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Hoping for Change.

I am fairly disgusted by my fellow Canadians who have obviously fallen for the tired trope of “Change.” For were it not working as The Powers That Be (TPTB) wished it to work, they would not use such a tired and clearly discredited meme. I know, my disgust is not really warranted since it is true that the people en masse can always be easily manipulated by the propaganda power of the state. But come on folks, when does “you can not fool all of the people all of the time” kick in? It was just yesterday in historical terms when we saw our neighbours to the South fall for the “Change” trope big time. And, we watched helplessly as it played out pretty much exactly as we expected – as in “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Except I had hopes that we here in Canada were, on average, just a little – well – above average. Clearly not though, as evidenced by our most recent federal election.

The pulling-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat Liberal majority government which boasts even worse statistical representation than the preceding Harper government leads me to conclude that even the Canadian experiment with civilization is over and that all chances of us redeeming our collective selves is now nil. Harper’s previous false majority government ruled with 54% of the seats in the House of Commons after gaining only 39.6% of the popular vote. Meanwhile the new Trudeau government gets exactly the same 54% of the now 338 seats in the House of Commons with an even smaller 39.5% of the vote. So much for hoping for “Change.”

Meanwhile, I concluded quite a while ago that our current round of civilization probably peaked somewhere between 1972 and 1975. This insight is based on a realization I made during grad school. I noticed when I was conducting my various literature searches that the material from before 1975 was mostly well written, original academic work, while material written after 1975 tended to be unoriginal compilations of prior ideas gathered into a pastiche of current theories and poorly designed studies meant to stand for original work. Once formed, this idea stayed with me and kept nagging at me. So, I began taking mental note of all the little indicators of the progress of civilization that I came across. The goal was to try to verify or modify my hypothesis that the peak of Western civilization had already happened sometime around 1973.

This monitoring has now been going on for around twenty five years and, unfortunately, after a certain point it was no longer about whether Western civilization had already peaked but was more oriented to the question of whether the peak year was 1972, 1973, 1974, or 1975? And, the jury is still out on that silly question. Some indicators I note point to1974 and some to 1975, while some of my favourite books are from 1972-1973.

For example, as predicted by geologist M. Hubbert King, US domestic production of conventional oil peaked in 1975. And, my take on when academic literature peaked still points to it being prior to 1975. A few books I consider significant may serve as anecdotal exemplars.

The Club of Rome issued its report The Limits to Growth in 1972. Gregory Bateson’s Steps to an Ecology of Mind came out in 1972 along with Dell Hymes’ edited volume Reinventing Anthropology. Horkheimer and Adorno put out their Dialectic of Enlightenment in 1972 and John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is also from that year.

Tony Schwartz’s seminal book The Responsive Chord is from 1973 as is The Interpretation of Cultures by Clifford Geertz. Then also in 1973 Robert A. Heinlein publishes a personal favourite of mine, his novel Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long. Finally Roberto Vacca’s The Coming Dark Age was published in 1974. Oh well, enough of that. Suffice it to say that I steadfastly remain convinced that we have now been living in a declining civilization for fourty years or more.


Now history is slow to play out for sure, but I have reason to believe that once the period of inevitable “decline” shifts into the “& fall” mode it will be very swift relatively speaking. Since the mid-seventies we have collectively failed 100% to take any significant action to mitigate the processes that lead to a civilizational collapse and have instead made the situation worse by increasing the complexity of our large-scale systems in a huge game of extend and pretend. As an aside let me mention again a book you should actually read. If you have not looked at Joseph Tainter’s little 1988 ditty The Collapse of Complex Societies, stop reading this right now and order it, since unlike the Vacca this one is still in print. Then when it eventually arrives read it. Then take the time to think about it enough to understand its implications. The only other person I know who actually owns their own copy of that book lives in an off-grid homestead and grows most of his own food.

At any rate, instead of acting to mitigate the collapse of Western Civilization we have, for forty years, only done things to delay it and make it worse when it finally does show up. That is because extend and pretend leads to a fair bit of pent up potential energy piling up behind the dike. And when it finally does break the effects should be spectacular, more pronounced, and swift than they would have otherwise been absent such delaying tactics.

Yes, but….

Yes, but hope springs eternal. Yes, but the Red Puppet will save us with his real Change. Yes, but technology will save us. Yes, but exponentially expanding the Trillions of dollars of debt in the world forever will save us.

Yes, but procrastination, denial, and being immobilized with fear are real tendencies. Yes, but I can now no longer hold out any hope that things here in Canada, and in the world more generally, are not rapidly heading for a catastrophe.

Yes, and I am forced against my will to deal with the question, both personal and political, and, local and global, of what I am personally going to do about having this awareness. And my answer is that I am no longer going to remain silent and I am going to work toward building an institution that I believe offers me and a few select others the best chance of survival. As an added bonus it should also help preserve the best of Western civilization through the coming dark age. The institution I envision is a secular fraternal order based on the tradition of monastic communities. And, ever since I realized a closed monastic community in retreat from society is what I need to build if I wish to maximize my survival potential, the name I have in mind for this community is The Cloister.

Did I mention that The Cloister Initiative already has a pretty good library started which I am now actively building as a preliminary step and that I accept donations of worthwhile books for inclusion?

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The silhouette of the Ironwood tree in the logo is used by permission. It is reproduced from Trees in Canada by J.L. Farrar, published by the Canadian Forest Service and Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1995.