Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Retrotopia: The Far Off Sound of Guns

This is the twentieth installment of an exploration of some of the possible futures discussed on this blog, using the toolkit of narrative fiction. Our narrator is forced to rethink his ideas about progress even further, as the Lakeland Republic and the other nations of post-US North America are confronted by a sudden crisis with all too familiar roots...

A phone rang in the darkness. For a moment I had no idea where I was, but then the bed shifted, footsteps whispered across the floor, and Melanie’s voice said, “Hello.” I blinked, and tried to guess what time it was. It felt as though we hadn’t been sleeping for long.

“Okay,” she said then, in a completely different tone. I finished waking up in a hurry. You don’t hear someone speak like that unless something’s gone very, very wrong. “Okay,” she said again. “I’ll be in as soon as I can. ‘Bye.” The handset clicked into its cradle, and Melanie said, “Peter?”

“What’s up?”

“Trouble.  Texas and the Confederacy are at war.”

I sat up and said something unprintable.

“Pretty much,” she agreed, and turned on a light. She was as naked as I was, of course, but the look on her face wasn’t particularly alluring.

“Any details?” I asked.

“Just a few. Texan ships attacked three Confederate drilling platforms around one o’clock; no word on damage yet. The Confederate navy came out, and there’s fighting going on in the Gulf right now.”

“That’s bad.”

“There’s worse.  The Confederate Army’s crossed into Texas territory between Shreveport and Texarkana. Our people down there think there’s division-strength units involved.”

I gave her a blank stare for a long moment. “Okay,” I said, getting out of bed. “You’re going in right away, of course.”

“Yes. Not the way I’d have chosen to end a really pleasant evening.”

I took her in my arms and kissed her. “No argument there,” I said when the kiss was done. “Give me a call when you get some free time.”

“I’ll do that,” she said, with a smile. “If you can stand it, stay close to your phone. I may be able to arrange something for you.”

I promised I would, and then she headed for the shower, and I pulled my clothes on, called a cab, and let myself out. She was right, it was a hell of a way to end a really pleasant evening, but if you’re in politics you get used to that kind of thing. I knew that, and so did Melanie; if things worked out, we’d find some time to spend together before I took the train back to Philadelphia, and one way or another—

I stopped the thought in its tracks. Later, I told myself. Later, when a couple of really hard decisions are over and done with.

The sky was still pitch black when I left the apartment building, stood on the curb waiting for the cab. The clop-clop of horse’s hooves announced its arrival a couple of blocks in advance. Moments later I was inside, watching the city of Toledo in its sleep. Here and there a light shone in a window, or a lone figure hurried down the street. It seemed hard to believe that not much more than a thousand miles away, robot tanks, assault drones, and long files of young men with guns were streaming through the pine woods of northeast Texas.

The cab got me to the hotel promptly enough, and I paid the cabby, said good morning to the tired-eyed desk clerk, and headed up to my room. I didn’t really expect to get more sleep, but decided to give it a try, and blinked awake four hours later with the pale gray light of morning coming in through the window. The clock said quarter past eight; I hurried through a shower, got myself shaved and dressed, weighed the odds that Melanie might call if I took the time to run to Kaufer’s News to get the morning Blade, and decided to call the concierge instead. Not five minutes later a bellhop knocked on the door with a copy. “We got a stack of ‘em down at the desk,” he told me. “Half the guests are gonna want one as soon as they wake up.”  I thanked him and gave him a good-sized tip, and he grinned and made off.

The paper didn’t have much more information on the current state of affairs than I’d gotten from Melanie, but the reporters had done their background research; the inside of the front section had big articles sketching out the history of the quarrel, running through both sides’ military assets, quoting a couple of experts from Toledo University on the potential outcomes of the war, that sort of thing. Tucked away toward the end was a terse little article about two moresatellites being taken out by debris.  I was maybe halfway through that last article when the phone rang.

“Peter? It’s Melanie. Can you get to the Capitol by nine-thirty?”

“Sure,” I said. “What’s up?”

“There’s a courtesy briefing for the North American diplomatic community—the ambassadors will be meeting with Meeker; this is for attachés and staff.  I’ve arranged to get you in as a special envoy from Ellen Montrose’s staff.”

“No kidding. Thank you, Melanie.”

“Sure thing.” She gave me the details, we said our goodbyes and away I went.

The city was wide awake as I walked the four blocks to the Capitol. Newspapers and conversations in low voices were everywhere. The streetcars, horsedrawn cabs, and occasional cars still rolled down the streets; lamps shone in windows, contending with the gray winter light; nothing visible had changed since the morning before, and everything had. I remembered stories some of my older relatives used to tell about the first days of the Second Civil War—carefully sanitized stories coming over the mass media, wild rumors carried by blogs and private emails, and everywhere the sense that something had changed or shifted or broken once and for all, and the world would never be quite the same afterwards.

Somehow, the morning around me felt like that. I told myself not to be silly; there had been other wars since Partition—the three-way scramble between Texas, the Confederacy, and the Missouri Republic in ‘37, the Confederate-Brazilian invasion of the Lakeland Republic in ‘49, and the ongoing civil war in California—but this felt different.

“Extra!” shouted a paperboy on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol, where people were streaming by. “Richmond’s declared war.” He was selling copies nearly as fast as he could hand them out, but I managed to get one before his canvas bag was empty. I wasn’t the only purchaser to turn toward the Capitol’s big front entrance, either. We filed in the doors, and then some of us turned right toward the Senate end of the building, went down the first big staircase we found, and ended up in front of a big door flanked by two guards in uniform and a man in a wool suit.  I recognized him after a moment: Stuart Macallan, the Lakeland Republic’s assistant secretary of state for North American affairs.

“Mr. Carr,” he said, shaking my hand. “Good to see you again.Yes, you’ve been cleared—favor to the incoming administration in Philadelphia.” He winked, and I laughed and went on to the coatroom, where I shed hat and coat before going further.

The room inside was a big comfortable space with a podium up front and rows of tables and chairs facing it, the kind of place where important press conferences and public hearings get held. All the usual impedimenta of a high-end briefing were there—pitchers of ice water on each table, and so on—and something I hadn’t expected:  a notebook and pen in front of each place. Of course I understood the moment I saw them: lacking veepads, how else were the attendees going to take notes? Even so, that reminded me how many details of life in the Lakeland Republic I still hadn’t seen.

I sat down and opened the paper. The Confederate Congress had voted to declare war, as the boy said; the Texan legislature was expected to return the favor shortly. In the meantime, the naval battle in the Gulf was ongoing, with people along the coast reporting distant explosions and smoke plumes visible on the horizon. Nobody was sure yet what was happening on the land front; the entire region from Shreveport and Texarkana west to the suburbs of Dallas was closed to journalists, and the entire highway system was off limits to anybody but government and military, but long lines of army-green trucks were streaming east across Texas toward the war zone, and a reporter who’d gotten as far north as Henderson before being turned back by military police reported that he could hear artillery rolling in the northern distance like summer thunder.

Someone sat down at the chair next to mine, and I did the polite thing and turned to greet him. “Hank Barker,” he said as we shook hands, “with the Missouri Republic delegation.” I introduced myself, and he brightened. “You’re Ellen Montrose’s envoy here, aren’t you?  Once this is over, if you’ve got a minute to talk, that’d be real welcome.”

“Sure,” I said. It wasn’t until then that I noticed that he was dressed the way I was, in typical Lakeland business wear. Most of the other people filing into the room wore bioplastic, though we weren’t the only ones in wool. “Got tired of bioplastic, I see,” I commented.

He nodded. “Yep. You see this sort of thing more and more often these days, out our way. ‘Course a lot of the wool and leather Lakeland uses comes from our side of the Mississippi, so it stands to reason.”

I glanced at him, wondered whether any other Lakeland Republic customs had found a foothold across the Mississippi. The Missouri Republic’s big, reaching from the river to the crest of the Rockies and from what used to be Kansas and the northwestern two-thirds of Missouri to the border of West Canada, but a lot of it’s desert these days; it’s pretty much landlocked—its only ports are river towns on the Mississippi and Duluth on Lake Superior—and if they were paying off World Bank loans and coping with the same economic pressures we were in the Atlantic Republic, they’d have to be in a world of hurt. Before I could figure out how to ask the question that was on my mind, though, the last of the attendees had taken their seats and a familiar figure rolled his wheelchair across the low stage to one side of the podium.

“I’d like to thank you all for coming,” Tom Pappas said. “We’re still waiting for more details from the war zone—”

“Like everyone else,” said a voice with a French accent close to the front of the room.

“I’m not arguing,” Pappas said, with a broad grin. “But we’ve got a basic idea what’s going on, and we can also fill you in on our government’s response.”

An aide, a young woman in Lakeland army uniform, came up onto the stage, went to the back wall and pulled on a cord. Down came a big, brightly colored map of the eastern half of the Republic of Texas and parts of the Confederacy adjacent to it.  Pappas thanked her, took a long pointer from behind the podium, and wheeled over to the map.

“The three drilling platforms the Texans attacked last night are here.” The pointer tapped a patch of blue water in the Gulf. “Those are the ones Bullard claimed were using horizontal drilling to poach Texan oil. Based on what information we’ve gotten at this point, all three platforms were destroyed. The Confederates counterattacked less than an hour later, and both sides suffered significant losses—they’ve both got decent antiship missiles, and you know how that goes.”

A murmur spread through the room. “The thing is, the Confederates didn’t just fire on the Texan ships,” Pappas went on. “They used long range missiles to target Texan offshore oil assets. We’re not sure how many were targeted and how badly they were hit, but it doesn’t look good.

“Right now there’s still fighting going on, and both sides are bringing in naval assets from outside the area. Texas has a short term advantage there.  The Confederates have a lot of their ships on the Atlantic coast, and it’s going to take a while to get them around the south Florida shoals and bring them into action, but once those arrive, the Texan navy’s going to be in deep—trouble.”

That got a laugh. “Okay,” he said, and moved the pointer up to tap on the area between Shreveport and Texarkana. “That’s a sideshow. Here’s the show that matters. As far as we can tell, the Confederacy’s thrown three divisions into the ground assault:  one armored division, two infantry. More are being brought up as fast as the transport grid will carry them. The Texans are throwing everything they’ve got on hand into the fighting. It’s anyone’s guess whether they can get enough of their army into play before the Confederates reach Dallas; I’m guessing they will. Meanwhile Texan drones and land based missiles have been hitting military targets as far as the Mississippi, and the Confederacy’s doing the same thing—we’ve had reports of missile strikes as far west as Waco.

“And this is where it gets ugly. Both sides have allies overseas. The Confederates have already asked Brazil to intervene; no word from Brasilia yet, but given their track record in the past, it’s probably a safe bet that they’ll get Brazilian munitions and advisers, and maybe more. Texas has a mutual-aid pact with China, and after the business in Peru two years ago, the Chinese have got to be itching for an opportunity to take Brazil down a peg or two; a proxy war would be one way to do that. So we could be facing a long and ugly war.

“That’s the military situation. Stuart, you want to fill them in on our response?”

Stuart Macallan climbed up onto the stage. “Sure. Point number one is that we’re staying out of it. We’ve declared ourselves neutral, and President Meeker is working with the other North American governments right now to draft a joint declaration of neutrality and an appeal to the combatants to accept an immediate ceasefire and settle this at the negotiating table, using the mechanisms set up in the Treaty of Richmond.

“Point number two is that we’ve ordered a defensive mobilization all along the southern border, just in case. Those of you who know anything about our military know that this isn’t a threat to anybody, unless they decide to invade. If you’re not familiar with our system, Colonel Pappas here can fill you in on the details after we finish.

“Point number three is that we’re going to look for every possible way to expedite trade agreements with the other North American republics. Half our exports go via the Mississippi, and I know some of our neighbors are in the same boat—so to speak. We’re prepared to help the other North American republics keep their economies intact, to the extent that we can, and we’d welcome any help you can give us along the same lines.

“Finally, there’s the petroleum situation. For all practical purposes, the Gulf oil fields, onshore and offshore, have just dropped off the face of the Earth, and they’re going to stay that way until this whole business gets resolved. That’s a big enough fraction of world oil production to send markets into a tizzy. It won’t particularly affect us, as you know,. but it’s going to be a problem for pretty much everyone else in North America. We’re going to look at agreements with each of your countries to try to cushion the economic hit, but whatever you’re paying for fuel these days—our best estimate is that it’s going to double, maybe triple, maybe more, if you can get it. The way so much oil production is locked up in long term contracts, some of you probably won’t be able to get it at all.”

Hank Barker, sitting next to me, shook his head. Under his breath: “We are so screwed.”

Back here in 2016, I'm delighted to announce the impending publication of David Fleming's astonishing book Lean Logic, an encyclopedic guide to the principles and practice of life in a deindustrializing world. Fleming was a central figure in the British sustainability movement for decades, and played an important role in the founding of the UK Green Party, the Transition Town Movement, and the New Economics Foundation; he spent some thirty years assembling Lean Logic as a comprehensive book on the ways of thinking and acting we're going to need to get through the mess ahead. (I'm quite sure it's still in print in the Lakeland Republic in 2065!) The hardback edition is now available for preorder here.


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Eric Backos said...

Hi John
I’m an education student headed into my first round of student teaching this fall.
May I use Retrotopia? That includes printing the story for handouts. With citations, of course.
Thank you
PS – I may have mentioned both points previously. Formality requires my petition. Apologies around for the imposition.

Marcu said...

The next meeting of the Green Wizard's Association of Melbourne will be held on the last Saturday of July. All interested parties are invited to attend. For those people who are unsure about the nature of our meetings, imagine a long descent support group with some intentional living discussion mixed in.
If you are interested to join us, meet us on Saturday the 30th of July 2016 at 13:00. The venue is, Vapiano, 347 Flinders Lane, Melbourne Victoria, Australia.

Send queries and comments to limitstogrowth1972[at]

Just look for the green wizard's hat.

P.S. I have created a webpage where I will post the details of the next meeting and any further details for those who don't frequent the comments here. The webpage can be found at

Dennis Mitchell said...

I've spent the day in my own little Lakeland. My house electricity went out but I've got one extension cord to run the house. It would be so easy to do with so much less. War over oil. Go figure. History show we never ever learn it's lesson. I would have swore we would not have another Vietnam in my life. I am afraid we will have another civil war. That is alot of dead Americans. Just because we are afraid of doing with less. We are great at going to war. Maybe that is Trump's plan.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

Really gripping. Cinematic, even.

I'm wondering whether whether the combatants or their allies have access to nuclear weapons in working order. I'm also wondering whether the answer to that is a state secret.

Hammer said...

When I think of the decline of civilization ahead, the prospect of war, dictatorship, instability and death is far more scary than giving up a few luxuries or living in second-world conditions.

RepubAnon said...

If the war's being fought with fossil-fueled hardware, I expect that the logistical concerns will force an end to hostilities despite foreign country involvement. The more immediate concern is the other North American republics foolish enough to be running on an oil-fueled economic system. I foresee failed states on the Lakeland Republic's borders sooner than later.

I expect both Texas and the Confederacy will play "oil for allies", and threaten to cut off oil supplies to anyone not actively supporting them - assuming that either side can spare any fuel. War is a thirsty business, and each side will undoubtedly target the other's fuel storage and transport systems.

Absent some homage to Germany's Schlieffen–Moltke Plan in World War 1, where one side tries to sweep through the Lakeland Republic to attack the other, I'd doubt that the Lakeland Republic has to worry about an invasion at present. Refugees, resource raiders, bandit gangs, and other failed state-type problems will be the real threat.

Stacy said...

@Eric Backos I don't know where you're located, but during my student teaching, using a resource like Retrotopia would have been career suicide. My supervisor would have pulled it in a nanosecond. As usual your mileage may vary, and I hope you are able to use it in the classroom. Also, good luck with your student teaching!

Hammer said...

You might hear some angry complaints from the parents, because it conflicts with modern culture's assumptions.

BTW, does everybody's comment wait for approval before getting published? Or is it just happening to me, perhaps because I'm using an anonymous username instead of logging in with my Google account?

Stacy said...

Mr. Greer, do you expect a non-fictional insurrection to shortly use the offensive tactics of the Confederacy and Texas you outlined here, or were they included simply for verisimilitude?

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi Nestorian,

I congratulate you on identifying yourself as having strong convictions as a "young-earth creationist" and I fully support a diversity of religious convictions and beliefs.

Something had been bugging me about your personal beliefs though, so I did not comment last week and this morning as I sat in the bath and looked out into the forest at the rain, it finally dawned on me what had been bothering me about it.

You see, from my perspective, any God that could create a world based on the tenets of your belief system, is perhaps a God to be feared. I mean the other day, I believe a giant new radio telescope discovered an additional 13,000 galaxies in a far corner of the universe that was previously thought of as being rather unoccupied. That discovery seems astounding to me and the universe seems far bigger and far stranger than my poor brain can even begin to comprehend.

And therein lies the crux of your particular problem. Any one God that can do exactly what you are proposing, is one bad dude. The inherent level of complexity built into your belief system is horrendous. And it occurred to me as I sat in the bath that any God that was that meticulous and detailed would inevitably not let even smallest of matters pass unnoticed. It would be like dealing with the ultimate control freak and I have no doubt that you enjoy a relationship with an entity that makes such claims.

So the question I have for you is: Do you personally believe that you may have done something - no matter how small - to creation at some point in your life that may have seriously annoyed your God? My gut feeling on that matter that given the state of the world and decline of the environment due to human actions - and the simple fact that you are even commenting here on the Internet which is done at the expense of other members of your God's creation - that the answer to that question is: Dude, you may very well have annoyed your God and I doubt very much that words - no matter how pious - would be of the equal weight as your actions. I'd be nervous if I were you, because exact justice is not a pleasant experience. Just sayin...

I much prefer to think of Gods as having flaws, as that would explain a thing or two.



Maxine Rogers said...

Dear JMG,
I am enjoying, "Retrotopia," but wanted to tell you I just finished, Twilight's Last Gleaming." I think you have a talent for political thrillers. I could not put the book down. I am sure you will be able to do the same thing with, "Retrotopia."
Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

Cherokee Organics said...


Please forgive my little side excursion into the murky lands of theology. ;-)!

Thanks for continuing the Retrotopia story and I look forward to finding out how the story ends. Surely Mr Carr will stay on in Lakeland?



John Michael Greer said...

Dear Eric, as long as credit is given, yes, you may -- but I'd strongly encourage you to check with the relevant authorities first. I doubt they'll be happy with you for introducing anything so antithetical to the officially approved values!

Dennis, exactly -- it really is easier to get by with a lot less. I hope that I can get that across to enough people to make a difference.

Unknown Deborah, the allies certainly do, but one of the benefits of a proxy war is that you can face off without risking national annihilation.

Hammer, of course. On the other hand, if giving up a few luxuries now would help prevent dictatorship, war, etc., would you do it?

RepubAnon, anyone who tried to sweep through the Lakeland Republic would bog down disastrously in a landscape of strategically placed canals and tank traps, bristling with heavily armed insurgents who are happy to shred your supply lines for you and potshot your drones. That's another of the benefits of the Lakeland strategic stance!

Hammer, everyone's comment waits for approval. That's the only way to keep a lid on the spam artists, trolls, off-topic rant-o-matics, etc.

Stacy, they're pure verisimilitude. A nonfictional insurgency would start by ambushing policemen and staging large and occasionally violent protests, in order to get the authorities to overreact and impose draconian measures that would alienate more of the insurgents' potential supporters. Organized attacks on energy infrastructure come much, much later in the process.

Maxine, thank you!

Cherokee, heh heh heh. Stay tuned!

Mister Roboto said...

It occurs to me that plastic clothing would be the worst thing you could possibly wear during a humid Midwestern summer!

Tom Schmidt said...

the reporters had done their background research; the inside of the front section had big articles sketching out the history of the quarrel, running through both sides’ military assets, quoting a couple of experts from Toledo University on the potential outcomes of the war, that sort of thing.

Ah, these little touches. Like those neo-pointillist portraits made up of dots that are themselves portraits, you manage to paint a devastating critique of modern media in two lines. I can think of a few journalists who meet the description of the ordinary Lakeland ones. Sidney Schanberg just died, leaving Seymour Hersh as a living national treasure and link to what the profession of journalism once aspired to, and may perhaps be again.

Gavin Harris said...

Hi JMG, I have pre-ordered Lean Logic, thank you for the link. I have just caught up on your last two posts, it looks like we are going to see the real strength Lakeland's 'Collapse Early' approach :)

I also wanted to comment on your previous post. As a Brit her in the UK, I found the referendum fascinating. Thanks to my wife's excellent education of a poor engineer to understand people, I was able to see that through all the doom mongering, what choice the referendum was actually offering the unheard and ignored classes.

After ignoring, ridiculing and demonising the working classes for years, the liberal elite went to them and said this:
You have a choice between a brighter, sunny world where our lives to get better (but yours' probably won't - sotto voce) versus a dark and stormy world where everyone's lives gets worse.

