilemma from the viewpoint of economics and energy. The closest thing to a sociology is the word resilience, which is one of his favourites — as you can see we are slowly approaching that subject... We are ready to deal with the bits of Richard Heinberg we were looking for, namely his sociology or social philosophy. Teasing this out is in that sense hidden, that is why I have re-routed through Sherwood, tea-kettles and a story about history involving energy limitations — see previous parts (trees, trees, more trees, still more trees then coal and oil at the end). The reason for talking depletion then? DEPLETION MAKES YOU THINK OF NUCLEAR OR LEACH FROM TOXIC WASTE. I use the words of some economist, we should perhaps not use the word depletion once it comes to living trees, but the depletion of trees is jarring in itself, and part of our twisted history. It has a certain — panache.
Robin on the other hand is a symbol for the trees, but Robin is also a kind of symbol for all that is good and true, and if you have read my two previous pieces you know there is no real difference between Sherwood itself and Robin the man — in many ways he is like the mythology of Zatoichi. A tale is after all a slightly less believable rather than completely veracious story. In essence these are parables, if efficient ones, symbolisms of persons, emblematic ideas and ideals. On the other hand I think science (see further, and also previous instalments on this issue) has itself abused our trust in science, so to speak. Tom Bombadil, Robin Hood or Zatoichi — they are characters of mythology — the 2011 book, The End of Growth isn´t.
The two pieces we have now worked our way through have focused on ecology, and in the second part on history (Greece and Mediaeval Europe).
Policy has tried a known model, yet it might have run out of luck. On page 11 in The End of Growth, it is stated; Nevertheless, the question remains as to how long these strategies can continue to work in the real world — which is governed less by economic theories than by the laws of physics. End of quote. In this piece I will push philosophical questions to the fore (not notions from physics). To most people economics is a daunting subject, and I am no different in that respect, it puts me at once in a bad temper. It is not my concern to deal with economics. Albeit it must be declared (if undeclared) that Richard Heinberg is mostly into economics in his book The End of Growth (2011), that is not the focus here. It is the philosophy of Heinberg and of the new world we seem to be entering which grabs our attention. What is the result, how do we get there, etc. (?) Consumer culture and anti-theories of modern society crop up.
The Roman cycle of stoic pride
My accumulated meanderings on Augustine are to one side unnecessary; all that matters is the Neoplatonic views of Plotinus (and of Augustine) are so closely similar to modern rationality as to be the same almost — the ideals of Neoplatonicism is to always think in terms of essences, always wager your own thought processes. Augustine appeals to Aristotle to get out from the grasp of too much negativity — here was his hope. As the way to a happy life (EUDAIMONIA) just forget the daily squabbles, rationality, truth and logic are more important to you. This is the view of Neoplatonic thought. We might smirk at such a view of course, but on the other hand, can we disagree? Is this not our particular heaven in the present form we live in aswell? We have placed logic in that heaven beyond once again, if we do not haste to correct it. The other world as complete truth (otherworldliness). That way of thinking (although I use logic alot to prove it) I resist fiercly. There is another side to Plato, more in line with older philosophy where life and the life to strive for is worldly so to speak — Plato never chose sides as far as I can tell, but Neoplatonicism did do just that. Stoicism plays a large part in this chain of events — even Tullius Cicero is aware of Stoic ideas. What we see at the start of a cycle, we see at its end too (cf. my crazy theories, Main story here at Medium: You are Crazy I know). Augustine, or Mark Anthony, Crassus and not least Pompey — their age is an age of change (although Cicero was read by Augustine — how can we purport to connect two periods separate by 500 yrs? — the answer obviously that these are times of change and shift). I am appealing here to that same pseudo-logic of Isaac Asimov, i.e. as individuals we are free, yet on average we are really very similar (some of the crux of the Foundation trilogy is this paradox if we might call it that). Is it killing history?
We should be critical of too much intelligence. In much of what I write I make the point over and over of how Man is not rational, we are environed in a real situation where factors outside matter much more than rational choices. Yes intelligence matters sure. In a kind of way we might say with Mark C. Taylor that our intelligence is restless, but on account of that not all that thoughtful. Yes smart surely, but smart how? What is flawed here?
The system is not rational in a very special sense of the word. The conclusion is Heinberg is aware of the economy as an instable construct. Remember the system that Jack built, metaphorically. And remember like Paine, I am not an enemy of sound logic, it only seems that way. But there is that thingy called post-modernism. I think a real thing, and so post-modernism will come up too. We live in the world of STRANGE. How did post-modernism enter this?
