A DUTY TO BE POSITIVE


Open Top CarCarlos is Moraymint’s contrarian; in that sense he’s about to do me a big favour.  Let’s be honest, I’ve devoted perhaps a little too much blog space (understatement) to explaining how and why I think we’re at one of history’s great ‘turning points’.  I argue – and will probably continue to argue – that we’re living in a fin de siècle moment of history – a time of an old order ending and, more to the point, a period of hope for a new beginning.  Carlos makes the point – rather forcefully – in his guest post below that I’ve been rubbish at explaining the ‘hope for a new beginning’ stuff.  Indeed, I’ve yet to get around to that. Moreover, Carlos also argues that I’m just plain wrong about the ‘turning point’, fin de siècle malarkey. My arguments for the science of peak oil, the consequent threat to industrialisation, globalisation and consumerism, and the implications for my children’s generation and subsequent generations are – according to Carlos – merely akin to holding religious views.  Moraymint’s World View is plain wrong, says Carlos. The great thing about Carlos’s guest post is that he’s galvanised me to do the ‘negative-to-positive’ thing.  He’s kicked me to start explaining to my children how wonderful their lives could be, but in a different way to that which my life was, and remains wonderful. It would have been easy for me to reject politely Carlos’s ideas and refuse him the opportunity to post his views here. However, I’m a libertarian and as such I’m passionately in favour of autonomy and freedom of choice, political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgement. On that basis, you judge whether Carlos’s views chime with your own world view. Over to Carlos …

The Future is Bright

Now for a full and considered reply to one of Moraymint’s recent posts, ‘Where’s this Heading?’, written with fondness and respect for Mr Mint. Look, I appreciate that most readers don’t come here to have their prejudices challenged by an argumentative twat like me. All the more reason not to hold back then.

Let’s start by saying that Moraymint’s latest post is really well written as always. But dreadfully wrong-headed. But that’s not the worst of it. What really gets Carlos’ goat is persistent negativity from quarters that not only have every reason to be positive, but actually have a duty so to be.

Let’s start with the concept of duty. I’m just a free-thinking, scruffy, guitar-strumming, arty type. I didn’t have a long military career (in contrast to many readers of this blog, I suspect). However, I do have children, something I guess I do share with many readers. Two of my four children must be within ten or fifteen years of having children of their own. Their lives will continue on into the 2070s and their children’s lives will go on into the next century.

What the hell do we think we are doing telling each other, blogging, egging one another on – and presumably telling our children – that this world is a crock of shit; that the wonders of liberal capitalism are a chimera and we’re all destined to return to the fields and grow potatoes; that we can’t hope to get richer, healthier and happier, and that there’s basically no hope for free, democratic, western civilisation? Even if it was true, I wouldn’t want to tell my children that.

So, to answer the question: “What’s a young person supposed to do if the Moraymint World View stacks up?” Truly, if I was a twenty-year-old and someone one banged on and on about how dreadful the world is and that we have not much of a future I’d want him to keep those opinions to himself. As a twenty-year-old the world’s my oyster, isn’t it? Surely, anything is possible? The future’s bright, isn’t it?

No? It’s not? You have the nerve to tell me it’s not? How dare you trample on my dreams, ambitions and hopes! Why would I want oldies telling me I can’t have my day in the sun, live in the city on the hill, drive in an open-topped sports car, beer in hand, with a pretty young lady pulling my johnson, and what is more that my children won’t be able to either?

Yes it’s me lecturing military types on something, frankly, they bloody well shouldn’t need telling about – and that’s duty. As parents we have a duty to be positive.

First, a duty to a our kids because they need enthusiasm, whoops, fist pumps (if you must) and applause as they set off on life’s great race. Second, a duty to ourselves because any sensible young adult will gradually edge away from negativity in the same way a swimmer kicks off seaweed slowing down their progress.

So do I mean that, even if the situation was as black as can be (which, of course it’s not, but more of that later) we should just pretend it’s not just for the sake of our offspring? Yes, exactly that. Earlier this week there was extensive coverage of the liberation of Auschwitz.

