The Liminalist # 241: Reality-Based Living (with James Howard Kunstler)

Return conversation with James Howard Kunstler, on Living in the Long Emergency, on the decline of community, morality, & humanity in times of immersive dishonesty and death wish culture.

Part One: Riding the Long Emergency (0 – 27 mins)

Making out in Hope, BC, riding the long emergency, parallel worlds, a frontier town, villages in Europe, the future of Europe, the shifting economy, rebuilding local communities, an agricultural county, industrial dairy farming in Washington county, New York, artisanal changeover, Living in the Long Emergency, covid-19 shutdown, Amazon’s effect on authors, extinction of the music business, the fate of movie houses.

Part Two: Emergent Societies & Emergent Pathologies (27 – 53 mins)

Business and community, the interrelationship of community parts, the acceleration of energy supplies, emergent societies, economic & social roles, human tendency towards hierarchy, the natural order of disorder, when parts of an interdependent system fail, human pathologies & pathological societies, from history to mythology, difference between growing up in the UK in the 1970s and the US in the 50s, an existential solution, the pervasion of dishonesty, education & medicine rackets, college loans & debt saves, race & gender hustling, the covid contraction, hostages of the healthcare system.

Part Three: Death & Eternity (53 mins – 1 hr 23 mins)

Perversions and inversions within institutions, macro-perversity, morality vs. spirituality, right relationship to reality, conscious life force, a death wish culture, immersive ugliness of the US   landscape, entropy made visible, agencies of death, terror management theory, the driving force of nihilism, death & hyper-activity, an absence of grace-notes, the degeneration of high-art, Samuel Beckett’s dictum, the comedy of unhappiness, contemplating the eternal, the astonishment of existence, the elasticity of time, Jim’s disciplines, Kunstler’s astrology, the top-heavy human, a tale of two cats.

Part Four: A Still Moment (1 hr 23 – 1 hr 45 mins)

Monastic life as solution for civilizations in trouble, the preservation of culture, The Canticle of Leibowitz, the fall of the Roman Empire, a time of great quietness, utopian communities of the 19th century, sexual & financial problems in communities, bundling Shakers, Fourier’s phalansteries, social organization of numbers, the question of hierarchy, the inverse hierarchy of monasteries, the measure of authority, rank presidential candidates, the president’s new clothes, how to make authority credible, becoming a reality-based person, constructing a coherent consensus, a common culture, an economic crack-up, the pain of deceleration.

Part Five: The Shale Oil Miracle (1 hr 45 mins – end)

The oil situation, peak oil, Gail Tverberg, prices dropping, demand destruction, shale oil, debt to cover oil production costs, an orgy of lending, the shale oil miracle, fracking, up to 13 million barrels a day, the evaporation of capital, the final contraction, stopping the pumping, Saudi & Russia, metroplex mega-cities, human gerbils.

Jim Kunstler’s Blog 

Autographed copies of Living in the Long Emergency

Songs: “Pirates” by Entertainment for the Braindead; “Primitive” by The Groupies; “The Great Indoors,” by Dead Cinema; “Swing Gitane” by The Underscore Orkestra; “Changes” by Short Hand

9 thoughts on “The Liminalist # 241: Reality-Based Living (with James Howard Kunstler)”

  1. Nice conversation, I like the bit about monasteries and utopias especially. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I believe that the idea of the ideal community of 50-150 people is a result of the human species nomadic origins. And as to the relations of men & women within these communities, there is a fascinating book by a couple of researchers titled, Sex at Dawn, about human sexuality at the dawn of civilization:

    The basic idea is that in a nomadic grouping of 50-150 people, there was no possessions and therefore none of the jealousies regarding sex partners. It was only with the development of agriculture that possessions evolved and productive capacity (including children as potential labor) became important.

    Alors, leads me to believe that the although a monastic community of both sexes might seem appealing perhaps the better strategy would be to set up a tribe of nomads on a savannah somewhere rather than an old European town.

    Also, as a bit of a companion piece to Sex at Dawn, the Born to Run book also looks at human species in the pre-civilisation state but with a focus on running (hunting) rather than sex.

