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Fri

23

May

2008

Rapid Unraveling And The Demise Of Adolescent America
Friday, 23 May 2008 09:21
by Carolyn Baker

Well here it is folks-the great unraveling so many of us have been forecasting during the past five years as we've read the tea leaves and researched the unprecedented convergence of myriad natural, political, economic, and environmental realities. As most of you know, I'm traveling, yes on the road, across this country. I was going to wait until arriving at my final destination before writing about my experience, but with oil rapidly heading for $200 a barrel, it feels important to do so sooner rather than later because our lives have just changed more dramatically than we can imagine, and we will only be able to comprehend to what extent as the repercussions of the end of the age of oil reverberate through what is left of industrial civilization.

In my travels I've seen exactly one RV on the road, a few SUV's and vans, a number of small cars and motorcycles, and lots of eighteen-wheelers going 55 MPH. Motels have a record low number of guests, and few people are eating in restaurants. I thought about writing an article entitled "Ghost Town USA: Echo Across America", but that was before oil reached a new record of $135 yesterday. The speed of collapse is taking even a seasoned collapse-watcher like me by somewhat of a surprise, and I feel compelled to talk about it as it unfolds in this moment.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of what we are witnessing-and there are oh so many, is the ubiquitousness of blame. Attending almost every report on skyrocketing gas prices is the question: "So whose fault is it?" I certainly am not surprised by this, but I find it unsettling to say the least. Because Americans in particular have been absolutely recalcitrant and incapable of looking at collapse, they are being and will continue to be increasingly blindsided by it. Sadly, when humans are traumatized, their functioning becomes progressively more primal and animal-like, and their capacity for taking in and assimilating new information is markedly reduced.

When Peak Oil experts first began sharing their research, they told us that food, perhaps more than any aspect of our lives, would be impacted by it, and so it is. The double-barreled trauma now hitting Americans which is putting both gasoline and food out of their reach, is certain to result in reactive, vindictive behavior that will irrationally target a plethora of scapegoats. Add to this a foreclosure or two, a bankruptcy, car repossession, job loss or loss of health insurance and you have a recipe for mayhem. Such behavior, understandable as it may be, is adolescent in nature and therefore, untempered and unwizened, making acting-out individuals exceedingly dangerous to themselves and others.

Like me, you are probably witnessing the barrage of blame in your community and nationally if you are paying attention to mainstream news. Dmitry Orlov has given us a treasure-trove of information about human behavior in the throes of collapse chaos. What is and will be different from the collapse of the Soviet Union for Americans, however, is the level of violence that is likely to proliferate as collapse accelerates. Russians were never intoxicated with affluence and entitlement as Americans are. Their history has been replete with suffering; ours marinated in privilege reinforced by gun culture and firearm fetishes.

What those of us who comprehend collapse must understand as we navigate the daunting days ahead is that what is happening to America and the human species is an initiatory experience similar to those which have been structured and honored by indigenous peoples for thousands of years. The very best explanation I have read of this process is Nature And The Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness And Community In A Fragmented World, an extraordinary book by psychologist Bill Plotkin in which he illuminates the stages of human development and emphasizes how they have been skewed by a capitalistic, consumer-driven culture-and how each stage might be lived in fulfillment in the context of a holistic community. The current planetary initiation differs from the traditional, tribal initiation in that the former is involuntary and unwanted, whereas the latter is perceived as essential for the well being of the initiate and the tribe.

In tribal cultures young people have the opportunity to experience ritual rites of passage from adolescence to adulthood, that is, an initiation, which involves some type of ordeal created and supported by the tribe's elders. Ordeals may include rugged endurance challenges in the wilderness, treacherous hunting experiences, or isolation for a period of time in nature. In all instances, the experience is one of discomfort and danger and literally sets up a brush with death for the initiate. Many traditional societies, and some psychologists such as Carl Jung, believe that the human psyche requires initiatory experiences in order to develop in a functional manner and that without them, one's emotional and spiritual development is impaired.

Since cultures are comprised of individuals, it follows that when the individuals of the culture have not been initiated, the culture itself is likely to remain in an adolescent state. Many cultures that have experienced collective suffering such as protracted wars, famines, and disease have in the process, experienced a collective initiation which may produce some of the results of an individual initiation. This may be the reason that some European countries that endured two world wars appear to have a more mature relationship with the earth community. For example, many of those countries are far more aware of environmental issues and have taken more profound steps to live consciously in harmony with the ecosystem as noted in a recent National Geographic survey which ranks the U.S. last in environmentally conscious behavior.