This story …

http://tinyurl.com/oyxcvms

about children who survived the camp, is a case in point. Four of the children in the photograph are still alive. Between them they have 15 children and over 70 grandchildren and have had happy, full lives. In spite of being literally in the worst conditions imaginable, did their parents tell them there was no future, no chance, no hope? Along with being lucky, clearly someone, against all the odds, instilled them with an indomitable spirit. Churchillian spirit you might say.

By a happy coincidence we have been celebrating the great man this year. His motto was ‘KBO’ – Keep Buggering On. Does Moraymint’s blog inspire us to do the same? Or does it make us want to curl up in a ball and die? Or, perhaps worse, to fill the pantry with tinned goods, disconnect from the grid, and form a vigilante group?

Of course, surviving the death camps is not comparable to the agreeable middle-class life that I daresay many of the readers of this blog enjoy. That’s exactly the point! WTF are you all moaning about? We have a duty to the next generation to be positive, rather than negative, grumpy, old gits!

We’ve Never Had It So Good

But the weird thing is, we really have never had it so good. Nationally and globally. Read this piece to get the facts …

http://tinyurl.com/lhghply

It’s from CapX.co which I heartily recommend as a powerful antidote to the miserable claptrap peddled in so many areas of the internet nowadays. I’m sorry Moraymint but the detail of your post, unlike some of your previous excellent efforts, lacks the usual rigour.

To quote: “What is the Moraymint World View? Well, in a nutshell, it holds that mankind is on the cusp of one of the great turning points in history.”

Oh really, is it? My main problem with that is a psychological one – the ‘proximity fallacy’ which is that us humans are always tempted to think our time is the time. It’s clearly erroneous because if everybody’s time is special, then … blah, blah.

My second objection to the ‘Miserymint Weltanschauung’ is to be found here, as he continues:

“Richard Heinberg identified previous turning points as being the harnessing of fire; the development of language; the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution.”

How, exactly, were these ‘turning points’? Specifically, in what way could they be described as ‘points’? Just because he’s had a book published and you can buy it on Amazon, doesn’t mean he’s right.

Zog wasn’t conducting experiments in his cave until he finally worked out how to master the ‘power of man’s red flower’ (to quote King Louie) then publish a paper, or text his mates, so leading to a worldwide transformation in the enjoyability of mealtimes over a period of ten years. Funnily enough that’s more or less what did happen with smart phones – for Zog read Steve. But let’s not let that derail my argument! Interesting side salads, by the way:

a.     Typical flint tools made in the stone age are almost exactly the same size and shape as a computer mouse.

b.     Is the Apple logo a secret homage to Alan Turing?

In the great span of history, and especially regarding the ‘big’ issues I believe there cannot have been ‘turning points’. Fire must have been stumbled upon, used, its means of creation ‘invented’, millions of times by numberless humans in countless places, throughout the early history of our race. Its spread amongst mankind must have been lumpy and uneven.

Some peoples still don’t have agriculture and some didn’t even have fire when they were first encountered by Europeans, for example in Tierra del Fuego and Tasmania, I believe.

Same for language, farming, industry. There was no point at which they started or began, but were rather just tiny incremental changes which, as one experienced them, would barely have been noticed. Of course there are ‘moments’ that deserve to be treated as significant, although if even those really are ‘turning points’ is moot.

Clearly births, deaths, declarations of war, unconditional surrenders, the fall of Rome, and non-trivial volcanic eruptions, are notable points in history. But whether they matter quite as much as we like to think is another thing.

What really makes the difference is billions of actions by millions of individual actors. For example, the sheer size, flexibility and creativity of the US economy, (created by billions of small actions by millions of individuals), guaranteed it would surpass all competitors and so dominate the second half of the 20th century regardless of whether or not World War II had occurred.

The failure of large-scale totalitarianism and the collapse of collectivist economies were inevitable in the face of sheer irresistible force of liberal, democratic, capitalist economies (again, the result of billions of small actions by millions of individuals) regardless of day-to-day military and political events.

But the things described as ‘turning points’ in Morbidmint’s blog just cannot be so. It’s all gradual and, deep down, we all instinctively know that, don’t we? Sure, we’d love our time to be ‘special’ and to feel something exceptional is about to occur … it’s a perfectly natural, very common, totally illogical, utterly brainless, delusion. But since these times are not any more special than any other times and since we’re not at more of a turning point than any other time in history I suggest we should worry about something else!

