Archive for April, 2013

Meet the Chechens


P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }Americans tend to be rather bad at geography, and often find out that a country exists, and where it is on the world map, only after their troops invade it. That\’s how it used to be; now that America is too broke even to pay their own air traffic controllers, never mind stage military invasions, the moment of discovery will occur when people from some country or other come over and settle scores by attacking Americans. What goes around comes around. America\’s latest voyage of geographic discovery has taken it to Chechnya, where, following the collapse of the USSR, unbeknownst to most Americans, their government offered covert support to “pro-independence forces,” “separatists,” “insurgents,” “terrorists,” or whatever the increasingly tongue-tied US State Department decides to call them next.

Since Chechnya is in the news, now that two of its best and brightest have been accused of bombing the Boston Marathon, I would like to assist Americans on their voyage of discovery and enlighten them about the Chechens—the amazing people their wise government chose to befriend on their behalf in order to hurt their other friend, Russia, in its hour of need. After all, is there ever a better time to kick a friend than when he is down?
I now turn it over to someone who knew the Chechens very well. If, in the course of reading this, you discover that you don\’t like your friends the Chechens, here is a word of advice: stop complaining.
Sergei Maslenitsa was a simple Russian lad who was born and grew up in Chechnya, in Shelkovskaya Stanitsa, a Cossack encampment, into a family of Cossacks and hereditary warriors. Born in 1972, he went to kindergarten with Chechen children, then went to school with Chechens, and fought with them even as a child. And then, in 1991, the Chechens slaughtered his parents, along with most of his relatives. At the time, Sergei was far away in Ryazan, studying at a military academy. After graduation he went back to Chechnya, to take revenge. He fought in both Chechnya campaigns, was repeatedly wounded and received highest military decorations, but after Captain E.A. Ulman, another Captain in the Chechnya campaign, was sentenced for following explicit orders to shoot Chechen civilians, he submitted a very rude report in which he referred to Putin as “Commander in Shit,” gave back all of his medals, and went into the reserve.

After concluding his military service, Sergei became a successful builder, transferring a share of his profits to the families of fallen comrades. He also worked with troubled youth, drug addicts and alcoholics, getting them to quit, getting them involved in sports, teaching them Russian history, language, taking them on expeditions into the mountains. This he considered the most important work of his life.

On September 1, 2010, Sergei and his wife were driving on a federal highway when an accident occurred ahead of them, in which one of the cars flipped over and started burning. Sergei pulled two passengers out of the burning car, and when he went back to pull out the third, the car exploded.
I found the following text in a collection of Sergei\’s Internet forum posts. The translation is my own.
I was born and grew up in Chechnya, in Shelkovskaya Stanitsa, Shelkovsky Region, Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. I crossed paths with the Chechens from early childhood. And even then I was impressed by how much stronger they are in spirit. In the kindergarten, there were constant fights between Russian and Chechen children, after which their parents were summoned. On the Russian side, it was invariably the mommy who came, and nagged her son: “You shouldn\’t fight! Fighting is bad!” On the Chechen side it was invariably the father who came. He slapped his son upside the head and told him: “How dare you lose a fight to a stinking Russian—the son of an alcoholic and a prostitute? Tomorrow you thrash him so hard that he pisses himself from fear any time he sees you!” In school, hardly a day went by without a fight. I usually had to fight against superior numbers, in spite of the fact that in my class there were just five Chechens and fifteen Russians. And while I alone was swinging back at the five, the other fourteen stood around gazing at their shoes.

We were constantly being pressured psychologically, tested for weakness. One sign of weakness, and it\’s the end—they thrash you so hard that you never get up again. Once I was ambushed by a group of Chechen upperclassmen. In fighting them off, I cracked the skull of one of them using a steel pipe. They stopped fighting and dragged their casualty away. The next day in school I was approached by some Chechens I didn\’t know, who challenged me to a knife fight—to the death. When I showed up, there were fifteen of them waiting for me, all grown men. I thought that they would simply kill me.

But they respected the fact that I came alone and didn\’t show fear, and they put forward one fighter. They gave me a knife, while the Chechen approached me unarmed. Then I tossed the knife away and we fought with bare hands. As a result of that fight, I ended up in hospital with fractures. When I was released I was met by the father of the lad whose head I smashed in with a pipe. He said to me: “I see that you are a warrior and that you do not fear death. Be a guest in my house.” After that we had a long talk. He told me about adats (Chechen tribal customs) and about the upbringing which turns Chechen boys into warriors. He told me that we Russians are faggots who forgot their roots, stopped listening to their elders, turned into alcoholics, degenerated into a herd of cattle and stopped being a people. That was the moment when I started to change, or, if you will, to become myself.

And then the good times arrived. Russians were being slaughtered in the street, in broad daylight. I saw with my own eyes how a group of Chechens surrounded a Russian lad in a bread line. One of them spat on the ground and told him to lick it up. When he refused, they cut his belly open with a knife. Another time, in school, a group of Chechens stormed into a classroom in the middle of a class, selected the three most attractive girls, and dragged them away with them. Later we found out that the girls were presented as birthday presents to a local Chechen criminal authority.

And then the times got even better. Fighters came and started to cleanse the Russian population. At night we could hear the screams of people who were being raped and murdered in their own houses. Nobody came to their help. Each person was alone, quivering with fear. Some even proposed an ideology for their inaction: “my home is my fortress.” (The person who said this is no longer alive; the Chechens draped his guts over the fence in front of his house.) That was how they could eliminate us, cowardly idiots, one by one. Tens of thousands of Russians were killed, a few thousand ended up as slaves or in Chechen harems, hundreds of thousands fled Chechnya in their underwear. That was how the Chechens solved the “Russian problem” in their separatist republic.

And the only reason they succeeded in doing so is because we were total shit. We are still shit, but not quite so liquid, and in that shit there are some steel particles. And when these particles coalesce we have incidents such as what happened in Kondopoga [a famous incident in a town in Karelia, a region next to Finland, where, after Chechen migrants murdered several locals, the locals staged an old-fashioned pogrom and the government had to evacuate 100 Chechens]. There aren\’t that many of them yet, but the Chechens are doing an excellent job of reforming us. Russians now are fundamentally different from the Russians of 1991. In 1991, in Shelkovskaya Stanitsa, a single armed Chechen killed more than a hundred Russians, walking from house to house, calmly shooting and reloading. Nobody dared oppose him. But just 15 years later, in Kondopoga, in Tver, in Stavropol the Chechens got thrashed. They are first-class predators, and as a result of their mission of cultural enlightenment Russian cattle is once again becoming a people.

And now it\’s time for one final excerpt—about the role of the Chechen mafia in Russian organized crime during the lawless 1990s—from The Five Stages of Collapse, which is finally done being printed and will start shipping in another couple of weeks.

Yet another group that swelled the ranks of racketeers was the Chechen mafia. The Chechens’ success in forming criminal organizations had much to do with their tribal structure and practice. In Chechnya, land has always passed from the father to the eldest son, forcing other sons to leave home and become raiders. While they were at home, they had to pay absolute obedience to the tribal elders, but while away their freedom of action was absolute. When they brought home the loot, they were received as heroes and the most famous (or infamous) ones came to be celebrated in song and legend. Thus, in Chechen society, predation on their neighbors evolved into a high-status occupation. It was not seen as morally reprehensible on any level, because according to sharia law enrichment at the expense of the infidels is an honorable activity. The Chechens were never known for loving their neighbors, but the Russian conquest of the region under Alexander II was by far the most humiliating event in Chechen history and gave rise to an eternal and implacable hatred toward the Russians. These sentiments were only further deepened when Stalin exiled four hundred thousand Chechens to Kazakhstan after World War II, as punishment for their dalliance with Hitler. All of these factors made the appearance of a Chechen criminal class eager to heroically settle scores almost inevitable.