No surprise that said classes immediately said "screw you then, you can join us in the dark"!

Following that decision, and after the immediate knee jerk reactions of the press and liberal punditry, it was pleasing to see that discussion of the vote actually began to highlight this as an issue. To the extent that Teresa May (the new conservative party leader) has already made bringing improvement to everyone a cornerstone of her leadership. Though, it remains to see how far she'll actually go.

When I then turn to the recent events in the US, its clear that a very large, humble and inclusive effort needs to be made to defuse the current situation. The sad part is that neither of your candidates seem to be capable of, or willing to make it. Your country is on the path to a long, hot and painful summer and my heart goes out to all those who are going to suffer through it.

Brian Cady said...

JMG " ...A nonfictional insurgency would start by ambushing policemen and staging large and occasionally violent protests, in order to get the authorities to overreact and impose draconian measures that would alienate more of the insurgents' potential supporters."
BC: That's the most chilling thought I've heard on current events these days.

Twilight said...

Nicely captures the feelings of dread and excitement such an event would induce. I wonder how long until those of us in North America will experience such emotions?

William McCracken said...

Our little Central New York city may be on it's way to becoming what may be a proto-retrotopia. For example, my street is being repaved to make the bus routes a bit smoother. The city has now made curbs and sidewalk cost be paid by the individual homeowner. Once installed, the homeowner is billed for the install cost and also if they need to visit later for repairs. If I want to maintain my 1950's style road, I can pay around $6000 to have curbing redone when they repave my section of the road this summer. Due to some sudden very expensive car repairs, I have opted to not buy the curbing but I will continue to maintain the side walks. If they make paving fall on the home owner, I may just go back to the stone age. That is, tar and stone with no curbing.

The same week, A bunch of model T car enthusiasts came through the city. I talked with the owners on car cost, specifically the maintenance they go through. I was thinking I probably still can't afford the time and expense to maintain a classic car such as that. Ironically, the following week, my car developed a compression problem that will require extensive repairs or possibly a whole engine replacement. However, if I had a model T....

I'll heat with wood. I'll even maintain my own PV for electric power. When it comes to city water and sewer, I draw the line. I'll pay, let's just say whatever it takes, to maintain THAT level of infrastructure. So, it seems that I'm apparently, ever so slowly, agreeing to maintain what appears to be an early 1900's infrastructure tier.

Nestorian said...


The problem of evil is a significant one for classical theism, with its idea of an absolutely perfect God, to be sure. I happen to believe there is a theoretical solution to the problem, centering on the idea of gratitude - which I won't go into here.

I would also point out, however, that many opponents of classical theism on these threads are logically debarred from raising the problem of evil as an objection. About a month ago, in the extended discussion on whether death is bad or not, it emerged that many people reject the absolute reality of any distinction between good and bad, or good and evil.

However, to raise the problem-of-evil objection presupposes an acknowledgement of the reality of this distinction. You cannot object to evil as posing a problem for an alternative belief system if you yourself reject the concept of evil as such.

sgage said...

@ JMG:

"A nonfictional insurgency would start by ambushing policemen and staging large and occasionally violent protests, in order to get the authorities to overreact and impose draconian measures that would alienate more of the insurgents' potential supporters. Organized attacks on energy infrastructure come much, much later in the process."

That's a good one! ;-)

Chris Balow said...


Your response to Stacy ("A nonfictional insurgency would start by ambushing policemen and staging large and occasionally violent protests, in order to get the authorities to overreact and impose draconian measures that would alienate more of the insurgents' potential supporters.") is interesting, as that appears to be a good summary of what's been going on with the Black Lives Matter and New Black Panther movements of late: large demonstrations that sometimes erupt into looting and violence, punctuated by occasional police ambushes carried out by disturbed individuals who are sympathetic to their movement.

I don't automatically assume that these movements will turn into an insurgency, but the similarity is interesting.

Scotlyn said...

@JMG this is getting exciting... the next two weeks are going to crawl...

I really liked the Carr's pre-dawn journey and perceptions, the sense of hush before the impact of events already set in motion elsewhere is felt...

Brigyn said...

Dear JMG,

I'm much enjoying the Lakeland story, glad you are writing it. I know the story is set further in the future, but it comes a little close to reality sometimes - I suppose that's what you get when reading a Bard's work.
Such as to your response to Stacy, ambushing of policemen and violent demonstrations... such as those in America and parts of Europe right now?

In daily life I'm focussing more on the positives (a vegetable/herb garden and using little electricity) but it's good to be aware of what else the future might hold. I'd point out that the Green Wizards or equivalent in the Atlantic and Missouri Republics who use very little fuel to begin with, and grow part of their own food, might weather the crisis better, not to mention use less of what scarce resources are available, so there's more left for others.. slightly reduced suffering all-round?

On a final note, I finished After Progress and A World Full of Gods. They are both excellent reads, they make their case well and I think they are both unique works since they approach their subjects from a spiritual perspective, yet they are written as (scientific?) essays, with a lot of logic, proof and references in them. I understand that polytheism is under-represented in English theological literature, and I see how visualizing progress as a faith is both useful and enlightening. I'm curious though why you chose that particular essay-like style?
It's not quite like your other books I read.

Either way, now moving on to Inside a Magical Lodge. I'll comment again once I finished it.

Kind regards,

Daniel Najib said...

I finished your latest book, Weird of Hali: Innsmouth, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't wait for the sequels. One thing I really enjoyed in your writing, and was really a breath of fresh air, was how Owen is a competent army vet but not overly 'hoohah'.

A guilty pleasure of mine is reading cryptozoological/monster fiction (old classics and contemporary), and most of the stories are just terrible but still fun-to-read while eating-popcorn and are full of tropes. The most egregious of those tropes being the ubiquitous, smart-jock, ex-army/marine, full-hoohah guy who would make Rambo look like a scared emaciated private.

So, thank you for portraying Owen as a competent veteran without going overboard like so many other authors are wont to do.

sometulip said...

I agree with Maxine Rodgers you do have a flair for this type of writing. You have a talent for coming up with believable peak oil futures and coupled with the precise writing it makes for great story telling. I Can't wait for the Retrotopia book :)

tejanojim said...

Cherokee, JMG - surely this narrative has to include Mr. Carr returning to the Atlantic Republic, hamstrung not just by the loss of satellite data and oil imports but by decades of bad choices, and seeing his home with new eyes? And having his suggestions to the new administration laughed out of the room? Seeing everything shoddy and dingy and falling apart? JMG, I know you won't say, but I feel that has to be part of his arc. Thanks for writing this.

gwizard43 said...

Interesting seems to me, given relatively open communications channels between the various political entities comprising the former US, that citizens of the non-Lakeland Republic countries would necessarily observe the sizable difference between their vastly disrupted quality of life and that of the Lakeland Repub, especially during crisis times like the one at hand. And this observation could lead in a number of directions, but at some point, wouldn't imitation be the sincerest form of flattery?

That is to say, despite cultural myths to the contrary, once that divergence between myth and lived experience became too great to ignore for too many, seems to me that (as perhaps alluded to by Hank, our new Missouri friend) some of the surrounding countries would begin to come around to the way the Lakelanders do things. I'd expect things to sort themselves out along a spectrum.

In fact, isn't that an advantage of a confederacy (these united states vs the united states)? Instead of one big federal dog calling all the shots, you wind up with 'petri dishes' with the various individual political entities experimenting, and the others free to adopt what works.

It seems like the Retrotopia scenario offers just such a set if petri dishes, although obviously independent nations are not the same as a confederacy. Still...

Brian Kaller said...


One of the reasons why I’ve tried to ignore most of the political news coming from my native USA these days is that I dislike hearing many of my friends – some of whom support Sanders, some Clinton, some Trump, and so on – chat blithely about a “revolution” or a “civil war.” Most say they fear such a thing happening in the USA, but most don’t think about how they are contributing to the fear. Moreover, most have never seen a war and with little idea of what such a thing might be like outside of images from glowing rectangles.

I’m not dismissing the many conflicts that US soldiers have been sent to, of course – Iraq, Vietnam and so on – just that they were smaller, localised, far away, unpopular and too easily ignored. The last time the entire nation – home front and all -- took part in a war was World War II, and we have seen no battles on our home soil since the days of the telegraph.

People on this side of the Atlantic seem to have fewer romantic fantasies about violence; British and Continentals saw unprecedented horrors right at home, and even neutral Ireland saw a revolution, civil war and 30-year terrorism campaign within living memory. Such unpleasant memories seemed to stamp out Europeans’ more 19th-century martial impulses, at least for now.

In my native USA, by contrast, people grow up surrounded by depictions of violence; our fiction tends to revolve around rebels taking down an orderly state through violence, whether Star Wars or Hunger Games, Ayn Rand or Left Behind. Increasingly people live not in the physical world of gardens and neighbours, bus stops and sidewalks, but in a world of video games, television and other such images of romanticised combat, while their non-fictional world of social media and “news” stokes a slowly growing sense of anger and imminent danger. Lashing out violently, for many people I know, is no longer a fear – it is a fantasy.

When I lived back in the USA, I knew a few elderly hippies who boasted of their glory days in the 1960s, when they play-acted at revolution and pointed guns at police officers, and couldn’t understand why I was repelled by their “war stories.” Back then they were unusual; today, however, many Americans – from many political and culture-war factions -- engage in the same kind of live-action role-playing, carrying heavy weapons in public or threatening each other with violence from a redoubt of safety.

The interesting thing is that it all seems so unnecessary; as I wrote in my piece on Ferguson, Americans remain quite wealthy compared to most of the world, and there’s no external reason why we should fall apart, except that we feel we must. Many people are struggling, of course, but most still have a standard of living far better than most eras, or most countries in this era. Most people have toys that their grandparents would consider magical, live in homes larger than the Biblical Temple of Solomon, and enjoy relative safety and long life. People perceive themselves, however, as being in imminent danger and deeply impoverished – and the more people believe those things, the more they will be true.

I mentioned in my comment last week that my daughter and I play “Fact vs. Truth” as a game, where facts are provable or tangible realities, and truths are the beliefs, values and perceptions that shape how we interpret facts. With that in mind, my own country is in a strange situation: prosperous in fact, increasingly desperate in truth.

DarkOptimism said...

As a long-time reader, a quick note to say how happy I am to hear that Lean Logic is in print in Lakeland, from the guy who fifty-odd years earlier thought it important enough to spend a few years finishing up, after salvaging the manuscript from my dear late friend David Fleming's computer.

Chris Smith said...

Kessler syndrome occurring simultaneously with an oil shortage. I guess the North America of Retrotopia is about to get a keen lesson about what happens when multiple complex systems fail at the same time.

I also like the bit about how bioplastics aren't just going out of style in the Lakeland Republic.

Nastarana said...

Dear Eric Backos, best wishes for success in your teaching career. You do realize that "Retrotopia" is likely an equal opportunity offender. Be prepared for angry parents, from both the emotionalist right--It's tooo negative--to the tribalist left--What about our group?

I suppose I should not be surprised that both southern successor states have tied their economies and future prosperity to the exploitation of diminishing oil reserves. I would have thought that both the wet and dry parts of the American south and southwest could have a bright future growing and selling those tropical products, from rubber to various fruits to neem and maringa, for which northerners have always had an insatiable appetite.

anton mett said...

Don't mean to be a spoiler, so don't feel the need to publish this comment if it's a problem.

It seems like the biggest concern with war in the Gulf of Mexico would be another Deepwater Horizon type of event. Even with all of our technology, resources, and political stability, it continued to dump oil into the Gulf for about 3 months. I can only imagine what it would be like if any one of those features were impaired. In the case of war, tech and resources would likely be diverted, but a bit of sabotage would certainly wipe out any productive efforts.
Having toxic sludge ruining the entire southern coast of America would be quite detrimental to the US. I doubt the countries to the south would do stand idly by. Best case scenario is that they'd want reparations from the north, worst case, they'd want to exterminate them. Somewhere in the middle would probably be your typical war ending in control of Northern territory.
Story-wise this wouldn't necessarily need to happen, but the threat of it happening would very much so be in play.

Matthew Smallwood said...

Yeah the Red River valley is a great invasion route: fertile, flat, watered, convenient, wide. I'm moving this year to get out of it. Texas ain't gonna be a fun place to live in the future - it's hotter than Hades, it's not that well watered (except the invasion route), and it's filled with an increasingly wide diversity of people with very little in common. My home state of Arkansas is looking a little better.

Mary said...

"A nonfictional insurgency would start by ambushing policemen and staging large and occasionally violent protests..."

Ok, now you're scaring me. Guess we're in stage 1 already. Glad I'm way north and well away from the action.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160721T135358Z

(1) Oh **DANG**, JMG! I was hoping that Melanie would turn out to have set up the standard diplomatic trap: lure the wretched Carr into bed with a friendly nod, as the cameras and tape recorders roll behind the curtains; later, Carr becomes, as I think they say in the trade, "burned". Now it looks as they are having a bona fide love affair.

The nice thing about Eastern Europe is that if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably something other than a duck - and, for extra fun, as a final twist of the east-of-the-Elbe knife, it sometimes actually is a duck. But in North America, I guess, if the thing look, walks, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck, and that's all. And now, to make things more depressing, instead of diplomatic intricacies we get a war. Like I say, dang and fooey! :-) :-) :-)

(2) Well, can we still perhaps hope for Carr's staying on in Lakeland? I remember from childhood, in the depths of the Cold War, a comic strip in the newspaper, called "B.C.", illustrating the lives of cavepersons. In one strip is shown a grumpy cavewoman reading from a Neanderthal Dick-and-Jane primer. "See Jane," reads the fur-clad cavewoman, gripping the stone tablets. "See Jane run." "Run, Jane, run." "Run fast, Jane." "Jane has defected."

(3) It might be good to push a little, to get max value out of the exchanges in recent days between Nestorian and Bill Pulliam. Nestorian cited an author called Milton, and Bill Pulliam ("7/19/16, 3:24 PM") responded, I'm afraid if Milton is the best you have to offer, you don't have anything to offer. Not a single one of his major ideas or arguments is based on anything approaching an actual understanding of the science at hand. He does not comprehend the theories and data he attacks at even a high-school barely-passing level; or if he does, then he deliberately misrepresents them for a non-scientific audience (which is even worse). With Nestorian being a bit upset at this, and with many of us being out of our depth here (not having ourselves until just now heard of Milton), I ask: would it be possible for Bill Pulliam to cite some one putative high-school-level misrepresentation in Milton, and to have Nestorian thereupon attempt (whether successfully or otherwise) Milton's rehab?

This reminds me of a technique that some eminent mathematician used with people who sent him proofs of something sticky, I think in the mathematician's case of something actually known to be false - perhaps purported proofs of the known-to-be-false proposition that with straightedge and compass, working on a plane, one can construct a square of area equal to the area enclosed by any arbitrary given circle. The eminent prof was patient, and confined himself with focusing on one point, sending out a letter in the following approx style to each of his correspondents: "Thank you for your purported proof that the circle can be squared. The first error occurs on line 17, where you assert...."

The prof's method was to be concrete and definite, focusing on just one thing.




in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill

PS: Although I don't read much fiction, I do want to note a very fine treatment in le Carre of what Melanie could have done to the wretched Carr, rather late in the plot of Smiley's People. (In the BBC dramatization on YouTube - a piece of work as fine as the novel itself - this is in the final episode.) "Gregoriev", in Berne, is shown a nice set of photos, culminating in a little piece of his recent ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay. Eventually (Grigoriev thinks a little slowly and thoroughly, perhaps like Carr) the penny in his brain drops: "But you are...SPIES. Vyestern SPIES..."

Unknown said...

Retrotopia is one of the better stories I have ever read. Exceptional plotting. I love the world you have created. Kudos.

John Brink said...

Dear John,
The Lakeland Republic reminds me much of my childhood growing up in the rural Midwest in the '50s. After reading the latest episode this morning something about the introduction of war over resources knowing the ugly devastating results to individual people on the ground I just had to wipe away a tear and go out and water the raised beds. "Cut wood, cary water." Thanks for doing your part to try to raise your readers (mine) consciousness.

Caryn said...

Hi JMG and friends:

Well, wow! This story just blasted into warp-drive! Cannot wait for the next installment; and of course, like some other readers, cannot help the brain spinning on similar or parallel real-life possibilities as well. Feeling very anxious.

We've moved back to the US, under not-so-great circumstances; so I've been lurking/reading, but have not had the presence of mind to comment or join in discussion. Feeling a bit like an oddball 1st world economic refugee. I was lucky to find a job my 2nd day in town at the local grocery store, pay is decent, has health insurance and the people are really nice. A good start.

Now there is a massive fire raging west of town and of our home, and the winds blow consistently from the west. As the firefighters are saying they could be battling it all the way into Sept., there is a distinct possibility we may have to evacuate at some point. The air is hazy and thick with smoke. I'm looking around my home, mentally prioritizing what to grab and take with me if or when we have to evacuate. (Insurance papers, baby books, wedding album?)

Also feeling rather depressed and anxious about the absolute clown show of the RNC convention, (I'm not even a Republican.) Amidst the hilarity of their gaffes and blundering is the blatant and utter rot of our very political process, and as has been said and acknowledged here so many times; evidence of the death of our very civilization. It's a flaming silly side show, not taken seriously by anyone anymore, even the 'leaders' putting the show on. There feels a real sadness underneath the silliness of it all.

In that sense, it feels almost comforting to settle into Retrotopia's/Lakeland's conference room where actual adults and leaders make plans for a crisis. Fictional narrative is indeed a powerful tool. :)

At any rate, Thank You for your essays and this story. I hope you won't leave the internet for awhile yet. I'm not really feeling settled enough to order a mail order-magazine; and I do equally love the comments section! I will miss this blog.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160721T143036Z

Further to my comment from UTC=20160721T135358Z, above (in which I tried to steer Nestorian's and Bill Pulliam's discussion in the direction of single, concrete, specific points): I would like to press a concrete question regarding the Young Earth. The naked eye reveals at this season, from even a glaring suburban sky, the evening "Summer Triangle", comprising Altair, Vega, and Deneb. Let us focus on the second of these three. They look similar to the naked eye. However, a quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that their distances are thought to be dissimilar - about 25 light years in the case of Vega, and something on the order of 1500 light years in the case of Deneb, if I remember the numbers accurately (and surely I do). In this season (late at night?) or in the evening of the coming cooler season, binoculars (even of poor quality, used even in a bad, overlit, suburban site) will additionally reveal the globular cluster M13 in Hercules and the spiral galaxy M31 in Andromeda. A quick glance at Wikipedia will, I am sure, reveal that their distances are thought to be some tens of thousands of light years in the case of M13, and a couple of million light years in the case of M31.

My question for Nestorian now, regarding the Young Earth, is the following: for how long does he does he believe the light from these four respective objects (Vega, Deneb, M13, M31) to have respectively been travelling?

Does he, perhaps, accept the prevailing scientific orthodoxy for Vega - an orthodoxy on which photons left Vega for our retinas back in the days of Boris Yeltsin - while questioning it for, say, M13? If he has a nonstandard distance estimate for, say, M13, what is the estimate, and on what observational grounds does he base it, and on what observational grounds does he reject the currently accepted grounds for estimating distances (parallax, correlations of intrinsic luminosity with spectral type, periods-of-pulsation in Cepheid variables)?

Some short comment from Nestorian on what might be expected from the European Space Agency Gaia mission, which will be pushing parallax distance estimates out to hitherto-impossible distances, might additionally be helpful. (What if Gaia, or some successor mission, gets a direct parallax determination of distances for distant objects, more than, say, ten thousand light years out? Would such parallaxes count as a refutation of the contention that the cosmos is young?)

hoping nobody is going to be very upset with this,
(trying to adopt here the tone of some hypothetical good, cheerful, undogmatic university),


PS: Speaking of cheerful institutions: thanks to the JMG ADR commenter, however it was, who a couple of days ago drew attention to one actual institution, the Pontifical Academy website at This somewhat reinforces the line of discussion that I attempted in my own blog, namely in the first week of July, in Part E of "Is Science Doomed?", under the section heading "5. Practicalities of Triage: Research in a Catholic Setting".

- Now I have to tear myself away from "Social Media" and Carr and the seductive Melanie, and Bill Pulliam and Nestorian, and get some work done, here in the Canadian corner of the Estonian diaspora - in my imaginary institution, the grubby and cheerless "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics").

Melanie, how COULD you? Jeepers, jeepers, jeepers - Carr is not worth it, ma'am.

Wendy Crim said...

I'm pretty sure everyone has to wait for approval? I'm certain but, I know I have to wait. I think JMG approves them.
I would have LOVED to have had a teacher that was interested in this in school. Lucky students.

Eric Backos said...