So why exercise a book on economics in this fashion? The answer is self-evident; there are more angles than economy, we only tend to afford that subject more “weight” perhaps too much even. The answer is yes, and no.
Before we enter the real world of Dr. Strange, allow this cite from Heinberg;
“As mentioned, this book will argue that global economic growth is over because of a convergence of three factors; resource depletion, environmental impacts, and systemic financial and monetary failures.” (p.15,Heinberg 2011)
In terms of my method, what I am considering is this quote;
“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”
How Tullius Cicero became Thomas Paine
We might set up Paine as an outspoken, and compare to Cicero the outspoken. But this makes little sense. Saint Augustine is said to have loved Hortensius, a lost text from Cicero. Hortensius (Hortense) was a wealthy man and a teacher of rhetoric. But Hortense is not important, the text merely carries his name. I, for my part, play the role as your guide. Napoleon much like Thomas Paine were living in the time of the guillotine. Hegel uses Napoleon, to great effect (a contemporary of Friedrich Hegel), but in some sense Paine and Napoleon are similar. They are figure-heads of that same Age we must imagine. Real world events of the enlightenment era are known to us. The late 1700s had birthdays, marriages and ordinary life events, but it had also pamphleteering nuisances such as Paine (of the Common Sense published during one year only, but said to have had a big influence), it housed rivalling factions in France (three atleast), all vying for power after the events of 1789. The happy end of 1776 was less happy in terms of results or sovreignty in France and Europe. The aftermath of the revolt in America was moving of the capital from NY, yet a momentum was growing between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians… between the cities and the yeomenry. So if the similarities of Augustine, Cicero and Paine are carried out they have little to show for it.
Yes, you guessed it, political gatherings were all the rage, and they were discussing the Enlightenment ideas in earnest. This for purposes of politics. The decade contained creatures of hegelian change all around. Creatures such as Paine and Napoleon. The idea of rationalism and meritocracy was to spill out of this as we all know — too obvoious to mention. But we take this down on our notepads. Here was born in that same cauldron bad ideas and good ones. Napoleon Buonaparte was far from alone, it was that kind of era. The French and the Britts were not on speaking terms, by the way who could be, in times like those? In 1795 Britain (sorry England) declared France war. The French were inspired (a French word) by the American revolt and their ideas about freedom in terms of a declaration of sovreignty. All Nations of Europe were invited to rise up in support of a revolt. French agression in Italy and English agression (including Napoleon´s own Corsica) in Italy too. Here the march of technology seem to surpass all other things — but as Erlichman or Braudel points to, war is a mere blip in terms of the big demographic data.
What change is made of
So shifts is the game we are pursuing. Your hands sweating too? Shifts have occurred before in history. The silver bullit of Mediaeval warfare was the fully equipped (and equipped with page or valet as back-up) knight. Breeding specialised trades indeed in armoury and weaponry. But it proved at that point a costly amenity — it bred fragile structures (invisible to the eye) in the advanced and structured society; fighting men independent yet fiercly inter-dependent on the CHURCH. So what we are equipped with in ANY system is dependency or contingency (rather more correctly a CONTINGENT factor, a snag). The use of the word fragility can in this sense be avoided. It tends to be overly used. The ideology of the time was opposite to facts on the ground (i.e for the system as a whole — systemic level). Fragility is the product of any intricate system, take that as a warning. Not that St. Augustine would have created this system, it would have come about with or without him. In the last part I tried in a long-winded way to convey (much in line with Heinberg) how heating of water can be a problem (see part two of BIG SCIENCE). This “WATER PROBLEM” is not just idle talk. It is this kind of snag. Comparable to the Roman expenditures on the legionnaire, or the Mediaeval mounted knight. By the way the feudal system was far more viable than the Empire, which lasted about 300 yrs after Caesar only, as opposed to a thousand for feudalism. What about us then? Much of our life evolves, and revolves around energy — this is the challenge we are facing in contemporary society. The main point in Heinberg´s book is he says oil is that snag, the snag of energy. Here the consumer is fleshed-out, the consumer that is said to be rational, and he or she may be rational, but in aggregate, not so I am afraid.
My concern in this third part is to point to the implications of shift, or shall I say the focus is by implication on relativism. The future society Heinberg imagines (he is not alone in this respect, we all do) will be played out in part four (grand finale). What is going on in this slip of history?
The effect of Socrates according to Nietzsche was the loss of tragedy (cf. the schillerian chill of rational bureaucracy, adapted by Max Weber).
