Interview of James Howard Kunstler ― Resistance Radio

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Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen. This is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is James Howard Kunstler. He’s the author of many books including nonfiction. The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling ­ A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

So first off, thank you for all of your decades of fabulous work, and second, thank you for being on the program.

JHK: Yeah well, the first, it warn’t nothing, and the second, you’re quite welcome. It’s a pleasure to be with you.

DJ: Thank you. So, I would like to start with a line of yours that I just love, which is “We need to be reality-based adults.” My first question is: What are some of the realities that people around the world – well, first off, what do you mean by that? Which is embarrassing to even have to ask. Second, what are some of the realities that people around the world are not facing, and what are some of the adult responses to these quandaries?

JHK: Well, you’ll have to remind me about two and three after I get through with number one. But more and more, we’re living in a kind of reality-optional culture. And you know, I was just thinking about that kinda hard this morning when I was writing to a friend of mine in Australia. She’s an American who hasn’t been here for awhile, and she’s marveling at the idiocy of current media hysteria in America, and the political conversation in general, the conversation in the public arena. And what I’m beginning to think is this; in relation to the reality-optional culture, that there is a kind of subconscious cognition of the group, of the collective, that we’re in a lot of trouble. And that it’s generating so much collective anxiety that it’s starting to make our political conversation and our economic conversation completely incoherent.

There are other ways of looking at this. I wrote about one in my blog this week, at clusterfuck nation ( This way of looking at it is called The Overton Window. That’s a sort of sociopolitical mechanism of understanding how groupthink works. And we’ve got this fantastic groupthink operating now, especially in the United States. One of the features of it is that after the traumatic financial crash of 2008 and all of the suffering that it entailed, especially among the middle class, much of which was ruined by that crash – we entered a period in American history of wishful thinking. And the wishful thinking largely revolved around the kind of techno-narcissistic, techno-grandiose ideas that we were gonna tech our way through this apprehended set of problems, this subconsciously apprehended set of problems, that are just overwhelming us. The problems of the planetary ecology crashing, the problems of the human population overshoot, the problems of peak oil; which, by the way, is still very much with us, it’s just not understood at all, in the public discussion. The problems of resource scarcities and especially recondite and abstruse problems of finance and economy.

I think that has provoked this unwillingness to engage with reality. So, these are some of the issues we’re not able to think about. We’re not able to think about our energy quandary, which, by the way, is very much related to the financial problems we have, because we’ve been generating enormous amounts of debt in order to pay for the way we live, in the absence of truly affordable energy in the way that it had been affordable for most of the last hundred years.

There are examples of this that are kind of interesting. The discussion about electric cars, and driverless cars. This is now all the fashion in nerd circles in America. The idea that the driverless electric car is going to save American society from being stranded. Of course, the thing that’s so interesting and amazing about it is that it presumes that a car-dependent lifestyle can continue. Or ought to continue, or that there’s something good about it, when in fact – I basically started to become known in my writing for my inveighing against the suburban living arrangement, in my first book “The Geography of Nowhere.” That’s been a big theme for me ever since. This living arrangement is self-evidently futureless. We’re just not going to be able to continue it for reasons that are obvious. We’re going to run into resource problems, and especially energy resource problems. And we can’t continue it. We’ve got to find a way to move back into traditional living arrangements, of towns, villages, neighborhoods, real rural land, not half-assed suburbanized rural land. We’re going to have to re-establish the distinction between what’s rural and what’s urban, and the activities that are rural, like farming, food production and grazing. That’s the stuff that takes place in the rural places, and other stuff takes place in the urban places. They’re probably going to have to get a lot smaller.

In any case, we’re not willing to have that conversation. All we’re willing to do is think about new ways that we can continue to be car-dependent. And it makes us look like we’re absolutely insane. And it is basically a reality-averse conversation, and sort of an example of the kinds of things we can’t talk about.