Hi John
Thank you for your permission.
Given the popularity of dystopian and post-apocalyptic science fiction, I think your story will work nicely.
Retrotopia offers encouragement for the students to study STEM topics (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) as well as history, literature, music, geography, economics, and political science. And it doesn’t have the two things that set parents off – graphic sex and violence.
Now, if I can just create the opportunity…

Varun Bhaskar said...


Seriously, I wish you would write more political thrillers. The way you build up to these intense moments is amazing, and then you have the best expositional follow ups that some how don't lose a single drop of tension.

Just out of curiosity, which books influenced your political thrillers?



Eric Backos said...

@ Stacy & Hammer
If my classmates can use Hunger Games, I'm pretty sure Retrotopia will be OK.
That’s assuming I have time. Canon first.

HalFiore said...

It's quite a bit over 90 in my un-airconditioned hovel in this reluctant neck of the Confederacy, but... chills.

Stacy said...

Mr. Greer, re: "A nonfictional insurgency would start . . . " Oh, I see--you mean like now. The group of six police officers in Baton Rouge were ambushed by a former Marine and hundreds were arrested over protests against police shootings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul. According to my Mom, sometimes you just have to hit me over the head with these things. Now I suppose we'll start hitting each other over the head for real.

James M. Jensen II said...


Since Cherokee has brought your adherence to creationism up again, let me say I was also very glad you felt comfortable "coming out" here.

Personally, I've thought for a while now that the squabble over creationism is far more heated than it needs to be, from both sides. I'm a little tired of the backwoods creationists who equate their opponents with devil-worshipers, or the smarter-than-thou evolutionists talking like someone influential holding creationist views is an existential threat to modern society.

In particular, trying to draw a line from a politician's creationism to their views on climate change etc. by the thread "THEY DON'T RESPECT SCIENCE!!!" strikes me as about as reasonable as saying PETA's antics might well end in genocide because Hitler was also a vegetarian.

My own reason for rejecting YEC is simple: I personally have better reasons to believe other things. I'd rather not deny other people the same right.

If I may ask one question, I am curious how you would respond to Origen's criticism of Genesis literalism: that the sequence of events is incoherent. As he put it: "What man of intelligence will believe that the first and the second and the third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without the sun and moon and stars?"

@Eric S.

In your comment to Nestorian last week, you said that saying that the universe was creation "in motion," so to speak,

seems to me like it could just as easily be used to support the theory that the earth was created last week, and our memories of life before then are implanted.

I've actually thought about this quite a bit over the years. The only conclusion I've come to is that every system of thought about the origin of the universe has this problem. Even if you say the universe is self-existing, objectively speaking it's no more likely that the initial conditions were the Big Bang's cosmic egg several billion years ago than that they were what they were at 7:04 am last Monday, starting at that time.

You can't assign a probability to either because if the universe is self-existing, then it started how it did when it did for no reason at all. I think the only thing you can say in favor of the patterns having actually played out from the Big Bang is that it's a more satisfying view.

Hammer said...

Yes JMG, but the only problem is giving up luxuries doesn't work unless a significant percentage of people do it. The only reason I would do it is to slowly adapt to the future ahead of the collapse curve.

I try to be financially responsible, save and invest money, and not overspend. Now it feels like I have gone on a spending spree for almost 20 years. If I spent 75% less, I could enjoy a 10% less happy lifestyle for 80 years instead of 20.

Sawbuck said...

Goodness - I now understand what it was like to Dicken's readers to await the next installment in his serialized novels in the papers of his time.

PLEASE let this become a book in the end - (with maps!). I keep pointing my friends here and telling them to start at the beginning but I would love to be able to hand copies out as gifts. (Your Green Wizardry" still gets me props when I give a copy as a gift.) This one is even better - it makes you smarter without realizing you are being instructed!

pygmycory said...

Re nonfiction insurgencies, the recent killings of policemen and the black lives matters protests. How likely is it that we are looking at the roots of an insurgency here?

Clay Dennis said...

Seems to me if this battle becomes one where they both target each others petroleum infrastructure, and they don't receive any oil assistance from their respective proxy allies things could end different from they start. The beginning is a war between guided missiles and drones and ends as a battle fought with flintlocks ( once the bullets run out) and swords. If that is the case it will probably end in trench warfare and stalemate.

William said...

Oh my gosh, this is so much fun! Like Maxine, I could not put down Twilight's last Gleaming, and this is even more fascinating. I do hope Peter decides to remain/move to Retropia. I am hoping my little region of the midwest (The Driftless Region of SW Minn, NE Iowa, SW Wisconsin, and a bit of NW Illinois) grows more and more like Retropia.

Patrick DeBoard said...

I see that you have the same depressing view of humanity that I have. The future you depict features more wars and human stupidity, with a stubborn insistence on continuing the dirty oil dance. It makes me want to find land that is quite remote, and leaves me considering that personal defense is something I need to study. That would be defense against people within my region or community, not from other regions. What a bleak world.

Shane W said...

Offtopic, but the story now is that a black therapist was shot by police while helping his white patient. Man, this stuff just gets worse by the day...

Arkady Dust said...

I am curious whether this new chapter was inspired or pushed forward by recent events. Granted, it is highly unlikely that the events in Asia Minor will pull in enough Gulf states to cause an oil crisis. But then I doubt many expected 1937 to make a comeback there.

I expect the next chapters will contrast the differing effects of the war on Lakeland compared to its more oil-dependent neighbors. Which is a good lesson for those who praise the efficiency of the "warehouse on wheels" while ignoring its fragility (the two being correlated quite often generally).

But I would suggest showing that resilience is not just a technological choice, and that Lakeland has several backup plans and different stockpiles prepared. In case, say, the Confederacy decides to attack Texas cattle industry with a biological agent that targets bovines in general. A "leather crisis" as it were.

Shane W said...

I mean to say "white autistic patient" for context. Sorry...

Ed-M said...


Yet another welcome chapter in the Retrotopia series. I would love to see how the story ends.

Now that you've sketched out the Lakeland Republic and most of the various other republics I'd like to create a map of North America for this timeline ca 2065. Got any pointers?

BTW -- "South Florida Shoals" Good one! Used to be South Florida and the Florida Keys, No?

And at the end, Hank Barker saying "We are so screwed...." That's for the Missouri Republic. The Atlentic Republic, OTOH, is well and truly fracked considering how it's bristling with high technology and all.

Unknown Deborah,

Like JMG said, Brazil and China have them. Texas and the CSA 2.0? Noone knows unless and until someplace like Houston or the Baton Rouge - New New Orleans metroplex goes up in a mushroom cloud. (If present-day South Florida ca 2065 is gone, New Orleans is, too.)

Cherokee Chris,

Your response to Nestorian about Youg Earth Creationism, how Nestorian's God has to be the father of all control freaks, especially since nothing gets by Him (Jesus said no sparrow can fall out of the air without the Father noticing -- I saw a dead bird fall clean out of the sky about two years ago and it was already in rigor mortis when it landed), well that cements the conclusion I made of the old guy after reading the first six books of the Bible!

Patricia Mathews said...

For all those who read JMG's sardonic comment about the beginnings of a domestic insurgency and wondered if it really meant one was starting - to borrow the terminology of J.D. Robb's "two generations into the future" police procedurals, The Urban Wars have already started. We're in them right now. One side will point to the shootings in Dallas as the "Firing on Fort Sumter" and the other will cite the assassinations-by-cop that preceded it.

And no, whatever my juniors may be feeling about this, described here as being very like the feelings of British youth on the eve of World War I, I am not thrilled at all. I'm sick and scared.

(signed) been there, done that (as a little child) the last time around.

Eric S. said...

"I remembered stories some of my older relatives used to tell about the first days of the Second Civil War—carefully sanitized stories coming over the mass media, wild rumors carried by blogs and private emails, and everywhere the sense that something had changed or shifted or broken once and for all, and the world would never be quite the same afterwards."

*sigh* 2001, 2008, 2016... that particular feeling is already becoming all too familiar... to the point that one of the additional emotions building into the whole thing is a sense of growing fatigue... To the point that I'm almost wondering if there's a point at which, the final eruption of a civil war, or a partition of the US, or a declared conflict with a major world power would be met not with the shock, sorrow, and outrage we're currently responding with, but just a weary shrug, or possibly even a sense of tired acceptance or reluctant relief. I was talking to someone the other day who wryly joked that if we were reading a history book, we'd be at the "events leading to" paragraph right before you turn the page to find maps with flags and arrows on them... It feels to me like the way things are going, if a Texas secession or a Twilight's Last Gleaming scenario happened this year, the public reaction wouldn't be so much one of shock, as one of "figures something like this would happen in 2016," and if the lasting impacts of 9/11 and the 2008 crash are any indicator, the onslaught of 2016 is going to leave the sort of residue that by the next impact (say... a Twilight's Last Gleaming or Second Civil War scenario in 2024), there just isn't going to be the wherewithal to be shocked or surprised anymore, instead people would be feeling the exact emotion a patient who has been fighting a long, exhausting losing battle with a terminal illness for decades feels when the doctor finally tells them they're being transferred to hospice care... Sure... it changes everything, but at least rest is in sight. You pointed out in a comment, I think it was last week... that people right now are feeling backed against a wall... which is part of why people are getting so prickly about political issues (even with people they usually agree with), and you've compared a lot of the morale of the country right now to the morale of the police to the morale of soldiers during the latter years of the Vietnam War... But I think that sense of fatigue and shell-shock is much broader than that right now... with every police shooting, with every terrorist attack, with every instant that the 2016 electoral campaign reminds Americans everywhere that something has broken... I've been watching the public sentiment slowly shift from marching, protesting, and holding vigils to crouching in the corner like wounded animals and lashing out at anyone who comes too close to touching tender subjects. Perhaps that sense of political fatigue is just a forerunner to political violence, lately the protests are going on for a shorter and shorter time before the shooting or brick throwing starts… and perhaps there comes a point amidst the rising tension where the animal simplicity of a world in chaos is the only way to get away from the exhaustion… So I can definitely see things turning towards the sort of violence Carr has heard about from the old-timers, but it’s already hard to imagine things feeling much more broken than they already are… in another 8 years of this, I’m having a hard time imaging feeling anything more than hollow numbness at much of anything that could happen. But, then… I’m sure Americans living in the days of Emma Goldman, the Union Square Bombings, the McKinley Assassination, the rise of the second KKK, the Atlanta and Bellingham riots, and so on felt the exact same way in the years leading up to 1914…

sgage said...

@ Shane W:

"Offtopic, but the story now is that a black therapist was shot by police while helping his white patient. Man, this stuff just gets worse by the day... "

He was shot while laying peacefully on his back with his arms outstretched straight up (hands up), while explaining to the police during the 'negotiation' (their word) exactly what was going on with his autistic patient who was on the run from a psychiatric facility, and quite possibly suicidal. There are very clear pictures of the whole situation.

And then some idiot cop just opened fire on him for no apparent reason. Several shots, only one hit him, in the leg, so he's OK. If that cop isn't idicted and convicted of something, there will and ought to be riots. He should never be allowed anywhere near a gun, ever, for the rest of his life, some upcoming portion of which ought to be spent behind bars. Just unbelievable.

Varun Bhaskar said...


The last two major shootings against police were done by ex-military. The shooter in Texas was ex-army, and the one in Louisiana was ex-marine. When ex-service people start shooting at civilian law enforcement, you can make a pretty educated guess that we're really close.

Whether Trump or Hillary come to power we're going to see more incidents. Either politician will be forced to take the side of the police, making it inevitable that overreactions will occur and drive more people to support the insurgents.



Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160721T204046Z

Thanks, Brian Kaller for raising a properly Catholic voice. (Brian Kaller writes here over timestamp "7/21/16, 6:42 AM", and additionally is the author of the blog at Violence has seldom solved things in politics. JMG's introducing it to this narrative (along with introducing his note of sex) now lowers the tone of the narrative, at least a little.

Like Brian Kaller, I know both sides of the Atlantic. Like him, I get the feeling that on the western side the realities of political violence are not fully grasped. Countries that have been through hostile occupation are marked, to the extent that children and grandchildren feel it, even if born in peacetime. Perhaps the necessary sense of reality fades after three of four generations. It is, however, robust enough after one or two.

I do not know now to make this point as well as Brian Kaller, but still I will try to make it, with an example from my experience. I once met a youngish person right here in Ontario, who told me her Dad had been in one of the famous Nazi death camps, and had received the standard numerical tattoo. I could see from her face or hear from her tone - nothing obvious, no tears, no grimace, and since I am autistic I am not even all that good at reading faces and voices - that she was likely to be telling the truth. Suffering shows up in some way which is not easily faked.

I could of course go on, for instance adding my cousin's playing Refugees with her doll, in peacetime 1950s Canada: but this suffices.

I would like also to repeat a point which I have made before on the JMG ADR blog. In the late, unlamented, USSR, people had every imaginable disadvantage - poverty everywhere outside the Nomenclatura, on a scale unimaginable on even the meanest streets and dirt roads of America (Estonia, 1990: Uncle Rein telling me that not even with political connections could one now get a pair of tin snips); a male population used to shooting, through mandatory military service, in among other places Afghanistan; mass media that glorified the military, with depictions of the 1941-1945 "Great Patriotic War" and suchlike, in a way that rivalled or exceeded Hollywood.

When push came to shove, in 1991 August, the Red Bedsheet was lowered peacefully and rapidly.

We do well to remind ourselves that it was America that produced Huckleberry Finn and the Apollo moon landings. A nation of such talent is capable of reorganizing itself peacefully (I would hope, into a congeries of smaller nation-states, as the USSR did). My prediction is accordingly the same as Bill Pulliam's - yes, lots of USA civil disorder impending; but no, no civil war.


Tom (Catholic in Estonian diaspora, just north of Toronto)

PS: Bill Pulliam is right to say that we have been through the current miseries before. Many of us here will remember radio accounts of the 1967 Detroit rioting, the political conventions of 1968, the MLK and RFK assassinations, and the "Weathermen".

James M. Jensen II said...


Sorry to butt into your conversation, but when you say:

However, to raise the problem-of-evil objection presupposes an acknowledgement of the reality of this distinction. You cannot object to evil as posing a problem for an alternative belief system if you yourself reject the concept of evil as such.

...well, yes, you can. You just have to be careful to phrase it so that you're pointing out an inconsistency in the alternative belief system and not making a positive case for anything else. Essentially, you're demanding your opponent play by their own rules, even if you don't accept them.

Of course, that can be dirty pool, as in that classic quote from Muad'Dib: "When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles." But it's not logically invalid.

(Sorry. My last comment has apparently got me in a mood to nitpick logical fallacies. I actually don't think the argument from evil is a very persuasive argument in any of its forms, because it assumes a level of knowledge about morality and the universe that humans just don't have. Its complement on the Christian side is probably Pascal's Wager, which totally breaks down if you don't limit the possibilities to "God will save you if-and-only-if I believe in Christianity" and "no religion at all"—try throwing in "God is a big fat liar and will roast you no matter what" and "a different religion that is fulfilling in this world and the next" into the mix and see what happens.)

Clay Dennis said...


This is in reference to your very salient comment on the beginnings of insurgencies. I am predicting a very smiler but different trajectory in the near future ( despite the fact your version is already playing out.) In history one thing that is somewhat unique this time is extent to which the peasants ( and especially the young) are indebted. As the money printing begins to fail and the economy rolls over the defaults on student loans, mortgages, subprime auto loans and credit cards will accelerate. Though the banks and collections agencies may be ruthless and persistent, the sharp end of the spear in this dirty business is the law firms ( usually local) who file suits in mass that allow court judgements to take place . Without these judgement foreclosures, garnishments etc. can't occur. Compared to the police these assembly lawyers are soft targets and even less well liked by those in the falling working class ( and other hopelessly indebted folk). Now that the glass wall preventing violence against authority figures has been broken beatings and killings will sweep the ranks of the legal end of the collections industry. This will stonewall the debt industry for a short time until they figure out how to eliminate such legal niceties as judgements and employee the sheriffs, army or private goon squads to collect debt. This of course will radicalize most of the poor, working class, and fallen middle class and the insurgency will be off to the races. If the elites were not senile they would be trying to take care of this now.

one gun said...

I read Retrotopia and am reminded of the TV show, Wild Wild West staring Robert Conrad. Old school with a touch of appropriate tech.

Justin said...

Good as usual, JMG.

JMG, well, I'm not so sure that Black Lives Matter is really a genuine insurgency considering the comfy relationships that key leaders in that organization have with existing power structures. However the anger and injustice driving it is very real, so it might be the first incarnation of something less shambolic.

Shane, I expect that despite the fact that the black man was shot for literally no reason, that this particular incident will get memory holed. The man who was shot said, on camera from his hospital bed (he was shot in the leg and will recover) something to the effect of "maybe police are on edge because of Dallas and Baton Rouge", which is quite gracious of him. It sounds like the officer who shot him genuinely fracked up. Certainly, if I was going to shoot someone because I disliked people of their race enough to assault them, I would finish the job.

Pantagruel7 said...

Here I am hoping that you'll answer Varun Bhaskar's question about what authors of political thrillers have impressed you with a name like Graham Greene; "It's amazing how you keep da suspense!" Really, I'm enjoying your yarn.

Wendy Crim said...

I really enjoyed this comment. Thanks for taking the time to write it. I'm going to re-read it later.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi William McCracken,

Water and the treatment of sewage is a bigger problem than you may realise. I supply my own infrastructure for both of those and water tanks cost about $0.10/litre, without any additional pumps, ongoing energy, valves and pipes. Have a think about how much water you use in any one day and that expenditure to clean up the Catskills is very cheap - and a total bargain for you in the process.

Have you read about the unfolding (sorry for the bad pun) issue on handywipes being disposed of in your sewers? Wow! There is a problem in unintended consequences. How we treat our sewage as a society is a real lost opportunity. My lot goes into enriching the soil via a worm farm. It is a good system.

Hi Nestorian,

I certainly don't dismiss evil at all. The thing I don't understand about evil is that if the trinity were all so powerful and in control, how come they keep that satan dude kicking around causing mayhem? Are they bored or scared of perfection or something like that? I've always sort of felt that satan is used in that belief system as something to point at and say: well things could be much worse! or, oh yeah, that guy is to blame for all the stuff going wrong, it is not our fault! Those convenient memes are repeated so often in our culture that it hardly surprises me to see them reflected in theology.



Shane W said...

One thing to be on the lookout for is cops "going rogue" in mass, like a mass walkout or strike of some sort, or maybe a Mai Lai in a ghetto where a bunch of cops organize a mass shooting. Some sort of mass breakdown in order in a major city's police force.

Mike said...

I still think this story should be your first graphic novel. It lends itself to that. If you can just find the right illustrator/collaborator, and publisher.

Justin said...

Just out of curiosity, Mr. Greer, is there no way to add a whitelist of approved commentators to the blogroll whose posts would get published immediately?

Doomstead Diner said...

What happened to my post? It was courteous, no profanity abusive language or flame baiting. Just questioning your assumptions.

Justin said...

From tonight's Republican convention, "Our newest fighter jets can't even fly in the rain", and "instead of going to Mars, we have invaded the middle east". The times they are a changing.

rakesprogress said...

Write faster, will you? This story has been riveting from the get go. It's late and I'm tired, but if the rest of the story where available I would read the entire thing right now.

I've been trying to resist the temptation to second-guess your storyline, but it seems to me Mr Carr could just possibly make a superb future leader ... of the Lakeland republic ...

Thanks again for your guiding light in these terrifying times

Greg Reynolds @ Riverbend said...

Thank god your day job is writing. Don't quit...


Hammer said...

Those are just the usual lofty promises politicians use to appeal to and attract the lower classes of voters. Especially since Mr. Trump's campaign is lacking supporters and has funding problems.

Soon enough, the bureaucracy and corruption in Washington will put an end to these ideals.

Myriad said...

Lean Logic appears to be a difficult book to describe, but I've pre-ordered a copy on the strength of a single word. Having seen in these comment threads what you consider "good" and "excellent" I'm greatly looking forward to "astonishing"!

Back in Lakeland, I have to wonder if Dixie and Tex are in fact fighting over nearly depleted oil fields, while each thinks the other is still sitting on ample supplies. (It's pretty clear that at least one of them must be getting desperate, the Confederacy if Texas's accusation of horizontal drilling is true, and Texas if it's not, but that both are seems just as likely.) Not that it would resolve anything even if they figure that out, once the dollar auction character of such wars takes hold.

I also wonder if Macallan had in mind to end the sentence "...the Gulf oil fields, onshore and offshore, have just dropped off the face of the Earth, and they’re going to stay that way until this whole business gets resolved" at the word "way," but felt he had to add the additional verbiage to maintain credibility with the foreign audience, or perhaps to protect intelligence sources. The EROEI of this war will likely turn out to be very low indeed, even for the "winning" side if there is one. (Let's see if Carr figures that out on his own…)

gwizard43 said...


"Violence has seldom solved things in politics."

With all due respect, sir, I don't think anything has solved *more* things in politics than violence.

