Thursday, April 29, 2010

The April Socionomist

The April issue of The Socionomist is out. Consider this an open thread if you wish to discuss. I really liked Alan Hall's lead article on how societies embrace authoritarianism during eras of negative mood. Much to ponder there...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walls and Bunkers

Image Courtesy Vivos

Here's a business that is tapping into pessimistic social mood in a big way: Vivos Underground Survival Shelters Design And Construction.

As they put it:

Millions of people believe that we are living in the “end times”. Many are looking for a viable solution to survive potential future Earth devastating events. Eventually, our planet will realize another devastating catastrophe, whether manmade, or a cyclical force of nature. Disasters are rare and unexpected, but on any sort of long timeline, they're inevitable. It's time to prepare!

For only $50,000 per adult and $25,000 per child (16 and younger), a buyer can get "co-ownership interest in their designated Vivos shelter closest to their home area." What you get is a "...self contained shelter complex [that] will comfortably accommodate a community of 172 - 200 people, in spacious quarters, for up to 1 year of autonomous survival to ride out the potential events. Every detail has been considered and planned for. Members need to only arrive before the facility is sealed and secured."

Image Courtesy Vivos

Socionomic theory postulates that in times of mass pessimism, there is tendency to move towards actions that express fear, defensiveness, exclusion, magical thinking and separatism (among many others, see Chapter 14 of The Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior).

Vivos is firing on all cylinders with this business model:

Fear: The company lists 8 major fears these shelters are designed to help combat. These include Nuclear War, Bio War, Planet X, Solar Flares, Pole Shift, Global Tsunami, Killer Comet and Super Volcano.

Defensiveness: Building a bunker is, in my opinion, one way to express a defensive mood.

Exclusion: This is the ultimate in exclusion. Your self-selected tribe will survive while billions perish and you get to repopulate the Earth.

Magical Thinking: I personally put Apocalyptic scenarios in the bucket of "Magical Thinking." Yearning for an apocalypse - whether the Singularity so loved by technophiles or the return of Christ or the end of the Maya Calendar - an apocalypse allows people to hope for a single event that wipes the slate clean and let's them start over, magically unburdened from the mistakes, debts and decisions that have shaped their lives to date.

Separatism: I view this as similar to a mood of exclusion and this is the ultimate "us" vs. "them" thinking.

And they even reference this video from Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory to add to their case.

Vivos is on to something here, at least in terms of a business model.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Let The Scapegoating Begin

How about this for a title straight out of socionomics:

Senate panel says Goldman inflated housing bubble
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The conduct of Goldman Sachs Group Inc during the financial meltdown was assailed on Tuesday by a U.S. Senate panel, which accused the Wall Street powerhouse of inflating the housing bubble earlier this decade and then profiting from its collapse in 2007...

Pandora's box is being ripped open as we speak. The show trials and vigilante actions I expect should be flying out in the coming months.

Some Thoughts on the Big Picture

In Peering Through the Haze, we did a high-level flyby of some hotspots I expect will turn into raging volcanos once mood rolls back over.

I want to revisit one area in particular and discuss some possible scenarios that could unfold.

The Middle East

I keep revisiting this region due to the many memes that have been seeded/have emerged that focus on this area in the minds of many Westerners. These memes may have little to no basis with the beliefs on the ground in this area of the world, but I am trying to examine this through the lens of a "typical" Westerner who chooses not to be aware of the rhythms inherent in living as part of a big social "organism" - also known as socionomics - and who will be using news stories and religious metaphors to explain the rage, anger and fear that will have a focus over in the Middle East.

Please note this is all very speculative. This is not meant to be fear-mongering, but to be scenario building and planning from it. Big changes are coming. Fear is a weakness none of us will be able to afford when TSHTF, so panic now and avoid the rush so you can be reasonably clear-headed when the news-talkers and radio-shouters and internet-rumor-spinners react to the storm coming our way.

Let's tackle a few of the memes that are circulating and that I think may become very "energized" with anger, fear and other emotions prevalent during an era of negative social mood:

1. Peak Oil

I've mentioned multiple times that I regard the Peak Oil meme as a particularly powerful set of ideas that is well-evolved to feed on the anger and fear that will grow to outlandish proportions all too soon.

The rationale for this opinion is that Peak Oil focuses attention on the coming scarcity of a critical raw material, the stories that can be told about a world that is trying to run on $300/bbl oil are frightening and apocalyptic, the decisions that would be suggested by adopting this theory involve restriction of people and goods, rationing of food and other resources and it plays into the more general ecology meme that has been growing since the sixties.