The Chechen mafia started preying on the kooperatívy during the perestroïka years, eventually becoming the largest and best-organized criminal organization in Moscow. They survived several rounds of violent conflict with local Slavic criminal groups, but most of their original members are now either dead or in jail. Nevertheless, over the course of the 1990s they not only ran Moscow’s largest racket but also ran illegal, underground banks and traded precious metals, oil and weapons. Eventually the Chechen mafia moved away from racketeering and diversified into hotels, banking, shell companies and money laundering. It now operates a large number of diversified trading companies in commodities such as oil, lumber, gold and rare earth minerals. On paper these companies feature Russian figureheads, making them difficult to spot. During Chechnya’s separatist rebellion, the vast sums they amassed were used to finance the separatist regime of Dzhokhar Dudayev.

Please order your copy of The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors\’ Toolkit for shipment in May.

Regular price $18.00 USD Autographed, numbered copy $28.00 USD
(Although the order is placed through PayPal, you don\’t need to have a PayPal account; just click \”Don\’t have a PayPal Account?\” during check-out and enter a credit or debit card number. If you do have a PayPal account, please make extra-double-sure that the shipping address associated with it is up-to-date and correct, and will remain that way through May.)

The Rationale behind the Boston Psy-ops

Boston on Friday, April 19, 2013

Update: promoting a good bit from the comments. Thanks, Kevin.

Deep in the Heart of Middle America…

Q: I’ve been hearing things about a… “recent development.”

A: Yeah, bit of a jolt, this one. Heard on the grapevine, it’s these Chechens, heard of ’em? Well, they’ve taken over, massacred the entire 113th Congress and took over Homeland Security to boot. Saw the footage of Capital Hill. Gawd, what a mess. But ah… personally I don’t see anything to be concerned about. I mean, really, they can’t be any worse than the last bunch. Give the lads a chance, that’s what I say. That’s what America’s all about, right? A place where you can get ahead. Show a bit of initiative, innovation; give it a go. And I’ll tell you something else. From what I hear these guys are pretty solid on family values, ya know? And guns? They’re not against guns. Now I can prove that… So well, that’s what I say… I can’t really see a problem here….

Q: what about Obama, the President. Did he say anything?

A: Well ah, yeah he made an announcement. Something like “weapons of war have no place on our streets.” He said something… honestly I can’t really recall much of this. I know he said something but… ah…

Q: Yeah, right.

An interesting thing happened in Boston. Not the explosions that killed several people and maimed many more—such gruesome events happen with some regularity in more and more parts of the world—but what happened afterwards. Under the thinnest of pretenses, Boston was placed under martial law, with heavily armed troops patrolling the streets, pointing machine guns at civilians who dared so much as to look out their windows.
A large part of the city was placed under lockdown, supposedly because a single 19-year-old, on foot, was on the loose. (There may be dozens of armed teenagers on the loose in Boston on any given Friday.) [Correction: Dzokhar Tsarnaev was unarmed at the time of his “shootout with police.”] The official story makes little sense. Do you think the Tsarnaev brothers did it? I doubt it. They seem like patsies at most. They seem to have been picked because they are Chechen, and tying in Chechnya, and Russia, and radical Islam, makes it a better story. As with 9/11, the official version has many holes in it, there is contradictory evidence, but the officials and the official media steadfastly ignore it, ready to label anyone who calls the official story into question a “conspiracy theorist.”

I am not an investigator or an intelligence analyst; I am merely expressing an opinion based on my intuition. While all of this was unfolding, I was making use of the good weather to paint a boat (the fancy two-part polyurethane paint doesn\’t cure well if it\’s humid or under 50°F, and it was finally warm and dry enough to apply it) and I had the boat\’s stereo blasting NPR as I worked. I wasn\’t even listening all that carefully because I had to concentrate on avoiding drips and smudges. But after a while I had a sudden realization about the voices on the radio: They Are All Lying! There is a certain intonation that is hard to suppress, and it indicates that someone is trying very hard to sound like they believe what they are saying. I heard that intonation over and over again. Now, granted, some of them didn\’t even know for sure that they were lying, but to me it appeared that somebody was hastily concocting a story for public consumption. Not being an intelligence analyst or an investigator, I asked Mike Ruppert, who is both of these things, and he wrote back “Of course the bombing was a lie and a set-up. I don\’t chase the details anymore though. Waste of energy.” And I have to agree with him; I have neither the time nor the interest. But somebody else has chased down a few of the details, and they don\’t look good for the official story. See for yourself: here, here, here and here.

If this is another false flag operation by the special forces, what, you might reasonably ask, is the motive? From whose perspective, you might wonder, was it a good idea to stage a horrific mock terrorist incident right in the cradle of the American Revolution, and specifically on Patriot\’s Day, which is a state holiday commemorating the first battle of the Revolutionary War? And from whose perspective was it a good idea to then stage a military occupation of Boston? The symbolism is unmistakeable: were these the first shots fired in the Counterrevolutionary War? Obviously, the people behind it are the ultimate scum of the earth. But let me try to propose a few ideas for their rationale.

The US can no longer afford to fight foreign wars. It just doesn\’t have the money. The twin fiascos in Iraq (where only something like 50 people got killed in terrorist attacks on that same day) and Afghanistan (similar story) have cost the country a prodigious amount of money, most of it borrowed, with precious little peace and stability to show for it, and now there are simply no resources for further overseas military adventures. But the US military is a beast that cannot be tamed by anyone—not the President or the Congress—because it is simply too profitable. And so, of necessity, the new venue for military operations will have to be the US itself. There are some inconvenient laws currently on the books that make this difficult but, as the experiment in Boston has shown, they can now be safely ignored.

Also, we should expect there to be plenty of good excuses for deploying troops on the streets of American cities. There are some nasty financial and commercial disruptions on the horizon, which will result in serious domestic mayhem. For many years now, more and more as time went on, the US has been critically dependent on its ability to print and export US dollars. The dollar is the country\’s #1 export. But recently more and more countries have started turning away from the once popular US dollar and entering into bilateral trade agreements based on their own currencies or gold, and this shift is now unmistakeable and quickly running its course. As this happens, the US dollar loses its reserve currency status, and countries shift their reserves out of the dollar and into gold.

A recent desperate attempt to drive down the price of gold and silver by manipulating the futures markets, and by doing so to prop up the value of the US dollar along with other paper currencies, backfired in a grand fashion, resulting in people across the world snapping up physical gold and silver at what they consider bargain prices, to a point where now many metal sellers are simply out of metal, and buyers face long waits for delivery. Interestingly, there is as yet no mechanism for bidding up the price of physical metal separately from the futures market, which trades something like 100 phantom ounces for each real ounce of metal. A daily auction for all the physical gold and silver available for immediate delivery would be far more honest than this corrupt \”mark to paper\” scheme.

Given that more and more people are no longer content with holding mere paper and want to take delivery of their metal, the phantom, paper ounces are not long for this world. When enough people demand to take delivery of them, the futures market will implode, the physical gold price will explode, and the dollar will sink. Normally governments maintain a gold reserve to back the value of their currency, but the US seems to have quietly spent most of its gold already. Nobody knows how little of it is left. And so once the ability to suppress the price of gold by manipulating the futures market is lost, the dollar will go into free-fall. Two immediate effects of the loss of purchasing power of the dollar will be:

1. Loss of control over interest rates, causing payments on US government debt to swallow the entire budget, in turn causing much of the government to shut down (financial collapse triggering political collapse)

2. Loss of access to imports, such as well over half of the oil the country burns, shutting down much of the consumer economy (financial collapse triggering commercial collapse)

The net result will be mayhem, troops on the streets, curfews, checkpoints and travel restrictions. Americans have no recent experience of living under military occupation (the experience of the South in the 1860s is not recent enough to qualify). But now they are going to get a taste of it—at their own hands.