I believe that the collapse of civilization, now accelerating at dizzying speed, is indeed a collective, planetary initiation of the human species. It involves all of us, not just those "clueless Americans out there", and it will deliver to each of us countless unwanted ordeals on every level-physical, emotional, financial, social, and spiritual. What traditional cultures which practice ritual initiation understand about it is that what matters most in the initiatory process is not whether the initiate survives physically, but that that person's consciousness is transformed-for her own enhancement and for that of the tribe.

What I want to reinforce for all of us is how imperative it is in the days ahead for us to walk consciously, cautiously, and compassionately through the fires of this long, protracted initiation. Beyond our physical, financial, and logistic preparations, we must continuously work-and it will be work-to open our hearts and minds to the larger purpose behind the ordeals. We must ask ourselves what each particular experience wants to reveal to us, how it comes to us to open our eyes and cleanse the doors of our perception. We will be incessantly reminded that civilization has come to all this-depletion and exhaustion of the earth community and all of the suffering that attends that. In a sense, I believe, we are fortunate to be living in this time and on this planet because something greater than our finite human egos is delivering a message with unmistakable clarity: Living estranged from the earth community as if we are the only and the most important species on earth does not work, and collapse wishes to make certain that we understand unequivocally and irrevocably that our only survival and our only serenity will be found in living as if we and the earth are one.

Moreover, because we and the earth community are one, it is imperative that we reach out to our neighbors and community members. Their awareness may range from totally clueless to that of fellow collapse watcher, but bonds must be made and trust built-for our well being and for theirs. In the days ahead, we will need them, and they will need us. The more familiar we are with each other, the less likely that any of us is scapegoated or victimized by panicked, hungry people who feel victimized and powerless to cope with what they perceive they have been dealt.

The time for a sense of entitlement is over. We are not entitled to anything; I repeat: We are not entitled to anything. Each day, each moment, each breath, each bite of food and drop of water, each smile or warm hand on our shoulder, if we are fortunate enough to have them, are precious gifts to be savored, treasured, and given thanks for.

As I have been writing in recent months, I hold a vision of possibility-the potential for small pockets of survivors to create local outposts of conscious community in which individuals can live compassionately, practicing out of necessity and choice, those behaviors that sustain themselves and the earth. Those who have already begun this process may have an advantage, but none of us will be immune-nor should we be, in my opinion. It appears that this momentous initiation is the only way in which humans can fully and finally comprehend the toxicity of civilization.

Many citizens of the former Soviet Union discovered through the experience of collapse what ultimately mattered most. Yes, there was violence, crime, paranoia, hunger, thirst, deprivation, and astounding loss, but unprecedented compassion, trust, bonding, cooperation, and support flourished in the midst of total societal disintegration. For me, collapse is the opportunity for an outpouring of the latter qualities that causes me to at least partially welcome the demise of all that has prevented us from living and sharing them. Perhaps finally, amid a frightening unraveling, we will grow up-becoming mature human beings who ultimately find it impossible to tolerate anything remotely resembling industrial civilization because we will at last have become adults.

Carolyn is an adjunct professor of history, a former psychotherapist, an author, and a student of mythology and ritual.

Carolyn’s Mission: “The Chinese proverb and curse says, ‘May you live in interesting times’.”

In the first decade of the twenty-first century, we live in profound uncertainty, faced with issues unprecedented in the history of the human race.I seek to provide readers with a ‘fixed point in a changing universe’ that both informs and supports humanity’s efforts to remake the world—both our personal worlds and our planet. My intention is to offer a beacon of light in the smothering darkness with which we seem to be engulfed, making available information and specific ideas and strategies which we all might utilize as we experience the life/death/rebirth process inherent in the inner and outer realms of our current reality.”


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Comments (22)add comment

Denis Frith said:

0
The underlying reality - industrial civilization is a cancer on its life support system
This article provides insight into how societies have sometimes learned to live with their place in the operation of the ecosystem. It does not, however, spell out what industrial civilization has done wrong. It is because society does not understand that every operation of civilization entails irreversibly using up the limited natural bounty capital - the limited natural supply of goods and services. That is an unsustainable process. The article illustrates the difficulty that many Americans are having in adapting to this reality as fuel prices start to show that ecological forces are really in control.
 
May 23, 2008
Votes: +0

blue said:

0
what goes around..
"The more familiar we are with each other, the less likely that any of us is scapegoated or victimized by panicked, hungry people who feel victimized and powerless to cope with what they perceive they have been dealt. "


Don't you mean, you'll be better able to remain in denial and hide out from the anger and justified pain and resentment of all those people who've been abused, marginalized and manipulated by nice ole US and UK white folks for the past 500 years?