That a shortage of light sweet crude is coming our way by 2012-2015 or so (matching up pretty well with recent work by Mr. Robert Prechter on timing the bottom of this leg of the Supercycle downturn) is pretty much baked in the cake at this point, based on oil field development projects.

What "stories" we tell ourselves as a society about the coming shortage will be key in how dysfunctional the response will be. I expect a strong bifurcation in the U.S. - a majority will be sure that there is plenty of oil available and that the oil companies are screwing them or the Saudis aren't pumping enough or the federal government is hiding it or other political factors are keeping oil prices high. The anger at the political elites will probably become quite intense, with enormous crowds marching and protesting for them to "do something."

The other branch of mass reaction will probably reinvigorate the Ecological Movement in the U.S. In my opinion, this is a well-prepared meme that many in the political elite are familiar with (Baby Boomers who grew up with it) and it can easily expand into an almost Stasi-like grass-roots fever of individuals informing on others who "use too much" and justify everything from vandalism (destroy that guy's air conditioner because it pollutes and uses too much energy!) to political activism (we must unite to save Mother Earth!) to religious fervor (we are soldiers of Gaia and if you are against us then you hate the Earth and need to be culled).

Minor branches of response will probably evolve that seek to address the issue through technology - be it algae biofuel, ethanol, basement tinkerers looking for free energy, etc. Expect them to be dumped on by both sides - either viewed as suckers who should be going after corrupt corporations or as evil technologists trying to keep humanity enslaved to civilization (cue the viewing of Avatar in political re-education camps...).

This could inform political responses such as:

  • Occupying Mexican oil-producing regions in a vain attempt to restart Mexican oil exports which will have collapsed to nothing by then - either through internal conflict or through the basic and inexorable mechanics of the Export Land Model.
  • Initially trying to attack and/or occupy oil-producing regions in the Persian Gulf region. See below for why I regard this as an initial strategy, not a long-term one.
  • Corporate cronyism results in Congress passing laws to force a move to all-ethanol engines. Think of it as a cash-for-clunkers type program that would require engines to be retrofitted to be able to burn alcohol in them. Auto shops (that pay the right fee, of course) would be certified to do the work and the country would have be forced to participate.
  • City, then State and eventually Federal level legislation forcing a reduction in transportation and home energy use. Examples include you can only drive your car on alternate days, based on the odd or even number on the license plate (or the first or last 13 letters of the alphabet), smart meters forced into every home (wouldn't you love to have the contracts for that?) and power rationing enforced that way, etc.

Think of ways that political busybodies could try to tax or restrict your use of energy and keep an eye out for it. Someone will suggest it eventually and ask that those restrictions be enforced through the barrel of a gun.

Through it all, expect the Middle Eastern oil-producing powers to be the subject of many conspiracy theories and complaints from Westerners.

2. Israel-Iran (-Hizbullah-Hamas-Syria-Lebanon)

This topic probably fills entire shelves of scenarios planning documents at the Pentagon. Suffice it to say that if war does come to the region, it may not be the kind of short, intense conflict we have been used to over the last fifty years or so. The era of the Six Day War has come and gone. If conflict comes again, expect it to be long and bloody and punctuated by various bouts of armistices, ethnic cleansing and the use of every type of weapon devised to date - including nuclear warheads.

If Israel goes after Iran, the only way they can hit them hard enough to make it worth the risk, in my opinion, is to deploy nuclear weapons. The fallout will be ugly, both literally as a scar of death will be carved through Iran and some effects drifting into Pakistan and India, depending on prevailing winds, as well as figuratively, as Israel becomes a pariah state on par with what South Africa faced in the 1980's.

This field of memes has been well-plowed and expect angry partisans for every side to spring up with their stories to explain the expression of anger and fear that will come to cities, homes and battlefields throughout the region. No one will want a long and bloody war, but I think that mood will trump reason and the tragedies that will spill from it will be enormous.

3. Sunni vs. Shiite vs. Israel vs. Christian (Clash of Civilizations)

This is an increasing worry for me. The whole Clash of Civilizations meme has enormous story-telling power, strong propaganda value and can be used to explain away all kinds of atrocities. As we move into what I think will be a post-State type of conflict (4GW) all sorts of cross-currents of tribes, family groups, mafias, etc. will be able to deploy violence to "solve" problems.