Why mention Weber and the disenchantment of the world? Because the trend, if we are to change is a re-enchantment of that same world. Now, I think changes matter since they indicate phase shift. Weber was critical of Man in that he (like Spengler who was overtly racist) concocted an Iron Cage for Man. The ideas are from Sombart, Marx and from Freidrich Schiller, the well-known philosopher-historian-writer and romantic who said society was being made rational by an onslaught of factors of change. The late enlightenment thinkers held views akin to Rousseau — the quest was for freedom. It might be too much to say Gibbon is a romantic, but in a sense he is (or atleast an early romantic). The focus of sociology is not history, and history often omits change as it perceives it as an anomaly — although Max Weber and his contemporaries investigated history in order to understand the present. One change is how we percieve things — I think post-modernity is part of that. The fear of post-modernism is over-stated.
The strange thing is that a shift of focus (in culture) is also an avenue towards new issues and new questions. We know different times have differing ideals and goals, but omit it in hope of surviving relativism, which deep down we dislike. We are creatures of habit. The new wave is in studying systems and swarms, and I think for good reason. Study and be wise.
In a relatively new book by Mark C. Taylor we are presented to another kind of limits to growth than that presented to us by the club of Rome in 1972. It is called SPEED LIMITS — where time went and why we have so little left. (Yale 2014, by Mark C. Taylor). On page one he states that in a sense the notion of time has changed. In a time passed, eternity was that ever fleeting inter-connected reality; “Once not so long ago, this timeless present was eternity: today it is called 24/7/365.” Additionally, as he himself says: “The question haunting the following pages is whether there is enough time left to slow down processes whose increasing speed threatens the complex social, cultural, political, economic, technological, and natural networks on which life depends.”
Taylor in a sense takes the view I was looking for of seeing the crises from the inside out, not as does economics of outside-in. A moral view.
The post-carbon way
The Enlightenment — steeped as it was in Christian thought and natural law (the city of God once again! see my second part) and usage of ideals posited as gods or lesser gods ( “the graces” ) as a means of mythological explanatory device. Yet the prime characteristic we should know is that it was rationalist. Obviously a loan from antiquity. The idea of Sherwood is harking back to deified concepts (the background to 1789) in demi-gods. We would like for Robin to represent the GOOD for us, or despite us. Think about it, we need myth to understand life, but in the revolution these were more politically strained concepts. It was a time of shift. The question then becomes what is wrong with SCIENCE? Why go against it? Richard Heinberg has shown our toxic double-bind with technology, in that our eyes are fixed to the screen called economics, whilst squirrels steal our lunch. The problem is not technology in itself, but the avoidance of doing things in new ways — post-carbon ways, I suppose. We never stopped loving Rome. Cicero will guide us. Although it must be said Cicero was a student of Hortensius, who thought in a sinister kind of way that emotions govern all Men — this is not rationalist. Or shall I say it is nihilist, or go even further and say some periods in history have post-modern outlook. Well how about The End of Growth?
If the only source of knowledge in the last 100 yrs was economics, then economics is not dead, but it smells unassuringly funny, and that is not fun at all. How can it help us accomodate for the future?
Losing energy over small things
This piece involves themes we have seen. Yes, what is wrong with science (?) the solution is to say energy-wasting science is what is wrong, otherwise science as we know is not fit (and never can be, as Bertrand Russell has explained) for a moral right and wrong answer, that simple. Wasting things we understand, but how? Here at last, a definition of consumerism!
But the more difficult side of this is a post-modern outlook of the world. Post what-ever really. Science as I see it, and the human MIND has something to do with post-everything (i.e. nihilism and relentless egoism). The only answer I will provide is egoism coincides with rise of consumer ideals, the very point Heinberg stresses. The plot thickens. Heinberg makes a point of posting old Lucky-strike bill board commercials, and his aim is merely to point out that this idea is not very old — it has only been going on for 100 yrs approximately.
But Heinberg goes further back in time. I have taken the liberty to delve on it here, much more than Heinberg. He mentions the 1800s and the advent of coal as important, i.e. in that it increased our growth outlook considerably.
David Ricardo was facing an increasing energy-abundance, and was stuck in the framework of previous thinking, trying to (in theory at least) overcome the discrepancy in his ideas about labour. A new class of noveaux riches was forming on the back of emergent industrialisation, land now had a strong competitor as a means of improving your say in society. Ricardo himself was a new man in the sense that he was good at understanding markets and had made money speculating. This was a time of change. Napoleonic wars had ended.
