From Hypocrisy to Cynicism

Our wondrous, mysterious universe abounds in sudden changes of state. They can be observed at every scale: huge stars suddenly collapse into black holes; droplets of water suddenly turn into snowflakes. Sometimes such almost instantaneous transitions are induced to good effect: soft iron is transformed into the hard martensite of tool steel; soft graphite is compressed into super-hard industrial diamonds. Whenever such shifts occur, they display one common property: their exact timing is arbitrary, and therefore impossible to predict. Thus, seismologists can predict the direction and the distance of a tectonic shift, but not when it will happen. Even very simple systems studied in carefully controlled laboratory settings, such as tiny sand piles, behave unpredictably. The triggering event may be significant enough to be measurable, or it may be infinitesimally small and thus undetectable. But one observation is valid for all such phenomena: they run their course very quickly relative to the duration of steady-state conditions that precede them.

Such shifts of state are not limited to mechanical systems but also affect behavior of groups of animals. The sound of a single gunshot can cause a flock of birds to fly up or a herd of grazing animals to set off in a stampede. Humans are not immune from such behavior either, and panicked crowds often surge toward the exits, crushing people underfoot. But it is human society, in all of its complexity, that can undergo the most dramatic and impressive shifts of state. Governments crumble, empires collapse, financial pyramids evaporate, and people are left scratching their heads because they can’t identify the triggering event. But just as it doesn’t matter which single snowflake triggers an avalanche, this is irrelevant: the trigger is not the root cause.

As the social order decays, previously equitable arrangements are gradually transformed into blatant swindles. Social tensions build. At some point some relatively insignificant event—these days it might be a tweet, a “hot mike” incident, the death of a public figure—sets off a chain reaction in which nobody wants to fall behind the rest and remain as the last fool to believe in a lie, but numerous people spontaneously opt for a horrible end to the status quo, seeing it as preferable to horror without end.

All of the above qualifies as “hand-waving analysis”—pretty much just words. But I intend to go beyond hand-waving and propose a conceptual model and a technique for analyzing various aspects of societal status quo in order to gauge how close any given society is to the point when a huge effect can ensue from a tiny, arbitrary cause. To this end, I choose to employ a couple of morally and philosophically loaded terms such as hypocrisy, skepticism and cynicism—but I intend to strip them of any moral significance and treat them as purely functional descriptors of psychological mechanisms. The model of society I will use may seem somewhat unsophisticated, but I think that it will suffice for our purpose—which is to be able to spot the situation when a heretofore stable society turns into one “rigged to blow” at any moment and without any warning.

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10 Responses to “From Hypocrisy to Cynicism”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Hello Dmitry Orlov. I just wanted to take the time out and thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. I am an eighteen year old American community college student who has been just trying to make it day to day in life. I first came across your blog back in my junior year of high school and I have to say it really blew my mind. Up until that point I had pretty much been the stereotypical Republican/American nationalist. Discovering your blog though changed my view of my country, and my life, forever. It sought me to seek out alternative authors and historians and led me to delve deeper into the truth about my country and the world. You could say you popped a bubble I had been living in my entire life.Unfortunately reading your blog made me realize the sad truth about my country. Again, before this period, I had been a strong nationalist who believed everything Fox News told me. Your blog and other writers, particularly the historian Morris Berman, author of \”Why America Failed,\” which goes into depth with much of the same stuff you talk about, led me to my present viewpoint. All of this new information led me to realize how awful my country truly is and how awful I, as an American, am for having been born in it. I agree with you that there is no hope for the US and the only thing left for this nation to do is fall apart even more than it has already. The world is moving on and soon the US will be forgotten.This fact and that there really is no hope has led me to make the decision to take my own life. I read your book \”Reinventing Collapse\” awhile ago to try and figure out how to change my life and survive in a post collapse scenario but, to be honest, I don't think I have the ability to do it. I am too damn lazy and downright stupid to be able to do all of that and, as Charles Darwin said, the species most likely to survive are those that are the most adaptable to change. This is not me.So I have decided that this Halloween, at night time, I am going to go over to a large tree by my house and hang myself. I have decided that since the US is done for, and since I have learned the horrible truth about this nation, I don't want to be alive. I honestly don't think I deserve life for being born here. I feel like an absolute monstrosity. I don't even consider myself human anymore. You were very lucky not to have been born here. I feel as if I was born into hell itself and I, as a demon, must die with the environment I was cursed into. Upon discovering everything I have I have found myself with no purpose or enjoyment in life at all. I just want to sleep and be done with it. I know this may sound ironic but I do thank you for all you have done. Even if I was awakened to a real life nightmare… at least I'm not asleep. I would rather face a hellish reality than a heavenly illusion and that is what I plan to do. In conclusion I thank you for all of the great material you have put out. I remember always looking forward to Tuesdays to read your stuff back in high school. It made the bitterness of the weekend's end feel much sweeter knowing that I would get to read one of your articles. I have thought through with my decision to end my worthless life a lot and I agree it is the best thing to do in this situation. I am still deep down a nationalist at heart and I cannot live knowing what I know about my nation and myself. How I envy all other humans in this world. To be able to be born into a true homeland, with a true history, a true culture, and something truly to feel proud of. As it is I exist as nothing more than a virus which sprouted up and needs to die. I will never be able to escape my situation or make anything of my \”life.\” I want to die and for me Halloween is the best time to do it. Sorry for the long post but I just wanted to once again thank you and I hope everything goes well for you in the end. Thank you for everything Dmitry. -Your longtime fan, Chris