If you are finding this difficult to absorb, rest assured that your reaction is perfectly normal. Few people find it easy to accept the fact that what was once “their” country is now an empty husk run by thugs and manipulated for personal gain by shadowy puppet-masters who are the ultimate scum of the earth. These are the people who will now govern you, inasmuch as you allow yourself to be governed at all. Saying good-bye to financial security and a comfortable lifestyle is hard enough; saying good-bye to your national identity is even harder. The grieving process is much longer than grieving for a few dead and wounded, regrettable though these casualties are. At the end of this grieving process you come out with your public persona diminished: not a citizen or a patriot but at best a compatriot and at worst someone from a place you don\’t wish to return to, hear about or discuss.

And now it\’s time for this week\’s highly relevant excerpt from The Five Stages of Collapse which, last I heard, is coming off the press tomorrow.

Financial and commercial collapses are already potentially lethal. People lose their bearings and their sense of purpose, or decide to take advantage of those in distress, or fail simply through an inability to adapt to radically altered circumstances, and when that happens people get hurt. Financial and commercial collapses tend to be hard on those who failed to prepare, by putting aside objects that hold their value when the national currency hyperinflates and banks close and by stockpiling the necessary supplies to tide them over during the uncertain transition period, when the old ways of doing things no longer work but the new ones have not yet evolved. Both of these causes of potentially lethal circumstances can be avoided: first, by choosing the right kind of community; second, by laying in supplies or securing independent access to food, water and energy; and third, by generally finding a way to bide your time and ignore the world at large until times get better.

Political collapse is a different animal altogether, because it makes the world at large difficult to ignore. The potential for chaos is still there, but so is the potential for organized action of a very damaging sort, because the ruling class and the classes that serve them (the police, the military, the bureaucrats) generally refuse to go softly into the night and allow the people to self-organize, experiment and come together as autonomous new groups adapted to the new environment in their composition and patterns of self-governance. Instead, they are likely to spontaneously hatch a harebrained new plan: an initiative to restore national unity, in the sense of restoring the status quo ante, at least with regard to preserving their own power and privilege, at others’ expense. In a situation where every person and every neighborhood should be experimenting on their own to find out what works and what doesn’t, the politicians and the officials are apt to introduce new draconian crime-fighting measures, curfews and detentions, allowing only certain activities—ones that benefit them—while mercilessly putting down any sign of insubordination. To deflect the blame for their failure, the ruling elite usually also does its best to find an internal or external enemy. Those who are the weakest and the least politically connected—the poor, the minorities and the immigrants—are accused of dragging everyone down and singled out for the harshest treatment. This is conducive to creating a climate of fear and suppressing free speech. But nothing causes people to band together like an external threat, and, for the sake of preserving national unity, a failing nation-state often looks for an external enemy to attack, preferably a weak, defenseless one, so that it poses no risk of reprisal. Putting the nation on a war footing makes it possible for the government to commandeer resources and reallocate them to the benefit of the ruling class, further restrict movements and activities, round up troublesome youths and ship them off to battle and lock up undesirables.

Financial and commercial collapse creates an opening for those inclined toward the most miserable despotism. Once a despotic regime is established, the weak, demoralized, disoriented population almost inevitably finds itself incapable of rising in opposition to it, and the new despotism may become entrenched and quite durable, lasting for an extended period of time, during which the country is hollowed out and traumatized before collapsing through internecine strife or a battle of succession, or through increasing weakness that causes it to succumb to foreign occupation. The spectrum of possible responses to financial and commercial collapse stretches from despotism to chaos. There is a sweet spot of autonomous, anarchic social cooperation, with many small skirmishes and stand-offs but well short of all-out armed conflict.

Please order your copy of The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors\’ Toolkit for shipment in May.

Regular price $18.00 USD Autographed, numbered copy $28.00 USD
(Although the order is placed through PayPal, you don\’t need to have a PayPal account; just click \”Don\’t have a PayPal Account?\” during check-out and enter a credit or debit card number. If you do have a PayPal account, please make extra-double-sure that the shipping address associated with it is up-to-date and correct, and will remain that way through May.)

REVIEW—The Five Stages of Collapse by Dmitry Orlov

The writing of this book was a rotten job, but it was absolutely necessary. If someone had to do it, I am very glad that it was Dmitry Orlov. Without his wit, alacrity and experience, the task of beating the horse of the Cartesian approach to understanding our dying world to death would have resulted in something unbearably maddening, dry and uninspiring. In this book he sneaks some LOLROF side-splitters in when you least expect them. One gathers from Orlov’s painstaking efforts, the futility of looking to outdated constructs and philosophies for understanding and relief from a crisis that demands complete innovation and inspiration.
Reading closely, one sees Orlov carefully planting seeds of reconciliation with our planet and each other throughout—as a fundamental baseline. He arrives at places outside the box of the current meme by using methodologies and analyses that are sacramental within the meme. That’s an achievement. Perhaps in his next book he will stand on that ground more forcefully and tell us what he sees. We don’t need to understand collapse right now as much as we need to survive it. And that is where Dmitry Orlov rises through the rubble and gives us magnificent gems like this: “At the rock bottom of human survival, there is no individual and there is no state; there is only the family, or, if there isn’t, there is something that’s not quite human—or there is nothing at all.”
Michael C. Ruppert

Organizational Stupidity is Behind the Boston Marathon Disaster


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Friday update: America\’s enemies are probably feeling encouraged this morning: apparently all it takes to destroy it (through bankruptcy) is some small number of pressure cookers loaded with explosive and shrapnel. Each such event produces a stunningly ridiculous amount of police activity costing millions, if not billions, of dollars. It would be interesting to find out how many billions of economic damage per pressure cooker it is.

People are asking me what I think of the two Chechen/Daghestani kids who have been accused of causing the explosions, and, upon finding out that they are hunted men, decided to go out in a blaze of glory by holding up a convenience store, carjacking an SUV and arranging to have a shootout with the police. Well, since they probably thought the alternative was something like being force-fed at Guantanamo for the rest of their lives, that might be seen as a rational choice. Such behavior, as well as the fact that they had semiautomatic weapons and hand grenades on hand, is also in keeping with the Chechen/Daghestani ethos, which is resistant of accepting any external authority. Based on what I hear of their antics, it seems like they weren\’t trying to flee; they just wanted to “die well.” As to whether they were responsible or complicit in the bombings—I simply don\’t know. My only source of information is what is leaking out through the media, and at this point I have to treat all of it as hearsay, rumor, fabrication and/or idle speculation. Not that I think that there is a conspiracy, mind you—just some nonsense cooked up by people who are under a lot of pressure to look like they know what they are talking about.

Please keep in mind that terrorism is an insignificant source of accidental death in the US (unlike, say, Iraq, where there were 50 killed on Marathon Day alone). The main sources of accidental death in the US are cars, guns and doctors.

I was in Boston when it happened, but nowhere near the event: I was across the harbor, in the boatyard, painting a boat, when I heard the news on the radio. Yesterday I walked past the “crime scene,” as it is being called, which was crawling with police and national guard troops, as if there was anything there for them to do. Later I met a friend, and, over a beer, he pointed out a very obvious reason for why the disaster took place.
If you look carefully at archival photos and footage of the Boston Marathon, which spans decades, you will notice that the trash receptacles are made of reinforced concrete. These have the useful property of being relatively bombproof, in the sense of deflecting most of the energy of an explosion upward, so that the passers-by are showered with widely dispersed debris raining from above rather than being blown to bits by shrapnel flying horizontally at supersonic speeds. These concrete receptacles were used for a very good reason: there is no way to prevent wing-nuts from tossing bombs into trash cans; there is, however, a way to minimize the damage caused by the explosions. But at some point during the past few years someone within Boston city government ordered those concrete receptacles replaced with plastic-and-metal ones, scoring a major victory for organizational stupidity, and setting the stage for what essentially became a crime of opportunity. It seems like the wing-nut (of a kind that the human race produces with some regularity) tossed a couple crude home-made time-bombs in trash receptacles along the path of the marathon and drove off, briefly getting off the expressway to drop off his spare bomb at the JFK library, then sped on south. Of course it is important to find him (statistically, he is most likely a white male American) and lock him up. But it is far more important to find the person in city government who ordered the trash receptacles replaced. That person is the terrorist\’s accomplice—perhaps an unwitting accomplice, but then stupidity is no defense. Oh, and can we please have the bomb-proof trash receptacles back?

