oh, you’re no fun anymore

After just publishing a new blog post a couple of days ago, I’ve had some thoughts about all this. One obvious point is that I have not been writing about myself and what I’m up to (and don’t worry, that’s probably not going to change much).

I’m not that interesting. I’m pretty sure about this.

On the other hand, there are a lot of interesting things in the world, and I do notice a few of them. That’s something to write about. I usually find myself not writing about much of it, as I find that I end up writing about some of the same subjects repeatedly. It’s not so much just rattling on saying the same things over and over, because I don’t have anything else to say. It tends to be a situation where I keep seeing the same stupid things popping up around me and out there in the big wide world, and the stuff is important. I wonder if people think I’m just some tedious killjoy.

Things just keep rolling in. I just came across a disturbing little article, Oil Companies Are Dumping Millions Of Gallons Of Drilling Waste Around North Dakota.

Pointing out things like this, I have to wonder how many people just go numb. Some might just shrug with a “ah, well, whaddaya gonna do?” kind of attitude, and it just gets lost as one of an endless stream of items of “bad news”. Other people, of course, will react to it with some reflex barking about “damned hippie treehugger radicals getting in the way of jobs and prosperity”, as informed by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and cronies.

I’ve already written loads of pages about the petroleum situation, that you can go back and read in previous posts here on ye olde interknots weblog Brain Noise, so I’m not going over a pile of that again here. What I will point out is that I check now and then on stories listed in the Drumbeat story feed on The Oil Drum, as I’ve mentioned. They fall into a pair of general categories. There are piles of really great informative articles, often with excellent explanations and insight, and also, just to show everybody what’s out there and influencing people, pointers to some of the most awful dreck. I’ve mentioned this stuff before.

You get the confusing nonsense mentioning the term peak oil, where they ignore or gloss over the meaning related to the characteristic Hubbert’s curve describing running into limits and diminishing returns, and instead set up a Straw Man argument by posing a question like “are we almost out of oil?!”, followed by “why, no, you silly panicmongers, look, here’s some oil, right here!”.

You can always find some economist offering up rehashes of the same general arguments saying that there’s no oil problem, because The Market will sort it all out.

There is a simple and fairly consistent pattern played out. You read and hear things on the subject of petroleum from economists or financial or corporate management types, and you can find things on the subject from people like retired geologists whose career specialised in petroleum, who not only know the subject in depth, how things work, what has happened and what’s going on now, and can see where things are headed, they are now free to write and speak about the subject candidly and honestly, and know very well what they’re talking about.

Generally speaking, what you get from these two categories of humans is very different.

In the meantime, production rates of petroleum crude have been bouncing up and down but not going past a maximum of about 74 or 75 million barrels a day of crude extracted worldwide, in the kind of “wobbly plateau” or “bumpy plateau” pattern that was predicted by people like Colin Campbell as a result from hitting limits of oil production. Along with that, the kind of continuing economic troubles resulting from this that seem to keep going, yet seem to baffle people, as has also been predicted by people who have seen the limits and diminishing returns of petroleum coming. This isn’t some mysterious unforeseen phenomenon, the problem is that it has been mostly ignored, with the people studying the matter and talking about it, starting with oil geophysisist M. King Hubbert back in 1956, being ignored or dismissed as cranks.

So I keep pointing this stuff out to people.

I happened to catch a TV commercial, a promo spot for “American Ethanol”. At the end, there was a pointer to some sort of drawing or contest where you could win, I swear to God, like some sort of bad joke, a Chevy Silverado pickup truck. There it is, the whole attitude of a lot of people: we’ll just solve our petroleum problems with magic substitutes and smoothly continue on driving big lumbering trucks.

As all this continues on, with what’s evidently only a small minority of people awake and paying attention and thinking about what’s happening and how the universe actually works, we have, for example, as I just wrote days ago, the government of the United States burying and ignoring the Hirsch report. That has been in their hands since 2005, spelling out not only our problems with petroleum, but generally what needs to be done to deal with the future. Instead of absorbing that fully and getting in gear, we get the political games in absurdity and reality evasion that bombard people.

Yes, I am writing about the subject of petroleum a lot, but a batch of other subjects as well, and there’s a pretty clear common theme to the whole pile from where I sit. I just wrote a really long essay about it, extended material for a blog, about a subculture of real.