Ask the Romans. The Senate sure 'solved' both of the Gracchus brothers, and Sulla sure solved a few things in politics as well, to cite only a couple of well known incidents out of hundreds (thousands?).

Of course much depends on how you choose to define 'solved' and 'things.' But I'm afraid those definitions would have to get tortuous indeed to make your statement come anywhere close to true.

aunteater said...

Yay! Another Retrotopia installment!

I feel slightly guilty that I never comment on the fiction pieces, even though they're the ones I enjoy most. I am afraid to say anything about fiction before I know how it ends. And I really, really, want to know how this one ends. Are you going to make us wait another two weeks for the next chapter?

John Michael Greer said...

Mister R., I won't argue at all; I imagine it as like a suit made of Tyvek. The imaginary bioplastic clothing in the story is meant to be the be-all and end-all of modern "progress" -- drastically worse than its predecessors in every significant way, but oh so modern and up to date!

Tom, thank you. Yes, poking fun at America's current excuse for journalism is one of the pleasures of this story.

Gavin, I think also the laboring classes are so used to being lied to by their soi-disant betters that when the pundits insisted that Brexit would cause economic misery to everyone, a lot of people rolled their eyes and said, "Pull the other one, it's got bells on." As for the US, though, no argument there -- we're stumbling into a very harsh time.

Brian, trust me, I get that. It's been unnerving to watch the classic opening moves of domestic insurgency play out step by step in my own country...

Twilight, thank you. I based it partly on events I've witnessed, partly on accounts of the beginning of the First World War.

William, exactly. You're settling for Tier 3, or roughly 1890-style infrastructure -- roads suitable to horsedrawn vehicles, on your own for electricity, but water and sewer available within city limits. A Model T will do very well in such a setting, so long as you can keep it fueled.

Sgage, it's a very troubling one. The US is rapidly moving down a familiar and ugly trajectory.

Chris, I don't think anybody in Black Lives Matter intends to launch an insurgency, but these events can pick up a momentum of their own, and the rising spiral of repression and rebellion can be very hard to stop once it gets under way. I don't think we've reached the point of no return yet, but it's closer than I like to think about.

Scotlyn, thank you. I'll try to make next week's post interesting anyway... ;-)

Brigyn, focusing on the positive things you can do is a very sensible strategy just now, and you're right -- it'll be just as sensible for people in the various North American republics affected by the Texas-Confederate War of 2065. As for the essay style, it just happened that way -- it's probably not accidental that I like that approach to nonfiction writing. I hope you enjoy Inside a Magical Lodge!

Daniel, thank you! I modeled that aspect of Owen's character on vets I've known, which probably helped with the verisimilitude. I have yet to meet anybody who's served in the military and seen combat who ended up going full hoohah; those I've met are by and large capable and tough, but very well aware of the downside of taking dumb risks in a dangerous situation.

(A reminder to all -- there are still some copies of the limited signed edition of The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth available for sale. You can get 'em here, but when they're gone, they're gone.)

Sometulip, thank you. I've already made arrangements with the publisher, and with any luck the book will be out in time for Christmas.

John Michael Greer said...

Tejanojim and Gwizard43, heh heh heh. Stay tuned...

Brian, I know. That's why I've written several posts trying to point out to people that those who babble about how we ought to have revolution or civil war have their heads in a biologically improbable location. I wonder how many of them realize that, if they get their way, they're going to be the ones explaining to their kids why mommy isn't coming home ever again because a truck bomb splattered her across ten feet of wall, or the like. I think a domestic insurgency is a hideously bad idea, which makes it all the more ghastly to watch the authorities and their adversaries stumbling blindly ahead toward that bloodsoaked goal.

DarkOptimism, thank you! I was delighted to be asked to read the galleys and contribute a blurb; it's one of the very few things in recent years I'd place on the same shelf as William Catton's Overshoot or EF Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful.

Chris, yep. That's the way history happens, you know -- it's never just one crisis at a time.

Anton, good. There won't be anything like as much oil as in the case of Deepwater Horizon -- this is 2065, remember, so oil companies are tapping into little pockets of hydrocarbon sludge, not big formations -- but it's going to be an issue.

Matthew, glad to hear that. I picked it out on a topo map of the region as a good place for an army to march; it's good to know that someone on the ground agrees.

Mary, if you're not scared you're not paying attention...

Toomas, good heavens, that gimmick's been done to death in spy thrillers. The fact that you can quote an example from a TV show is reason enough for me not to include it -- and since this is a utopian fiction, not a spy thriller, it would have been completely out of place. (Nor is the honey trap necessarily that useful in 2065, given that people are posting pictures of their genitalia to the internet in 2016.) As for the rest, stay tuned!

Unknown, thank you!

John, you're welcome and thank you.

Caryn, welcome back! Not to worry; I'll remain on the internet as long as there's enough of a publicly accessible internet to make it worth doing.

Toomas, good heavens, did you have a crush on Melanie or something? She hasn't even been born yet, you know... ;-)

Wendy, so would I!

Eric, if you think you can get it past the various watchdogs, by all means. It'll be available in book form by the end of the year, and hopefully well before then, if that helps at all.

Varun, I don't read political thrillers. The ones I read back in my more omnivorous days bored me -- they put way too much time into military technogimmickry or chest-thumping heroics, and missed the thing I enjoy, which is the texture of actual history as it happens. The main source for my thrillers is a lot of reading of history, with a focus on accounts of what it was actually like to be there at the time.

As for writing more political thrillers, the problem is that I have to make a living from my writing, and sales of my one book-length thriller, Twilight's Last Gleaming, have been very modest so far -- respectable enough that the publisher's bringing out more of my books, but still modest enough that I can't put a lot of time into that genre. (Anyone who would like to change that situation may certainly pick up a copy here... ;-)

John Michael Greer said...

Further in response to Varun...

Mind you, I didn't expect Twilight's Last Gleaming to become a bestseller. We discussed two weeks ago the difference between innovation and performance; most genres of fiction these days are pure performance, with a fixed set of characters, plot elements, situations, gimmicks, and outcomes, nearly as tightly scripted as a Bach concerto. The role of creativity is purely a matter of how neatly you can assemble a story out of those fixed elements so that the reader gets the emotional payoff he or she expects.

Think of police procedural mysteries, "cozy" detective stories, Western novels, bodice-ripper historical romances, feminist science fiction, heroic fantasy, interplanetary-war space opera, and so on -- they have their formal rules, which you do not break if you want to appeal to the audience. Almost all bestsellers these days are books that either follow the rules with perfect elegance, ring a few small and unthreatening changes on them, or do a mashup of two sets of rules -- the Harry Potter novels, with their mashup of generic fantasy and the generic English school novel, make a great example of this latter.

The thing is, there's nothing wrong with this, any more than there's something wrong with enjoying Bach concertos, or even devoting your creative energies to the elegant playing of Bach concertos. Performance is also art, and readers have every right to want a predictable tale with familiar elements and an emotional effect that can be anticipated and savored in advance all the way through the story. The sort of highbrow snottiness that insists that only innovation is real art deserves no more respect than any other prejudice. I enjoy reading performance fiction in certain genres; my problem is that I find writing such fiction agonizingly dull.

My first novel, The Fires of Shalsha, was to some extent a performance: specifically, a classic '70s SF novel of the kind I still prefer to current fashions in the genre -- though even there it messed with some of the rules. My second and third novels, Star's Reach and Twilight's Last Gleaming, wadded up the rules and jumpshotted them into the wastebasket: Star's Reach is a science fiction story about how we're not going to the stars and what that means, Twilight's Last Gleaming is a Tom Clancyesque military-political thriller in which the US loses. In those genres, You. Do. Not. Do. That.

For that matter, the series now under way -- yes, The Weird of Hali is a series, with volume 2 in the hands of the publisher, volume 3 complete in rough draft, and volume 4 in partial draft -- is just as unwilling to settle for performance. I've taken the rules of Lovecraftian horror fiction and stood them on their heads, with results that delight me but will probably irritate the stuffing out of those who like a predictable read. This time I'm deliberately playing with the genre conventions; one of these days, probably after the series is finished, I plan on writing an essay on weird fiction, in which I talk about how it works from the perspective of someone who's spent many hours at the keyboard systematically undercutting it to make a very different sort of story.

I could definitely see writing another thriller someday, but that'll depend at least as much on financial issues as literary ones -- and if I do, it'll be just as annoying to those who like a nice standard heroic US-overcomes-evil-enemies story as Twilight's Last Gleaming was.

John Michael Greer said...

Okay, now that I've gotten that off my mind, back to comments!

HalFiore, I know.

Stacy, got it. I hope we can avoid any more head-hitting. Or head shots.

Hammer, somebody has to start. If not you, who? If not now, when?

Sawbuck, it's certainly going to become a book. As for maps, I'll need to find someone who can do a good clear black and white map of post-US North America; I've made a few changes since the early days of the project, when one of my readers (I'm embarrassed to say I've forgotten which one) did a very nice map in color.

Pygmycory, hard to say, but things are moving in that direction.

Clay, flintlocks and swords? Hardly; both sides have allies with large munitions industries. But you're right that high-tech weaponry is going to become less and less relevant as the war goes on. We won't see much of that, but some of it will be anticipated.

William, it'll become like Retrotopia if you and the other people there decide to make it like Retrotopia. Why not give it a try?

Patrick, I don't see it as bleak at all. Human beings are a very mixed bag. We do stupid things and smart ones, cruel things and merciful ones, ugly things and things of stunning beauty. That's simply the way things are, and the fact that two nations in my fictional 2065 are getting into yet another war over resources doesn't change the fact that another nation has made constructive choices that keep it out of such conflicts, and provide space for opera, jazz music, streetcars, and love affairs. What's bleak about that?

Shane, I saw that. If they want to get a domestic insurgency going, they're doing it the right way... :-(

Arkady, stay tuned...

John Michael Greer said...

Ed-M, the map's pretty simple. The Republic of New England and the Maritimes consists of the New England states from Massachusetts north, and the Maritime provinces that are now part of Canada. Quebec is Quebec. East Canada is Ontario, Manitoba, and points north. The Lakeland Republic is Ohio, West Virginia except for the western panhandle, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Confederate States of America is the old Confederacy of 1861 minus Texas, and plus the southeastern quarter or so of Missouri. The Missouri Republic is the rest of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas, along with all of Wyoming and Montana east of the Continental Divide and the northeastern third or so of Colorado. The Republic of Texas is Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and part of southern Colorado. The Republic of Deseret is Utah, Idaho minus the panhandle, and the portions of Colorado and Wyoming west of the continental divide. Arizona and Nevada are abandoned territory, uninhabitable due to climate change. The Republic of California is California, and the Cascade Republic is Washington, Oregon, the Idaho panhandle, and the portion of Montana west of the continental divide. Oh, and there's the Kingdom of Hawai'i and the Republic of Alaska, if you want to include them. Sea level has gone up about six feet; New Orleans, Galveston, and the Florida Keys no longer exist, and the southern end of Florida has been heavily eroded by rising seas and massive hurricanes, so it's not the same shape as it is today. Got it?

Patricia, I'm certainly not cheering things on. This could end so badly...

Eric, and that's also a common reaction. You might read accounts of the runup to the First World War in Russia, or the runup to the Second in Britain.

Clay, young people sufficiently well off to run up student loan debt are not usually the ones who set off the kind of spiral of violence we're seeing. It might happen, but what I see instead is basically what happened in Iraq: society breaking apart as one ethnic group begins to turn to insurgent violence in response to abuses on the part of authority, and other ethnic groups arm themselves and turn to violence in response to the insurgency. Here, if things go worst-case, I'd expect to see white-plus-asian, Hispanic, and black as the major lines of division, with armed militias and growing geographical separation, until (a) the country falls apart into failed-state conditions or Yugoslavia-style partition, or (b) a competent tyrant manages to reimpose order by main force.

One Gun, I never watched that, so will have to take your word for it.

Justin, I don't think anyone in Black Lives Matter intends to start an insurgency. What concerns me is that things may spiral out of their control.

Pantagruel7, I've yet to read a thriller as convincing or as interesting as actual history. Glad you enjoy the result!

Shane, that's a possibility, but unlikely at this stage. When the police start going rogue the government usually is on its last legs.

Mike, I've already got artists working on graphic adaptations of Star's Reach and my blog post "The Next Ten Billion Years." I could see a Retrotopia graphics novel, though.

Justin, nope. I don't trust my judgment of people well enough to do that.

Diner, I don't know -- I approved it, but Google must have eaten it. (That happens to about one comment every other week.) In answer to your misplaced comment, though, I gather you haven't read the rest of the story, as those points are covered at length in earlier episodes.

Justin, they are indeed.

John Michael Greer said...

Rakesprogress, thank you! As for the plot, stay tuned... ;-)

Greg, I plan on stopping writing when they pull the keyboard out from under my cold dead fingers. I've been writing stories and essays since I was seven, so it's kind of a habit.

Myriad, both countries have what would be considered uneconomical dregs today, but in the world of 2065 that's what there is, and it's a crucial source of hard currency for both nations.

Aunteater, yes, you'll have to wait two weeks, but I promise I'll try to make next week's post interesting anyway!

Mike said...

Lakeland includes Kentucky? That surprises me. There's a distinct cultural difference between Indiana and Kentucky, and a tradition of some enmity – and a natural boundary in the form of the Ohio River. I can see why they'd want to control both sides of the river, but still ...

Shane W said...

Well, JMG, it's a shame you don't make occasional exceptions to watching little colored pictures on the screen. Trump came out firing on all cylinders last night & did everything you said he needed to to position himself in the place he needs to be to demolish Hillary. & I'm as ambivalent as ever about him--I'm very disturbed by many of the things he said--particularly on immigrant crime, yet I found it surreal when he was discussing issues that used to be Democratic working class bedrock to thousands of Republicans to roaring cheers. Very surreal. & he did throw a major wedge between the LGBT (he even added "Q") community and Muslims. He's now our Wilders...

Kevin Warner said...

gwizard43 said...
"With all due respect, sir, I don't think anything has solved *more* things in politics than violence."

Errr, this one I am going to have to have a go at. The problem here is to extend out the time-frame of the effects of the use of violence to solve a problem to see if it really did. For a few examples of how it can come unstuck-
The US invades Iraq to steal its oil and hijack its economy for its own looting purposes. Result? Some three thousand dead Americans alone along with six trillion dollars in committed costs later, Iraq is in terminal civil war and ISIS was born of the resulting chaos.
The West has Gaddafi murdered after he gives up his nuclear program and smashes the Libyan state to grab its resources, especially its gold and oil. Result? Libya is now a viper's nest of militias and jihadists and no power will ever give its nuclear program up ever, ever again.
I never thought about it in such terms but I guess that when you try to solve a problem, you have to take a holistic approach to make sure that you do not have more problems from your solution than is solved by your initial 'solution'.
As for your Roman examples of the Gracchi brothers and Sulla's murders, I am afraid that there are no free passes here either. I happen to know enough of Roman history myself to know that the deaths and chaos involved in these three episodes seeded the end of the Roman Republic and convinced the Roman people into forgetting their political institutions and putting their faith in Emperors instead when times turned bad.

For those interested, I found that there are examples of Lean Logic at and it sounds quite fascinating and worth reading.

Sylvia Rissell said...

Thanks for the new chapter, Mr. Greer.

I am trying to imagine what the Atlantic Republic could do, short term, to have a decline with a minimum of suffering and chaos.

1) Less heating fuel available short term. A need for more improvised/home made stoves and instructions for using them safely.

2) Growing season is a few months away. Get everyone thinking about victory gardens now, and factories converted to making hoes, shovels, and other gardening equipment. Figure out how to distribute seeds as widely and fairly as possible.

3) Transportation fuel will be unavailable or rationed, so walking is going to be necessary for everyone. Time to start making real shoes! Tool up a few factories, and come up with instructions for home made footwear: tire tread sandals, rope soled espadrilles, and various wood-soled clogs.

4) Get radios available, for when the meta-net goes down. Create programs similar to "the Archers". The Atlantic Republic needs a serialized radio play about a family learning to cope with no fossil fuels.

I'm sure this is only a start...

nuku said...

@ Nestorian, re the “problem of evil” in classical theism:
Of course I, Chris, and anyone else can raise this problem independently of what we personally believe, if we’re simply pointing out INTERNAL logical inconsistencies in the theistic belief system. We don’t have to personally accept ANY of your presuppositions to critique the logical consistency of your belief system, and you are free to do the same with respect to us.
Of course the above presupposes that we both live in a political climate which allows both of us freedom of thought and expression; separation of church and state. How many theocracies do that?
I seem to remember something called The Inquisition....

Patricia Mathews said...

Let me know when your graphic adaptations are available for pre-order! Please!

Though I do hope your artists can avoid the comic-book conventions that show even adaptations of medieval classics with the women's skirts turned into long loincloths,or at least split into several panels to show off their pretty legs; and the men costumed like bodybuilders. I am not kidding! One adaptation of the Nibelungenlied was spoiled for me by precisely that. As bad as the brass bra fantasy armor for women. Shudder.

Of course, young women's dresses in Star's Reach are hot-weather wear and probably bear a lot of resemblance to today's summer dresses. At least the ones I'm seeing around today.

mr_geronimo said...

Has the 3rd crisis, the one that a civilization won't escape, begun? World War, loss of satellite infrastructure, breakdown of naval trade routes... They are so screwed.

Is Lakelander culture spreading? It seems so, and it spread will be hastened.

Ps.: Brazil as a world power? As a brazillian I'm pretty sure there will be no Brazil in the sixties. The country is going down and the brazillian people, as a whole, lack culture, in the deepest sense of the term. Here, all kinds of foolishness prosper, while wisdon is mocked. Aristotle says that all man seek knowledge but he did not know the brazillians, specially the salary and upper class from my land.

Shane W said...

The excuse the cop is using is that he was aiming for the autistic man b/c he had a toy he thought was a weapon and missed and hit the black therapist instead. OMG! What the frack! The excuse is worse that what actually took place. Cops threatened by autistic people w/toys!
I'm glad to see Powerpoint died a horrible death in Lakeland! :)

donalfagan said...

I love that Melanie, "Look what they've done to my Lakeland ... ," found a unique way to get a guy to leave in the morning. Also that Texas and Confeds are fighting over an issue that Iraq cited while invading Kuwait.

Can't get enough of Mark Blyth, here asking who actually threatens Democracy?

And in The Atlantic is an article about a new scientific discovery by a fellow that couldn't get into American colleges:

[[[At 19, he got a job at a local forestry service. Within a few years, he had earned enough to leave home. His meager savings and non-existent grades meant that no American university would take him, so Spribille looked to Europe.

Thanks to his family background, he could speak German, and he had heard that many universities there charged no tuition fees. His missing qualifications were still a problem, but one that the University of Gottingen decided to overlook. “They said that under exceptional circumstances, they could enroll a few people every year without transcripts,” says Sprirbille. “That was the bottleneck of my life.”]]]

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160722T134939Z

Thank you, gwizard43 ("7/21/16, 9:04 PM"), for taking our discussion where it has to go (in our joint case as also in the case of Nestorian - he will be giving us distance estimates for Vega, Deneb, M13, and M31 - into the concrete and the specific).

You write:

With all due respect, sir, I don't think anything has solved *more* things in politics than violence. Ask the Romans. The Senate sure 'solved' both of the Gracchus brothers, and Sulla sure solved a few things in politics as well, to cite only a couple of well known incidents out of hundreds (thousands?).

Of course much depends on how you choose to define 'solved' and 'things.'

By 'solved', I mean 'promoted justice' and 'promoted public welfare'. When in turn asked to define 'justice', (a) I point to the work of human-rights jurists (an example of such work here in Canada is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms), and (b) I elucidate the concept of justice by citing historical examples of its opposite - Nazi death camps (termed by the Reich authorities "The Final Solution"), the Jim Crow laws, the Victorian sweatshops, Tsar Nikolai's "Bloody Sunday", and the Inquisition, to take five. When asked to define 'public welfare', I cite security against being bludgeoned or shot or robbed; security against starvation; security against emotional abuse by authority figures, notably employers, teachers, priests, and police; security against overwork and underpay; duly easy access to medical care; duly easy access to a diversity of journalistic opinion; and security of one's personal communications and personal archives against government inspection.

Lacking a properly specialized knowledge of Roman history (though I have spent much time on Latin), I have had to my shame to consult Wikipedia for Sulla and the Gracchi. But these consultations leave me puzzled on what you find here to praise.

(A) Sulla - this much I think I did kinda-sorta know before glancing at Wikipedia - acted unconstitutionally, ruled for a while as what in technical Roman juris-speak was a dictator, and paved the way for Pompey's and Caesar's subsequent destruction of the Republic. (Cicero quotes Pompey as saying, "If Sulla did it [sc seized power], why can't I?") The number of nobles killed in Sulla's proscriptions is pegged by Wikipedia as 1,500, with the further suggestion that the total death toll was several times higher.