Understanding Organizational Stupidity

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Shintaro Kago

Is it morning in America again, or is the bubble that is the American economy about to pop (again), this time perhaps tipping it into full-blown collapse in five stages with symphonic accompaniment and fireworks? A country blowing itself up is quite a sight to behold, and it makes us wonder about lots of things. For instance, it makes us wonder whether the people who are doing the blowing up happen to be criminals. (Sure, they may be in a manner of speaking—as a moral judgment passed on the powerful by the powerless—but since none of them are likely to see the inside of a jail cell or even a courtroom any time soon, the point is moot. Let\’s be sure to hunt them down once they try to run and hide, though.) But at a much more basic and fundamental level, a better question to ask is this one:

“Why are we being so fucking stupid?”
What do I mean when I use the term “fucking stupid”? I do not mean it as a term of abuse but as a precise, if unflattering, diagnosis. Here is as good a definition as any, excerpted from American Eulogy by Jim Quinn:
If you had told someone on September 10, 2001 that ten years later America would be running $1.5 trillion annual deficits, fighting two wars of choice in countries that despise our presence, and had not only not addressed the $100 [trillion] of unfunded welfare liabilities but added billions more with Medicare D and Obamacare, they would have thought you were a crazy doomster predicting the end of the world. They would have put you away in a padded cell if you had further predicted that politicians would cut taxes three separate times, that the Wall Street banks that leveraged themselves 40 to 1 and destroyed the financial system [would be] handed $2 trillion of taxpayer funds so they could pay themselves multi-million dollar bonuses, and that the Federal Reserve would triple its balance sheet to $2.45 trillion by running its printing presses at hyper-speed and handing the money to those same Wall Street Mega-Banks.

Well, the evidence is in, and that crazy doomster in his padded cell has turned out to be amazingly prescient, so perhaps we should listen to him. And what would that crazy doomster have to say now? I would venture to guess that it would be something along these lines:

There is no reason to think that those who failed to take corrective action up until now, but remain in control, will ever do so. But it should be perfectly obvious that this situation cannot continue ad infinitum. And, as a matter of general principle, things that can\’t go on forever—don\’t.
Back to the question of stupidity: Why are we (as a country) being so fucking stupid? This question has puzzled me for some time. It appears that the problem of stupidity is quite pervasive: look at any large human organization, and you will find that it is ruled by stupidity. I was not the first to stumble across the conjecture that the intelligence of a hierarchically organized group of people is inversely proportional to its size, but so far the mechanism that makes it so has eluded me. Clearly, there is something amiss with hierarchically organized groups, something that causes all of them to eventually collapse, but what exactly is it? To try to get at this question, last year I spent quite a while researching anarchy, and wrote a series of articles on it (Part I, Part II, Part III). I discovered that vast hierarchies do not occur in nature, which is anarchic and self-organizing, with no chains of command and no entities in supreme command. I discovered that anarchic organizations can go on forever while hierarchical ones inevitably end in collapse. I examined some of the recent breakthroughs in complexity theory, which uncovered the laws governing the different scaling factors in natural (anarchically organized, efficient, stable) systems and unnatural (hierarchically organized, inefficient, collapse-prone) ones.
But nowhere did I find a principled, rigorous explanation for the fatal flaw embedded in the very nature of hierarchical systems. I did have a very strong hunch, though, backed by much anecdotal evidence, that it comes down to stupidity. In anarchic societies whose members cooperate freely, intelligence is additive; in hierarchical organizations structured around a chain of command, intelligence is subtractive. The lowest grunts or peons are expected to carry out orders unquestioningly. Their critical faculties are 100% impaired; if not, they are subjected to disciplinary action. The supreme chief executive officer may be of moderately impaired intelligence, since it is indicative of a significant character flaw to want such a job in the first place. (Kurt Vonnegut put it best: “Only nut cases want to be president.”) But beyond that, the supreme leader must act in such a way as to keep the grunts and peons in line, resulting in further intellectual impairment, which is compounded across all of the intervening ranks, with each link in the chain of command contributing a bit of its own stupidity to the organizational stupidity stack.
I never ascended the ranks of middle management, probably due to my tendency to speak out at meetings and throw around terms such as “nonsensical,” “idiotic,” “brainless,” “self-defeating” and “fucking stupid.” If shushed up by superiors, I would resort to cracking jokes, which were funny and even harder to ignore. Neither my critical faculties, nor my sense of humor, are easily repressed. I was thrown at a lot of special projects where the upside of being able to think independently was not negated by the downside of being unwilling to follow (stupid) orders. To me hierarchy = stupidity in an apparent, palpable way. But in explaining to others why this must be so, I had so far been unable to go beyond speaking in generalities and telling stories.
And so I was happy when I recently came across an article which goes beyond such “hand-waving analysis” and answers this question with some precision. Mats Alvesson and André Spicer, writing in Journal of Management Studies (49:7 November 2012) present “A Stupidity-Based Theory of Organizations” in which they define a key term: functional stupidity. It is functional in that it is required in order for hierarchically structured organizations to avoid disintegration or, at the very least, to function without a great deal of internal friction. It is stupid in that it is a form intellectual impairment: “Functional stupidity refers to an absence of reflexivity, a refusal to use intellectual capacities in other than myopic ways, and avoidance of justifications.” Alvesson and Spicer go on to define the various “…forms of stupidity management that repress or marginalize doubt and block communicative action” and to diagram the information flows which are instrumental to generating and maintaining sufficient levels stupidity within organizations. What follows is my summary of their theory. Before I start, I would like to mention that although the authors\’ analysis is limited in scope to corporate entities, I believe that it extends quite naturally to other hierarchically organized bureaucratic systems, such as governments.
Alvesson and Spicer use as their jumping-off point the major leitmotif of contemporary management theory, which is that “smartness,” variously defined as “knowledge, information, competence, wisdom, resources, capabilities, talent, and learning” has emerged as the main business asset and the key to competitiveness—a shift seen as inevitable as industrial economies go from being resource-based to being knowledge-based. By the way, this is a questionable assumption; do you know how many millions of tons of hydrocarbons went into making the smartphone? But this leitmotif is pervasive, and exemplified by management guru quips such as “creativity creates its own prerogative.” The authors point out that there is also a vast body of research on the irrationality of organizations and the limits to organizational intelligence stemming from “unconscious elements, group-think, and rigid adherence to wishful thinking.” There is also no shortage of research into organizational ignorance which explores the mechanisms behind “bounded-rationality, skilled incompetence, garbage-can decision making, foolishness, mindlessness, and (denied) ignorance.” But what they are getting at is qualitatively different from such run-of-the-mill stupidity. Functional stupidity is neither delusional nor irrational nor ignorant: organizations restrict smartness in rational and informed ways which serve explicit organizational interests. It is, if you will, a sort of “enlightened stupidity”:
Functional stupidity is organizationally-supported lack of reflexivity, substantive reasoning, and justification (my italics). It entails a refusal to use intellectual resources outside a narrow and “safe” terrain. It can provide a sense of certainty that allows organizations to function smoothly. This can save the organization and its members from the frictions provoked by doubt and reflection. Functional stupidity contributes to maintaining and strengthening organizational order. It can also motivate people, help them to cultivate their careers, and subordinate them to socially acceptable forms of management and leadership. Such positive outcomes can further reinforce functional stupidity.
The terms I italicized are important, so let\’s define each one:
Reflexivity refers to the ability and willingness to question rules, routines and norms rather than follow them unquestioningly. Is your corporation acting morally? Well it doesn\’t matter, because “what is right in the corporation is what the guy above you wants from you.” The effects of this attitude tend to get amplified as information travels (or, in this case, fails to travel) down the chain of command: your immediate superior might be a corrupt bastard, but your supreme leader cannot possibly be a war criminal.
Justification refers to the ability and willingness to offer reasons and explanations for one\’s own actions, and to assess the sincerity, legitimacy, and truthfulness of reasons and explanations offered by others. In an open society that has freedom of expression, we justify our actions in order to gain the cooperation of others, while in organizational settings we can simply issue orders, and the only justification ever needed is “because the boss-man said so.”
Substantive reasoning refers to the ability and willingness to go beyond the “small set of concerns that are defined by a specific organizational, professional, or work logic.” For example, economists tend to compress a wide range of phenomena into a few numbers, not bothering to think what these numbers actually represent. Organizational and professional settings discourage people from straying from the confines of their specializations and job descriptions, in essence reducing their cognitive abilities to those of idiot-savants.
Functional stupidity can arise spontaneously, because there are many subjective factors which motivate people within organizations to narrow their thinking to the point of achieving it. A certain amount of closed-mindedness can be helpful in furthering your career. It helps you present yourself as a reliable organizational person—one who would never even question the validity of the organizational or occupational paradigm, never mind stray from it. At the other extreme, your refusal to stray beyond a narrow focus may be prompted by feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and fear of jeopardizing your position. And while, just as you would expect, functional stupidity produces negative outcomes for the organization as a whole, it provides for smooth social functioning within the organization itself by suppressing dangerous or uncomfortable questions and by avoiding the awkwardness of calling into question the judgment of your superiors.
But such subjective factors are dwarfed by certain stupidity-generating features of organizations. At their highest level, organizations tend to focus on purely symbolic issues such as “strong corporate cultures and identities, corporate branding, and charismatic leadership.” Corporate (and other) leaders try to project an identical internal and external image of the organization, which may have little to do with reality. This is only possible through stupidity management—the process by which “various actors (including managers and senior executives as well as external figures such as consultants, business gurus, and marketers) exercise power to block communication. The result is that adherence to managerial edicts is encouraged, and criticism or reflection on them is discouraged.”
As the people within the organization internalize this message, they begin to engage in stupidity self-management: they cut short their internal conversations, refusing to ask themselves troubling questions, and focusing instead on a positive, coherent view of their environment and their role within it. But stupidity self-management can also fail when the mismatch between the message and reality becomes too difficult to ignore, ruining morale. The suppressed reality (“The king is naked!”) can spread as a whisper, resulting in passive-aggressive behavior and deliberate foot-dragging all the way to sabotage, defections and resignations.
The functions of stupidity management are to project an image, to encourage stupidity self-management in defense of that image, and to block communication whenever anyone lapses into reflexivity or substantive reasoning, or demands justification. Communication is blocked through the exercise of managerial power. The authors discuss four major ways in which managers routinely exercise their power in defense of functional stupidity: direct suppression, setting the agenda, ideological manipulation, and fetishizing leadership. Of these, direct suppression is by far the simplest: the manager signals to the subordinate that further discussion will not be appreciated, threatening or carrying out disciplinary action if the signaling doesn\’t work. Setting the agenda is a more subtle technique; for instance, a typical ploy is to require that all criticisms be accompanied by “constructive suggestions,” placing beyond the pale all problems that do not have immediate solutions (which are the vast majority). Ideological manipulation is more subtle yet; one common technique is to emphasize action, at the expense of deliberation, as expressed by the corporate cliché “stop thinking about it and start doing it!” Finally, fetishizing leadership involves splitting each group into leaders and followers, where the leaders seek to make their mark, whatever it takes, and to get promoted quickly. To do so successfully, they must suppress the critical faculties of those around them, compelling them to act as obedient followers.
Functional stupidity is self-reinforcing. Stupidity self-management, reinforced using the four managerial techniques listed above, produces a fragile, blinkered sort of certainty. By refusing to look in certain directions, people are able to pretend that what is there does not exist. But reality tends to intrude on their field of perception sooner or later, and then the reaction is to retreat into functional stupidity even further: those who can ignore reality the longest are rewarded and promoted, setting an example for others.
But the spell can also be broken when the artificial reality bubble protected by the imaginary film of functional stupidity is punctured by a particularly contradictory outcome. For an individual, the prospect of unemployment or the end to one\’s career can produce such a sudden realization: “How could I have been so stupid?” Similarly, entire organizations can be shaken out of their stupor by a painful fiasco that subjects them to a barrage of public criticism. Public hearings in which industry leaders are forced to appear before government committees and answer uncomfortable questions can sometimes serve as stupidity-busting events. A particularly daunting challenge is to pop the functional stupidity bubble of an entire nation, since there is no public forum at which objective outsiders can force national leaders to take part in a substantive discussion. Bearing witness to the fast-approaching end of the nation as a going concern may be of help here. How could we have been so fucking stupid? Well, now you know.