Rollo May came to that same door-step of philosophy (metaphysics) as he wrote of Western man’s thirst for mythology (The cry for myth), and we may suppose due to the crushing rational element in modern life a key. But should man look in the past when all seems just great? And why crave for myth in modern society? According to Marshall McLuhan we never accept or see change or even history, it happens because of our psychology more than anything else, in that we face history standing with our backs to it (an idea originally from Walter Benjamin). Explaining May is easy at one level, hard on another, because the role of the anthropologist seems out-dated, the battle for a lost world seems useless. Only May discovered a new interest for MYTH, this I think was precocious. We are the robots, we are not humans, oh sorry scrap that. We live in that magic realm, where history is not possible, since we cannot see nor understand history — history is freudian, or post-modern or jungian, oh I think you get my hint here. Big things fly above our heads. That amounts to seeing history as in essence a mind game (psychology is pushed front and centre). That also points to post-modernism/ relativism. But does it not point in another as well? We need myth, and in times of shift even more so, but MYTH is not factoid science, even if we wish for it to be.
In 189 AD the poor of Rome revolted, saying that the Emperor had taken grain to himself thereby skewing grain prices. The Arab spring is at about the same thing (as Pippa Malmgren has pointed out). Our empire is bigger, and so our “grain problems” are bigger. These kinds of issues makes Richard Heinberg concerned, and it should, it should in fact concern all of us.
As Roman society deteriorated cults increased in number, my point of view is more that of the religious historian, in that I believe we can pinpoint how the beliefs of the legionnaires in the end decide(s) Rome’s fate. Religion is an outlet, but in a crumbling world it too post-modernises or disrupts things. Remember, reborn neoplatonic ideas (through Augustine) were born from these ashes (my speculation that the city of God echoes through time).
The focus of sociology is not history, and history often omits change as it perceives it as an anomaly — although Max Weber and his contemporaries investigated history in order to understand the present (Victorian thinking). Now, I think changes matter since they indicate phase shift. To compare Rollo May and David Ricardo is possible. Both point to shifts in human consciousness. Ricardo was fingering the paradox of land as an artifact, both of real human value and market value. We can see now ideas matter and in the case of shifting, ideas matter even more. We are shifting right now.
Now I want to make two points one about Rollo May and another about complexity (to clarify Heinberg’s position). May shares qualities with Fromm in that his ideas (about psychotherapy) involves kultur-critique, i.e. a discussion of society as a whole (the influence here is marxist and wholist). This is the reason mentioning May in relation to Ricardo is pertinent, they are both observing (or observers of) paradoxes of history. The thing Heinberg describes as our economy, and our global debt-system he covertly treats as fragile — Richard Heinberg too is fingering a paradox, that indeed is (why I chose to show) one of the relations with Ricardo. We must separate complex (as in complicated), from complexity (inter-related systems), and even further from another special kind of complexity (the one I am harping on about) which involves increasing liability of stresses and draw-downs or even collapse (black swans, butter-fly effect resulting in catastrophe).
Now the study of SHIFTS is an interesting one, and we might compare Ceasar and Cicero to our previous pair (Napoleon and Paine).
Well man is good, nature is good, but going back to culture and civilisation, I think the idea of civilisation as MANAGED (going back to Foucault and key other thinkers of power, including Machiavelli) is a striking one. I am not saying anarchism is the way, or democracy is managed — I am just saying this feature is prominent, much less so with a culture (however you want to design or define, or debate it). Smallness plays a part here. To Paine Government was necessary, a necessary evil. Thomas Paine is talking against himself I think.
Environmentalism is morally attached, in that it opposes big systems. But there is perhaps no grace for NATURE. The kind of logic Rousseau (I use him as a proxy of enlightenment thought only) uses was not aware that there are feed-back loops (in any system). The notion of efficiency was not clear to Rousseau, the building of society was his focus, that the science of it add efficiency (PHYSICS) with bigness to great effect, was not a big issue to Rousseau (his thought gave rise to liberalism and socialism). The physics we have more or less dealt with, and it is one main focus of The End of Growth, or how energy is coming to a halt, I share that view. Are there other tell-tales of change? That bigger is better always struck one as logic — which is also at about what it is. SO here IS another DISCUSSION intermixed WITH the OTHER ones, one OF logic. As I see it, and I am not alone in this, the gods are the folksy Greek gods present in the golden era of the sophists (or rather they survived and were kept alive up until that point). Plato takes from Socrates the idea of ideal goodness (implying one god). The goal of Plato was not to throw down the idols, his view is rather that we have absolutes and gods — he was steeped in the old view but added this new one as well. The effect of Socrates according to Nietzsche was the loss of tragedy (cf. the schillerian chill of rational bureaucracy, adapted by Max Weber). The graces on the other hand play on both themes, are they rearing their heads again? Seen this way post-modernism was just warming up. My previous pieces decry how we use Rousseau in the Modern world, or rather how the ENLIGHTENMENT is a rather silly place, and yet we persist in believing in fairy-tales. Jean-Jacques Rousseau we must not forget was, like Max Weber, one of those “middle-men” (or switch-men even) between catholic and protestant modes of being and thinking. I will contend to you, how Cicero too is a creature nestled up in an era of change. The tale will evolve, so have patience for Rome.