Peak Oil

Let’s turn to oil, for example. On this subject this post is sadly tied in knots.

For years I have been arguing that ‘Peak Oil’ (or peak anything else) is logically impossible and, in the face of apparent shortages and record prices, it was, at times, a tough position to defend. Total vindication is therefore all the sweeter! Slim Shady himself now concedes, if slightly tentatively:

“Incidentally, we’re not running out of fossil fuels as such”

Cheers and thank you!

The case of oil is a beautiful textbook demonstration of the functioning of the free market. High oil prices and unreliability of future supply stimulated capitalists (especially in the US) to do a number of things:

a.     Devise ingenious new ways to get oil out of the ground, hence the shale revolution. The US is set to become the world’s biggest producer and a net exporter. Amazing isn’t it? All courtesy of Mr A Smith’s invisible hand. Nice one, mate.

b.     Develop machines that use oil ever more efficiently. In the richest countries we’re using less oil per head and getting more value out of it, than ever before. This process is a never-ending one by the way.

c.     Move headlong into photovoltaic technology. Read this by AEP from the Telegraph, explaining how PV is about to match fossil fuel costs:

http://tinyurl.com/pde276p

Yet, in the face of these developments – these are facts, I should point out, not opinions – the gist of MM’s blog is that our use of oil somehow still remains a problem. All very confusing.

The blog seems to be in the sway of some rather odd views outlined in ‘The Economics of Surplus Energy’ and the idea that oil is, in some way, the ‘Master Resource’ whatever that means or even matters. Last time I looked. oil accounted for about 30% of world energy consumption with coal about 26%, gas 20% and nuclear 6%. That doesn’t seem very masterful to me. Please explain!

But even if oil was in some way the ass-kickin’ boss resource, surely there’s no cause for concern:

a.     As MM so rightly said, “we’re not running out of fossil fuels” (ditto by the way, every other resource you might name. It’s impossible to ‘run out’ of anything in any meaningful way).

b.     And we’re no longer even dependent on the bad guys to supply oil, thanks to shale.

c.     And we’re using less of it per capita anyway, and we’re developing other technologies that will reduce our need for it even further.

So that’s all right then, isn’t it? Well, no, not for Mr Miserymint. Even the current low price of oil is a reason for frowns because that means investment in oil will cease resulting is future shortages. One could easily just say that in the long run we’re all dead anyway, but MM’s assertion about oil investment is not even true.

One of the great things about shale is that it’s entrepreneurial and small scale. Instead of needing $billions and decades to open up massive fields in remote places, shale wells need limited infrastructure and can be opened and closed quickly for just a few $million.

Just the facts!

Moraymint as a Religious Man

The views expressed in the MM blog, and supported by loyal followers (true believers? disciples?) are largely not scientific or fact-based and take the form of religious belief, in the following ways.

Religions Love Revealed Truth

Mmmm, so much better than cold, hard, uncomfortable facts! Religion is perfectly capable of ignoring facts or, better still, thinking the opposite:

a.     You’d never guess from reading MM’s blog that the system we live under has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the last two decades. It’s a fact. It’s something to celebrate. Facts like this are simply ignored in this religion.

b.     Oil is not running out, but anyway we are moving away from dependence upon it. See full argument above.

c.     The industrial revolution did not begin because we started using fossil fuels. It was the other way round. It began because clever people devised new machines and new ways of working – the invention of the limited liability company was probably more important than coal! The first factories were powered by water and hydro still accounts for 2.5% of world energy.

d.     The energy mix has always changed, and always will, as the market dictates. There’s nothing special about oil, just like there was nothing special about coal. What the preferred energy sources may be at any given moment is irrelevant and an economic belief system says otherwise is, well, of no more use than any other religion.

Religions Love End Times

A feeling of dread (where is all this heading? Cue portentous music!), fear of the future, are religious must-haves. Concentrates the minds of the followers, and creates dependency, don’t you see? And a sensation that these times are special leads, easily, to the notion that we are special. All religions have such notions in their playbook. The results can be pretty scary – need we mention Jonestown, suicide bombers?