We have an overall kind of macro-scale problem that encompasses and surrounds a whole list of specific problems, that’s the worst problem of all. We have a serious problem with an overwhelming number of people who can’t get a grasp on what the problems are, and it’s often far worse than people thinking “I don’t know, I just don’t understand this”. It’s something much worse; people thinking they do have a grasp and understanding of what the problems are, when they might have no clue, and compounding matters, latching on to some set of easy answers and solutions that are not answers and solutions at all, especially when they aren’t even addressing the right questions.

Too many people ride along a little too happy to be operating on a selection of presumptions and illusions because, on whatever level, whether consciously or buried in some deep subconscious state of denial and avoidance, they think this is easier than getting a good close look at reality, and thinking. Kind of speaking metaphorically, there are too many people not willing to analyze a matter and sort of do the math, so to speak, or maybe looking a little bit, and rejecting the answers, not because the math is wrong, but because they don’t like that answer.

Way too many people in contemporary America are way too willing to believe that they’re simplifying their life, and their country, and the world in general, by aligning themselves with one club or another feeding them “answers and solutions” that are mostly (or entirely) nonsense.

I don’t want to rehash this forever, but obvious examples are found when you take a look at current events and chatter about anything under the heading of “energy issues”. You find one general group that believes the fiction that we’ll have limitless and perpetually cheap hydrocarbons from beneath the Earth’s surface, if only some sort of impediments and obstacles from some group of Others was removed, and this, that, and the other conditions were in place.

If you go with a binary switch flip of stereotypical artificial political constructs, you can find plenty of people in what the bipolar political cliches stick in an opposite, who go with their own set of notions that we can and would have infinite, clean, and wonderfully cheap “green renewable energy”, if not for a repressive conspiracy of The Man, and if we only protest The Man, all this will come into reality.

All that is a pretty broad generalization, but it’s a pair of broad generalizations that fit an awful lot of people, for what I figure are essentially the reasons I just explained. All that simplistic nonsense just seems easier to people falling into these ruts.

Of those two fairly generalized groups, there is a common shared trait that really isn’t hard to see. I mean, this isn’t some fantastic insight. For the most part, these simplified categories both hold memberships of loads of people who want to believe that one magic wand solution or another will ensure that they can carry on everything they have grown accustomed to, just the way they have always known, with no limits on how much energy they can use to do things. It’s just different styles of tilting at windmills.

 

But, then, how many people can actually square up with reality and examine things without having some kind of tantrum like a spoiled child being told they can’t have whatever they want, or just plain freaking out?

Virtually the entire “tea party” phenomenon here in the US over the last few years has been a manifestation of this. It’s also nearly impossible to explain this to people who see themselves as part of it.

Whether it has been unconsciously or willingly, a chunk of the American citizenry has been grouped together and then played like a two dollar banjo. After a few years of this, it’s apparent that what became “the tea party movement” mostly consists of lower middle class people corralled, and then manipulated like dancing marionettes, by people who want very badly to rearrange and then dominate the United States of America as two groups, a ruling class plutocracy and peasants/serfs.

Times are difficult and extremely complex. Difficult and complex times sometimes find people not exactly dealing with it well, and this can mean people simply not dealing with it. Maybe they’ll just pretend everything is just fine. What might be just as bad, or maybe far worse, some people will, if presented with what the problems are, just reject the clues and information, because they just don’t like that answer. So they might just pretend that some other thing is the problem, because that, in their mind, is easier.

This is where people do things like, say, looking for scapegoats, some simply defined “Others” to mark as the source of the problems. This is where trouble starts, and actual problems get ignored or made worse. History shows us that sometimes, people in difficult times turn to lunatics to take over governments.

This stuff is no joke.

Too many people are too willing to latch on to false easy answers, especially if it avoids any acknowledgement that something might be their problem. Further, actually I think a lot of people like to think that it can all be neatly sifted and simplified down to one problem, just fix the one thing, and presto, everything will just snap into place and all is well.

As I’m pretty sure I’ve said here before, as I roll through things about various topics, it’s not like I’m thinking I’ve got it all figured out and have the answers, although I can see some things in general about what needs work. I do think I’ve got a good handle on what are some of the big questions we’ve got to sort out.

One thing I’m seeing constantly, and getting worse, is people not even asking the right questions.

So, I write about it.

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