Well let´s put it this way. Augustine took one part of platonism which came to the fore later as platonism developed in late antiquity. Plato want´s to retain the idea of this-worldliness (EUDAIMONIA — happiness is the life of here and now and sensation, of and politics) but develops following Socrates a slightly contrasting one — an idea of real life as a life of logic, and of contemplating the TRUTH. This is the key to understanding what Augustine then develops.
Big Think is also Big Failure — accumulation of Big risk
All science works through reduction, or simplification; e.g bodies are made up of cells, cells are made up of atoms (atoms of quarks). BIG SYSTEMS work in an opposite direction — big concepts, or explanations, build complex relations to everything else, including the philosopher himself. The mind’s eye is blind. These things are too basic for human understanding to see them, they are so basic we wish to think they are just doing their magic, and we are not part of it. Energy and ecology (however) is working behind the scene. The pincer if you will of wants and possibilities. That bonfire of our vanities. These themes are dealt with in part two of BIG SCIENCE (the part one deals mostly in our world as a Sherwood drama). They figure to some extent as Heinberg takes on climate change, I will not deal with it here.
As we will see ANY big idea is doomed in the end (which is how I see post-modernism), the likes of Terry Eagleton or Aquinas works within that system — THE SYSTEM — Russell rightly opposed that kind of ‘logic’ (i.e. in his views on Aquinas). The marxist understands opposing forces however, but misses how the big in BIG systems is a bigger problem than logic (or syllogisms). It is also true modern culture produced the holocaust — the conclusion should be Europe was unique and strange in that it was a Greek ecological crisis (provided one accepts this idea) on a vast scale — producing colonialism on an even vaster scale; producing the idea that globalism (the ultimate scale) is such a grand idea (liberal idea). But it is useful in the same way big cars are, they are useful sometimes, sometimes not, i.e. size matters. Post-modernism is like the 16th century — very attuned to real events — it is its own paradigm-shift. Religious war or post-modernism, same same. But this is taking a view from space, like some space man posturing and giving us, not a thumbs up but a sod off. I must add I like bits of post-modernism, the bits that talk practical world uncertainty — and at some level Pierre Bourdieu’s kind of post-modernism. Ok, I might as well admit it, I am no real post-modernist but an interested and informed observer. Relativism by the by is hardly fancy, nor new. There are the theories within post-modernism and there is no reason to cast them down, but seen from space post-modernism is a thing we might call a hegelian shift (a period of ambiguity in history).
What I might add is ecology determines ALL OF IT, but as in the case of Sherwood that process is a slow one — nothing like Hollywood, nothing close… My history is ecological history, is the history Fernand Braudel introduced, a long, slow descent. Like clockwork the report by the Stanford researcher professor Mark Z Jacobson sees land as a limiting factor — hrm, Malthus was right surely? In the journal (see this link); Joule. / BIG SCIENCE — part two
Thomas Aquinas or Terry Eagleton (vulnerable in that his career, as that of most academics builds on the current paradigm) — or more prominently Augustine (since the world he imagined was not yet extant) have only one thing in common; BIG SCIENCE (a large body of tenets interlinked). Those systems become MORE vulnerable, and I admit to my liking of Eagleton, he was merely used as an example of a larger issue — civilisations are BLIND!
