Panglossian! A New Sing-a-long Song!!!

Some of you may remember a piece I wrote in November of 2007 entitled:
Do You Have a Panglossian Disorder? or Economic and Planetary Collapse: Is it a Therapeutic Issue? With the strategic oil reserves opening up, isn’t it just the perfect time to celebrate denial? Wouldn’t it be great if we could sing about this disorder?

Read more because now we can!:

(My favorite line: “Ov-er-whelm-ing evidence just won’t sink in!”)

“Panglossian Disorders” are defined as: “The neurotic tendency toward extreme optimism in the face of likely cultural and planetary collapse.”

Here are some of the subtypes I described in that article and keep reading to learn how you can sing about these disorders to your favorite Panglossian:

Panglossian Disorders and Their Subtypes

Temporal Subtypes:
Scarlet O’Hara-ism- “I’ll just have to think about that tomorrow.” A strategy of denial that allows the person to temporally compartmentalize the feared event(s).
Futurism: “Sure, that will happen, but it will occur after all of us are long dead.” A belief that something that might happen in the distant future is no concern in the present.
Y2K features: “They said everything would collapse with 2000, and it didn’t.” A belief that any prior concern about societal problems that didn’t occur demonstrates the impossibility of any others happening in the future.

Angry Subtypes:
Rhett-Butlerist Features- “Peak Oil? Planetary Collapse? Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Aggressive denial of information not in keeping with one’s world view.
Kill the Messenger Redirection: “Why are you telling me this? What kind of sicko focuses on these kinds of facts? You need help!” The belief that those who bring bad news are doing it for malevolent reasons.

Narcissistic Subtypes:
Rigid Cheney-ism: “The American Way of Life is non-negotiable.” The belief that any undesirable change can be avoided by a sheer act of will.
Survivalistic features: “Hey, if the rest of the world is doomed, I don’t worry about it, because I’ve got mine.” A belief that personal preparation is adequate.

Religious Subtypes:
Religiosity: “God/The Planet/Mother Nature loves humans. He/She/It would never permit massive die-off.” Or “If that happens, I just put my faith in my Savior.”
Neoliberal Econo-manic Tendencies: “The market will sort it out.” A belief that market forces control all— including geological realities.
Nascarian Features: “People love their automobiles. A solution will have to be found to keep us driving.”

Subtypes with Denial or Minimization as the Central Feature:
Pure Denial: “That can’t be right. It’s just impossible.”
Minimalization as a primary defense: “There may be some shortages, but I doubt it will be as bad as you say.”

Subtypes with Histrionic, Helplessness, Acquiescence or Submissive Features:
Submissive Features: You’re probably right. [Shrug]” Too hard/scary to think about… A response that acknowledges the reality of the threat, but is emotionally frozen or unwilling to devote emotional time and energy to the matter.
Histrionic Features: “I just don’t know anything about that. Oh, Golly, I hope you’re wrong. That’s all I can say. Oh Golly, I just can’t think about it.”

Subtypes with Delusional or Magical Thinking:
Meglomanic Features:“This simply won’t happen to me.” A belief in one’s specialness, which will save them from the consequences affecting those around them.
Paternalistic Features: “The government/corporations will sort it out.” A belief in the infallibility of organizational structures to resolve problems they aren’t willing to even acknowledge.
Doubting Thomas Features: “Peak Oil is a scam by the Oil Companies to raise prices!” Minimizing the possibility of the crisis by the belief that some one or some group has ultimate control over its happening.

Pure Cornucopian Features: “The more we need, the more they’ll be.” A belief that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by advances in technology.
The Flintstonian: “The stone-age didn’t end because they ran out of stones.” A belief that modern innovation is eternal.
Frank Zappa-ism: “As soon as things get really bad, they’ll come up with something.” A belief that necessity is the mother of invention.
Magical Thinking: “Don’t worry, we can build a car that can run on air!” Proposes solutions that are clearly outside the realm of physics.
MacGyver-ism Features – A belief that massive planetary problems can be solved with ordinary/common items found readily at hand. Eg.: “Pig dung will be the next fossil fuel.” Or “Coke Cans can be turned into solar panels.”