Initial conflict in the Middle East will, in my opinion, begin as some sort of Israeli-involved war. The responses, which will devastate the governing elites of countries that oppose Israel will invigorate the 4GW elements, breaking down the network of alliances that the U.S. has built up in the region and that China is attempting to build.

Combine this with Peak Oil (and the very high prices for crude, along with supply shortages) and you have a mix for a horrible conflict that could be a reprise of the Thirty Years War, with the U.S. playing a key role in fomenting instability instead of its traditional role of trying to keep a lid on things using pliant rulers in the region.

How so and why? Well, if oil becomes expensive and in short supply even without war and if the coming U.S. bankruptcy means that the financial leverage formerly available to the U.S. is gone, and if the Pacific Rim nations have lots of cash and manufacturing capability, then why would the U.S. want to invest billions in keeping the region stable? Why not move into a strategic footing that uses regional bases to keep rebellions going, to keep oil supplies restricted by using war to damage loading facilities, pipelines and transport routes? Keep war of Shia vs. Sunni going, no matter who the country (for instance, by supporting Iraqi Sunnis against the Shiite majority or ethnic and criminal gangs in Iran vs. the mullahs or Shiites vs. Sunnis in Saudi Arabia) so that this whole region - the "breadbasket" of world oil production - is crippled and thus China, et al, can't benefit from their financial strength.

This war could stretch from the India border to Europe to North Africa and up into Russia. Keeping this kind of war alive won't be near as expensive as investing in stability and by keeping peer competitors weak, the U.S. could keep its relative position of strength alive for quite some time - until internal dysfunction forces a total disengagement from World Empire...

Some will say that this kind of realpolitik would never happen and that the West is too squeamish to enter into this kind of possible world-spanning war. I refer to the quote I pulled from Charles Smith yesterday - the present is a great predictor of the future, until it isn't. The West invented mass slaughter in World War I. The West invented globe-spanning industrial conflict in World War II. The West (the U.S. specifically) developed and dropped nuclear bombs. When mood changes, be aware that common sterotypes can fail you.

In Conclusion

Just some thoughts.

I am not sure if there is a clear way to "deal" specifically with everything discussed or if events will follow anything similar to what I've outlined. Do try to be prepared, but if you haven't done it by now, the hour is probably too late.

Remember, at least according to socionomics, always keep in mind that causality is rooted in mass mood. The news is just stories we tell ourselves to explain this amorphous herding impulse we are all part of.

Know that there are times to take action and times to keep your head down. Good luck figuring out when to do what...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Great Quote

"The present is the perfect guide to the future, until it isn't. Then we change."
-Charles Hugh Smith

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mood As Driver (Anecdote 5)

If you think budget battles are ugly this year, just wait for the debates and anguish over the budgets next year.

While waiting, keep an eye out on the rising anger and the knock-on effects it will have on politics and jobs.

NJ voters in 'no' mood for school tax hikes
by Bob Jordan and Erik Larsen, APP.COM
With record-breaking turnouts for a school board election, tax levy proposals in Monmouth and Ocean counties mostly went down in flames on Tuesday, as a backlash against school spending won the day...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mood As Driver (Anecdote 4)

As conditions deteriorate and mood becomes more pessimistic, anger takes center stage:

Instead of a quiet, reasoned approach or even a harsh back-office shouting match, this union rep pulls out the billy club in broad daylight and starts threatening. Gonna be an interesting election season.

h/t Mish

Friday, April 16, 2010

Peering Through the Haze

As we watch the fickle beast of mass mood express itself, let's be thinking about the shape of the crater the Great Collapse is going to make when this whole thing implodes. One thesis I am working with is that mass mood, whether positive or negative, "travels" down paths and energizes memes that have been circulating in various societies for many years. The actions we will see taken as expressions of rage and fear will not just spring up from nowhere, but, in my opinion, that anger and fear will express itself and justify itself through stories that we have been telling ourselves for quite some time.

One other part of my working hypothesis is that the various "elites" who think they are "in control" to some degree try to seed popular opinion with various memes that they hope will gain energy and traction by channeling this mass mood the way they want. In times of moderate change, I think this is a relatively easily achieved goal - just look at the size of the advertising industry.

During times like ours, as we see the first trickles of what will become a tsunami of rage, I think the elites will be very surprised at the "rogue" memes that will grow to monstrous power.