So, was the Great Recession a sign that our system, our very way of life, is about to collapse? Of course not! Is this a key moment in history? Nah, bollocks. There’s nothing special about these times, except that we happen to live in them! And that doesn’t make them special for the rest of the human race.

Religions Have Prophets

Mr Moraymint is one such, I fear. Their job is to write sacred texts, because …

Religions Need Sacred Texts

To name a few: James Kunstler’s ‘The Long Emergency’, Richard Heinberg’s, ‘The End of Growth’, Jeremy Leggett’s ‘Half Gone’, Chris Martenson’s ‘Crash Course’ and Dr Tim Morgan’s ‘Life After Growth’.

I’ve read some of these books. Crazed madman, the lot! I mean, seriously, is congenital negativity a medical condition?

Back to the Future is Bright

Moraymint’s ‘Where’s This Heading?’ post, and the general stance of many of the MM posts is motivated by unjustified negativity and a dogged refusal to attend to facts that don’t fit the narrative. To my mind, the MM blog actually works in opposition to it’s declared raison d’etre which is “A father’s thoughts for his children…”. Call me old-fashioned, but shouldn’t that presage something useful and positive about the world they are going to have to live in? Us lot are all gonna be pushing up daisies soon enough, but our children and grandchildren are stuck with this version of creation.

Is Moraymint seriously telling us that the best he can do in terms of thoughts for his children is to emphasise how terrible is the time they’re going to have to live in? It’s even more unforgivable when you consider that we are living at the very pinnacle of what the human race has achieved so far. Yes I mean it, we’re the best of the best. The good guys. I refer to the Anglo-sphere.

That’s us, people!

If we, the adult members of the Anglo-sphere, can’t get our heads around both being proud of our past and positive about the future what possible chance have (to pick some useless countries at random) Mexicans, Ethiopians, Cambodians and Bosnians?

So, I ask once again, is congenital negativity a medical condition?

For example, writing about the so-called ‘turning points’ of history, MM mentioned the harnessing of fire; the development of language; the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution. Just to check, these are ‘good things’ aren’t they? Yep, no question about that – 100% good!

But why is it no surprise that Melancholymint’s next and imminent turning point is going to be a bad one? Why? The first four were nice. We liked them! Come on – can’t we have another positive one?

Pleeeeeeeeeese? Do your duty to your kids big guy and cheer the f*** up.

11 comments

  1. “Religion poisons everything.” I believe that one in particular will have a fundamental influence on our futures irrespective of physical resources, economic considerations and personal worldviews so well elucidated on both sides by Carlos and MM.

    Like

    1. I think we are failing to join the dots – to see the connection between IS in the Middle East and the fundamentalist push southwards from the Sahara into Africa. We are not doing enough (or anything?) to help Nigeria, Kenya, etc, where atrocities are becoming almost a daily occurence.

      Like

    2. moraymint · ·

      Here’s a fascinating insight from Rear-Admiral Chris Parry who argues that the world is heading for a migratory pattern that is on a par with the end of the fifth century …

      ‘Potential for Islamist Raids on European Islands’

      http://tinyurl.com/pa8asp4

      Like

      1. jenksy@talk21.com · ·

        On the money in my view Moraymint.  We have stored up trouble and we will see the results get worse before they get better.  A view shared by a professor I know at Bath who specialises in risk.

        Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

        From:”Moraymint Chatter” Date:Mon, 27 Apr, 2015 at 11:02 Subject:[New comment] A DUTY TO BE POSITIVE

        moraymint commented: “Here’s a fascinating insight from Rear-Admiral Chris Parry who argues that the world is heading for a migratory pattern that is on a par with the end of the fifth century … ‘Potential for Islamist Raids on European Islands’ http://tinyurl.com/pa8a

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  2. Carlos: There is however a large difference between being positive and being slightly delusional. For example, many resources (e.g. silver, oil, etc) are used in various industrial processes never to be seen again (spent).

    There is a lot of MSM media and other political propaganda surrounding oil but the facts speak for themselves surely (aside from our various oil-wars in the middle east etc)?
    You only have to compare the ‘energy returned on energy invested’ circa 100 years ago Vs today to realize that we have a massive problem (i.e. compare 100:1 to say 3:1) – that’s why we have to rely on complicated/expensive deep sea oil rigs these days, the cheap easy-to-access oil (low hanging fruit) is just about gone (i.e. never to bee seen again). Clearly there is a finite amount of oil and we have been depleting that for some time now.