The Panglossian View

Borrowing Voltaire’s character Pangloss in his novel Candide, we might speak of a Panglossian Disorder as the belief that “all is well and everything in the world is for the best.” In adopting a Panglossian philosophy, Candide accepts situations and tries not to change or overcome obstacles. Instead, he passively accepts whatever fate has in store, and shrugs off his personal responsibilities. The name Pangloss is actually a pun: pan = Greek for ‘all’, relating to the whole universe (English); and ‘gloss’ (English) = both an explanation and an interpretation, which is deceptive in its external appearance. There is also a medical definition: Panglossia: abnormal or pathologic garrulousness, usually of a trivial nature.

Panglossian! The Song!

Now, Michael Nabert has created a musical, incorporating most of these subtypes into his song Panglossian.

Listen to his rendition Panglossian

And read the lyrics below or click on the picture to see the entire poster:

The Soon-to-Be Released Book about Couples and Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Economic Collapse!

P.S. The Book! The Book! “I Can’t Believe You Think That!” about couples that don’t see “eye-to-eye” about where we are going…It’s been delayed, so I’ve extended the cash discount for people buying it now until it is just about to come out. If you want to save 40% on the cost of the ebook, buy it now by clicking the link on the near top right of this page. Here’s a quote:

While living through life’s everyday challenges, a good marriage is a great thing to have. But when one’s vision of the future is not a “brighter tomorrow,” the reassurance of someone by your side, who is “sticking with you,” is enormously reassuring. But what if you see the future turning out one way, but your beloved doesn’t buy it? Here is what this book is all about.

Living in the Land of Pharaohs

My wife suggested that I write an article on the Land of the Pharaohs, not Egypt where the Kings of the Nile ruled, but right here and now, in the land of modern day Pharaohs. These modern day Kings are the Pharaohs of Industry, Pharaohs of Finance, Pharaohs of Media, Pharaohs of Education, and Pharaohs of Politics, all ruling over the Land of Denial. All exhibit one common trait….avoidance of giving credibility to existing difficult dilemmas, and a persistent refusal to address them.

Lately it appears I am watching a massive reenactment of the classic tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. All the Pharaohs/Emperors tell us that everything is just fine; all plans are working properly as designed. We are urged to ignore obvious, growing realities, and to go along on our merry way. We are receiving a wide spectrum of optimistic, official sounding reports, assuring us that the Pharaoh’s/Emperor’s New Clothes are as magnificent and genuine as we would wish them to be. The problem is that a portion of the worldwide population is coming to a new realization, that their own perception of reality is not flawed, but indeed, appallingly clear. Underneath their cloaks and credentials, the Pharaohs/Emperors are clearly without a stitch of real clothing, regardless of the presumed credibility official reports portray.

We have all been critical of the Pharaohs ruling over the Land of Denial, remarking to each other “Surely they must know?” and asking “Why don’t they inform us of what is ahead?”. Considering the fact that there are all types of data that show massive problems looming just over the next hill with Energy, Economy, and Environment, what is the information/communication holdup?

But wait a minute; things aren’t always as simple as we wish they were in the Land of Denial. I searched my own thoughts as to how I would proceed as a Pharaoh in the Land of Denial.
Basically I saw three different options:
1. Go open and public with the existing information as we know it about Energy and Economy, including potential disruptions and depravations that will accompany the approaching energy or economic decline. There would follow a necessary appeal for public cooperation.
2. Make the public aware of an energy or economic decline in a general sense, and outline potential steps to deal with the situation as well as what actions are underway to control the impact on the population.
3. Smile into the cameras, remain quiet, deny the existence of the inevitable oncoming change, and hope that some new oil find, scientific discovery or economic miracle will manifest itself in time before the population becomes too impatient or restless with the situation. This option inevitably allows Pharaoh to depart with the golden chariot, leaving the irreconcilable mess behind to be inherited by the next Pharaoh.
As a backdrop to these scenarios, we must realize once again that Energy is married to Economy, and Environment is a close relative. Even more distressing, Economy is on life support, plasma is running low, and diluted saline solution is being substituted in its place.

Now let’s speculate over the possible outcomes the Pharaohs might have with each of these 3 scenarios. With scenario 1, such a move would probably pull the plug on Economy’s life support system, and Economy would expire much sooner than anyone had ever believed possible. The impacts on the population would be swift, and devastating. Cooperation will be the last thing the population would offer to the Pharaohs in the Land of Denial. As with some processes in the real world, the phrase “Results may be unpredictable” may truly describe the public reaction to the Pharaohs becoming openly honest. Although we have heard many times that “honesty is the best policy”, in this case, it may not have the most livable outcome.