(B) The Gracchi were land reformers, supportive of the agrarian poor. Tiberius Gracchus was clubbed to death, with 300 supporters. Gaius Gracchus committed suicide to avoid dying at the hands of a mob.

What is your assessment of Sulla's proscriptions? What is your assessment of the deaths of the two Gracchi? Are you saying that these things were in some sense commendable - that, perhaps, in the words of V.I.Lenin, the making of an omelet presupposes the smashing of eggs?

Or do you, perhaps, feel with me that once 'solved' is defined in the way I have just tried to define it, historical examples of political violence achieving 'solutions' become rare?


Shane W said...

personally, I'm more of a fatalist than an enthusiast about what's about to go down. I think my personal attitude is one more of 1930's Europe than 1910's Europe. The path we went down with Reagan 1980 lead directly to where we are today, when all good options are closed. It's an age of consequences. As a child during WW II, you could afford to be scared and fearful, however, your parents and grandparents could not, or at least they couldn't show it. They had to have a stiff upper lip and keep calm and carry on. I'm afraid our "elders" today will not do that...

Shane W said...

JMG, you forgot West Canada & the Atlantic Republic in your list. BTW, is BC part of Cascadia or West Canada?

Shane W said...

Clay also included credit card and subprime car loan debt, as well. The first seems to affect all classes of people, while the second targets the lower classes.

Hammer said...

"Here, if things go worst-case, I'd expect to see white-plus-asian, Hispanic, and black as the major lines of division"

I don't think the Asian (east+south+southeast Asia) population would even get involved in the conflict. They're maybe 5% of the U.S. population (30-60% in my area though), are a bit less likely to be in the lower classes, and from my experience, I don't think Asians are too violent.

So I expect them to either stay on the sidelines or emigrate back home. I can also imagine Asians as being the "neutral party" which the other ethnicities don't attack.

Also do you think people with more high-level and high-tech jobs will get laid off first?

Hammer said...

"somebody has to start. If not you, who? If not now, when?"

If 10% of people started living sustainably, I would join in happily. But that's not going to happen for the near future.

I just have to think of how to start and wrap my head around the concept. Since I am going to college, I can't plant a garden or handle sewage differently. The best I can do is take certain classes and join certain clubs to learn some useful skills for the descent.

But I'll already be giving up some luxuries, like air conditioning, my own bedroom and closet, lots of basement space for my computers and electronics tools, etc.


I think the simplest solution is to flee to someplace in India once things get too bad here. That way I can adapt to a reduced lifestyle without all the violence around. Even if the U.S. living standard is higher for a few years, I would do anything to avoid the insurgencies.

However, India has its own problems, like climate change, growth powered by imported petroleum, pollution, and the lack of skilled jobs (except in tech support, which I would be really good at).

nrgmiserncaz said...

@William McCracken - My little Central New York town just down Route 20 from you is going in the opposite direction. From a small, walkable village they are intent on getting big box stores, hotels (Hampton Inn just opened) and other trappings of growth as fast as possible. Word on the street from the people who've lived there their whole lives (my wife, for example) is that the village no longer offers anything to keep them there. The small supermarket in town has closed, the local general type store, Radio Shack, book store, etc. are all gone too. Lots of boutiques and knick-knack stores but you can't buy a pair of socks or underwear unless you drive 20 miles. Makes me sad...

Off topic - Has anyone read "The Mandibles" by Lionel Shriver? Just curious to get a take on it.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160722T154125Z

Dear JMG,,

Thanks for your query over timestamp "7/22/16, 12:10 AM": Toomas, good heavens, did you have a crush on Melanie or something?

No, it's not that. Instead, I am grieved that a person who is in other respects ethical should accept the sexual invitation of a foreigner - to make things worse, a man of political power, from a dangerous jurisdiction - whom she scarcely knows. Although this kind of thing must be common in the lower grades of fiction and on television, I do not know how common it can be in real life. Perhaps the truth is that it does happen nowadays, at any rate among (a) the desperately poor (if your life is miserable, you might well turn to some cocktail of political violence, drugs, alcohol, and casual sex, in an effort to self-medicate) and (b) our morally spoiled Rulers. Concerning the latter, I do venture the remark that you and I, being both of us poor and far from the centres of power, are in a position to make shrewd guesses, and yet not in a position to know much. Anyway, what Melanie did is wrong, and cheapens her, and the man she eventually marries (unless it be the dim Carr himself) will come to resent it.

A further, subsidiary, consideration, which however must not be allowed to overshadow the principal consideration, is that she has compromised the security of the Lakeland Republic, even should Carr manage to defect. Carr was admittedly from an operational perspective wrong to walk into a room liable to be bugged. But on the other side of the operational coin, Melanie is for her part now a potential target for blackmail, on the part both of Carr and of whatever Atlantic Republic case officers may come to know - or even come to guess - of her weakness for powerful men.

Is Melanie going to make a clean confession to her superiors of her security compromise? This is the one properly public-spirited course of action now open to her. Unless her superiors are conniving, they will thereupon have to eject her from sensitive government service, as failing in security vetting.

Political violence (which gwizard43 and I are discussing today, here at ADR) is not the only thing liable to end badly. So is promiscuous sex. I don't want to dogmatize, but I do wonder if the current American friendliness toward firearms and promiscuity - or, again, the tendency, in many countries, in many historical eras, for soldiers to rape when not killing - are linked.


Varun Bhaskar said...


That's why I asked. Your writing isn't similar to any of the authors I've read, the style focuses more on a web of characters all responding to an event outside of their control. Totally unlike the stoic ubermensch who decide the fate of the world that are popular in the genre. Retrotopia is especially interesting because the characters are so far away from the drama, they're kinda hanging out and living life while the rest of the world rattles itself apart. Yet somehow you manage to retain the tension like the whole country is in the middle of the action, and you maintain the tension with newspaper coverage and political briefings.

I enjoy your stories a lot more because you don't rely on gimmickry, which I've noticed bleeding into every genre over the last decade. Even magic in fantasy is basically gimmickry driven at this point, each story has a different set of rules that end up broken at the end by the main hero as a way to resolve the problem. It gets tedious really fast.

Well I'm hoping more people will buy Twilights Last Gleaming, which I thought was fantastic, so that we get more political thrillers from you.



P.S. I'm not entirely sure we'll see an ethnic insurgency, the protesters are finally starting to adapt. I've noticed many groups breaking away from BLM and focusing on local solutions such as taking on the police unions. Lets hope for the best.

pygmycory said...

Where are BC and Alberta part of? Also Saskatchewan, Yukon, NWT and Nunavut? They doesn't appear to be in your list of republics, but Canada appears to have exploded into its component pieces.

Mean Mr Mustard said...


My comment disappeared too. Not that it was vital or anything.



John Roth said...


You said: However, to raise the problem-of-evil objection presupposes an acknowledgement of the reality of this distinction. You cannot object to evil as posing a problem for an alternative belief system if you yourself reject the concept of evil as such.

Why not? Pointing out a gaping hole in someone else’s logic only requires the recognition that the other person is indeed a separate person with a different set of beliefs. It doesn’t require that you subscribe to them.


Six thousand years and some change. Or is it eight thousand? The essential idea is that God created the universe with all evidence of prior existence, which logically entails that He created it with all of those photons in flight.

Aint undergraduate philosophy wonderful?


There’s one of these old Greek sayings, possibly by Epicurius, that goes:

If your god could banish evil and will not, he is malignant.
If your god would banish evil and cannot, he is impotent.
If your god could and would banish evil, whence evil.

It’s at the front of one of Bart Ehrman’s better books, God’s Problem, where he discusses the six different ways the Bible tries to address the problem of evil.

Bob Patterson said...

I enjoyed you wonderful yarn. But somehow I do not think this is the future for us in the post industrial world. The players are too big, too well organized, and petroleum fueled (tank battalions). When the Roman Empire broke up, political unity went first, followed by big scale commerce, followed by safe transport. The new system was based on local food production, local secure housing and personal security. You ended up with massively fortified cities fighting among each other for available resources. In our case the settlements will not have massive walls , but minefields and patrolled hazard zones.

It occurs to me that we seem to have been thrown into a world of rapidly diminishing available financial resources, and the attending arguments of how to use the. Whether it is just the usual financial malfeasance, or an organized theft of the public purse (Catherine Austin Fitts) is not clear.

ed boyle said...

It feels like war in europe already, terror attack now in munich with lockdown and terrorists on the run. After nice, wurzburg train attack, turkish cia coup attempt with huge regional implications-realignment in direction to russia this summer is becoming scary. After brexit triggering eu breakup and maybe this year a banking crisis, china sea court decision increasing risk in that area of war we will see how it goes.

Nestorian said...

To James Jensen,

Yes, you are correct in pointing out that the argument against God from evil can be phrased in terms of identifying an inconsistency between the Christian belief in evil and the Christian belief in God, without oneself thereby endorsing the reality of evil. (This, incidentally, is the logically valid version of arguing "ad hominem.")

However, in my experience, that is not typically the way the argument is deployed. On the contrary, those deploying it tend to be all-too-clearly aware of the reality of evil.

What is more they sometimes use their conviction of the reality of evil so great that it evidentially steam-rolls any reasonable wish to believe in God in an overbearing and gleeful way against their opponents as they deploy it. (The attitude of the "New Atheists" such as Dawkins, Dennett, etc., comes forcefully to mind as I type these words.)

Looking beyond such a logically inconsistent standpoint of argumentation, I would say virtually everyone has a visceral sense of the reality of evil, even if they deny it in theoretical terms when arguing religion and metaphysics.

Nestorian said...


One way of addressing your question is to invite you to look for empirical evidence for the existence of the satanic and demonic, which I think you will find if you become sufficiently involved in the Christian Healing Prayer movement.

Gottfried Wilhelm Melvin Hicks-Leibniz said...

John, Brian,
It looks like we are in the early stage of domestic insurgency against police forces in the States and foreigners in Europe (I'm referring to the shooting rampage in Munich this evening). I didn't make the connection earlier (thought it was another Islamic State inspired attack), but today is the 5th year anniversary of Breivik's massacre in Norway.

The future is looking bleaker by the day, not to mention that Greenland's ice sheet loss rate has tripled since last century -- -- and methane is rippling under the grass on an island in the Kara Sea --

Eric S. said...

"that's also a common reaction. You might read accounts of the runup to the First World War in Russia, or the runup to the Second in Britain."

Do you have any good recommendations in that department? E.M. Forster's novels come to mind, there's a strong tone of grim weariness to Thomas Hardy's war poems.

One of the concepts I've found myself having to cope with this year has been the concept of long-term instability... of the sort that lasts not just for 5-10 years that have to be weathered, but for generations or lifetimes on end... To use the Civil War example: looking at history of civil wars, the American Civil War was actually pretty clean as far as Civil Wars go, based on the number that wind up leading to authoritarian regimes, periods of sustained domestic terrorism and insurgency, or both that can last for 50 years or more... There could easily be a version of 2065 in which, instead of partition, a shaky peace, and a sudden outbreak of conflict in between two southern powers decades later (as Carr is observing right now), the second civil war that kicked off in the 2020s is still ongoing, and has dissolved into the same sort of ongoing background violence as the Israel-Palestine conflict... And the prospect of something like that is just... psychologically exhausting to think about.

Ed-M said...


Got it! Although a 6-foot SLR won't flood New Orleans by itself (we have 17-foot and higher levees), a nice big hurricane could certainly overtop them or even breach them. Without Federal Aid, the levees won't be rebuilt and the city, probably not pumped out. That's the scenario I assume transpired from 2016 to 2065!

Patricia Mathews said...

Speaking if diminishing returns in technological advances, USA Today has a gushing headline about the 5most groundbreaking technologies of the decade.

[Warning: you'll get a soundtrack with a narrator who sounds like he's trying to sell you something. You can get a print version through the online news aggregators.]

The bottom line: "Smartphones, social media," and 3 ways they have been put to use through apps.

This reader is somewhat underwhelmed.

MawKernewek said...

That was me who made the maps, using QGIS and various data sources. However they were topographic maps only based on a +50m sea level postulated for the Stars Reach timeframe.

continental scale maps with present-day countries and major cities overplotted for context.

The British Isles

When I get some more time I will do something for the Retrotopia timeframe.

There are various free shapefiles available at when I get the chance I will edit for the Retrotopia boundaries and make available.

Don Plummer said...

Re, your political map of 2065 North America: isn't Chicago an independent city-state and not part of the Lakeland Republic? And also, don't you mean the eastern panhandle of West Virginia is not included, not the western panhandle (which I don't think exists--there's the eastern panhandle between Virginia and Maryland that points to Washington, D.C., and a northern panhandle stuck between Ohio and Pennsylvania, but not a western one).

Shane W said...

I've told JMG how offensive it is to Kentuckians to be placed in the same nation w/Yankee neighbors that despise them, and how Southern Ind., Southern Ill, & SE Ohio provide a sympathetic Confederate buffer zone, but to no avail. Kentucky's southern bona fides are much stronger than Missouri's, yet a part of Mo. gets included in the Confederacy. (Actually, history is dishonest about West Virginia, they were much bigger Confederate sympathizers and provided more Confederate troops than even KY, but the whole "we became a state because we supported the Union meme" got embedded in the state's mythos, even though that was more extralegal Yankee maneuvering.

onething said...

Re the problem of evil. We're talking about two different things here. The problem of evil generally refers to the question of why there is suffering. No one disputes that suffering is bad for the person or animal who suffers.

Those who do not recognize good and evil do not believe in an objective standard of good and evil. That's moral relativism. But it doesn't mean that they cannot discuss the problem of evil if, for example, they say, "I can't believe in God because there is too much suffering."

onething said...

It seems that one version of the recent incident is that the policeman was trying to shoot the white autistic guy, because he thought he had a gun. He was trying to protect the black guy. It was the white guy who was holding the little toy truck in his hand.

When the black guy said Sir, why did you shoot me? apparently the cop was befuddled and answered, "I don't know."

But why did they handcuff him and let him lie there? I got the impression that upset the black man more than anything else.

Helix said...


Re: "William Catton's Overshoot or EF Schumacher's Small Is Beautiful."

Interesting that you mention these two. Last winter, I dusted off my old copy of Catton's "Overshoot" and read it with new eyes, so to speak. New eyes, that is, resulting from 30 or so years of additional living. I was amazed at how prescient his book turned out to be.

And I'm now reading Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful". I was aware of it when it first came out, but was travelling at the time and never got around to reading it. Reading it now, I am once again amazed at Schumacher's acumen. This book seems to be more timely now than when it was written. Or perhaps it's better to say that it's only ripened in the four decades since it was written.

Catton and Schumacher are both more insightful and better informed than I am, which is what makes them worth reading. To these I would add a handful of other books, most notably AB Schmookler's "The Parable of the Tribes" and Nietzsche's "The Genealogy of Morality."

I learned something from these books, such that my worldview was never again quite the same after reading them. I'm glad to hear that, in your opinion, "Lean Logic" is in this same class. It's now on my reading list.

Keep up the good work, JMG. Your blog is a voice of sanity in an increasingly insane world.

Helix said...

@Gavin Harris

Re "... Teresa May (the new conservative party leader) has already made bringing improvement to everyone a cornerstone of her leadership. Though, it remains to see how far she'll actually go."

Or, perhaps more accurately, how far she'll be *allowed* to go. Recent trends suggest to me that those in positions of power don't simply ride off into the sunset. In fact, the more powerful a person is, the more viciously that person is likely to fight to hold on to his/her position of privilege. And "privilege" and "bringing improvement to everyone" are poor companions.

I'm predicting that Brexit will either be quietly shelved, or that things will get ugly.

Fred said...

Yet more things our Archdruid called months ago - via Wikileaks today, DNC emails show communications about ruining Bernie's campaign, and collaboration with the major media Washington Post and Politico

Patricia Mathews said...

@Shane W - Thank you for the "Keep calm and carry on" reminder. I even have probably the last of the available handbook-sized notebooks with that on the cover [Peter Pauper Press, one of its first covers, IIRC] wherein I logged a bunch of tips for downsizing and staying alive, some useful and some not. Alas, it's out of print, replaced by more fashionable covers, which have been replaced by more endless iteration.

To everyone: Due to a very hot summer, my electricity use has skyrocketed - fans and the swamp cooler - and my bill is half again what it was. An astounding $48.00. My natural gas bill is down to $23, which means the water heater and cooking. I need to set up the solar cooker again, as soon as I can go out and buy a Lazy Susan so that rotating it to face the sun is not a strain on my back and arms.

onething said...

People who say stuff like this:

If your god could banish evil and will not, he is malignant.
If your god would banish evil and cannot, he is impotent.
If your god could and would banish evil, whence evil.

have really not thought things out.
How would God "banish" evil when it is we who do most of it? Should we be robots? Should we be lobotomized? Should be be micromanaged? Ironically, I note, it is a stage on the stairstep of personal spiritual growth to begin to take personal responsibility.

Much misunderstanding comes, in my opinion, from the common tendency for people to not know the difference between God and Satan. God is about freedom.

If you want to live in a robot universe and be a robot being, or have a playground with monitors who blow whistles at the first hint of misbehavior - forever - then it isn't God you want to live with, but the other guy that you want to live under.

We are toddlers in a sandbox who run crying when someone takes our toy but then bonk someone one the head and take their Tonka truck.

Shane W said...

this is the first time you've mentioned a racial Balkanization of the US. In previous posts, you've always cited your personal experience of increasing interracial mixing. This is new...

Yellow Submarine said...

@ Gottfried Wilhelm Melvin Hicks-Leibniz:

Do we know yet whether the attack in Munich was an anti-immigrant attack by right wing extremists? snafu-solomon and some of the other commentators I have been following seem to think this was another attack by Islamic extremists as part of an ongoing summer offensive.

At least one witness, who is herself Muslim, claims she heard one of the attackers yelling Allahu Akbar, while other accounts claim the attacker told people he is German. Especially these days, those two categories are not mutually exclusive. I think until more info comes out, it would be wise to withhold judgment and not make too many assumptions, especially since there is a lot that is still unclear about what is really going on in Munich. We just don't know yet and the last thing we should be doing is jumping to conclusions right now based on limited and conflicting information.

If it was an anti-immigrant attack by right wing extremists, I'd say it's a good bet this was a revenge attack for all of those atrocities by Daesh ("ISIS") and other Muslim radicals, much like the recent attacks against police officers here in the states were revenge attacks motivated by extrajudicial executions of African Americans by the police.

Solomon has been predicting we would be in for a long, hot summer and that appears to be coming true for both America and Europe, as long simmering problems that the establishment has done its level best to sweep under the rug explode into violence.

Yellow Submarine said...

John Michael,

You had talked about doing a series about the cycles of civilization using Parsifal and the Ring Cycle as an analogy. I would love to see it. I am guessing that Parsifal symbolizes the earliest stages of the Faustian Culture, while Gotterdammerung symbolizes its decline and fall, an analogy that could perhaps be extended to the other civilizations of history.

I recall that Spengler drew a very similar analogy using Goethe's Faust in the Decline of the West, with the Urfaust symbolizing the Pre-Cultural and Early Cultural stages in the lifecycle of the Faustian Culture, Faust I symbolizing the mature Cultural phase and Faust II symbolizing the Civilization phase.

Yellow Submarine said...

David Fleming's book "Lean Logic" looks really good and something I will want to read. Something to add to the list, which always seems to keep growing and growing...

Daniel Najib said...

Mr. Greer, you wrote in a comment: "Oh, and there's the Kingdom of Hawai'i and the Republic of Alaska."

As an ardent monarchist (which I may as well disclose, since 'Nestorian' came out as a creationist last week), the first half of that sentence made me so giddy! Any details you care to share re: Hawai'i? A few years ago, when I was not as good a writer, I wrote an unpublishable piece titled, arrogantly enough, "The Once and Future Queen," which chronicles an alternate history of the island chain where the monarchy is restored along matrilineal lines, and Queens rule. Perhaps I should dust it off and give it a once over..

Steve in Colorado said...

@Toomas Karmo

Regarding your post of Coordinated Universal Time: 20160722T154125Z

While I understand the moral position your thoughts come from (or at least think I do), there are a couple of points which I think you may have overlooked:

1. This is some 50 years in the future. The moral and social constructs around sex may be quite different than what is accepted and thought today.

2. You assume that Melanie was not under instructions from her superiors to have an affair with Carr, for whatever their reasons.

In the end though, this is just a story. It has the potential to bring to the surface many themes and issues, and quite likely different ones for each individual.

Shane W said...

not everyone shares a repressive Catholic view of sexuality, and Lakeland is that much further in the future. Perhaps Melanie was not ashamed of bedding Carr, nor could it be used for blackmail.

gwizard43 said...

@ Toomas

You wrote:

Violence has seldom solved things in politics.

* * *

Nice dialogue - thank you. I do appreciate the thoughtful and gentlemanly response!