I've never read such elitist claptrap in my life.

blue
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

RM said:

0
Peak oil is a lie. Artificial Scarcity created by the PTB
Look at the evidence and prove it wrong.
Wake up to the scams
http://tinyurl.com/ymcxyg
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

Gautama Auto Baker said:

0
Dmitry Orlov is a must read.
Insightful. If there isn't a mass awareness program, everything that we take for granted as Americuh will evaporate in the blink of an eye. Not even the "Elites" will have anything to live for in the USA. They should all move to a little island where there is nothing else to do other than count their fake fiat money. There is no such thing as hard money. Not even Scottish or Euro gold is worth anything given a meltdown of the system. The funny thing is that so few people take it seriously. I guess the idea of 9-11 would have been funny too had it not happened. Not much I can do, I just hope it never happens.
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

Sword of truth said:

0
Blue the bigot
"Don't you mean, you'll be better able to remain in denial and hide out from the anger and justified pain and resentment of all those people who've been abused, marginalized and manipulated by nice ole US and UK white folks for the past 500 years? "

The article may / may not be elitist, but your response is another example of racism directed against whites, the vast majority of whom have never had any power, just as the vast majority of indians have never had power, chinese, shall I continue?

Stop being such a bigot.
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

BFilmFan said:

0
Observations
Doctor Baker:

Was there a reason you failed to mention that after the meltdown of the former Soviet Union the rise of the Russian crime families?

Traditional cultures often use warfare and enslavement of other peoples as a means to enforce their political agendas. If you have any doubts, please visit my ancestral home in the Dakotas and I have a wee' stick I would be most happy to show you.

The Chinese proverb that you state is your mission is a literary fabrication and has never shown to have been used by a native Chinese speaker.

As for joining hands and sharing the earth and moaning the evils of civilization, please feel free to do so. The rest of us are headed to the stars...
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

John Appleby said:

0
Great Satire
Ha ha ha!
Oh wait, you were serious, Carolyn. How about doing your part and not using up precious resources entailed by embarking on a 'road trip'. You note the scarcity of RVs and SUVs and also point out that big rigs are moving along at 55 MPH. Have you considered that this it is not the tourist season yet?
Perhaps if we all sing Kumbaya and hold hands around a campfire while decrying the evil capitalists we'll eventually bond with other creatures. You know, the ones that would just as soon eat you as that granola bar you fanatically wave at us in remonstrance to our wasteful ways.
Grow up - there is a real world out there. Then again, this post may be satire too.
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

Helio said:

0
You're kidding right?
"I hold a vision of possibility-the potential for small pockets of survivors to create local outposts of conscious community in which individuals can live compassionately, practicing out of necessity and choice, those behaviors that sustain themselves and the earth. Those who have already begun this process may have an advantage, but none of us will be immune-nor should we be, in my opinion. It appears that this momentous initiation is the only way in which humans can fully and finally comprehend the toxicity of civilization. "

How old are you? 16? You're kidding with this? Right?
Is that what you REALLY think will happen?
We will all hold hands and sing kum bah yah?
We will be compassionate? And Loving?
When it hits the fan, you and people like you, will be a sitting duck.
Only the strong and adaptable survive.
You are going to be sorely disappointed.
I suggest you Steel yourself against the coming nightmare.
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

Tom-Scott Gordon said:

0
Peak of prosperity?
First, Americans will have to identify reality, which I'm afraid won't happen in time to save us from an implosion. From JFK's murder forward it's been rather apparent that our Justice system isn't working. History proves both WW1 and WW2 were avoidable.

Nixon froze the price of gasolene, and while this eventually wreaked havoc on the investment community, it certainly taught the people a lesson in the power of government to curtail the rampant profiteering that was going on in that similar time of false scarcity.

The other writer is correct; 'Peak!' is a complete farce, but so is the repeated "threat" of a nuclear attack on the US by Iran. It's Israel's arogance that's the elephant in the room...
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

melrik said:

0
Oh screw it!
So wait- we all ahve to go through envronmental collapse, bankruptcy, starvation and homelessness to become better people? What a long slow process. Lets just get it over with fast and nuke the world. It will whittle down the survivors to a few hundred thousand and they can live for many long years on the ruins of our former technological society. and They can hold hands think happy thoughts and sing kumbaya...
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

D. L. said:

0
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
Dr. Baker may be right or may be overly pessimistic. But whatever happens, there will be a "remnant" that survives whatever will happen. I do agree with her completely, however, about America as adolescent. America as a collective does believe itself to be invincible, indispensible, and full of teenage hubris and arrogance. The thing is I suspect we are (as all teens do) about to get hit be reality and get over it, and enter adulthood, as Europe did with, beginning with the Hundred Years War, War against the Ottomans, Thirty Years War, Revolutions, Napoleonic Wars, 1848 Revolutions, Franco-Prussian, Crimean, various Balkan Wars, and up into WWI and WW2...Let's hope we Americans don't have to go through the process quite in that way!
http://www.somethinghappeninghere.net
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

Terrenz Sword said:

0
The next depression won't be like the last...
"Many citizens of the former Soviet Union discovered through the experience of collapse what ultimately mattered most. Yes, there was violence, crime, paranoia, hunger, thirst, deprivation, and astounding loss, but unprecedented compassion, trust, bonding, cooperation, and support flourished in the midst of total societal disintegration."