Scenario 2 looks to have promise as a possible approach, or does it? Creating public awareness of a truly distressing set of dilemmas will generate a call to action. Action in this case needs more than words, it needs capital, capital that a weakened Economy will be hard pressed to deliver. Uh oh! Yank the saline solution IV to free up capital and replace it with tap water from the restroom. Economy gets weaker. Not a pretty picture. Public frustration with the lack of progress on any front of the Energy/Economy dilemma, and we wind up with “Revolving Door Pharaohs”, coming and going so quickly that we start attaching their names on the Pyramids with Velcro. This scenario, it appears, would only have a chance of working if Economy is in robust health.

Scenario 3, even though by appearance seems a cowardly approach to meeting the coming Energy crisis tied to Economic crisis, is the only scenario that buys precious time to prioritize tasks and projects against available capital. That time may reduce the impacts of coming change, before divulging to the public the magnitude of what looms before us. Unfortunately, the Pharaohs seem to spend this precious preparation time engaged in frivolous pursuits. Does the phrase “Nero fiddling while Rome burns” seem an appropriate description?

Scenario 3 only is workable if you have real leaders serving as Pharaohs, holding key positions, with definite goals and directions for declining Energy, Economy, and Environment.

Meanwhile many Pharaohs continue on transacting “business as usual”, preserving their positions, perks, and extra-curricular activities, and in the meantime paying off the special interests that are truly financing them. Can you imagine what the magnificent structures of the Egyptian Pyramids would look like if the current crop of Pharaohs were trying to build them today? Scary thought.

Although most of us find Scenario 3, the Land of Denial, to be somewhat distasteful and unsatisfying, it appears it does buy us time. The Pharaohs around us may continue to squander this time chasing lollipops and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, you and I do not have to engage in this same folly. Many of us have worked through the denial phase with peak oil already, and developed some acceptance of the dilemma as it unfolds before us. We can now move on.

Undoubtedly, some decisions by the Pharaohs in the Land of Denial will greatly complicate and hinder our personal efforts to prepare for a different world, but we must persevere.

Our tasks are straightforward, Survive, Thrive, and Encourage others to participate with us, even if the thriving part will be less than we are accustomed to today.

Preparing ourselves, we will be miles ahead, while the Pharaohs in the Land of Denial continue insignificant debating over how many sides a pyramid should have.

Chuck

PS: Thanks DW for the inspiration for this article; I hope I have done it justice.

The Secret Marriage of the “E”s

Over the past few weeks I have read several books and articles exploring both the Economy, and Energy, the “E”s. I had been taken aback in these various readings, discovering that there was a disconnect within their narratives. Many of these were written as if the Economy and Energy not only were not married, but not even close friends.

I began to wonder if perhaps the authors were trying to paint a happy face on an otherwise somber situation. It is hard to find any good news about either our energy or our economic dilemmas. Many authors seem almost oblivious to the fact that Energy and Economy are married and have a very close relationship. I sometimes find even my own thinking tainted by the idea that the two “E”s can pretty much exist apart, one without the other.

Many writers seem persuaded that most of our energy woes can be solved by alternate technology or energy, without a thought being given to how can we borrow enough money to pay for these alternate sources to be developed. For example, the media darling that is trotted out frequently is the notion of travel by high speed electric rail across the US. The only fly in the ointment is that Energy’s spouse, Economy, somehow has to come up with hundreds of billions, or more, to implement Energy’s vision.

There is the notion that Economy is getting stronger every day, but with no thought being given to Economy’s spouse, Energy. Little or no acknowledgement is given to the fact that Economy’s feasting and growth is directly dependent upon “spouse”, Energy, burning itself out each and every day at work. Complicating things, Energy is becoming harder to supply to Economy’s job site.

Over the years, I have developed a visual image of the Energy/Economy marriage. It is a boiler. The contents of the boiler are money, facilities, raw material, machines and people (ie; Economy). Some money is used to acquire the energy that has to be burned under this boiler so that its contents can do meaningful work. A boiler with a small energy fire underneath it eventually will get warm, but not enough steam will be produced to perform meaningful work. It takes massive Energy input in order for Economy to flourish. Unfortunately it is catching our attention that Energy is less plentiful and more expensive than it has been in the past.