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Chris,By simple virtue of the fact that you actually \”get it\” about the world, and because you are an obviously intelligent, sensitive young man–to say nothing of the fact that you're a human being–I beg you to PLEASE reconsider your plans to check out.I totally understand where you're coming from about being an American in the U.S. and the horror that entails when you're aware of what's being done in our name worldwide. But I find there to be no logic in your wanting to die because you were born here, which was a complete accident. You couldn't control that. My God, we NEED more people with your awareness, Chris. Don't take yourself away from us when we need more people like you…You don't have to have an \”all-or-nothing\” thing going on with this country. You can like the things that are and were good about the United States. Yes, I know this country has committed atrocities the world over. Chomsky, Berman, et. al., are very good at laying all that out–and we need to know it. There are good people here, trapped in a similar quiet hell. You, Chris, personally, at 18 years old, had NOTHING to do with doctrine and policies put into place long, long before you were born–you're just along for the ride. We had no say–for the most part–in any of the hell the U.S. created in other parts of the world. I find it both noble and naïve that you're willing to throw yourself on your sword for the sins of your country of birth. Don't do it, Chris. If this country is that horrible (and, okay, it is) don't feed it another life…!I don't know what you're enduring specifically right now, and I don't have a whole load of answers (frustrating–because I wish I could do something for my son, too, who looks at the world/universe like, \”What's the point?\”) I do know that when I've been at the point of throwing in the towel–and I swear to God I've been close–the thing that keeps me from shutting my eyes for good (aside, of course, from my four children and family) is a twisted curiosity about what will happen tomorrow…Does that make any sense at all? Trying to find the right vocabulary… It's almost like the morbid curiosity you get when there's a horrible accident on the road–and you just HAVE TO look to size-up the carnage…but it's deeper than that, and I don't have the right language to describe it. Flailing here…Anyway…I just hope you will reconsider your decision to end it all on Halloween. Not that you should at any time, but why did you choose Halloween?You have good taste in authors, Chris. I am somewhat biased…but, I totally related when you talked about having Dmitry Orlov's blog to look forward to every week, if nothing else. I LOVE Dmitry's writing and wit…! You're probably already familiar with them, since you brought up Morris Berman… But just in case you're not, here are a few other authors/bloggers I enjoy reading for their take on the world: James Howard Kunstler, Chris Hedges (can be found on Truthdig & elsewhere), Dr. Guy McPherson (at his Nature Bats Last website), Noam Chomsky, Robin Westenra (on his SeeMoreRocks Blog) and Paul K. Haeder (on the Dissident Voice website), usually).Just…I wanted to reach out in some way to you, Chris. I'm not anyone… Just a mom and a long-time admirer of ClubOrlov. I'm not telling you what to decide, but–again–this world needs more awake and aware people. I would really hope you don't take yourself from us. You come across as well-read and bright. The U.S. does not DESERVE your sacrifice. YOU shouldn't be paying jack squat for the terrible things this country's done around the world. If you've enjoyed the \”benefits of empire,\” it's not because you had a hand in plundering for them–nor could you have controlled it, even if you were aware of it.Just how I feel. Hug to you, Chris. Hang in there…please!Cindy Shirar