Let me try to clarify my position.

I should state for the record that I'm not a fan of violence, and I'm not advocating for it, and I certainly would not make my own blanket pro-violence statement, so let's avoid any binary thinking critiques.

I accept and appreciate your definition of solved, but in this case, I would point out that politics itself has too seldom 'solved' 'things'. After all, more often than not, politics itself has been used to undermine the public welfare and to promote injustice.

Next, I'm hardly 'praising' the violence that was such a frequent visitor in Roman politics. My point was simply that violence solved what the Roman Senate perceived to be its problem with the Gracchi - I can assure you that the Senate would have tried to make the case (in fact they argued so at the time, before breaking up the furniture and using the pieces to club Tiberius and his followers to death) that in murdering the brothers it was 'promoting the public welfare and justice' both. Their definitions for 'public welfare' and 'justice' clearly would differ from yours and mine, but then, to dismiss this is to assert that your cultural context is superior to theirs. By their lights, they saw the Gracchi as threatening the stability of the Republic - and in fact in some ways they were exactly right!

Point being: these are far more slippery concepts to wrangle - (e.g. who is the 'public' in 'public welfare'?) - than your simple statement implies.

What about Iran? The US helps to topple a democratically elected leader and puts the puppet Shah in place, complete with secret police, torture, etc. The Islamists violently overthrow the regime. Did that promote justice? Public welfare? We could probably argue all day long about this complicated situation and many others (South Africa springs to mind), but that's the point: real life is far more complicated that simple bromides make it out to be.

In my view these simple bromides too often serve as thought-stoppers.

Or let's consider the declaration of independence - which speaks of a destructive government, and a "right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government" - it says nothing about doing this non-violently, and by their own actions, the signers made it clear they thought violence in pursuit of independence was a valid response.

Would you say that establishing the new nation of America did not 'promote justice and public welfare' - at the time? Or was this one of the 'seldom' times violence was legit?

There are innumerable examples we could debate.

My point in all of this is simply to try to point out that sweeping, blanket statements like "Violence has seldom solved things in politics" are so vastly oversimplified and vague as to be susceptible to any, or no meaning at all.

And I'm arguing that to begin with a thought stopper like 'violence seldom solves things' is - IMHO - a refusal to embrace the complexity of our condition.

I'd strongly suggest those who had a knee jerk response to my comment pick up a copy of Pacifism as Pathology to study. It offers a considerably more nuanced view of this topic.

MawKernewek said...

I have made a draft map of Retrotopia, not including at present states that have been divided between more than one Retrotopia nation. It would be useful to have a bit more detail on where these split since my American geography isn't perfect.

I assumed Conneticut and Rhode Island were with the Atlantic Republic. I wasn't sure exactly how Canada split, I was working with an old Canadian provinces map that didn't include Nunavut, and I allocated the entirety of the old Northwest Territory to East Canada, leaving West Canada with just Sasketchewan, Alberta, BC and Yukon.

Cathy McGuire said...

Very good next episode! The description of the war and the effect on oil was very sharp and easy to picture. And now we also have the subplot of the relationship. I look forward to the next chapter.

Late to the book-reading challenge, I'm working on "A Bell for Adano" by John Hershey. Just back as far as WWII but definitely different POVs about many things.

latheChuck said...

In my long-term quest to preserve records of "the events leading up to...", I've been dutifully purchasing the annual supplements to my 1985 Encyclopedia Britannica. In hardcover, of course, I expect them to be a valuable chronicle, and they'll probably get more interesting as they get older. "We used to do THAT?" will be a common reaction to their content.
I have also considered their value as mass (to block nuclear radiation), as thermal insulation, and (as a last resort) as fuel (but there's probably too much clay in the paper for it to burn usefully).

James M. Jensen II said...


To be fair, the argument can also be reworked in terms of suffering instead of evil. Then it includes things like natural disasters that could be prevented without any sort of imposition on our own choices.

It's still not a very persuasive argument to me because it's still trying to second-guess an omniscient being. I've long thought that anyone who believes in such a being (I'm unconvinced either way) should answer with, "I guess that's just how little our suffering matters in the grand scheme of things."

Or if you get challenged by a New Atheist type and you want to be snarky about it, say, "You know, I think you're right. If there really was an all-loving God, surely he wouldn't let the faithful be annoyed so often by non-believers like you!"

temporaryreality said...

I was interested to note headlines and opening sentences in my local paper in the last week that looked like this:

"Young dour during summer tumult: In a summer of political and racial tumult, young Americans are in a dour mood: pessimistic about the fairness of their economic system, questioning the greatness of the United States and deeply skeptical of the way the nation picks its leaders..."

"Financial future looking good: The U.S. economy is in far better shape than many might think..."

"Kids in Crisis - Teens chronically sad: In a potential crisis crossing demographic lines, one-third of California's 11th graders and one-quarter of seventh graders reported feeling chronically sad or hopeless over the past 12 months..."

Today's (which I left at the diner to amuse the waitstaff with a story about scientists who spent $10 million dollars in search of invisible dark matter and found... wait for it... nothing!) had an article about the UC chancellors getting a raise (so that the one from UCSF now makes $750,000 per year.

The cluelessness at using public funds to pay that kind of salary... the "What's Wrong With This Picture" sense one gets from reading about the reality for regular people and the pablum we're supposed to swallow about a sunny economy... the mind just boggles. I can't even come up with something coherent to say about it.

Meanwhile to JMG, and all, including nrgmiserncaz, who asked - I was able to borrow a library copy of The Mandibles. Readers of the ADR will be right at home in that story. While Shriver's prognostications go in interestingly different directions (slightly) from JMG's (I mean, she doesn't get us to Retrotopia, precisely, by the end), there's much that is recognizable in how events are unfolding now (in our present story), and how they play out in that (future) one. I'd welcome others' take on it. I came away thinking great portions of it are highly probable.

patriciaormsby said...

@Daniel, I also have a positive view of monarchy, having seen two good examples where they seem to help bring stability to a society and allow culture to flourish, in Japan and Thailand. Of course, then there's places like Saudi Arabia, which I haven't visited, but sound awful, so I think there should be caveats as well.

I'd love to read your piece about the Hawaiian queen. I wrote about a future Japanese empress for Greer's Meriga Project. I admit to being an amateur, too, but a determined one.

@JMG, I plead guilty as charged! Watching America from the outside is like observing an abusive household, and wishing someone there would stand up to the bully, not cognizant of the fact that when they do, things in the house are going to get really bad. Your grasp of history and thus tendencies in human societies is what brings me here each week.

I'm enjoying your fiction too, and very interested by your remarks above on how authors write best sellers. I suppose you could do likewise, clocking in for it, and considering it a nine-to-five. Really popular works have been created by people trying to satirize one genre or another, and the fans of the genre just eat it up. Those of us in on it would be laughing our heads off.

John Michael Greer said...

Mike, yes, Lakeland includes Kentucky. I know some Kentuckians (waves to Shane) are incensed by the suggestion, but just as in 1861, there are Kentuckians on both sides of that dispute, and it so happened in my future history that at the Louisville convention of 2030, more of the delegates voted to join Lakeland than voted to join the Confederacy. The Confederate invasion in 2049 was meant to reverse that decision, and failed; those people who wanted to become part of the Confederacy who hadn't moved south at Partition went with the retreating Confederate armies. Them's the breaks.

Shane, I'll get around to reading the transcript one of these days.

Sylvia, yes, and there's quite a bit more they can do -- but we'll get to that...

Patricia, I'll post something here as soon as they're available.

Mr. Geronimo, a lot of people thought the same thing about the USA in the 1920s and 1930s, and you saw what followed. In my future history, Brazil went through a couple of ghastly decades in the 2020s and 2030s, a lot of clueless people didn't survive, and then the lessons were learned.

Shane, PowerPoint was quietly buried, as people noticed how many bad decisions had been facilitated by it. Get rid of the pictures on the screen and people pay more attention to what's being said, and whether it's stupid or not!

Donalfagan, I suppose that's one way to think of it!

Shane, you're quite correct. Ed-M, the Atlantic Republic is the present-day states of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland, with the eastern (not western) panhandle of West Virginia; Washington DC is technically Atlantic territory but it's basically a ruin inhabited by squatters. West Canada is BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon Territory; Nunavut, I should have said, is an independent nation, having united with Kalaallit Nunaat (aka Greenland) in 2042. There's also the Free City of Chicago, which is an independent (and gaudily corrupt) nation, and consists of Cook County. I think that's it!

Hammer, when I lived in the Seattle area, Vietnamese gangs were some of the toughest in town, and the Koreans and Samoans down in White Center used to rumble on a regular basis. That is to say, I beg to differ. As for ten per cent of people making the change, that ten per cent has to begin with one. Why not be that one?

Toomas, I hate to break it to you, but sex between people who hardly know each other is tolerably common these days. Peter and Melanie have been in fairly close contact for ten days, and that's more than enough time to inspire a casual fling in many social circles today -- especially when both parties are nonreligious. There's another reason for the relationship, though, and it's the same reason I've portrayed same-sex couples in the story. One of the automatic thoughtstopping reactions that comes up whenever anyone suggests going back to older technology is the insistence that this means going back to older social mores -- do you remember the people who popped up in the comments, when I talked about a return to Victorian technology, who insisted that this required going back to child labor and the like? The presence of relatively casual sexual mores in Retrotopia is intended to stop that reaction in its tracks. Melanie Berger dresses like a woman from 1940 and lives in a town with roughly 1940s technology, but that doesn't mean that she shares the same social habits as people did in the 1940s. Au contraire, she's a woman of 2065, with the social habits of her own period, which are not that different from the social habits of upper middle class, nonreligious people in most of the US today.

John Michael Greer said...

Varun, well, if more people do run out and buy Twilight's Last Gleaming, I'll certainly consider another political thriller! I could see, for example, doing a harrowing near-future novel about the coming of fascism to the United States.

Pygmycory, yes, and thank you for catching that. Nunavut is an independent country, and includes Greenland; the other provinces and territories belong to the nation of West Canada.

Mustard, well, that's annoying. Please repost it and I'll see if it shows up.

Bob, keep in mind that this story is set only fifty years in the future -- that is to say, the curve of decline still has a long ways to go.

Ed and Gottfried, yes, things are moving ahead very quickly now.

Eric, it's been a while. About ten years ago I did a great deal of reading on the runup to the Second World War, focusing on the kind of day-by-day accounts spiced with plenty of contemporary quotes and interviews with people who were there, but I couldn't name you titles.

Ed-M, got it in one. There was a bad hurricane during the Second Civil War, when there was no money available for anything, and another three years after Partition, when the Confederacy was still struggling with the postwar economic mess. By the time things stabilized, the levees were full of holes, most of the city had flooded repeatedly, and the ongoing breakup of the Greenland ice sheet meant that everyone knew the Big Easy was done enough to stick a fork in. Baton Rouge is the big port city near the Mississippi mouth in 2065, waiting for its transition to Banroo Bay when the Antarctic ice sheets melt.

Patricia, smartphones and social apps. Gee, how marvelous.

Mawkernewek, thank you! Yes, of course it was you.

Don, two for two. I probably shouldn't field comments this late at night.

Helix, you're welcome and thank you. Glad to hear you're finding those old classics thought-provoking!

Fred, that one was shooting fish in a barrel.

Shane, yes, it's new. I wasn't expecting the African-American community to move so quickly along the usual route to insurgency; my working guess was that the insurgency would break out first among poor rural Southerners irrespective of color, driven by economic issues. To the extent that Black Lives Matter succeeds in defining the problem with extrajudicial executions by police as purely a matter of race, and violence breaks out along that particular fault line, the interracial relations I see around me could all too easily go the way of marriages between Bosnians, Croatians, and Serbs. What a miserable turn of affairs...

John Michael Greer said...

Submarine, no, Parsifal comes after the Ring cycle. In a very real sense, it's the fifth Ring opera, in which the unresolved issues left over from Gotterdammerung find their resolution. I'm actually basing this in large part on an obscure essay by Wagner -- have you by any chance read Die Wibelungen: Weltgeschichte aus der Saga? He wrote it in 1848, while the basic concepts of the Ring were first bubbling in his imagination, and it equates the Grail and the Rhinegold. (It's also very likely one of the sources Evola used for Revolt Against the Modern World, and gets into the Guelph-Ghibelline conflict in a rather more subtle way than Evola ever did.) More on this, as I said earlier, if I ever decide to chase off most of my readers!

Daniel, the Second Civil War was a very difficult time for Hawai'i, as the tourist trade and exports to the mainland stopped completely, and a great many people left in the ensuing economic depression. When the islands voted for independence in 2030, the plan of reestablishing the former constitutional monarchy was the one option that garnered enough votes in the constitutional convention to get by, and the native Hawai'ians selected one of several descendants of the old royal house to be crowned king, taking the name of Kamehameha VI. King William V of England and Crown Prince Hisahito of Japan were among the dignitaries present at the coronation. From the perspective of 2065, the decision to reestablish the monarchy seems to have been sound; Hawai'ian politics have been lively but peaceful, and the kingdom has maintained a studied neutrality in the various conflicts around the Pacific rim -- a decision that has attracted quite a bit of investment money to the islands.

MawKernewek, thank you! A couple of corrections: Connecticut and Rhode Island are historically part of New England and should go with the Republic of New England and the Maritimes; and the Northwest and Yukon Territories are part of West Canada, not East Canada. The division of Missouri and West Virginia in your old map are correct. As for the division of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, if you look up the continental divide, that's the line to follow for the first two; for Colorado, the Republic of Deseret ends at the continental divide, and the Missouri-Texas boundary goes more or less in a straight line from the southeastern corner of Colorado to the point where the continental divide crosses Colorado's northern border.

Cathy, thank you!

LatheChuck, sounds like a plan.

Temporaryreality, exactly. "The US economy looks great" -- as long as you don't ask yourself who's benefiting from it and who's not.

Patricia, the problem is that I have way too many other things to write that interest me!

Shane W said...

I guess where everyone saw that Hillary picked milquetoast insider Kaine as Veep. Sigh, JMG, this is playing out exactly as you said it would. We know Hillary was part of the senile elite, but, man, she's proving just how tone-deaf she really is.

Shane W said...

I wonder why the Confederates didn't bomb all the bridges over the Ohio in the 2nd Civil War or the invasion of 2049?

Gottfried Wilhelm Melvin Hicks-Leibniz said...

Yellow Submarine, will do my best to avoid jumping to conclusions next time!

So, the story is now this:

Loner, teenage school student, under psychiatric care, somehow came into illegal possession of a gun and ammunition, decides to kill fellow teenagers (perhaps even luring them into the attack via a Facebook posting) and eventually kill himself, while the whole world was left to speculate about this being yet another Islamic State or even a far-right, xenophobic attack from a home-grown "insurgent".

Nestorian said...


You are not correct. In point of fact, the statement "I cannot believe in God because there is too much suffering" entails an implicit ethical "ought" statement, and thus an implicit objective value judgment that something is bad.

A person would only say this (and mean it) based on the unarticulated idea that "there ought not be any suffering," that "it would be a better world without suffering," and the like.

All of these value-preference statements, in turn, presuppose the simple, primordial conviction that "suffering is bad," in an objective sense.

This is yet another illustration of the fact that we are all appealing to objective values and moral norms all the time, whether we like it or not.

Cherokee Organics said...


Ha! Maintain your secrets if you must, but I can assure you we will all learn one day about Mr Carr's future! Personally, if I were Mr Carr, I'd stay. I mean he has a future in the Lakeland Republic plus he's got the babe - and that's all good with me! ;-)! Hehe!!! Apologies, I've now descended into the land of silliness...

Of course, the silliness was absolutely necessary because I read the newspaper this morning - the paper copy, mind you- and I stumbled across this article: All eyes on inflation next week, but not everything is as it seems... I thought to myself that this sounds interesting, I wonder if they’ll discuss asset price rises as an inflationary effect?

I did hear you once talking on a podcast about a book called the Principles of Cosmic Order and I’m sure you felt much the same as I did this morning. I hope you don’t mind that I was totally laughing hard when I heard that story.

So, to save you a bit of trouble reading the article, my favourite quote was this: "Housing price pressures were also weak, rising just 0.3 per cent." Honestly, I almost spat coffee all over the newspaper in sheer outrage. I mean how is that even possible when Melbourne median house price grows 1.2 per cent over March quarter and note that the article refers to the statistic that annual price growth was 12%!!!! I believe Sydney was 19% for the same annual period. What is wrong with these people?

The people that come up with those annual inflation numbers clearly appear to be giving more weighting to the price change for a litre of milk or a loaf of bread than the incredible ever escalating house price down here. The interesting thing is that I believe that we have now exceeded the household income to price ratio of Los Angeles which was at 11 (!) just before the US house price crash in 2008.

Enough! I must reach for a chamomile tea to settle my now shattered nerves...

Hi teajanotim,

It looks as though we will have to wait. It is not fair is it? I have provided some alternative suggested endings which perhaps JMG will consider in his narrative: Maybe Mr Carr will become a POW in the Lakeland republic? The authorities may also attempt to institutionalise him after he expresses a profound desire for a career as an astronaut? How about Mr Carr, chucks it all in for a future career as a navigator on a ship travelling up and down the Mississippi River! OK, let’s get serious here. Mr Carr retrains as a fitter and turner and goes to work for the local tram company.;-)!

Hi Nestorian,

I believe that you are now referring to the placebo effect, and that may well work in some situations, of that I have no doubt - although I wouldn't employ that technique in a very nasty illness. Do you believe that your God has flaws - you sort of ignored that observation of mine?



Nestorian said...

Also, I noticed some people discussing the question of whether the known speed of light is compatible in young earth creationism with the idea of stars that are visible, yet billions of light years away.

This is known as the "distant star light problem" in YEC discussions and literature, and it has in fact received a good bit of attention. One hypothesis is that the speed of light has slowed over time; Australian creationist Barry Satterfield has assembled some historical attempts to measure the speed of light going back several hundred years that seem - crudely, to be sure - to indicate a possible trend of exponential decay over time.

Another attempt to deal with the problem is physicist Russell Humphrey's "white hole" cosmology, which uses the concept of event horizons to try to explain how the present laws governing the speed of light may not have applied during the period of the creation (and yes, that period did supposedly last 6 24-hour periods).

A further creationist angle on the question relates to the fact that the assignment of distances to celestial objects more than a couple hundred light years away is not based on the direct measurement of the parallax. Rather, these assignments involve inference chains that include certain empirically unverifiable assumptions. In general, the further away an object supposedly is, the more its claimed distance is subject to unverifiable assumptions - i.e., it might actually be a lot closer than we think.

To be sure, all of this involves fitting the scientific data to a pre-conceived framework of belief. But if you think that orthodox Big Bang theory doesn't do the same thing to an equal or greater degree with regard to a different pre-conceived framework of belief, then you are misinformed.

In point of fact, Big Bang Theory must introduce - on an entirely speculative basis - massive changes in basic laws of physics occurring infinitesimal fractions of a second after the primordial expansion. To me, that is nothing more than the introduction of a completely unaccountable Deus ex Machina to preserve a pre-conceived and institutionally sanctioned theory.

Another example of the way that Big Bang Theory introduces unaccountable ad hoc changes to try to preserve some semblance of internal coherence (while giving away that it lacks such coherence through the need for introducing the ad hoc change in the first place) is its postulation of the existence of Dark Matter to account for how the quantities of certain physical measurements is to be reconciled with the known laws of physics.

As has been pointed out elsewhere on this thread, physicists have been unable to empirically verify the existence of such Dark Matter. Why, then, should creationists be required to believe in the existence of such Dark Matter in order to validate their credentials as rational human beings? Such a demand merely asks them to substitute one leap of faith into something unproven for another.

Either way, moreover - whether your leap of faith involves creation, or whether it involves Dark Matter along with certain unaccountable changes in basic laws of physics occurring in primordial moments - the logical justification of your belief system inevitably involves an element of circularity. There is a way in which both creationists and Big Bang Theorists alike incorporate something unprovable into their interpretation of empirical data, such that the interpretation of the data somehow supposedly helps to validate belief in the unprovable.

Nestorian said...

By the way, did anybody notice the following recent update article on Peak Oil and the latest oil production data?

Thoughts on its contents would be appreciated, since we Peak Oilers were apparently wrong about some not entirely-unimportant things.

MawKernewek said...

I have update my maps at my blog and also made available a shapefile of the Retrotopia nations so that if you have QGIS or other suitable software you can also make a map of them.

onething said...


"(Actually, history is dishonest about West Virginia, they were much bigger Confederate sympathizers and provided more Confederate troops than even KY,"

Apparently so. The north of the state was generally more Union in sympathy, and the southern more Confederate but there was a lot of division within counties and within families. I live near the southern end of my county, which is more or less central within the state, and this county had plenty of people who fought for both sides. Down the road from me is a house built just after the civil war in which the man and his brother fought Union and two other of his brothers fought for the Confederates!