That means the Energy fire beneath the boiler is going to be turned down. Adding more contents to the boiler in the form of money, as our government has been doing for many months, will accomplish nothing if the energy input under the boiler becomes less intense, and requires more of the economic contents in the boiler to acquire. Energy’s spouse, Economy, cannot continue to live as in the past.

Soon, our media outlets will finally begin to realize that Energy and Economy indeed have been married for a long time, and that many of the upsets in Economy have been tied directly to the behavior of “spouse”, Energy. As in any marriage, an upset spouse is sometimes the result of an action taken by the other spouse without consultation or coordination. So it is with the marriage of Energy and Economy. One reacts in relation to the actions of the other.

Watching the interactions between this couple, I am concerned that they may now be far beyond counseling. How soon will we have irreconcilable differences and both Energy and Economy go their separate ways, each being reduced from what they were together?

As with any marriage involving children, a marital breakup is usually hardest on the children.
We are Economy’s and Energy’s children.

Chuck

In the Good Old Summertime

School is out, and it is time to begin the annual celebration of summer. As a kid I remember the excitement and anticipation of the last day of school. The summer beckoned with promises of all sorts of adventures with my friends on our trusty bikes. No matter how far we rode, we never seemed to completely exhaust our energy. What great memories were made In the Good Old Summertime.

But something happened in the five plus decades since then. Instead of the bright eyed young children going out to explore on their own, they were somehow enrolled in every organized activity that could be found. The Good Old Summertime soon had to have a schedule which rivaled that of the airlines in and out of O’Hare airport. Instead of exploring the world around them by bicycle, riding a bicycle merely became another skill to check off for the summer “to do” list. The Good Old Summertime, for the most part began to look like the “rat race” mom or dad was engaged in all the time.

When the youngsters are not at practice, a game, or some other organized event, they are at home nurturing themselves with the latest game on x-Box. Social interaction is determined by the team organization. Making all this work takes a lot of energy. Mom’s Taxi doesn’t run on good intentions, it takes the hard liquid stuff.

This year a curious thing is starting to happen here. We have the high fuel prices like we did three years ago, but this time we have the higher everything else prices as well. This weekend the wife and I were going to dine with friends, and we noticed a sight we never had seen in the past. Everywhere we looked, on bike paths and at intersections, were whole families on brand new bikes with brand new helmets exploring their immediate world. Toddlers were in little bicycle trailers, young children, teenagers, and mom and dad all were riding….and smiling.

One might think that the weather must have been extra nice to bring all these folks out for the one ride of the summer. It was not riding weather for me, and I ride a bike a lot. It was 63, cloudy, windy and a light mist in the air. I thought maybe it was just a fluke. The next two days were sunny, with 30 mph wind gusting to over 40mph. Bicycles were still there. Everywhere! Have you ever tried to ride a bike in 30 mph wind? It will quickly tell you how out of shape you really are. These are not your trained athletes training for the next Tour de France, but my neighbors having fun together. Not a schedule in sight.

I began to wonder if this could be an early indication of a lifestyle change brought about by high energy and food costs, or just a curious early summer fad. Maybe the numbers at the gas pump are starting to have impact on our revved up lifestyle. Only time will tell. Over the last two years a new word was coined; “staycation”. No one knew what to do with this time at home. Lots of frustration initially came with the “staycation”. Somehow during the last 3 decades we had tied the word “go” to fun and relaxation. When I went to the big box store this afternoon, there were bicycles for sale on the sidewalk in front of the store. Not 15 or 20 bicycles as I have seen before, but maybe a hundred of them, all sizes, features and colors.

Could it be that many of the population are sensing that something is different this Good Old Summertime? They may never have heard of “peak oil”, but they see the prices at the pump, the grocery store, the big box store, and they are all higher. Every economic downturn in the past 4 decades came and went in under 18 months. This summer, economic lethargy now marks year 3. No matter what the politicians, news media, or financial gurus tell us, we are seeing something else transpire before our eyes, and it isn’t improvement.

I hope that the trend I observed this weekend will continue throughout the summer. If so, it will signal a fundamental shift in thinking that we thought would not be possible until fuel was much more expensive and scarce. A population that adopts change without being forced by circumstance or decree will be the foundation of community that we will need in the “less oil” future. The first robin or flower in the spring brings encouragement that better days are coming. Perhaps the family bicyclists are the first flower of encouragement for what lies ahead for all of us.

I certainly hope so. That truly will make this the Good Old Summertime.
Chuck