Please order your copy of The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors\’ Toolkit for shipment in May.

Regular price $18.00 USD Autographed, numbered copy $28.00 USD
(Although the order is placed through PayPal, you don\’t need to have a PayPal account; just click \”Don\’t have a PayPal Account?\” during check-out and enter a credit or debit card number. If you do have a PayPal account, please make extra-double-sure that the shipping address associated with it is up-to-date and correct, and will remain that way through May.)

The Five Stages Of Collapse reviewed By Carolyn Baker


Many of us who have been researching collapse for a decade or more repeatedly use the word in writing, speaking, and daily conversation, but few of us have the opportunity to define it with such precision or personal experience as one finds in Dmitry Orlov’s forthcoming book Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors Toolkit (New Society Publishers, 281 pages). I first heard of Dmitry when I was writing for From The Wilderness in 2005 after FTW published “Post-Soviet Lessons For A Post-American Century,” one of Orlov’s first articles in the United States naming our predicament and likely outcome.

Since then I have been a huge fan of Dmitry’s work, and I must concur with Richard Heinberg who says, “Even if I believed collapse were impossible I’d still read everything Dmitry Orlov writes: he’s that entertaining.” Incisive articulation of reality tempered with irrepressible humor and sarcasm define his writing style and not only compel us to stay with what some describe as a “dark Russian perspective,” but reveal a man who has found a way to live with what is so and navigate it with buoyant humanity.

The Five Stages of Collapse is nothing less than a definitive textbook for a hypothetical course entitled “The Collapse Of Industrial Civilization 101” or perhaps a bible of sorts for an imaginary “Institute of Collapse Studies.” While to my knowledge no such courses or organizations presently exist, this book would be an essential aspect of any such entity’s credibility.

Early on, Orlov clearly and cogently defines collapse in general then proceeds to demonstrate the five stages or aspects of civilization in which it is almost certain to unfold: finance, commerce, politics, society, and culture. In addition, he provides a variety of options for how these aspects of collapse might be navigated, attended by an actual case history relevant to each one. His intention in writing the book can best be summarized by a statement made in the book’s Afterword: “There is no agenda here — just the assumption that collapse will happen, the conjecture that it can be analyzed as unfolding in five distinct phases and, based on quite a bit of research, the conclusion that each phase will require a different set of adaptations from those who wish to survive it.”

Prior to launching into the Five Stages, Orlov states that before arguing for imminent collapse, we must be convinced of the finitude of fossil fuels and other resources, and we must understand that as resources become increasingly scarce, the capacity for global industrial growth ultimately vanishes. And while coming to terms with these two realities overwhelmingly advances the certainty of collapse, nothing persuades us like our own personal experience.

