Friday, February 13, 2009

What's Wrong with "Coming Chaos? Maybe Not"

Preface: I recently decided to write about collapse scenarios in response to a really bad article over at TOD. But as I began working through how to present this problem, I realized that it was far too large for one article and might need several of its own. So watch for more articles on the general topic of collapse scenarios over the next few months. This first article addresses the flaws in the article that I recently read over at TOD.

One of the problems with the recent Coming Chaos? Maybe Not article at TOD began with horrendous assumptions. Among those assumptions is the time worn cliche that "doomers" are preparing for "Mad Max" and nobody can survive "Mad Max". Here's the opening statement from that article: "A sizable subset of what some on this site call “doomers” are convinced that the demise of the petroleum economy will bring social breakdown and a violent struggle of all against all." Such a blatant strawman should never have been put in any article by anyone seriously researching the "doomer" community, yet the Coming Chaos? Maybe Not article began with that assumption then attempted to disprove it when it wasn't even valid!

Instead the article tried to focus on "peace" as if peace were some natural condition of the red fanged ape known as homo sapiens. Peace is not at all a normal condition amongst humans but cooperation is, amongst subsets of humans. The average human being in industrial society today does not have a personal friends list much larger than that of his hunter gatherer ancestors. Tribes ranged in size from as low as a dozen to as high as several hundred. These tribes functioned as a unit and the evidence is very strong that there was usually "peace" within the tribe. But between tribes? Not at all! The murder rate amongst the hunter-gatherers was much higher than our current murder rate. So much for the idyllic neo-Romantic myths about primitive people!

Both homo sapiens and our ancestors before that have been competitors for resources in their local environments. Homo sapiens nearly died out, dropping perhaps as low as a few thousand members about 170,000 years ago before growing again. Along the way, homo sapiens drove homo neanderthalenthis into extinction as well as assisting in the extinction of other large mammalian species. During this time, both as hunter-gatherers societies and later as agrarian civilizations, we have engaged in larger scale violence. Amongst hunter gatherers this tends to be brief and decisive because the basic day-to-day needs tend to curtail professional soldiering. But as our agrarian civilizations grew, our propensity for violence crystallized in the form of professional armies that would then wage war against other agrarian societies.

So there is no basis for believing that homo sapiens is an inherently peaceful species. We cooperate when we believe it suits us and we fight when we believe it suits us. Those who think otherwise can go research the anthropology science themselves but that is the basic conclusion that they will find.

And this is born out by further examination of the historical record, clear to the present day. Any claim that we are suddenly different is a raw unsupported assertion that attempts to ignore evolution. Evolutiuon would not produce that large a change in human behavior in that short of a time. And further, one needs only look at Somalia, Yugoslavia, Argentina, Cambodia, and many other nations in just the last 50 years to see that we are what we have always been - violent primates, red in tooth and claw.

Thus, knowing this as a fact, one must incorporate this fact into any plans one makes to survive various collapse scenarios. If one fails to incorporate this fact into survival plans, then the plans are worthless from the moment of conception.

So knowing that the "Mad Max" scenarios are pure myth used as strawmen by people who should know better, and knowing that homo sapiens is completely capable of violence at a level that produces atrocities, what are the likely collapse scenarios? I'll discuss those another time.

P.S. For those of you looking for an interesting read from inside one recent short term collapse event, try reading Lessons From Argentina's Economic Collapse (PDF) and Despair In Once Proud Argentina. These are both first hand accounts of life in a nation experiencing a partial societal collapse. Argentina is a western nation, once prosperous, with values not so different from our own in the United States. These reports both chronicle very recent events in that nation. While we can all hope that the United States does not experience this sort of thing, failure to plan for it is flatly irresponsible and could even be categorized as suicidal and deranged.


fallout11 said...

Sadly perhaps, and you may not agree, but TOD has definitely slipped in both quality and focus over the last couple of years and has ceased to be visited by many for just this type of poorly thought out, poorly rationalized article. Logical fallacies and strawman arguments? Lets all just hold hands and wait for perpetual motion instead.

Good to have you back posting again, Greyzone. Btw, the author of the Argentinian experience articles (Esteban Morales, aka FerFAL) has his own blog, you can find it here.

Greyzone said...

Thanks for the blog pointer! I'd sent an email to Nate about that article but felt compelled to write a bit about the erroneous assumptions in it anyway. There's more wrong with the original TOD article but I just don't have the time to play word games with people who refuse to consider worst case scenarios.

TOD's loss of several key players, such as Stuart Staniford, really dented to quality of that blog. Leanan still does a bang-up job of assembling energy related news and I still check Drumbeats for that very reason but much of the posting of late has been of marginal quality, given the stated mission of TOD. I do, however, check every one of Rembrandt's Oil Watch Monthly reports. That is an amazing piece of work and the data therein is still topnotch.

However, some people like it in its current form so on it goes.

fallout11 said...

Zombies continue to move after death, too. That doesn't mean they're worth listening to. ^_^

I've found a few regular good sources for information, will post them here just in case one strikes your (or other reader's) fancy. (Solid and noted financial analysis) (Matt Savinar's website) (Solid economic analysis from the other end of the political spectrum) (Dmitry Orlov's blog, naturally...there's some real gems in there) (The Bear Ridge project, a guy trying to get ready as best he can for what's coming) (Charles Hugh Smith's excellent blog, mostly econ)
(like LATOC, a compilation of news, but not necessarily the same ones)

FerFAL said...

Just for the record, my name is NOT Esteban Morales. :)