ECOLOGY IS EVERYTHING — individuals is too
The more ecologically aware world we now live in has put scarcity more to the fore, and Herodotus makes a point out of saying that the Greek nation was born out of poverty. Normal people should now rise up and collect all their world history books, and give them away to some innocent bystander. They might also defend that old view that Greece grew out of its brilliance (old paradigm). If we were to drill down to the bottom of this, and we are, suffice it to say the cultures invading and fighting with each other over the infertile Greek soil facilitated this germ and made it sprout. What germ? Individualism was yoked to civilisation, and lurking beneath it all, is escalating ecological change (once again!). How do we know? The story of Sherwood (if you remember) is the one of small ecological steps, invisible to the eye, yet in the big scheme of things (cf. Braudel) so much more true. But it also raises the question of; what is individualism? The answer I prefer, is that it is appearing exactly on time, namely when oil enters the picture. Not the kind of answer we like, but for those who want to know, that is consumerism not individualism. Social science in fact has a problem with egoism but perhaps even more with the thing we call individualism, and so I did add it to this discussion because we had to. Omitting it is saying Greece is unimportant, and Rome too. And so my definition of individualism is it is fuzzy, but mostly also consumerist. This happens to be a sociological question, and Heinberg answers it by saying; we were able to live high, due to consumer culture, which in turn was fed by cheap abundant energy. Myself, any environmentalist proud of the name, and Richard Heinberg is sharking around in those waters (End of Growth, 2011). The idea is to see how humans were tricked into becoming consumers. The thought of a saint can be holy, but they can also be interesting to anybody with enough time on their hands to get to read it. Here Augustine and the Church is more like ideologues, of the Goebbels type, which I say only to underline the slow march of resource depletion which is the seldom mentioned back-drop of Greek history (in my view), as opposed to the thoughts in society. It is also true the Church must fix its gaze on the eternal, sorry planets don’t last forever, and sure the ideas are eternal but the faustian bargain of the Church was yoking itself to feudalism. That is what a faustian bargain is. Did not the Church fall as feudalism fell? Did not oil spike in 2008, where it could have spiked ANYPLACE (wow what a coincidence), and does the Church admit its reliance on a BIG system? Of course not. In other words talk is cheap in the face of big changes, slowly re-directing our fate (if history is equipped with one, which I doubt). Augustine’s speculations aside, a dead tree is not likely material for a novel but hundreds of thousands of them will one way or the other end up in the pages of history. A matter of scale. Simply put.
The Americans lost the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam for these very same reasons (upcoming last piece of Wasp honey — here at Medium). Same reason, scale. Asimov is walking a tight-rope — what matters ? — individuals or masses? I think the comparison works; the Church was a power-machine, and our new version of this same namely BIG SCIENCE is one too, you do not have to be Robin Hood to get that right. There is always the BIG issue of size! Going back to our question then about what went wrong with science, well size went wrong, try that for size… The infinite game is not the same as the finite game (cf. James P. Carse).
We are now half-way through our marathon. The idea of science might be said to be a Greek one, and one of seeing the BIGNESS of life, whereas myth in story-telling way is saying the opposite; namely that all of life can be pinned down in the SMALLNESS of life. History is an in-between, like Zatoichi, or Robin, or Utnapishtim. The hidden yet obvious factor is an ecology and energy factor — in Greece the start of it being adoption of iron and the end of it being the rise of the commercial city state, and as Egypt was sitting on its death-bed Pythagoras went there and sucked up some of the wisdom. Egypt was interested in ideas to survive, and was humble, Greece was in disarray and needed knowledge for the opposite reasons, its star was slowly rising (Pythagoras lived about 600BC). In Rome the rise of the professional army, in the dying Roman Empire the rise of landed local rulers overseen by the Church (the early stage of feudalism). But let us delve on Rome. It may explain more in detail why we are losing our orientation, how changes come about and perplex us. Can history have mood-swings? Shifts depend on many factors. Yet some see the changes, and cry out!
But we must not forget the kinds of economic theories developed after 1860 or so forgot about that problem, in fact they buried it deep and turned their backs on it. These so seemingly childish speculations were very alive and real to David Ricardo however. / BIG SCIENCE — part two
David Ricardo was sitting in a window of change from proto-capitalism to full blown liberal capitalist theory. But now, at last, let us go to Rome.
These were Cicero’s environment and political problems.
He is often portrayed as a turn-coat. But considering, that might not be impossible to understand. In my theories (as developed in You are Crazy I know)concerns a wave and a crest and trough, that means Cicero is riding a wave, is indicative of a phase-change (as we know it from physics). This might explain why Cicero is inconsistent, and faltering.
Using Greece was to show how trees fuelled the Greek expansion (and how historians do not talk about it), in this piece we will with Rome depict how over a 200 year period, the shift from an non-military to a military economy was pushed through — the same went for the feudal system, but more importantly the world as described by Richard Heinberg (last 200 yrs). Slaves in terms of human peasantry have been key through these shifts, but in our case oil plays that same role. (This idea is a concept we see with Kunstler of oil as a slave, and ours as a slave society — PANACHE!) This makes our world completely post, what I want to convey is it is more Augustine than Tacitus, if you get the idea here — we are after-peak so to speak… Rome peaked, we have peaked too.