Once we have realized the extent of our predicament and the compelling likelihood of the collapse of industrial civilization, we exit exclusively mental territory and enter the psychological realm, for as Orlov says, “the main impediment to grasping its significance is not intellectual but psychological.”

Enter then the Five Stages of Grief as articulated by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross or the Five Stages of Peak Oil explained by John Michael Greer in his recent book Not The Future We Ordered: Peak Oil, Psychology, And The Myth of Progress or the stages outlined by Linda Buzzell and Sarah Edwards in “The Waking Up Syndrome.” However, Orlov makes clear that what he wishes to provide in this book is not another list of emotional stages but a taxonomy or “mental milestones.” In other words, “Rather than tying each phase to a particular emotion, as in the Kübler-Ross model, the proposed taxonomy ties each of the five stages to the breaching of a specific level of trust, or faith, in the status quo.” His intention is to help us gauge our own collapse preparedness by knowing the Five Stages and how they are likely to play out, then acting accordingly.

I believe that Orlov’s taxonomy is essential, and at the same time, I do not believe enough has yet been articulated about the emotional stages of collapse. I have provided an extensive toolkit of emotional and spiritual preparation in my 2011 book Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition, but as collapse unfolds, much more work needs to be done on the emotional stages of it, and two of my forthcoming books Collapsing Consciously:Transformative Truths For Turbulent Times and Love In The Long Emergency will endeavor to offer even more comprehensive insights. I cannot overstate the fact that every stage of collapse is and will be fraught with myriad emotions, and assuming that one can weather them without an enormous commitment to emotional and spiritual preparation is naïve at best and foolhardy at worst.

Financial Collapse

This is a time when “faith in ‘business as usual’ is lost. The future is no longer assumed to resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Financial institutions become insolvent; savings are wiped out and access to capital is lost.” Essentially, says Orlov, the way in which the financial aspect of collapse has been dealt with is through “extend and pretend” which does not address the root of the problem, usury. Yet, as he does with all of the stages of collapse, Orlov presents options for cashing out and at the end of the section on financial collapse, offers a vignette of his own family weathering the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s as well as a case history related to the financial collapse of Iceland.

Certainly, whether it be in financial markets or the loss of one’s employment or the vanishing of one’s retirement pension, the undermining of trust is ubiquitous. Of this Orlov says:

A cultural flip is needed to change from impersonal, commercial relationships to personal relationships based on trust, and the first hurdle, for many people, is in understanding what trust actually is,because there is no innate human quality called trustworthiness, possessed by some people, lacking in others. Rather, it is more along the lines of a generalization concerning a given individual’s behavior over time, within a given relationship. Trust is transactional: a person needs a reason to trust you, and you need a reason to trust that person. There is, however, such a quality as trustfulness: this is the property of small children, tame animals and, most unfortunately for them, many regular, salt-of-the-earth, mainstream Americans. It is of negative survival value in the context of financial collapse.

Referring to the writing of Russian scientist and anarchist, Peter Kropotkin, Orlov emphasizes that humans are social creatures who “thrive through cooperation,” and it seems that the smaller the scale, the more likely that trust will actually function without major conflict.

Ultimately, in financial collapse, decisions must be made about the viability of larger players and who benefits by continually propping them up. According to Orlov, “Iceland’s approach was to let financial companies go bankrupt rather than prop them up with public funds….But a further case can be made that the failure of financial institutions can be a good thing, because it frees up resources for productive activities that benefit the entire society rather than just the rentier class and the über-rich.”

Commercial Collapse

Financial collapse leads to commercial collapse which then leads to political collapse, and the effect of each shock is to make the system as a whole less resilient. In this section Orlov distinguishes the three kinds of commerce that function in the current commercial milieu: trade, barter/tribute, and gift. As financial, commercial, and political collapse exacerbate, Orlov sees trade, the dominant function in industrial societies, being superseded by gift. Whereas “barter involves an external conflict between two conflicting sets of interests that is resolved through negotiation, gift internalizes this conflict in each person. Explicitly and publicly one never gives gifts expecting to get something back. But gift also presupposes a debt of gratitude that is discharged through reciprocity. Nevertheless, with gifts one’s social status is based on one’s generosity and is destroyed by any explicit expectation of reciprocation.”

Orlov’s perspective on gift echoes Charles Eisenstein’s “gift economy” as explained in his groundbreaking book, Sacred Economics. In a video published by The Guardian, Eisenstein argues that, “such a model aims to bring about a workforce driven by passion rather than coerced by money and profit, and he highlights certain co-operative schemes already proving the ideal can be made real.” Eisenstein’s work offers one model for how communities and individuals might respond to financial and commercial collapse and provides an opportunity to begin practicing this strategy in current time.

Most importantly in preparing for commercial collapse, according to Orlov, “you can work on reducing your dependence on impersonal relationships and institutions. You can learn to avoid relying on money and monetary equivalents, and instead learn to rely on gifts and the various extensions and generalizations of gifts. You can create new custom and ritual, laying the foundation for a new culture that is right side up.”

Political Collapse

Following on the heels of financial and commercial collapse is political collapse which is a different animal altogether, and leaves the society open to chaos.
Realistically, however, the police, the military, and the bureaucrats will not quietly go away and “allow the people to self-organize, experiment and come together as autonomous new groups adapted to the new environment in their composition and patterns of self-governance.” The greatest fear of the hierarchy, and of the general population who are terrified of anarchy, is the lack of order. And of course, eventually the nation state itself will vanish. According to Orlov:

In its stead will come a myriad of tiny polities, some squabbling with their neighbors, some living side by side peaceably, but all incapable of launching a single aircraft carrier, never mind starting a world war. But they might be able to build some beautiful cathedrals and opera houses, lavish resources on the arts and on schools of philosophy and use artisanal methods to produce everyday items that will put to shame the mass-produced plastic rubbish of today.

Much of this depends, however, on the issue of scale. The smaller the scale, the greater the likelihood of sustained success. As political collapse exacerbates, state services go away, and we have only to consider some dramatic examples in the United States such as Flint, Michigan, Camden, New Jersey, and Fall River, Massachusetts to see what wider-spread collapse will look like.

What is certain is that law and order will disappear. “Once central authority does collapse,” says Orlov, “an area may lapse into chaos and warlordism for a time, disrupting both licit and illicit trade. Eventually new forms of governance begin to emerge.” Certainly, we can then expect to see mini-mafias proliferate which will opportunistically provide some kind of societal structure and do so with a certain amount of appearance of honesty and fairness without which they could not succeed.

For Orlov, attempting to effect political change in a collapsing society is more than futile. Not only is political collapse unavoidable, but as resources further deplete, the methods of communication on which we have relied for so long will eventually vanish. He suggests that we could make better use of our time by learning some effective ways of communication that do not rely on the Internet. Of this he says: “And so, if you want to achieve a serious political effect, my suggestion is that you sit back Buddha-like, fold your arms, and do some deep breathing exercises. Then you should work on developing someinterpersonal skills that don’t need to be mediated by electronics.”

This contention also reinforces mine, namely that emotional preparation/inner work/communication skills are every bit as urgent as the logistical preparations we are making in terms of food, water, shelter, security, and health maintenance.

Social Collapse

For Orlov, in social collapse: “Faith that ‘your people will take care of you’ is lost, as local social institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum, run out of resources or fail through internal conflict.” For this reason, community organizing is futile because “the central problem with community organizing is that the sort of community that stands a chance post-collapse is simply unacceptable pre-collapse: it is illegal, it is uncomfortable and it is unsafe. No reasonable person would want any part of it.”