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Chris,Do yourself and a small minority of your countrymen (us) a favor and NOT kill yourself. Cindy is right: THIS country does NOT deserve your sacrifice.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Hi Chris: I have 43 years old and I am writing from the city of Lima in Peru, South America. When I was more younger than you my family suffer the worst hiperinflation, for more than 2 years, I think in the same level that USA will have. It was terrible but we survive, thanks to the common people, the simple families that you didnt see in TV or magazines and began, without the money, trust in other common people and families and begin a new way of economy. The real concept of the family is to work together to survive in a honest way. I also get a little shocked when I read Dmtry Orlov , but what you feel right now is the same what a lot of readers of Orlov felt the first time, but dont worry, you have something more value that much of us, you have a lot of time and energy, and also I see that you have empathy for your society…. with that you can begin and you dont need nothing, more, trust me, I now what I am talking about because even in the worst moment of our hiperinflation in my country, something true and honest happend, the real common people begin to work together and help together. to give you and example, in the most poor villages around the city capital, where is desert with water expensive, we have the mothers organized to make \”common pots\” to feed the poor people. How they do that? do they need any goverment official or any sofiticated plan? no … and it works so good that still today working in some areas.And now for example myself, I begin to have more empathy and begin to work together with my family also change my view of economy based in money like capital, to more human talents in form of capital.So please do you a favor and right now make a list of simple things you want to learn and that you can do with your hands, go and offer your help and time to your familly friends, discover your real talents through your effort and dont stop to think what happend to the society, all humans beings will find the solution just begin your work… and discover new things.We need you for the new economy that comes… so please begin to work.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    ChrisI consider my ownership of my own life to be unquestionable, including my prerogative to end it at such time as I choose. Based upon what I have learned from Dmitri and many others over the last forty or so years I fully expect there to come a time when I will likely do so. But not because I've reached some circled date on my calendar. Frankly, I would have bet that the time to end it all would have arrived long before this, but the world has improbably hung together, and may still some good while yet. In the meantime, life is worth living today, and it may be tomorrow, too.If more young people were as aware as you the world would be a much better place. Hang in there and see what happens. Yes, you are the sole owner of your life, but none of us can see what is to come. Enjoy life while you can – however long that may turn out to be.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    \”Chris\” is a troll trying to get a reaction. Don't waste your time.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Chris,Dmitry isn't giving up and neither should you.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    @Chris (if you are not a troll, which you could be): I know that this is probably very hard for you to believe now, but your soul chose for you to be born here in this time and place, and you, as we all do, have a specific part to play in the drama that will unfold as collapse proceeds apace. If discovering Dmitry Orlov had the effect of making you pour the Fox News/talk-radio Kool-Aid down the drain, I really have to think whatever role you are to play has to be an interesting one.But even if you go ahead with your plan less than eight months from now, I hope you will take the time before then to also read all eleven years' worth of the weekly blog-posts of John Michael Greer. Perhaps I hope in vain that the archdruidic wisdom of JMG will inspire you to reconsider your plan!

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Eat a lot of chocolate, lay in a good love mate, disconnect from the grid by getting a cheap used sailboat, start surfing and diving. Or a cheap van with a solar panel on top. Stick around to watch one of the greatest global change shows ever to be displayed.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    My grandfathers were about at your age, Chris, when they had to realize, that volunteering for the Wehrmacht wasn't their best idea. They had better reasons than you for killing themselves, but today many fine people are happy that they didn't – and me, too.Oh, and there's no reason to envy me. Germany and all the other NATO countries are happily supporting the US, so we're in the same boat. And don't forget US proxies such as Saudi Arabia or South Korea. And all the other countries, which did bad things in their past. That mythical flawless place you seem to imagine doesn't really exist.Find someone who you can make happy, that's all it needs to be valuable.

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