The choice of Rome is inevitable. Many roads leading to Rome. We will now explore it; Cicero’s Rome. The civil war or war of secession in North America, was an economically and possibly ecologically motivated war (slavery is an energy-base). Interesting in the case of Caesar killing off Cicero is the part that information plays in it (I am thinking here about proscription) — the stalinism is nascent here, some would say full-blown. What I think points to a new world in which INFORMATION (i.e. lists of family names) plays a role as a new tool of oppression. But this is an aside. Cicero was invited to join Caesar, but much like Socrates he chose death (although this of course is simplifying matters slightly). On the one hand information, lists of who was to live and who was to die. On the complete opposite, huge farm estates that dispossessed poor people and made morals into a shambles — i.e. same story as Sherwood (depletion of land, farming was “stolen” — almost like the script of some Greek tragedy, where everyone dies in the end). So who lives?
We can’t judge Augustine, the city of Rome in the 200s and 300s was a filthy mess, a carbuncle sitting on the knee of Italy, yet it was as it had always been, the solution as well as a cornucopia of depravation. As it crumbled even more, many Christians were blamed for these problems. There was an actual need for a grand (and flashy) theory, Plato thought that to be the case as well. Plato was provoked by the fall of Athens to think up a better place. Augustine’s world in a sense (and don’t get me wrong); was post-modern. This star-chart is marked up for us by three stars; Augustine, Cicero and finally the pre-revolution in France, yes that violent affair, including amongst others Mr. J-J (Rousseau) who died before 1789.
And we seem to have, to create a new word, idylised the village (!) If that is not post-modern, then I am Santa Claus — We are living as we are under BIG Science’s sway. But that to some degree we know. The village is important, we can see it, can as it were, recapture it yet. The village is living in inter-dependency I suppose, an unfreedom which we have spent 200 yrs to flee from. We are married to bigness, same as the Greeks when they became an empire, but the shift from culture to civilisation is still visible.
So, what I am saying is evolution from Greek culture to Greek civilisation, is very similar to (if not same as) devolution from modern to post-modern, less comfy futures. A comparation of Persia, Greece and Rome might show similar outlooks, yet Greek culture was decentralised, Persia was heavily centralised, maybb Rome was an in-between (the Romans themselves thought so cf. Livy).
Vespasian built the colloseum, but beneath the spectacle there was a special place for blood in Rome — blood was holy, a holy sacrifice. This view was not completely true of the Greek, in that their public games were an idea of re-conciliation (don’t get me wrong the early olympiads included deaths, in the games — and were appreciated, but not front and centre) — the sacrifices were almost always a temple sacrifice. Themistocles, the battle-planner of the battle of Salamis, made it in a public display to sacrifice three slaves. I think this underlines how UNCOMMON this type of action was to the Greeks. That view was not shared by the Romans who saw public deaths as a holy act, they shared that view with the Etruscans, and etruscan priests were part and parcel of Rome for at least 500 years or more (they were that remainder, and reminder of their past). The colloseum would also “sacricfice” Christians — but these Christians made it into politics (cf. Ghandi, non-violence), and as we know pervailed.
Roman culture was almost from the start a civilisation, in that at its very start it was built on many cultures. But whence did the city-state idea come? From God? Nah, but from Greece. Rome in essence was a mono-state, a city state gone wild. Enforcing itself via language and law, and prosperity.
Cicero was not a nobleman, Robin Hood purportedly was, but to me Heinberg is, but in that positive sense, pure of heart! The knights have a special place in Rome’s history, they are a middle-of-the-road kind of noblemen (comparable to the Hippeis in Greece, in Rome Equites — literally a horse rider, the owners of horses — necessarily part of the city’s militia) — the so-called eques, or equestrian order. We will take a closer look into the Roman army — the legions had auxilliaries — riders were now put here instead as the modern forms of the Roman army developed 200 BC approx. The building-block of the army shifted from horse to footman (legionnaire).
They still had that air clinging to them of a group that had served their country, but as we know the legions (a foot-soldiery) had replaced all others and even more so in Cicero’s time.
At the time of Cicero, living in the 100s BC, the big sea-change in the Rome of before Caesar’s usurpation and rise to power via the army was the relation between land and the army. Sulla and Marius and their struggles for supremacy can be seen as the start of it, and the rise (and killing) of Caesar as the end. The change involves the Gracchi trying to reform Roman politics, organisational changes in the army, and (my main thrust) at the ecological base of it; on the one hand big inefficient landlords and at the other dispersion of land to legionaries — simply put a fight over land, involving the masses of Rome as one important political element.
THE NUMBER THREE AS APPLIED TO ROME
The three moving pieces of the army and its inner workings, the political system and its inner workings including the class called the knights or equestrians and the rise of strong individuals in politics (e.g. Gracchus and Sulla), and as third hidden factor, a strife over land (e.g. rising grain prices giving rise to instability in Rome) and its distribution to legionaries.