The old rules must be supplanted by new ones. There will be no time or resources for the rules by which society currently operates to be changed through lobbying, deliberation, legislation, and litigation. Again, one can anticipate obstacles from the vested interests:

By default, the procedure for those who wish to survive will be to universally disregard the old rules and to make up new rules as they go along, but this is bound to cause mayhem and much loss of life. The best-case scenario is that the old rules are consigned to oblivion quickly and decisively. The public at large will not be the major impediment to making the necessary changes. Rather, it will be the vested interests at every level — the political class, the financial elite, professional associations, property and business owners and, last but not least, the lawyers — who will try to block them at every turn. They will not release their grip on society voluntarily, so it is best to make plans to forestall and thwart their efforts…. The old rules will not work, but the new ones might, depending on what they are. You might want to give the new rules some thought ahead of time, perhaps even test them out under the guise of emergency preparation training.

Here Orlov reminds us that as jobs and services go away, people will have much more time on their hands, and people will begin engaging with others who are in a similar situation so that the spontaneous regeneration of the community will automatically be engendered by the construction of new rules made by ordinary people who are no longer invested in the consumeristic system.

Some help can come from religious groups or communities and charitable organizations (many of which are religious). Historically, many of them have weathered extremely troubled times and have ensured the survival of their own and surrounding communities. In a disintegrating, corrupt, and unreformable political system, why fight battles that have already been won? Working with religious institutions or communities could prove extremely useful in making new rules and regenerating communities.

Like Orlov, I believe that collapse will not unfold in a monolithic, standardized manner. I am fond of saying that it will play out in a “lumpy” fashion with some regions looking very different from others. In some communities, people will come together and cooperate, and in other communities they will not.

Cultural Collapse

Orlov defines cultural collapse in this way: “Faith in the goodness of humanity is lost. People lose their capacity for ‘kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity.’ Families disband and compete as individuals for scarce resources. The new motto becomes ‘May you die today so that I can die tomorrow’.”

He suggests that we must consciously widen our circle of trust by beginning to trust people outside it in small ways and then deepening that trust when they prove trustworthy. To accomplish this, we need to swim upstream against the culture’s prevailing attitude of not recognizing or not seeing others. Let other know that you see them, and begin trusting in small ways.

Additionally, we must also preserve the knowledge we deem worth preserving by speaking it orally to each other and to our children. This is especially important in a collapsing world where electronic information, libraries, and many forms of written information may disappear. The second-best means of preserving this knowledge is by writing it down and teaching it to children.

In societal collapse, the family will become increasingly important. Orlov argues that “the family can be viewed as a microcosm of society — or society as a meta-family. This line of reasoning leads to a radical conclusion: that family is society, while larger groups are illusory. At the rock bottom of human survival, there is no individual and there is no state; there is only the family, or, if there isn’t, there is something that’s not quite human — or there is nothing at all.”

Orlov ends the book with an invitation to his readers to allow their absorption of collapse information to give them a “secret post-collapse identity” that will profoundly alter how they live their lives. Eventually, the reader will meet others who have adapted their own post-collapse identities, and very rich conversations might ensue. But of course, that will be all about trust, and trust, as Orlov reminds us, is built on actions, not words. Moreover, he cautions the reader not even to trust him “just because,” but rather he asserts, “you should think for yourself, act on your thoughts and, if that works for you, learn to trust yourself. All I want to do is give you a gentle nudge in that direction.”

Most importantly, Dmitry Orlov leaves us with perhaps the most profound and pivotal sentence of the book: “Collapse is not a nightmare scenario to be avoided at all costs but part of the normal, unalterable ebb and flow of human history, and the widespread tendency to block it out of our worldview is, to put it very mildly, maladaptive.” The Five Stages of Collapse, I believe, is required reading for long-term, strategic collapse preparation.

Please order your copy of The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivors\’ Toolkit for shipment in May.

Regular price $18.00 USD Autographed, numbered copy $28.00 USD
(Although the order is placed through PayPal, you don\’t need to have a PayPal account; just click \”Don\’t have a PayPal Account?\” during check-out and enter a credit or debit card number. If you do have a PayPal account, please make extra-double-sure that the shipping address associated with it is up-to-date and correct, and will remain that way through May.)

2013 Second Annual Age of Limits Conference

[Guest post from Orren. I’ll be there. Hope you can make it.]

Thursday May 23 through Monday May 24
The Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary, Artemas, Pennsylvania

Dedicated to the pioneering work of Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows and their epochal 1972 report The Limits to Growth.

Hello! Orren Whiddon here with a reminder of what we are planning for this years 2013 Age of Limits conference, and our new Sustainable Life Skills Intensive.

• This year we have extended Age of Limits to a full three days of content, beginning Thursday evening May 23rd and ending Monday Noon May 27th. With this expanded schedule we will not have to “double-book” two presentations at the same time, allowing for for 1½ hour major presentations each day. In between we will host numerous one hour workshop and networking opportunities, expanding the time available to continue the conversation—person to person, face to face.

• Our three day format has allowed us to add two more major speakers to our roster of last years guests: I wish to welcome Dr. Guy McPherson and Albert Bates to The Age of Limits. Please visit the web site for full particulars.

• We are pleased beyond words with the feed back we received for last years Age of Limits. Our focus on face to face conversation among attendees and our presenters worked very well, showing there is a clear need for thinking people to speak the words and confront the implications of our ongoing industrial collapse… on a personal, human level.

• We learned a lot and had a few surprises of our own. For we planners our greatest take-away from your feedback was the very real need that we all have to process the emotional consequences of collapse, and specifically our grief. It has become a truism that the intellectual and emotional process of coming to terms with collapse mimics in many ways the five stages of grief first outlined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. But knowing that on an intellectual level does not mean that we have under gone and passed through that process on a psycho-emotive level. Saturday evening Carolyn Baker and Circe will host an observance within the Stone Circle, “Facing a Collapsing World, Grounded in Grief,” preceded by Guy McPherson\’s “Walking Away from Empire.” Please join us for this groundbreaking exploration.

• The draft working schedule and presentation outlines are being posted to the website, please do check in for pricing, meal plans, and updates.

Sustainable Life Skills

with Patricia Alison
Friday, May 17 thru Wednesday, May 22

• Many attendees of last year\’s Age of Limits conference spoke of wanting more content directed towards the practical aspects of adapting to decline: food production, shelter, livelihood and community. Taken together, this is a huge subject—as we well know, now being more than 10 years into our own purposeful mitigations here at Four Quarters. Rather than attempt to squeeze even more workshops into an already crowded schedule, we feel this content deserves its own time, place and focus.

• This year we are preceding The Age of Limits with a five day intensive introduction to the principles of sustainable collapse mitigation from a Permaculture point of view. Beginning with a Friday evening meet and greet, and ending the following Wednesday evening, we will present an information-packed five day practical experience in preparing for decline.

• In keeping with Four Quarters history of thinking “outside the box,” this is not a $1,000 package, as it would be elsewhere. Sustainable Life Skills is just $375 which includes your food for the full five days! How do we do it? Simple: we are a non-profit and everything we do is through volunteers who believe in our mission. We hope you will join us, and come away believing too!

Please visit our web page at for full particulars on both The Age of Limits and Sustainable Life Skills. Feel free to call us at 814-784-3080 with any questions or to register.

KunstlerCast #223: Rappin’ with Dmitry Orlov


James Howard Kunstler raps with Dmitry Orlov, author of Reinventing Collapse and the forthcoming new book, The Five Stages of Collapse. We delve into some heretofore unpublicized details of Mr. Orlov’s personal history as a young émigré from the old Soviet Union in the 1970s, and his journeys back to Russia (both Soviet and post-Soviet) since then.

Listen to it here.

Direct Download: KunstlerCast_223.mp3

Interview on Voice America Business Matters with Jay Taylor


Jay and I discuss how the USA is following in the footsteps of the USSR, how financial collapse is progressing, how the various stages of collapse relate and what\’s in my new book. You can listen to it here or download the mp3 here.