Yeah, and that is kind of what happened here in the depression which was after the end of the "Roaring 20’s" and “the gangsterism” of the Prohibition years. But here in the modern day U.S., we are no longer a "people" this is "just a place" as I have been reminded by the immigrant police officers in Los Angeles. This country is SO divided by the mass numbers of immigrants, both legal and illegal, from across the world, that it is impossible to have the type of cohesion needed in bad times, much less an consensus on any issue. We are looking at total anarchy!

The really sad news is that only a Nazi-like National Socialism can re-unite the U.S. (we cannot refer to ourselves as "Americans", as that includes the whole continent, not just the U.S.). The Nazis failed because their revolution was polluted by the notion of “white supremacy” over all others.

With the upcoming ’08 presidential election, we are being forced to choose between three incompetent people to be our new leader! Whomever is elected will inherit unprecedented spying and torture policies; none of the cadidates has said they are going to repeal the un-Patriot Act! Most of us should realize by now that 9/11 was NOT a terrorist act, OR that our multi-trillion dollar Defense Department completely failed us!

In the '92 Los Angeles “Rodney King riots”, it took 3 days for the National Guard to deploy, because they had no ammo. Now they are in Iraq, with most of their equipment. In a matter of one week of rioting, we could be without food, and totally dependent on the government Katrina style. We won't survive, and there is no money to rebuild what we lose. We also still owe for the reconstruction of a country we have obliterated for no just reason!

Too many people here cannot understand that the government was taking cash advances on the nation's credit cards to stay in business BEFORE 9/11! We are hopelessly in debt, with no way to pay, dependent on China for all of our goods and merchandise. All of our food is dependent on oil for production AND delivery.

Ted Turner says those who survive, will become cannibals...
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

American Survivor. said:

0
...
Yawn.
I heard this same line in the 70's.
The only difference was that it was "Global Cooling",
back when I was a kid.

If it does "step-off", and there is an ensuing blood bath,
I can only hope the multi-culturalists enjoy the ride.
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

Hordac the Refuser said:

0
What, no dark age forever?
I think the result will be hopelessness and despair, and an increase in isolationism, racism, violence, and greed. Furthermore, these will be the "good times".

When things really start to get bad, all hell is going to break loose and we will see a loss of faith in traditional values and beliefs. New religions and social movements will appear that are completely unlike anything from our "failed" past, which will be seen as the cause of the problems, and mankind will be plunged into a new dark age which may never end.
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

My Car, My Job, My Hunger and Thirst. Roof over my Head. said:

0
Environmental Catastrophe will throw a monkey wrench into Elitist plans.
Just as they begin to grin, you can see that their own plans and activities are devastating their own homelands. Here in the US, there are violent weather patterns occurring that are taking a huge financial and emotional toll on its public. What's it matter whether you voted Gore/Bush/RonPaul/McCain/Clinton/Obama, or anyone else when there is a huge tornado ripping through the states everyday? Will they still be grasping tightly to their gold nuggets while they are whisked away by a tsunami or tornado?
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

George Warmonger said:

0
Revolution
Revolution is the Solution!!!
 
May 24, 2008
Votes: +0

viva johnny said:

0
have some faith
have some faith, the world is not coming to an end
 
May 25, 2008
Votes: +0

Ron Hill said:

0
Expat Onlooker
I live abroad and must admit that, judging from what some of you have posted, the situation does look grim. Just what is going on over there in the US? Is the situation really that dire? Please elaborate.
 
May 25, 2008
Votes: +0

CaptainYowza said:

0
...
No, the world is not coming to an end, but the way of life we know is in its death throes. Only an incredibly uninformed person would equate the demise of our culture with the end of the world. How dense can people get?
 
May 25, 2008
Votes: +0

Juglar said:

0
!
Very well written article. The author has her finger on the pulse of the present world. Comments of the niavity of the author regarding the extent of chaos that will ensue - may or may not be accurate. However, the message of community and the underlying spiritual awakening should not be lost on anybody - other than those most vile - who in all probability will be part of the problem.
 
May 26, 2008
Votes: +0

bartnikce said:

0
AMERICA NOW
WHEN WILL WE WAKE UP ? THE SKY IS NOT FALLING , WERE FAILING, OUR POL'S HAVE DONE US IN....WAKE UP AMERICA
 
May 26, 2008
Votes: +0

you suck said:

0
...
unwizened/ wrong word. If you're going to write, learn how and use words you know.
 
June 01, 2008
Votes: +0

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