- We have plainly environment plus some human preconcieved ideas at work, and in tandem developing on the template of history, e.g Augustine, and Manichaenism and as we saw, the advent of the cities in Greece. As in the Robin Hood story, Greek forests are depleted slowly and effect outcomes (on the ground so to speak, as in historic results we can smell and touch). We often misconstrue capitalism as a theory of abundance (although this is not in any way contradicting Heinberg).
- The bar (i.e.future) we are slipping into has no soap in the toilets, no paper towels, and home-brew mostly, and sometimes booze. That capitalism is a science of scarcity is often omitted from its spread-sheet.
Complex — the social system is complex
Complexity (type I) — the economic system involves has complexities such as unemployment, and cost for crime, and the military (systems level)
Complexity (type II) — the global economy sustains many countries, yet is vulnerable to snowballing, putting the big system as a whole at risk (systemic level)
Heinberg, who has been our guide through the thin and thin of modern society, because its walls seem to be caving in, he never fell for Bousset’s paradox — that is likely why he is our guide. The thing with paradoxes is one can also say, that he fell for Boussets paradox, which is why we call it a paradox. Being aware of them is the key.
Sociology is not politics it is science, yet it has a set of problems we also seem to face with biology — so separation of matricies (or matrixes) from their input (or output) is not always possible. Yet we need knowledge of these to discuss, and although relative, they are like trivia (allow me to explain). Trivium means the meeting of a small road with a large road, in Latin a trivium is “the meeting of three roads”. Is the big road connected to the small road, or is the small road connected to the larger one? Is there a “right way” to pass through a trivium? This results in three no answers, quite plainly the branch (via modern ideas about information systems) is a thing of paradox.
Thank you for reading this long-winded piece.
A F T E R W O R D
Jevons’ paradox might also be called the (rational) human operator paradox
(Bousset´s is similar in one sense)
The first professionals — for reasons of necessity
The mediaeval idea led to colonial city-states only in some places — most fully developed in Amsterdam in the 1600s (so a constant for 1000 yrs, between the Franks and the Dutch), where England became a city-state writ large (building on the Dutch idea assuredly). Correct me if I am wrong, the idea that ownership must be abandoned is silly, we must however follow the ball, and follow (scientifically) the red piece of string wherever it may lead us. As in a science against mistaken science, always searching, sounding, looking…
Synchronicity — a post-post-modern world
The Hippie phantasy come true. That it? Well in post-modernism I will posit is only the shift from words to pictures (the shift between McLuhanite concepts of tactile and non-tactile media), so instead of saying categorically that this is so, or that old post-modernism is in the Bible when the snake spoke to the Woman about God, or that sophists are a kind of nitzschean forebears, and that the sceptics are no such thing, but are the children of a more rationalist critique of knowledge, a kind of neo-neo-platonism, I will retell the Sherwood story once again. Sychronicity by the way is a psychic concept, not just the hip amalgamations of a greek and a roman word for some effect. Ok. Come Robin back into the woods!
On should not lash out at one’s readers, but consider this. So,frankly what you’re telling me is the civil wars of the late-mediaeval period was not a civil war, these were “only” peasants, right? And that this new order of things, had nothing to do with what was to come? THIS VERY NOTION OF AN ALL IMPORTANCE OF THE PEASANT WARS TO THE RENAISSANCE IS THE START-OFF IN MY 4th INSTALLMENT (the fourth part of BIG SCIENCE is the last one). Peasants, those bloody maggots! And here also the problem of rents will be dealt with. This is where we leave the forest focusing on our modern world.
Jordan Peterson (against post-modernism)
People don’t understand that postmodernism is a complete assault on two things. One it’s an assault on the metaphysical substrate of our culture, and I would say that the metaphysical substrate looks something like a religious substrate. So it’s a direct assault on that. And the second thing it’s an assault on is everything that’s been established since the Enlightenment — rationality — empiricism — science. Everything. Clarity of mind, dialogue. The idea of the individual.
Well post-modernism might actually be a good thing, any piece of land needs a fallow period. The interesting thing about the change into post-modernism is theory came first. The usual scenario is active action the becomes theory, this might suggest the religious wars were first the revolt, and the plague (1350s) — and only then theories (protestantism etc). If this is the case, it is possible our wave is headed down, the renaissance was the trough between two waves, ours is the top of one. The descent is now starting, and post-modernism is the tell-tale.
To my mind it might even be speculated that money is a schizooid unit of exchange — since a most common aspect of money is stability and versatility — two quite unrelated ideals of any concept — almost proving that freakish nature, of two contradictory principles. Just a thought.
Thank you for reading this!