World Events

How might deep and widespread anger and negativity express itself across the globe? War, protectionism and ethnic cleansing have been some typical responses. Let's look at a few potential hot spots.

Israel - Iran

The political elites have been making a case for an attack on Iran by Israel, by the U.S. or by both for many years now. This general meme is well-established and you can easily pick up the key phrases that have been seeded in the popular press over the years:

  • President Ahmadenijad of Iran is a madman who wants to "wipe Israel off the map"
  • An Iran with a nuclear weapon is an "existential threat to Israel"
  • Conventional weapons may not take out all of Iran's nuclear sites and Israel could use tactical nuclear weapons in a strike on Iran (a newish key phrase out and about in the wilds of the blogosphere, think tanks and various media)
  • Hizbullah has a large missile arsenal and is itching to attack Israel

Alternate versions include Israel attacking Lebanon as a whole as a way of hitting Hizbullah, Israel hammering Hamas yet again and/or striking out at Syria. If the Israelis do nuke Iran, tune in here for some discussion of radiation safety, fallout and some science to go along with the fear storm that will explode in the media.

North Korea - South Korea

A hot spot for over 60 years, one never knows if they'll actually pull the trigger on a new hot war there. The politicians on both sides are accustomed to the long stalemate and both know just how much they have to lose in a war. That said, this coming era will not be marked for its adherence to reasoned politics and measured action, I fear.


If Mexico continues to disintegrate, keep an eye on oil export volumes from PEMEX. If the narcotraficantes start treating PEMEX the way MEND treats Royal Dutch Shell, then the U.S. will have one of her critical supplies of oil restricted if not halted.

Please please please think about the consequences of the U.S. losing some or all of the product from her number two supplier of oil. All those trucks. All those tractors. All those ambulances. All those school buses. All those freaking cars and SUVs and trucks - and a lot less oil to go around...


I mention the United States' third-largest supplier of oil in the context of two potential events:

  • The Guri Dam is nearing a shutdown due to a massive drought (and losing it means cascading effects that could choke off oil supplies)
  • Venezuela could embargo the United States if Israel attacks Iran

Again, just think about how unprepared the current societal arrangements in the U.S. are for high petroleum costs and/or supply shortages

Those are just a few hot spots. China will have internal problems, though I expect she'll work through them in time. The Japanese are facing a debt crisis like nothing seen on this earth soon. and who knows how Pakistan and Afghanistan will play out?

Events in the United States

A debt crisis is coming. In its wake will come harsher tax collection methods and a further loss of legitimacy of the United States Welfare State that has owned the mindspace of most Americans for over 70 years.

A political firestorm is brewing as the Tea Party movement gains brainshare in the minds of a significant segment of the population (one of those rogue memes the Establishment is trying desperatly to quash).

The first tiny signs of secessionism are creeping into public discussion. The Tenth Amendment Movement is a first sign. I expect California to lead the way, possibly with Texas. We shall see...

Local Events

Another debt crisis is brewing at the state, county and city levels. This is where the Tea Party Movement will probably make its strength felt as it will have the power to kill taxation bills and define the debate on what cities, counties and the states should be spending money on.

Future Thoughts

Times like this can also see new religious movements erupt - wheter via schism or via some new prophet. Keep an eye out for gnostic types of traditions, especially the bleak and angry versions that insist that we live in a vast prison, ruled byArchons and that existing control structures like established church systems are the tools of Samael. I look towards gnosticism as many of the tenets include a turning away from material goods, an inner search for illumination (and in today's world where we have a whole host of electronic aids to meditation and mind-hacking, it might be a way of reinforcing that trend) a hatred of the body and a number of other behaviors that would seem to gain credence and energy from negative mass mood.

The Environmental Movement is another existing force I have my eye on. Decades have been spent building up the eco movement's memes - whether in children's books or education or "science" - they own a lot of real estate in peoples' heads. Using that to build up a Green Tyranny I would think would be one possible future we should be on the lookout for.

Others? What else is worrying you? Where will the chips fall when the big poker table of our economy is overturned and the guns start blazing?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Argentine Test Bed

Argentina continues to serve as an example to the rest of the world of how "developed" countries are likely to behave as tax revenues dry up and public clamoring for benefits increases.

Argentina seizes pension funds to pay debts. Who's next?
by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the Telegraph
Here is a warning to us all. The Argentine state is taking control of the country’s privately-managed pension funds in a drastic move to raise cash.