    • My impression of C Ryan is that he’d have cheered on Seb Horsley:

      “Sex at Dawn author Ryan bills himself as a “shame exorcist” on his personal website, where he recommends Perv: The Sexual Deviant in All of Us by Jesse Bering. A third of Bering’s book is devoted to a sympathetic account of pedophilia as something that people are naturally born with in the same way as they are homosexual, and further suggests possession of child pornography should not be illegal. It seems to me that Ryan’s views on pedophillia are quite similar to DeWaal’s. For De Waal sex between adult males and and children is not abuse if it is tender and pleasurable for both. He specifically points to Bonobos as an example of this non abusive sex between adult males and children.(de Waal, F. B. M. (1990). Sociosexual behavior used for tension regulation in all age and sex combinations among bonobos. In: Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions, J. R. Feierman (ed.). Springer, New York, pp. 378-393)

      He also said the following in 1992 “‘Ancestral humans behaved like this,” proposes Frans de Waal, an ethologist at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center at Emory University. “Later, when we developed the family system, the use of sex for this sort of purpose became more limited, mainly occurring within families. A lot of the things we see, like pedophilia and homosexuality, may be leftovers that some now consider unacceptable in our particular society.'”. In Sex at Dawn is there anywhere that the authors disagree with DeWaal’s views on pedophilia? By my way of thinking Ryan seems to be arguing very much along the same lines as deWaal here.

      According to the article Ryan says natural human sexuality is like that of Bonobos. It is well known that adult male Bonobos have sex with infant Bonobos. My point is that we should make it clear whether Ryan specifically excludes pedophilia from his thesis or not. If he doesn’t then that ought to be made clear in the article.

      Here Ryan says “I’ve got some ideas of topics I’d like to tackle head-on. Here are a few, to give you an idea: What does it really mean to be “gay?” […] Are teenaged boys who have sex with adult women victims of sexual abuse? What if they don’t think so? What if, in fact, they’re clamoring for the opportunity to be “abused” in this way? Are all adult/adolescent sexual encounters inescapably exploitative?” Also Here Ryan says “…assumptions that all minors are traumatized by any sexual contact with someone over the age of consent are not scientifically supported. Perhaps more importantly, by sending the message that such experiences are by definition traumatic, we may sometimes be causing suffering even as we try to stop it.” He could be quoted on that.

    • Sex at Dawn has been pretty heavily criticised, and none of the anthropologists I know take it particularly seriously. Not too surprising to see his rather liberal attitudes extend towards paedophilia. Polyamory strikes me as one offshoot of the broader social engineering programs that Jasun highlights, particularly in VoK. Here’s a clip from Rogan on SaD:

      I do agree with your point about communities of 50-150 people, although I don’t think this communal sharing extended to love partners necessarily. The homicide rate among Kalahari bushmen as a result of jealous love rivalries would suggest to me that fighting over mates is a pretty universal phenomenon in the human animal. It does seem, though, that the development of agriculture potentiated various hierarchical structures that do not seem to have been present in human society previously, or at least to the extent that they are now.

  2. Very interesting conversation with a highly informed guest, I really appreciate it. So many topics covered, so little time.

    I have been developing, mulling over, espousing the idea of setting up a community in Serbia/Bosnia/Montenegro for the past decade. Land, with existing houses in some cases, especially in remote areas, are cheap or at very least highly affordable. The idea to underpin the collective would be a version of local tradition, basically a cooperative revolving around family units and free association. However, for the idea to develop I need takers. People who have been somewhat keen on the idea can’t even agree on where this community should be set up. The problem of earning money is a serious issue even if one is to go as off the grid as much as possible. It unravels from there, not that there are many takers in the first place. Definitely an idea that has more merit then almost any I can think of right now. Perhaps The Collapse would avoid such a remote and self-sustaining community, or it made end up like Waco, who knows. But it appears to be a worthy endeavour.

    • Oh I’d jump at the chance to be part of an endeavour such as this! I’ve been toying with the idea of even creating my own island from steel drum barrels and wooden pallets with plastic bottles and plastic bags for coverings. Toss soil on top and grow brackish water tolerant bushes for rooting holds and you’ve got a decent base for building on with foamcrete. Not sure about the laws for floating civilizations but I’m sure theres a workaround. I live on a boat in benicia,ca currently. I’ve got many skillsets that would be ideal for a venture of this type. Hit me up sometime.

  3. Interesting dialog between you two. I have been following James for about a decade now. It was through him and skeptiko that led me here. It is like two musicians from similiar but distinct styles, blues and jazz perhaps, getting together for a jam session. A bit of sync is my starting to reread , about 5 days ago, Neil Stephenson’s Anathema after 12 years since first reading. The mathematical, philosophy monk community really appealed to me at the time and I was curious what I would get from it after 12 years of experience.

  4. Shakers didn’t “bundle.” Nope. Never. Bundling was a way for a courting couple to get some privacy – fully clothed and sometimes with a board between – in British Isles, Netherlands, and Colonial America. Shakers observed very rigorous separation of the sexes. Given the different duties of men and women, the social time was mainly in the evenings, seated opposite.
    By the way, large Shaker villages subdivided into “families:” North Family, East Family, etc., each with its own leadership (subordinate to the leadership of the whole village). Leaders were always male and female.
    Thanks; interesting interview.


Leave a Comment