In this week\’s episode of the radio program, Ellen Hodgson Brown and Dmitry Orlov discuss the continuing collapse of western society thanks to the parasitic behavior of our banking establishment.

With outright confiscation of depositor money in Cyprus, parasitic elite is no longer robbing us in the night through the hidden tax of inflation but now robs people through outright confiscation of deposits. How long yet before Robert Prechter\’s next “dark age” arrives? Orlov gives us an idea of which of the five Stages of Collapse the U.S. is now in, as he compares our demise to that of the former Soviet Union\’s collapse.

The Untrustworthy and the Trustful

Aaron Jasinski

[This is an excerpt from The Five Stages of Collapse which seems quite topical given the new banking rules being set down in Europe and the US, according to which your bank deposits will no longer be guaranteed. With the precedent being set in Cyprus, bank deposits are being turned into unsecured loans, and when the bank folds you might get some bank stock, which you may or may not be able to sell, or you might get nothing at all. Now that large cash transactions and stockpiles are illegal, bank deposits liable to evaporate without notice, and gold likely to be re-regulated and re-confiscated before too long, what\’s your plan for opposing financial tyranny? I believe that before you can hatch any such plan, you must first decide: Who do you trust?]

Within a modern, highly financialized economy, most interactions are impersonal, based on purchase and sale within a market system. If you are the loser in any one transaction, it is your fault, because you chose to deal with people you had no particular reason to trust, and therefore it is your mistake. If the swindle is not illegal, you have no legal recourse. You can, of course, complain to a few friends, perhaps even blog or tweet about it, but then, in a market economy, more of a stigma attaches to being swindled than to swindling, and most people are reticent when it comes to telling the whole world that they let someone take advantage of them.

Once the financial sector goes through its inevitable deflationary collapse followed by a bout of hyperinflation, financial arrangements unravel precisely due to mistrust: nobody, from the largest banks to the humblest private individuals, knows who to trust—who is still “good for it.” Whatever transactions are still possible tend to be conducted in a furtive, suspicious, streetwise manner:“Show me the goods!”—“Show me the money!” Whatever business reputations people had in the financialized economy are either ruined or simply fade away. New reputations are established based on readiness to resort to violence or ability to oppose violence. For an individual who is not backed by a criminal organization, the chances of getting robbed go up appreciably. Instead of advertising, businessmen hide, afraid to expose either their product inventory or their wealth. For many, dealing with strangers becomes simply too dangerous.

A cultural flip is needed to change from impersonal, commercial relationships to personal relationships based on trust, and the first hurdle, for many people, is in understanding what trust actually is, because there is no innate human quality called trustworthiness, possessed by some people, lacking in others. Rather, it is more along the lines of a generalization concerning a given individual’s behavior over time, within a given relationship. Trust is transactional: a person needs a reason to trust you, and you need a reason to trust that person. There is, however, such a quality as trustfulness: this is the property of small children, tame animals and, most unfortunately for them, many regular, salt-of-the-earth, mainstream Americans. It is of negative survival value in the context of financial collapse. It is being exhibited for all to see by some of the people who recently lost money when MF Global stole it to cover some private bets it had made. They licked their wounds, complained bitterly, and then…went looking for another financial company—to be taken advantage of again. Since the head of MF Global wasn’t punished, why wouldn’t another company do the same to them, knowing that it can do so with impunity?

There also seems to be a certain set of traits possessed in abundance by a category of highly effective American financial operators that makes it easy for them to prey on trustful people. It may be the suits they wear, or the English they speak or their general demeanor—let us call it “trustiness,” to go along with the “truthiness” of their financial disclosures. Deep down, trustful people feel privileged to be robbed by such superior specimens. The predator-prey relationship has been honed to the fine point of a pen: told to sign their life away on the dotted line, the besotted, trustful American gulps quietly—and signs.

Clearly, whenever there is an asymmetry between trustfulness and trustworthiness, the trustful party loses. Trust is not the property of one individual but the property of the relationship between individuals, and it must be balanced. There are roughly three types of trust. The first and best kind is trust borne of friendship, sympathy and love. People simply do not want to lose the trust of those they care about, and will do anything they can to make good on their promises. The second type of trust is based on reputation. It is not quite as solid, because someone’s reputation can be ruined without you knowing it. People who realize that their reputation has been ruined tend to stop being trustworthy rather suddenly, because they see that they have nothing left to lose in the trust game. Rather, they try to salvage whatever residual value their formerly trustworthy reputation still holds by taking full advantage of anyone who is still trustful through force of habit, lack of up-to-date information, inattention or sheer inertia. The last category of trust, the worst kind, is coerced: it is a matter of making it too expensive or too unpleasant for someone to break your trust. If you are forced to do business with someone you don’t trust at all, trade hostages for the duration of the transaction or come to some other arrangement that compels good behavior from both sides.

The people most deserving of trust are usually one’s own relatives— provided the family is a close-knit one and that it has an internal reputation for being trustworthy, which it values. This is especially the case in societies where putting a stain on the family honor is considered to be a cardinal sin. The next tier of trust is generally reserved for one’s close neighbors, if the neighborhood is a relatively static, close-knit and mutually supportive one; if it is not, then neighbors can make the worst sorts of strangers—ones you can’t avoid dealing with even though you don’t trust them. The last tier of trust consists of complete and total strangers. Here, trust has to be tested before it can be established, by taking small risks: offering small but thoughtful gifts and seeing whether there is reciprocation; putting oneself temporarily in a weakened position (perhaps even on purpose) and seeing whether the other person offers help freely, refuses to come to your aid or attempts to take advantage. At the end of the process, either the stranger ceases to be a stranger, or he is excluded.

Obviously, it is never smart to signal your lack of trust, except in confidence. But for social interactions based on trust to work well, society as a whole must have a way of excluding those who are found to be untrustworthy. In a healthy community in which people normally cooperate or trust each other, there may be a few episodes where someone breaks the trust and is expelled or shunned. In a sick community where neighbors are alienated, combative and mistrustful of each other, you are better off shunning the entire community—by relocating. Sick communities of this sort—and I have seen a few—become sick quickly and take a long time to heal, if they ever do. A certain network effect makes a degenerate condition far more durable than a healthy one. In a friendly, cooperative community, the trust is between each individual and the community as a whole: n individuals—n relationships of trust. In a broken, mistrustful community, each individual mistrusts every other individual: that’s n(n-1). A healthy community of ten individuals has ten healthy, trustful relationships. A sick community of ten individuals has 90 broken, mistrustful relationships. It seems like a better idea to try to establish and maintain the former rather than attempting to fix the latter.

It may be helpful to put the concept of normal, cooperative human relationships based on trust into a wider context. Humans are a social species, and thrive through cooperation. Opposing groups of humans often fight: the bigger the group, the bigger the war, all the way to world war and, if we ever achieve a unified world government, perhaps to spontaneous self-annihilation. But within smaller groups—small enough to avoid the pitfall of self-annihilation through major conflict— cooperation prevails. The great Russian scientist and anarchist revolutionary Peter Kropotkin, in his 1902 book Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, argued that it was cooperation rather than competition that made advanced species, including humans, successful. An emphasis on competition, on setting people against each other, on forcing them to struggle against each other economically, may benefit the community if it is viewed as a machine of expansion and domination, but only for short periods of time, and to the detriment of most of its members. An inevitable holdover from this bout of over-competitiveness is that the mindset of social Darwinism and a Hobbesian “war of all against all” remains prevalent, with people deriving their sense of self-worth from their individual, personal achievements and superiority rather than from their often unstated and informal membership in various groups without which they would have surely failed. This mindset is diseased and contagious, and there may not be time to cure it. When time is short and resources scarce, a better response to those who favor competition over cooperation is to give them more of their own medicine: no cooperation at all.

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