It is a foretaste of what may happen across the world as governments discover that tax revenue, and discover that the bond markets are unwilling to plug the gap...

Remain calm. All is well. The DJIA is at 11,000. Spending more makes you wealthier and the Fed has everything under control.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Hold Things Up

UPDATE: This recent article by Charles Hugh Smith dovetails well with this post: China's Towers and U.S. McMansions: When Things Fall Apart (Literally)

I've been pondering what to write up next. I have a series of half-written blog posts, but none ready for prime time. In short, we are in another limbo period, in my opinion. Mass mood seems frozen in some sort of delusional optimism - an entire society wishing away the avalanche that is roaring down the mountain at them.

In such times, what is there to say, other than be prepared? Well, one thing we can do is review our preparedness and fill in any gaps in our knowledge or plans.

This week we will discuss a topic that could start off as one of those "occasional need" things and turn into a near full-time occupation if a combination of Peak Oil and the Great Collapse destroys the capital base so necessary to the upkeep of cities, suburbs and industrial parks in the U.S.

Keeping Things Standing Just Long Enough

A year or three down the road - after weather, storms and maybe an occasional earthquake, hurricane or tornado have taken their toll on buildings, how do you evaluate such a structure for:

  • Shelter
  • Low tech Vertical farming
  • Setting up hackerspace
  • Stripping out the copper, aluminum, steel and other useful materials
  • Rescue of friends or loved ones inside a building that has collapsed for some reason

Of course you would have already acquired the rights to the place before doing any such activities (or others) listed above...

In the current world you don't worry your pretty little head about matters of structural integrity. You call up a structural engineer who is a PE in your state and you have him or her evaluate the building in question, then a team of professionals comes in to repair, shore up or otherwise demo the place.

In a world where capital has been disintegrated, where the tax base has cratered into nothing, where local communities, co-ops and family corporations are left to act locally without global resources, then you may need to know how to shore up a wall or a doorway or a collapsed floor. You may need to know how to pick out at least the major warning signs of a building about to collapse. You may need to know how to tie a knot, work a pulley and use all that stuff they taught you in school about levers to do real work before your cousins rush in to strip out the copper or the fellow members of your co-op decide to relocate your inventory of farming support goods to an abandoned big-box store.

I suggest you do an inventory of your preparedness planning and see where emergency ropes rescue (for disaster situations) and temporary shoring systems fits in.

You may be planning to handle everything from economic collapse, to major storms, to attacks by roving bands of ex-mercenaries home from Afghanistan and eager to loot the area. All three of those can be hell on buildings and infrastructure. Knowing how to clean up in the aftermath, how to get to whatever "tribe" you'll be building and how to make salvage situations safer could be quite useful in the coming decade.

Action Items

Printable documents and some excellent videos are available at I strongly suggest reviewing the FOG and SOG manuals at the least and getting a feel for what kinds of issues professional rescue teams deal with.

An excellent source for high-quality supplies is Rescue Direct. Please note that this site is geared towards fire departments and FEMA Urban Search & Rescue teams and some of this stuff is high-end and expensive. That said, there is a lot of very useful equipment, books and DVDs to be had here. You can buy flip-over versions of the SOG and FOG manuals here. Well worth the price.

Learn to handle rope and tie useful knots. One site (among many thousands on the internet) to check out is YouTube is also a fantastic resource. I'd suggest searching under "firefighter knots." Knowing knots is a skill that is worth knowing no matter what happens out in the world.

Once you've acquired some basic equipment - and by that I mean rope, a few carabiners, maybe a pulley and some scrap lumber - get out and DO. Build a basic shoring system shown in the SOG or FOG manuals. Assemble a Z-rig system and pull stuff. If you have kids, this is a perfect way to get them out of the house and involved in getting ready for What Comes Next without being a total doomer.

Reading doesn't teach you much about anything. Reading informs you. DOING teaches you. If you have a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue squad that is headquartered nearby, inquire about volunteering for it. You will learn practical skills and make contacts with the kinds of men and women you want around when TSHTF. If things come apart badly at the federal level, funding for USAR teams might dry up - but the contacts you've made will still be there.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Best Way to Rob a Country...

Sorry for the lack of posts. Very busy.

Another interview discussing the co-opting of governing structures to enable the looting of our country. Something to review and think about when the political upheavals come later this year. Who will be the real reformers and who will be the corporatist plants?

h/t John Robb