    We have cheap(ish) oil right now predominantly for political reasons I suspect. Historically though oil at these levels looks expensive anyway, more than double it’s historical mean price since the 1900’s.

    By the way the food you eat is a function of oil too. In addition to this, we are now facing massive issues with our top soil (yet another finite resource that you argue doesn’t exist).

    I not a pessimist, I’m a realist.

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  3. I’m the first to admit that I’m gloomy where the economy is concerned – I see the end of cheap energy putting a stop to growth. In any case, climate change suggests that we couldn’t just go on burning abundant fossil fuels, even if we had them.

    But I don’t see myself as a pessimist more broadly – because I do not equate happiness with how much stuff we own. A cleaner, saner, kinder, less greedy, less materialistic world, and hopefully a more equal one as well, could be a better world than the striving place that “growth” has made of it.

    Like

  4. Jenks · ·

    One for you both, Carlos and Mark. The reality probably lies somewhere between your two world views. Life is – after all – about shades of grey not absolutes. History is usually coloured too, by the victors or prevailing opinion formers of the day. And as a sometime ‘gloomy bastard,’ I do need to remind myself that life can be great and we may not all (yet) be going to Hell in a handcart.

    The good news about ‘glass half empty Vs glass half full’ is this: In both cases there is room to top it up!

    Keep taking the tablets!

    Jenks

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Thanks Jenks. Do I know you, by the way? Your pseudonym seems familiar.

      For me the issue is this. It’s not about optimism or pessimism regarding the future of mankind. It’s about seeking out the facts about the state we’re in vis-a-vis the relationship between mankind’s insatiable appetite for energy, and our way of life. I consider the economy to be an energy-construct. In other words, the quality of our lives is governed by the net energy available to us as human beings. Science shows that net energy per capita is declining (not religion, just a fact). This is primarily because mankind has virtually exhausted the earth’s supplies of relatively cheap, fossil-fuel energy. Sure, there are vast (like really vast) amounts of fossil-fuels in the earth; however, the immutable laws of thermodynamics mean that the energy-return-on-energy-invested is deteriorating by the day (not religion, just a fact). These are laws of physics rather than misguided flights of fancy, or religious views, or outcomes of the dismal science (economics). The fact is that we’re on the cusp of a descent into a lower net energy future. The trick is to acknowledge the situation for what it is and, moreover, adjust one’s life accordingly. As Carlos points out, I’ve been bloody hopeless at articulating how to “adjust one’s life accordingly.”

      Like

    2. Juliet 46 · ·

      I am so glad that you shared this – you always make me think, Mr. Moraymint, and I welcome a different perspective to mull on. I’m always glass half full – husband glass half empty – you have made my day! top it up indeed. Thank you – food for thought.

      The good news about ‘glass half empty Vs glass half full’ is this: In both cases there is room to top it up!

      Like

      1. Jenks · ·

        Thanks Julie. A pleasure. I go back to work tomorrow like millions of others and to a job I’d rather not have to do. But today the sun is shining and life right now is gorgeous – be ‘in the moment’ (half full) but mindful that we all need to work collectively to try and preserve and extend what is good in life (half empty-ish?!). Enjoy today!

        Like

  5. Mark Deacon · ·

    Interesting positive or negative I rather think it is this.

    Believing and choosing to have ones own destiny in ones own hand is positive and I do … we have conflict however … the centrally planned state that says I am responsible for everybody else.
    I AM NOT. So the positivity resides within me, it will always be so.

    The negative for a positive is we are not allowed controls of ones own future, hell worse the centrally planned system we have is designed to preserve a few and to do this removes the control of ones own destiny.

    That is the conflict the whole society is at right now wanting more positive and ones own destiny but actually denied by those that would rule us. They deny it because their power wanes over us but far worse …. THEY WOULD HAVE TO EARN AN HONEST LIVING AND NOT OFF THE BACKS OF THE MAJORITY!

    Good article, really exposes possibly how to really see the world view now.

    Like

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