Ben Johnson said...

JMG - Still really enjoying Retrotopia. If you're not interested in writing a novel set during the Texan-Confederate War of 2065, subcontract it out! It would make for an interesting read and a break with typical sci-fi visions of future conflict.
By 2065, I'm guessing New Mexico, western Oklahoma and west Texas regularly experience dust bowl conditions. I wonder how much longer Texas can remain viable republic? Eastern Oklahoma and Texas should still get enough spring storms blowing in from the Gulf to keep agriculture viable, but climate change rendering everything west of I-35 uninhabitable should a last straw for the Republic. I can also say that if things go well for the Confederates, or as climate change takes it's toll, the Republic of Texas would have a rebellion in eastern Oklahoma on their hands. We don't like the western half of the state that much, and really don't like Texas!

On another note, I was very skeptical of your prediction that the Donald would win the white house. Seeing Hillary make a clueless VP pick to "appeal to centrists" and the rise of viable third parties make that prediction a lot more reasonable. Ugh.

Synthase said...

JMG: Re: Toomas' crush, does the Lakeland Republic import contraceptives? It seems to me that the availability of the Pill is something of a prerequisite for 'liberated' sexual mores, particularly for women.

onething said...

James Jensen,

“To be fair, the argument can also be reworked in terms of suffering instead of evil. “

The older use of the word 'evil' often meant something bad happening to someone. In the Bible, such events are called evil. But there is also the other use of the word, to depict an evilly evil being of terrible, malicious intent doing something horrible to someone.

And, it's the latter which moral relativists don't recognize a way to judge as being evil.

Those disturbed by the problem of evil refer to both, but perhaps a bit more to the latter. The Gnostics were mostly concerned with the former, and thus they thought that because suffering is built into the structure of our reality it must have been created by a demigod rather than the real, true God.

“It's still not a very persuasive argument to me because it's still trying to second-guess an omniscient being. “

I agree. Or maybe She isn't omniscient. Or maybe there's a plan we don't appreciate. I don't trust the whining of toddlers.

“I've long thought that anyone who believes in such a being (I'm unconvinced either way) should answer with, "I guess that's just how little our suffering matters in the grand scheme of things."

Nah. Some people on this blog say they live in an indifferent universe, but I sure don't. We just don't have the big picture here and it gets discouraging for sure. Part of our sentence in this prison is to be left without knowledge of why we are here and with what we are charged – much like the unfortunates of Guantanamo Bay. It's from a place of discouragement that one comes to the conclusion that our suffering doesn't matter.

I've been reading about cells of single and multicellular organisms. No science fiction writer could ever have made this stuff up. A cell has between 20 and 100 trillion atoms. 5 million to a couple of trillion molecules. The cell if blown up would be much like a small manufacturing city of 5 to 10 miles across filled with busses, manufacturing plants, deliveries and transport of products, etc. Millions of portholes on its surface. A way to crawl itself into place and adhere to like cells. Under duress, cells can turn on mutations, but only in that part of the genome where it might be useful. Cells make many calculations and decisions based on them. One comes away with the impression that a cell is a little life form with a life of its own and yet it also contributes to the being much larger than itself. Cells of my immune system go to war and die in the war. Yet it makes sense because, after all, if they did not, how would they live their little personal lives? Much like my dependence on the earth's ecosystem.

I am fascinated by tiny consciousness. Who is running this small city? In what way does my being and my consciousness intermix or overwhelm that of the individual cell? Can I communicate at all to my cells? Through emotional states, definitely. Likewise, I'm sure we are part of something bigger. But the physical level and the spiritual level are different, because, as the Hindus like to say, all material things are temporary and pass away. They are vehicles for a consciousness which is probably rather limitless in its ability to learn.

John Roth said...


That police incident is even worse than that. You’ve got a number of police standing around, with the situation under control, and a new arrival does something that might be justifiable if he was the first person on the scene, but is totally out of line as a late arrival. Same thing happened with the pool party incident. That’s not just stupidiy; it’s a lack of situational awareness.


In your reply to James Jensen: That’s special pleading. An argument is valid or invalid regardless of who makes it. In your response to Chris (Cherokee is not his name, it’s the name of the mountain range where he lives), all I can say is a riff on another famous old saying: “What is unique to Christianity is not good, what is good in Christianity is not unique.” I’m not a Christian because of the theology, which I find laughable. As far as demons go, I once walked into a situation completely unaware where I had to bind a demon. And I didn’t even believe in demons at the time! Fortunately, it ended well.


The problem of suffering (evil, pain, etc.) is strictly Christian, because the Christian god is supposed to be all-good. (Omnibenevolent in the latin.) That’s the inherent contradiction. If your theology does not include either a creator God who is supposed to be all-good and all-wise (so he can see the consequences of his actions) or a God which is both all-good and all-powerful, then the problem goes away.

That doesn’t mean that suffering goes away, nor does evil in the sense of someone deliberately causing pain, suffering and so forth for the lulz. The first is, I think, dealt with adequately by primitive Buddhism (the Four Noble Truths) without the later accretions.


That triplet was created by one of the ancient Greek philosophers, probably Epicurus. I seriously doubt that he had not thought things out. Epicurienism is an interesting philosophy, and it was quite popular in its day. There are lots of tombs with the classical Epicurean epitaph: “I was not, I was, I am not, I do not care.”

W. B. Jorgenson said...

@Patricia Mathews

If those are the best inventions then wow we've hit diminishing returns far harder than I thought. I personally would've thought it would at least have one real innovation on it....

zach bender said...

re JMG's response to toomas on linkage betw social mores and technology.

on the one hand it does seem sensible to suppose that a reversion to older technologies should not in itself undermine more recently emerged social constructs. on the other hand, as a person who came of age at a time when even reaching someone across town on a landline required a certain amount of effort, and communication over longer distances required investments of time and/or money, i will suggest that the prevalence of some social arrangements that no doubt existed back then has been greatly facilitated by some of these more recent technologies. but once the changed social arrangements find a foothold, perhaps they are less amenable to being undone by "collapses" on other fronts.

william fairchild said...



You've done gone and divided up my homeland! What the heck?

Actually, it makes sense that Deseret would encompass western WY. Th ere is a strong Mormon population in WY.

As to Texas absorbing southern CO, particularly as they went further north, the fighting must have been fierce. There is no love lost between TX and CO. Two Colorado sayings:

If God had meant Texans to ski, He'd a made bullsh*t white. God put Texas at the bottom of the US, because when He made America, he shook all the sh*t to the bottom.

Native Coloradans really do not like Texans, at least the loud and proud kind.

Although Colorado Springs has become a center of evangelicalism, the rest of the state , not so much.

The only reason I can see that TX would want that area (besides their overblown sense of "bigness") is either the molybdenum mines at Leadville, or the gasfields. Gold and silver are pretty well petered out at this time. I bet there was full scale geurilla war, particularly in the high country. How easy it would be to blow a highway tunnel or a bridge or bring down rock slides or avalanches on unsuspecting Texans in their MRAPS. Yikes!

Now, Missouri would definately want Eastern WY and MT. Not only for the gas (fracked & coalbed methane) but for the Powder River basin coalfields, which are huge.

With war between the Confederacy and Texas, and a petroleum crunch, I wonder if Missouri tries to go for coal to liquids.

I like that it was the accusation of horizonal drilling that set this off. Kuwait and Iraq had a little dustup over that in the early nineties and look where we are now.

Justin said...

I'm going to come out and agree with Toomas on most points, JMG - incidentally I'm also quite sympathetic to monarchism as well. Although of course monarchism can go horribly wrong, it actually has a pretty good track record, and I'm pretty sure that most of the real failures of monarchism were related to civilizational cycles as described by Spengler and would have happened to a more democratic system anyway.

Returning to Toomas' point: Even though I am receptive to the notion that casual sex is somewhat accepted in the Lakeland Republic, most organizations have rules about disclosing relationships between members of related or rival organizations. Of course, nobody in most organizations today understands that rule to extend to semi-spontaneous liaisons unless they become lasting relationships.

I have a couple theories about what the sexual landscape will look like in any reasonably stable part of North America in 2065, and it doesn't involve a lot of promiscuity, at least according to the patterns of promiscuity that are normal now.

One factor to consider is that entirely antibiotic resistant strains of just about every bacterial STD are floating around in the homosexual community these days, and of course they won't stay there. Unlike HIV, which is difficult to transfer through normal sexual practices other than receiving (unprotected) anal sex and has therefore never really been too much of a problem for heterosexual people, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis are more easily transferred by heterosexual sex, and of course, might be a life sentence 50 years from now. These diseases will get more nasty as antibiotics go away, because "hope that my host passes me on before I'm noticed" won't be a necessary strategy. Of course, HIV, without modern treatments might actually burn itself out or become something that kills much more slowly than it did in the 80's.


Justin said...


The other factor is the raising of children who result from such encounters. Does the Church take children from women who have children but cannot support them as it has in the past? Are shotgun weddings a thing? Are there welfare programs sufficient to allow a single woman to support herself and an infant or child? All of these systems have been tried at times, although I suspect that resources will be a bit too tight and Lakeland a little too Protestant (whether or not they admit it) for the welfare solution, and a little too atheistic for the church solution, it really leaves few options for a woman who gets herself into that situation (although I do hope that shaming of the associated male behavior is more of a thing in 2065!). Perhaps what will happen is that the new mother and child will simply take on a more domestic role in her extended family due to her need to be around to breastfeed, etc.

Another question that nags at me quite a bit is whether or not people do actually pair bond more strongly with their first sexual partners more than say, their 14th. Although there's a lot of cultural factors, my Indian (Ganges) friends and colleagues are doing fairly well in their largely arranged marriages, including some who didn't meet their wives or husbands until shortly before the weddings. Compared to my Canadian peers, the levels of drama, divorce etc. is incredibly low. Although divorce statistics should be taken with a grain of salt due to Pareto distribution in the number of times people get divorced in a life time, there's evidence that more sexual partners before marriage correlates with divorce.

Of course, a lot depends on birth control technology in 2065. Latex condoms might still be available due to the popularity, social importance and simplicity of the technology causing scarce resources to be allocated to it, and liked I talked about last week, copper IUDs could be employed under extremely austere conditions (but they do nothing about the disease issue). I agree that homosexuality will be tolerated, if not understood as an important part of society. History is littered with very successful (closeted) gay men, and it's possible that whatever mental changes cause someone to be homosexual cause other changes which grant them a different perspective, and of course no kids means abundant time and resources for other endeavors.

Justin said...

Regarding race, no, things do not look good. La Raza and whatever emerges out of BLM after the Democratic Party loses control of it likely will explicitly exist as institutions to advance the interests of the Hispanic and Black races, which will be in conflict with the interests of everyone who doesn't fit into those categories, namely white people, Asians and everyone else. Something to look at will be the number of white people attending and supporting BLM events - it's running about 50% from what I've seen.

It's permissible in North America for a nonwhite person to express racist sentiments publicly and expect no consequences, but for a white person it's utterly unacceptable to do so. Regardless of what one thinks of this state of affairs, the real mood of White America is really hard to judge. I agree, however, with Orlov that the European-American psyche responds to threats by standing it's ground, hoisting its colors and force aggressors to take some steps backwards with their tails between their legs, and then it will calm down again. Strange times.

David, by the lake said...


OT, but I had an interesting experience earlier today on that one political discussion forum I participate in. During a fairly extensive conversation and multi-party exchange, I was called a faux-progressive due to my statements regarding trade and the off-shoring of jobs for cheaper labor. The person in question asserted that the thrid-world laborers were better off because of this trade and more or less said that a true progressive would be concerned about them as well, not just American workers. I pointed out, among other things, that those laborers don't vote in US elections.

I keep trying to point out that if we want to prevent the rise of the kind of demagoguery that Trump manifests, then working class interests need to be addressed and accommodated. I get little agreement, on that forum at least. My impression is that Trump is seen as a one-time event, rather than the first manifestation of a broader phenomenon.

Patricia Mathews said...

Life imitates art:

Straight out of TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING. I wonder if Czar Vladimir ha read it?

I sent my copy to a friend, will reacquire.

Bob Patterson said...

JMG - Many financial commentators have focused on the vital necessity of credit (many levels) to maintain the modern distribution infrastructure. No credit, no deliveries, - no credit no distribution of food - no credit no distribution of fuel - The whole system breaks down in a very short time. Many of these commentators predict empty Wal Marts 48 hours after credit collapses (like options, just-in-time distribution does have a bad side). Once this monetary confidence - that you WILL get paid in a way that benefits you - is gone it will be extremely hard to replace it. Historically, other than barter, the only way to establish this confidence quickly was to use coins made of precious metal. And even then, there is a long history of money debasement (less precious metal in an alloy state).

william fairchild said...


Upon reflection, I could believe that CO joined the Republic of TX voluntarily. Which is stronger, a distaste of TX or a fear of being sucked into the naion of Aztlan?

Ed-M said...


"Baton Rouge is the big port city near the Mississippi mouth in 2065." Yes, I figured it to be one of the twin cities in the Baton Rouge - New New Orleans Metroplex and said as much in my comment to Unknown (Deborah Bender).

Well I have the map up!

I just have a few quibbles to settle before it's final:

1) West Virginia missing its Western Panhandle looks a little weird. I remember in the first Retrotopia that the pasenger train Peter Carr was on travelled quite a way before it reached Steubenville. Now that town is right on the border and the trains would pull right in after crossing the Ohio, which is the new border. Maybe the Eastern Oanhandle could hive off to the Atlantic Republic or CSA 2.0 instead? Dunno.

2) It seems the uninhabitable area could stand to be a bit larger, taking in portions of Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and even SE Oregon and SW Idaho, based on current desert areas. Also the Great Plains are desert, too; I assume they can still be inhabited.

3) The indisposed of territory in Canada - perhaps this could be two countries? With British Columbia going its own way and taking Yukon with it? That leaves Alberta, Saskatchewan and the NW Territories their own country -- West Canada. My guess the breakup in Canada would be more amicable, keeping the present day provincial lines as frontiers.

4) I took some liberties with SF Bay, Puget Sound up to Vancouver, Cook Inlet (Anchorage AK), and the Yukon and MacKenzie Deltas to account for the 6 foot SLR... although the rise might not materialise in the last two places?

Jess sayin'...

Varun Bhaskar said...


Here's hoping you sell more copies then!

By the way, I have to disagree with your analysis of insurgency in the States. We have a potential ethnic insurgency, but I don't think the lines will break as cleanly as in Iraq or Bosnia. The biggest reason being that the ethnic culture and loyalty simply doesn't exist to the extent that it does in those places. However that isn't to say that we won't have ethnic insurgents. The biggest thing I'm noticing about the states is that the number of fissures in this country and how deep each of them run. I'm starting to think that we'll have multiple insurgencies, each fighting for different reasons. From what I'm seeing, it's entirely possible that different parts of the country will have insurgents fighting for different reasons, with some crossover of ideology. We're all sitting around expecting one fissure to start burning, but if the economic crisis hits hard this winter, then by next summer all bets are off.



David, by the lake said...


Apologies. More current events. Apparently FiveThirtyEight is currently projecting a 290 to 247 win for Clinton.

The comment feed on the PoliticalWire story on this is rather freaking out at the closeness.

Shane W said...

question: how do carpetbaggers factor in to the Confederacy? The reason I ask is that some southern states like North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and, to a lesser extent, Tennessee are very "New South" and overrun w/carpetbaggers to the point that they don't even resemble the South in certain areas. I can't see the carpetbaggers supporting the Confederacy. Do they (the carpetbaggers) stay or go? Also, states like Miss., Ky, Ala., Ark. are much poorer, have experienced much less growth, and, consequently, are much more native with a lot fewer carpetbaggers. How much of KY's decision to go Lakeland is native driven vs. carpetbagger driven?
Regarding black police interactions, it's getting to the point that black people would be well advised to shoot first and ask questions later if they want to come out of a police interaction alive. I mean, how can they have any certainty of coming out of a police interaction alive? I really don't mean to be flippant, but it seems to have gotten that bad. Meanwhile, the unspoken problem is the militarization and escalation of the police, which only fringe libertarians like Rand Paul seem willing to address.
I know it's your novel, and I know your experiences growing up w/a smoker, but I still fail to see how the current antismoking regime continues after all the wars, etc. I just see that as an extension of our current biophobia, and after all those people have come up close and personal w/their own mortality and lost so many, I just can't see them being that concerned about smoking. On the other hand, I'd imagine that Lakeland's strong corporate responsibility laws make it pretty hard for tobacco companies to misrepresent their products. Somehow, I'm imagining some sort of middle ground.

whomever said...

Hi JMG. I remember you mentioning a few times it's pretty likely there are foreign powers out there trying to undermine the USA. Well, people are starting to ask some very pointed questions about Trump's connections to Putin. See, eg, (yes, it leans left, but they do try and do legit journalism).

Re BLM / police shootings, do remember there has been a LONG, LONG history in the USA of race riots, brutal racism by the police, etc etc going all the way back to reconstruction. 1919, 1968, many others. I guess I'm wondering if in some sense we have become at least inured to it...

onething said...


But I am not arguing for moral relativism. Far from it, I think it is a detour into a bog.
A moral relativists does not want to name an action as definitely bad, let's say. But the question of the problem of evil is not the same question, and one might be a moral relativist or not, and still say – I don't believe in God because if there were a loving God, there would not be suffering. So yes, there is an implied ought.
I agree with you that we all appeal to objective values and norms all the time.

John Roth,

Are you saying that neither Judaism nor Islam believe in an omnipotent and omniscient God?
Do you think the problem of understanding suffering does not occur in India, albeit the answer will be different?
As to Epicurus, if the problem is entirely Christian, why was he dealing with it at all?

latheChuck said...

Shane - The fact that a black man can be shot by a police officer for no discernable reason does not imply that peaceful and routine interactions between black men and police officers do not also take place. As far as I can tell, the only men who have "shot first" at police are those with suicidal (as well as homicidal) intent, and that seems like the most likely outcome. No one is likely to wake up the next morning having "shot first" when confronted by police.

Unknown said...

John Roth, re your reply to Shane W

"That’s not just stupidity; it’s a lack of situational awareness."

Nope, it not. It is incompetence. Whether it has its roots in racism or not matters somewhat but regardless, it is still incompetent use of power.

Either those responsible for this man's employment will deal with it, or the potential victims of him and the obvious multitude of others like him will act to prevent their suffering from it.

The inevitability of that reality seems to have escaped those in power.

eagle eye

latheChuck said...

JMG - You've written about how you like breaking the rules of literature (regardless of the impact on your sales). Since you have not written an explicitly sexual scene for your Retrotopia characters, perhaps they've found a way to provide mutual comfort and honest emotional intimacy without the awkward risks of sexually-transmitted diseases, pregnancy, or professional impairment. Now, THAT would be breaking the rules! (And, it could put at ease some of the concerns expressed previously in this comment thread.) At this point, I think it might be more shocking to reveal that they had held something in reserve, purely through their own will power, despite their mutually-expressed affection.

I am reminded of the case of Julian Assange (of WikiLeaks), who apparently misunderstood that being invited to "sleep with" his travel minder in Sweden meant only that he was invited to sleep with her, a misunderstanding which led to rape charges.

Shane W said...

Well, if we're talking ethnic warfare/insurgency, hands down, I'm going to say the most powerful group will be immigrant/first generation Spanish speaking Latinos. Strong culture, family bonds, social reciprocity, etiquette, graciousness, manners, traditions, resilience, frugality, resourcefulness, industry/work ethic, and connection to the people back home, of whom they could call in at any moment to support them. As a Spanish speaking ginger, I'm quite familiar about the exotic xenophilia of gingers in Latin America.

David, by the lake said...

Updated FiveThirtyEight data shows 287 to 251 (with rounding).

I am getting that feeling, John, that you reference in this week's installment. Something here has fundamentally changed.

Shane W said...

Seeing how spiteful, mistrusting, and hateful English speaking Americans (both black and white) are to one another in their day-to-day lives, I just don't see them organizing effectively along ethnic lines. I see blacks & whites breaking down into infighting amongst themselves, in comparison to Latinos (viva la Raza, si?)

Shane W said...

I have to ask how an Australian mountain chain got named after a North American native tribe...

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160724T014218Z

Dear Nestorian,

You are now ("7/23/16, 5:17 AM") discussing cosmology, with some reference to parallaxes, but seem to have accidentally overlooked my question of UTC=20160721T143036Z (in the server timestamping, this is "7/21/16, 8:06 AM"). I in fact posed the question with a view to, among other things, parallaxes. I therefore repeat the question, to make sure we keep our discussion on the rails: could you state for me your distance estimates for Vega, Deneb, M13, and M31?

Thanks! :-)


Justin said...

Shane, considering that there's a police shooting of a Black person once every 4-7 days, and presumably Black people get stopped by police more frequently than that, I don't think it's even remotely honest to claim that shooting back at the cops would be reasonable.

