The Liminalist # 19: Onions & Brown Rice (with James Howard Kunstler)


Second part of a crossover conversation with James Howard Kunstler (part one here), on Seen & Not Seen and magical thinking, the Jiminy Crickett syndrome, a threshold moment in US history, de-industrialization in the 1970s, trying to get something for nothing, legalization of gambling, entitlement and comfort, being fed on fantasy, living inside an I-phone, the life expectancy of the Internet, Kunstler’s unguided adolescence & anxiety disorder, fear of the night sky, young man blues, going through adolescence without ceremony, mimesis, developing a non-cultural identity through physical engagement, the transhumanist fantasy, wormholes of potentiality, space nuts, Ray Kurtzweil’s computer-astral dreams, 2001 and the space agenda (real or contrived?), the death of the US space program, Tomorrowland and getting back into the space groove, Elon Musk’s electric car, the unreality of Silicon valley, intelligent highways, the 20th century treasure, Jim’s doom-ism and Jasun’s pessimism, the emperor’s new clothes, resetting to a lower level of civilization, sublimating the horror, after the convulsion, Jim’s hidden agenda, returning to direct experience, failure of the energy delivering system, The Geography of Nowhere, the punishments of suburbia, the future of cities, the renovation of NYC and the financialization of the economy, Japan as poster-child for a medieval future, the question of evolution, living on salvage, the great forgetting, population reduction as natural attrition, the usual suspects of apocalypse, how to ease the transition, adjusting to reality, putting the breaks on the dissociation mechanism, how technology changes brain state, autist-brains, the transformation of consciousness, are human beings getting dumber?, The World Made By Hand, opposing consensuses, the ashes of belief, the re-enchantment of daily life, abandoned by modernity, a new way of negotiating reality, Jim’s early days as journalist, Jim’s advice to writers, country life with the chickens; a closing request.

James Kunstler’s website.

Hear the first part of this conversation at the Kunstlercast.

Songs: “El Mariachi” and “Monkey Said” by The Freak Fandango Orchestra; “Eyes of the Forrest,” by Bronzed God; “Resuscitation Distillery Blues,” by Wooden Wand; “Pretty Polly,” by Roger McGuinn, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” by Solomon Linda & the Evening Birds.

10 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 19: Onions & Brown Rice (with James Howard Kunstler)”

  1. A bit of a change of pace, that type of speaker is not normally my cup of tea (too many buried cultural assumptions) but it went well and I’m glad you were able to put your usual spin on it.

    Funny that you mentioned the “separate species” subject. My mom found some old poems of mine from when I was in grade school, one of them was about me talking to a cricket, and telling him not to be afraid of me because I wasn’t a human.

    I’ve noticed that everyone in modern culture, no matter what level of intellect, believes that humanity is becoming less intelligent. And at the same time, each of those individuals believes themselves to be an exception. I think that the universality of this idea suggests an ideological “meme” rather than a simple assessment of reality.

    IMO human intelligence is not decreasing, it is transforming. Since it’s generally acknowledged that consciousness is transforming, it seems reasonable to consider that intelligence will, also. The instrument assessing the transformation is itself transforming, and so there cannot be a clear appraisal of what is taking place.

    This is why modern culture needs its artists, the miners of the universal archetypes shoved into the cultural Jungian shadow, more than ever. Currently, the dominant illustration of our world is the scream of the intellect in a sports car as it races towards a brick wall.

    Restricted to that raw material, there isn’t much of a conclusion we can reach except that we are all getting dumber.

    • This points relates directly to neurodiversity, and how a new form of intelligence has been symptomized as “brain damage” 😀

      on the other hand, people really *are* getting dumber, IMO, not only to do with living in an increasingly mediated environment (ie, cut off from physical reality and hence the instinctive or body intelligence) but also, the precise quality and purpose of that media, namely, decades of disinformation propaganda and being sold phony ideological beliefs in lieu of facts.

      And related, the increasingly liminal social conditions leads to binary-opposition thinking (ie, us or them, black or white) which lacks nuance, hence is further and further removed from reality, hence “dumb.”

      So my point to Kunstler was that “we” are getting both dumber and more intelligent at the same time. The group mind is getting heavier and denser and more reactive, but the opportunity for individuation (true intelligence) within that cauldron is correspondingly richer.

    • Brandon: ” everyone in modern culture, no matter what level of intellect, believes that humanity is becoming less intelligent. And at the same time, each of those individuals believes themselves to be an exception. ” haha really! goes back to the ancient Greeks and no doubt beyond.

      Wish i could say the same, after the lyme disease the old noggin is seriously scrambled.

  2. Maybe I’m just having an IQ surge or an acid flashback, but I’m sitting here marveling at all the crucial bits to ponder you guys packed into your doubleheader.

  3. hi Jasun – next time someone wants to talk about all the sex abuse “hoaxes” and media panic, the phenomenon of the huge backlog of untested rape kits may be helpful to bring up – just search ‘untested rape kits in USA’. Appalling.

    also, i can’t believe he kept referring to you as ‘special’ – really? Kunstler seems to be making a sincere effort to be considerate and friendly, but i kept flashing back to getting my medical history taking by various doctors unaccustomed to seeing a young, intelligent woman with 2″ thick file (and UFO paperback in hand, ha!). I had chronic asthma. Greeting to the kitty!

      • oh i also appreciated his obvious efforts at being considerate. I was just gob-smacked at how a person of his age and experience could seem to have never spoken to someone who is not ‘just like him’ before. I don’t know how else to put it – he’s never known an autist before? Or someone with downs?

        Maybe it’s because i live near Berkeley, and all types of non-standard people get out and about all the time. Or because it’s hard to find ‘standard issue’ people in my family. You quickly find out people are just people. But his reaction made it very difficult to take anything Mr. Kunstler said seriously, he simply sounded incredibly sheltered and naive.

        To me this was of a piece with the ‘sexual deviants’ discussion. In my own family, going back several generations we always had a few gay and bi people in the mix. Nowadays they can get married, have kids, and clunk along mundanely like so many other peoples instead of drinking themselves to death in the desert at a young age.

        • Is it really fair to judge someone for their shelteredness or the limitations that privilege brings? Isn’t the important thing how quickly a person adapts to new data? We are all in the mud to one degree or another; what matters is how stuck we are.

  4. Why the hate for technology. Jesus if you used it correctly you wouldn’t hate on tesla… I just read an article today about cheaper cars. “He’s not going to make it happen.” Kinda cynical. I’m drunk.

  5. “psychology of previous investment” is straight plagiarism 🙁 its a concept developed at length by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky called; the sunk cost fallacy.


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