James M. Jensen II said...


Nah. Some people on this blog say they live in an indifferent universe, but I sure don't.

I actually didn't mean my statement in the sense that the Big Kahuna is indifferent so much as the sense that maybe our suffering isn't the terrible thing we tend to think it is from a grand point of view. What makes it looks terrible is simply that we can't take that view ourselves, and we're in the thick of things.

An infant will scream its head off over an earache because to an infant that pain represents as great thing in their life as they know. An adult, who has a more expansive sense of life, will withstand it, knowing it's not that bad, not that important, and that there's a way to cure it.

Really, I'm making the old Christian argument that when we finally make it to heaven we'll look back at all this and wonder why we took it all so seriously.

Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160724T022235Z

Dear gwizard43,

Thanks for your reply timestamped "7/22/16, 5:50 PM".

You ask: Would you say that establishing the new nation of America did not 'promote justice and public welfare' - at the time? Or was this one of the 'seldom' times violence was legit?

I answer that this was not an instance of legitimate violence. I am writing from Ontario, formerly Upper Canada. Upper Canada, like also parts of New Brunswick and my native Nova Scotia, was settled by embittered political refugees, hounded out of their homes in the former Thirteen Colonies under the derisory label "Tories". Finding themselves now not welcome in the independent USA, they had to settle in some wilderness, somewhere, somehow.

Although the American War of Independence settled some grievances, notably the matter of unfair taxation, it thus created others.

Because the United States broke away from the British Crown, it became possible in 1812 for a war to be fought between the USA and the emerging Canadian polity. In this war, both sides suffered, as in any war - the Americans torched the village that was then Toronto; and the British, as I now note with shame, for their part torched the White House; and other bad things happened.

But the big damage came later. Because the USA was no longer under the Crown, the Abolition of Slavery Act (Westminster, 1833), while ending slavery in the Empire, lacked legal effect in the USA.

I must not exaggerate the role of the continuing slavery in fomenting the War between the States. President Lincoln explicitly declared to Horace Greeley on 1862-08-22, If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. Nevertheless, (1) tensions over slavery were a contributing cause, and (2) had Americans been under Queen Vicky in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, Westminster would by imperial self-interest have been moved to stifle a conflict between rival colonial factions.

The British Crown was not under Queen Vicky a model for good government. The Victorian Irish could attest to that, as could the Victorian British poor. But the correct path to lightening the British yoke on at any rate the western side of the Atlantic is the path successfully initiated by Lord Durham's "Report on the Affairs of British North America" - piecemeal, gradual reform, with devolution of powers to colonial assemblies; an eventual Confederation (1867); eventual concession of autonomy in foreign policy to the confederated Canadian provinces (Statute of Westminster, 1931); finally, patriation of Constitution (Constitution Act, Ottawa 1982).

Hoping this helps a bit,


Toomas (Tom) Karmo said...

Coordinated Universal Time (= UTC = EST+5 = EDT+4): 20160724T025204Z

Dear JMG,

Thanks for your kindly and lengthy comment timestamped " 7/23/16, 12:20 AM", in words which begin Toomas, I hate to break it to you, but sex between people who hardly know each other is tolerably common these days.

I do realize this must be a bit hard on your nerves, and on the nerves of many here: it is as though there surfaces in the ranks of ADR a strident Amish farmer, flaunting not only Puritanism, but additional irritating propensities for Latin and Gregorian chant and rosaries and the like.

It might help to note that my Puritan attitude to sex-after-ten-days-of-transacting-business is common in the world's population - not, indeed, in the now self-destroying rich post-industrial North, but in the world's poor Catholic and Islamic countries. In global terms, it is the attitude of the post-industrial North which is unusual, and which is in the long run perhaps going to prove one of a number of things causing the North to be remembered in an unfriendly way.

Another such thing is the fetishization of technology, which you rightly deplore in constructing your interesting Retropia narrative; a third is disregard for environmental destruction; a fourth is cultural imperialism; a fifth is a liking for loudly exploding military gear (this is connected both with technology and with sex); and a sixth is the imperial wealth pump, on which you have written extensively in other ADR essays.

hoping I will now be able to keep silent regarding Melanie and that wolf Carr
(well, maybe they will get married),


PS: Oh yikes, the devil, or something, is now making me add a post script. The local Bishop, in County Down or County Kerry or some such, has just been revealed by the newspaper to have had a child by a local girl, and everyone is gossiping outside the cathedral. It is a disgrace, Mrs Murphy. - A NATIONAL disgrace, Bridgit Malone, a NATIONAL disgrace. - (now a third voice pipes up, in the Bishop's defence) Well, at least they were not using birth control.

John Michael Greer said...

Shane, of course it is. Clinton's as predictable as a mechanical wind-up Godzilla doll. As for the bridges, that was because they planned on driving north into Ohio and Indiana in order to break the Lakeland military, before settling in the peace conference for Kentucky. Unfortunately for them, they bogged down hard before they got to the Ohio River.

Cherokee, you'll certainly learn a good bit about Carr's destiny, and we're not too far off from that, either -- there are between three and five episodes left to round out the story, and then it gets a few weeks of editing and expansion and off it goes to the publisher. As for inflation stats, I'm thinking of the social critic back in the Seventies who talked about how economic indicators were being turned into "economic vindicators"...

Nestorian, some peak oilers were. I was talking about the cycle of rising prices -> more drilling and innovation -> falling prices -> marginal production becomes uneconomical -> rising prices a good many years back!

MawKernewek, nice. Is there any way you can generate a black and white map, just showing borders, which would be readable when printed on one page of a book? I'd be happy to credit your work...

Ben, if somebody wants to write a novel set in my imaginary future, I'm certainly willing to discuss the matter -- there's already somebody working on a novel set in the world of Star's Reach, and an anthology of short stories in that same world that, after many delays, is finally working its way toward print.

Synthase, there are many different kinds of contraceptives, and there are also plenty of things two people can do in bed together that don't result in pregnancy. Given current American sexual mores, I'd expect the latter to be at least as important as the former in 2065.

Zach, some social customs will doubtless change when people can no longer post random thoughts on Twitter and get a response in ten minutes. I was speaking, though, of things such as sexual customs -- that was, after all, the context of my comment to Toomas.

William, you can join the Confederate-symphathizing Kentuckians in filing a protest with the delegates negotiating Partition in 2030, if you like. ;-)

Justin, it's not often remembered that there were effective, non-antibiotic treatments for syphilis and gonorrhea decades before the antibiotic era. They weren't instant -- a syphilis patient would spend a year or two taking carefully regulated doses of Salvarsan, for example, before his or her system was clear -- but they worked. There was also some very promising research into bacterial phages in the pre-antibiotic era, and that's already being picked up again as antibiotics falter. In the same way, condoms date back to the seventeenth century -- they were made, as high-end ones still are, from sheep intestine -- and in a world on the other side of global warming, rubber trees will be viable in climates where they don't currently grow -- so latex condoms and diaphragms will definitely be options in the world of 2065; it's also quite possible that other options not currently in use will be recovered from the graveyard of abandoned technologies, or freshly invented. And of course, as I noted to Synthase, there are plenty of ways two people can enjoy each other's company in bed that don't cause pregnancy, and the way sexual mores in the US seem to be shifting, I expect that to be at least as significant as contraception in keeping unwanted pregnancies from happening.

Steven said...


@JMG-having recently been in graduate school (and thus spending a good deal of time with the more Leftish ends of society), and being from the South (and thus having a good deal of Republicans as co-workers and family), I think modern day America is way more split along political lines than racial. So if a BLM-based insurgency starts (which I hope to God doesn't happen, although it seems to be getting closer and closer), and Trump is president, I can imagine a good many lefty white people siding with it.

Likewise, I think there's just as much anger against the government from the rightward end of society as there is in the black community-to cite one example, its become a somewhat common custom among Tea Party types to display the American flag upside down. Supposedly this is because an upside down flag indicates danger, which they think our country is in, but I can't help but see it as a big middle finger to a society that they perceive (with some truth) as having rejected them. Also, secession talk-which used to be unheard of pretty much anywhere-has become a lot more visible among the right. Its still a tiny minority, even in the Tea Party scene, but its a whole lot bigger and more visible than it was ten years ago. The only reason we haven't seen more BLM-like rage out of the Right in the past year and a half is because its currently being channeled into the Trump campaign. If Trump looses, and especially if its due to centrist/establishment Republicans voting for Gary Johnson (which I think is the most likely outcome of this election), the Right's rage is going to be a lot more obvious and a lot more scary.

Also, I have to side with Shane, et al on the Kentucky issue. The whole Appalachia region-which almost all of Kentucky falls into-is very poor and very conservative compared to the rest of the country. Having moved from South Carolina to the Appalachian part of Virginia a few months ago, I can say that my new home is, if anything, more right-wing than my old one. I certainly see at least as many Confederate flags. I've never been to Kentucky, but I have no reason to think its any different. It certainly votes the same way my area of Virginia does. (Not to mention, the one lady from Kentucky I've met had such a Southern accent, I initially thought she was South Carolinian :) )

And on the global warming note-I spent part of my childhood in said part of Virginia, and I distinctly remember the average July high being in the 80's or so-distinctly cool compared to my other home. But now that I'm back, it seems like its been above 90 every day this month-and a quick check of the whether shows it being above 90 through the rest of the week. I talked to my father (whose lived here for a bit longer than I have) about it, and he said that yes, the summers have gotten warmer and the winters have gotten colder with more snows (maybe 1-2 really severe ones per winter when I lived here 12 years ago, 3-4 now). It might be silly, but I can't help but wonder if this the climate chaos JMG warned us of in some of his earlier posts.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@Shane W--I think you are right to bring up the question of tobacco smoking. It's the most important drug which North America has given the world, and has historically been a major export crop.

American culture tends to veer between Puritanical abstinence and joyless excess, ruining or outlawing many physical pleasures which are best taken in moderation. Moderate consumption of nicotine has benefits. Yet it is hard to be moderate with tobacco, because it is powerfully addictive. It is not impossible. The Native Americans showed one way. They smoked only on special occasions, with ceremony, and sometimes mixed tobacco with other herbs.

Even without that kind of cultural support, it is possible for some people to enjoy smoking tobacco without getting hooked, if they don't start smoking early in life and are careful about dosage. My parents smoked and I have been asthmatic since childhood, so I stayed away from tobacco until I was in my late twenties. I had a boyfriend who was a smoker and one of our regular recreations was to go to bars, drink, and shoot pool, and in those days people smoked in bars. I started smoking cigarettes to keep him company, and found I liked a brand called Balkan Sobranies which are no longer available. Because of my asthma I took good care never to smoke more than a couple of cigarettes in a day and then to wait until the tobacco cleared out of my system before smoking again. In this way, I always got a rush, and I never got physically habituated or developed a craving. Since the departure of the boyfriend, I smoke about half a dozen cigarettes a year, as a treat on special occasions, and I have stuck to that for about thirty years.

Phil Harris said...

The 10 days of business negotiation mentioned by Toomas in discussion with JMG reminded me of the fine story told by soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, wife of Mstislav Rostropovich. Smile.

As she put it, he laid siege to her for 10 days and then they were man and wife for the next 52 years. Their recitals together became legendary.

Life has its music.

Phil H

Fred said...

There have been 645 people killed police since Jan 1 this doesn't include those wounded like the therapist unfortunately.

God bless the person(s) keeping this database updated. Apparently too difficult of a job for the Feds who claim to have only knowledge of about 30% of them.

Shane W said...

thanks, but I beg to differ about KY--KY is not West Virginia! Only about the Eastern third of the state can rightly be classified as Appalachian, and a slightly larger number of counties, but not the entire state (like WV) is in the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) A lot of the counties in the ARC no one would consider Appalachian, though. The Central and Western parts of the state (Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green, Paducah) are not mountainous, had slave-based hemp and tobacco plantations, had an upper class aristocracy, and, as a legacy of that, to this day have well established rural black communities.
Southern influence extends into SE OH, S. Ind., & S. Ill. For example, across the river in Corydon, Ind., west of Lou. you will find 2-3 times as much U of K apparel/gear in the local Walmart as IU gear, same thing for bumper stickers and front vanity plates. Sport team fans are an indication of tribal affiliation. People in South Shore & Proctorville, OH, have stronger accents than people in Lexington.

Shane W said...

you may be overgeneralizing a bit about sexual mores, for all the talk about sexual conservatism in Catholic Latin American countries, they're remarkably "keeping up" w/the global North sexually, save a section of Central America. Same-sex marriage is being legalized hemisphere wide, even in some of the poorest countries. Contraception use and acceptance is way up, and birth rates are down. The whole myth of sexual conservatism in Latin America is a bit of a stereotype and not totally honest.
JMG, I wonder if one of the reasons of the collapse of homophobia in recent times is because it became much more acceptable for straight couples to have "gay sex". There's only one thing that both straight and gay couples can't do, and that's straight intercourse. I wonder if a lot of the acceptance was, "I do/have that done to me too, and it's no big deal and actually quite enjoyable!"

Shane W said...

thanks for your comment. It's precisely b/c of Hillary's disastrous cluelessness in pursuit of the status quo and it's effect on the white (and black) working class that I'm going so far as to actually volunteer for the Trump campaign. If there's even the remotest chance that Trump can diffuse the white working class time bomb, he should be given a try. That, and I agree 100% on his stances on trade and foreign intervention (it still remains to be seen whether he actually follows through, but the fuse will be lit if he doesn't).

onething said...


I've always thought that the American war of independence was premature. There may have been grievances, but I doubt they were worth getting shot for. They needed only bide their time; the increasing strength of the colonies and the foolishness of trying to bully them would have become apparent.

I think I am going to come down mildly on the side of the puritans. It takes a welfare state to allow unquestioned promiscuity. Birth control I doubt would be a big problem in Retropia of the time, but still. I've long thought that the standard of virginity for females around the world is not so much a matter of gender repression as that an accident for a female puts her family down the Darwinian ladder. But I note longingly that the south sea islanders seemed to have allowed promiscuity in the very young and it worked out. Other societies, such as Eskimo and perhaps old Europe had traditions that allowed all the people at a certain time, say once a year, to go wild. That is shocking to the sensibilities of the civilized and yet I think it may be the wisest course. The civilized have unrealistic expectations for the most part, which are often broken.

Shane W said...

I was wondering if you envision KY as a particularly dark, lawless, and violent place in the Second Civil War? That seems to be the one thing everyone around here agrees, that we have a dark cloud hanging over us. The existential strain is bad. I know of at least 4-5 ADR readers in the area (no telling how many lurkers). We do not speak to each other. I seem to remember that KY (& WV) was a particularly lawless and violent place during the last Civil War. Is our existential dread an indicator of what's in store for us, the same way it was for Europeans in the run up to WW II? We just seem so different than other parts of the country...

Nestorian said...

"I was talking about the cycle of rising prices -> more drilling and innovation -> falling prices -> marginal production becomes uneconomical -> rising prices a good many years back!"

I was too, but that's not really the aspect of the article I was referring to. What I am referring to is that Peak Oil in the strict sense seems not to have happened yet globally - even taking into account just conventional oil.

Of course, this is a negligible issue in the long run, but in the short- to medium-run (i.e., 5-10 years), it makes us look wrong and stupid in certain quarters - especially since there is currently a global oil glut, prices have remained relatively low for some time, stock markets are at all-time highs, and economic statistics can be plausibly contorted to show anemic growth taking place.

Also, the Peak Oil miss on fracking may prove to be a significant factor for a decade or two yet to come, since other areas of the world conducive to fracking will likely be exploited the way US areas have been, with a similar short-term infusion of comparatively modestly-priced liquid fuels (albeit produced at a financial loss).

For some years, though, I have suspected that the IEA, the EIA, and other official agencies have been systematically inflating oil production figures. I remember "Darwinian" posting evidence pointing this way at The Oil Drum just before that website became defunct.

Nestorian said...

Also, a note to those who have been responding to my other posts: I will try to respond within the next day or so.

John Roth said...


“Dark Matter” has nothing to do with the Big Bang. It’s observable in our own galaxy, so neither cosmological distances nor deep time is necessary for the observations. In any case, its simply a placeholder for “we don’t know what’s going on.” The failure to locate it is expected since nobody knows what they’re looking for. It’s random shots in the dark, informed by a lot of theorizing that’s entirely too likely to be wrong.

@David by the lake

Clinton got hit bad by the email thing. Trump is experiencing a minor surge from the convention. What’s missing in the big picture is that things won’t settle down until the end of August. Looking at current data is looking at noise.

Also missing is the Dem convention starting tomorrow, and the Murdochs’ firing Roger Ailes from Faux News. The latter is, in my opinion, much more important. Here’s the link to the best story on it so far: .

Given the amount of disinformation coming out of Faux News, any change is likely to be for the better. Whether it’ll have any effect before November is anyone’s guess.


I can’t talk about Islam, but Judaism has never believed in a God that was omnibenevolent. Read the book of Job - no omnibenevolent god would visit such terrible torments on someone just to test their faith.

Yes, the question of how to deal with suffering is universal. It is not a theological question in most places, especially in places that are polytheistic. As I said, primitive Buddhism seems to have an adequate handle on how to deal with it.

Actually, the “problem of pain” isn’t something that occupies much of my thinking on Christianity. I note the gaping hole in the theology and move on. What is decisive is the idea that God will damn someone to eternal torment for quite trivial and in many cases unavoidable reasons - such as not being baptized into Christianity.

That is not a god I want to deal with. No way, no how.


A completely irrelevant but somewhat amusing side note: the religious descendants of the Puritans are the Unitarian-Universalists and the United Church of Christ. There were a few odd twists between then and now, like a link to Transylvania, but I find it amusing when someone talks about the Puritan morality without understanding that things change.

Ahavah said...

Someone above mentioned that they wondered if there was a certain time period when humans could successfully pair-bond with a mate and after that window of opportunity it gets harder or essentially not possible. I don't know about men, but for women that seems to be true. Just because modern society wants women to wait to get married (and have kids) in their 30s or even 40s, some 2 million or so years of evolutionary biology isn't going to just go away. Four human females, child bearing years are now from about age 15 to the early 30s without medical intervention. (Apparently historically the onset of menses was at a slightly older age, late teens, but improvements in nutrition and constant exposure to industrial era petrochemicals, psuedo-estrogens and endocrine disruptions have messed with biology a bit). I have long suspected that once you get past the ability to have an intense attachment to a mate in your teen years (as so many do), it never comes back. After that time, it seems there is less ability for physiological pair bonding and you have to mentally make a substitute, if that makes sense. I guess I mean at that point it comes more from your head than from your heart, so to speak, and there's a lot of silly cultural baggage in our heads, especially in this day and age where girls are being taught they don't need a husband or marriage and if they want those, there should wait until they are or are nearly past child bearing age to do it. But that's not what our bodies say - evolution is way behind modern society. Trying to ignore mother nature hasn't done our society any good and has probably caused more problems than it has solved. For at least the last 12000 years of known history, teenagers have been getting married, learning trades, running farms or businesses, performing their civic and religious duties, exploring frontiers and yes, fighting wars. They didn't suddenly get stupid in the modern era and their biological needs didn't change. But modern society has tried to be separate from nature, to conquer nature and make it irrelevant. And look where that has led! Bad outcomes on all fronts.

Shane W said...

I just gather that other communities are very different from ours, even w/in the US. One meme that is very strong here is clannishness, that one is only supposed to depend on blood relatives, and regard people one is not blood related to w/deep suspicion and mistrust, and never rely or be relied upon by people one is not related.

whomever said...

Re Colorado, don't forget that the Ogallala Aquifer will be well and truly done by then, so even ignoring climate change it'll be a pretty empty place.

I was actually thinking about the implications of abandoning parts of the US; in a separate timeline where it stays together, Arizona and the like are going to become like rotten boroughs: They'll still be nominally states, so the senators and electorial college votes will be elected by a couple of people carefully placed there by whoever is in power.

Ahavah said...

Kentucky is a very Red state but they vote that way strictly on religious conservative lines. Polls show, for example, that the people here like and want Kynect (Obamacare) but voted for Bevin because he promised to get rid of gay marriage and religiously liberal influences in schools, etc. Economically, E Ky was always strong supporting unions, and are only now realizing how screwed they have been by union-busting. The Republicans try and obfuscate by saying liberals destroyed the coal industry, but many are well aware, after years of having their water, air, and garden soil fouled but acid rain and mine runoff that claim is filthy and polluting. It's not that they don't care, it's just that they have been offered no other hope for jobs. The big bosses in the counties keep it that way, because desperate people don't complain. Until they fully realize that are being played, they will still vote Red. So far, no progressive orgs have had the resources to tackle such a huge long haul educational effort. And being repeatedly exploited by outsiders doesn't make it easy to show them the truth. You can't free people who don't admit they're chained. But it could happen. People in Ky are fiercely loyal, to a fault even. That will make them all the more angry when they realize they're been betrayed.

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