DJ: So there’s – before I turned on the recorder, I was commenting on how rich your work is, and this richness of your work creates, in a sense – it makes for a wonderfully easy interview on one level, because I just have to say one word and you can take off and go in whatever direction you want, but on the other hand it makes for a really difficult interview because it’s like I have fifteen choices I can make about where to take what you just said, because there are so many great things there.

JHK: I apologize for running on at the mouth.

DJ: No no no, don’t apologize, I didn’t say it that way. I wasn’t questioning that. I was actually (a) telling the truth, and (b) giving you a compliment, that, it’s like there is so much richness. I’m going to throw out a couple, you take whatever you want.

JHK: All right.

DJ: One of them is, this notion of being faced with these huge, these literally world-changing problems, like the collapse of the oceans.

JHK: Yeah.

DJ: It’s always – it’s so often – I mean, I’m an environmental activist and I’ve written bazillions of books on that, and I still – there is a part of me that cannot believe this culture is actually killing the oceans.

JHK: Yeah.

DJ: So there’s this line from Judith Herman’s book “Trauma and Recovery”, the first or second line is something about how trauma is something that is so awful that it is beyond words, that’s the meaning of the word “unspeakable.” So I guess what I’m saying is – one direction is, so many of the things we’re facing are so horrific, and so large, that it’s really easy to just “Hey, I think solar panels will solve all the problems.” To search for easy non-solutions that affect how we feel more than how the reality is. That’s one thing.

I’ll say one more thing and then I’ll shut up. Two more things. Another possibility is to talk about what you were saying about car culture being non-sustainable, which is embarrassing that we even have to say that out loud too.

And the third thing, the third possibility is, I interviewed this guy recently who has this really interesting thing about how community has changed, and I love his language, because he’s not saying this is a good thing. He says community has changed from being place-based to aspirational-based. So instead of it being based on reality, as you’re talking about, it’s based on what we wish.

So take any of those in any direction you want.

JHK: Yeah, that’s very interesting. Well, there’s an app for that (laughs). I think that’s our general idea of how we solve problems these days. You know, you just get the app. If the ocean’s collapsing, you get the ocean-regeneration app, and plug it into your iphone, and make the ocean just fine.

The whole suburban car-dependent matrix is of endless fascination to me. And it represents – you can view it in a lot of ways, you know. I like to think of that as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world, and as a living arrangement with no future. And, as I said, it has no future because we’re not going to have the oil products to run it, we’re not going to substitute alt energy devices to take the place of the oil-based things that we’re doing now, that’s a fantasy. And it’s largely a fantasy because you can’t really fabricate, manufacture, and run that stuff without an underlying platform of a fossil fuel economy. So a lot of people are wasting their time, and wasting their hopes, dreams, wishes, and fantasies on that.

DJ: And wasting everybody else’s time, too, by the way.

JHK: Oh yeah. And especially at a time, at a very urgent moment in human history. We don’t have a whole lot of time to waste, fooling around with this stuff.

There’s an angle to the thing – I’m sorry to digress again –

DJ: No, please do.

JHK: There’s an angle to what we were talking about earlier, which is why and how we got to a reality-optional culture. One of the things that ought to fascinate us is the idiocy of the things that intellectuals *are* interested in today. Especially if you think about it politically. If you think that the university people and the academics and the policy people are largely in the Democratic political pool, in the United States, would you agree with that?

DJ: Yes, I would.

JHK: For the most part. There are conservative intellectuals, but an awful lot of the professional cadre of paid intellectuals are in the Democratic pool. And look at the things they’re interested in today. Transsexualism. How important is that? What percentage of the population is transsexual? And how much can we really do about their psychological quandaries, as a political thing?

DJ: And I would just like to point out that the New York Times – talk about non-reality-based, the New York Times talks about human beings transitioning from male to female. Biologically, that’s not how it works.

JHK: Well, that’s because they’re a reality-optional newspaper.

DJ: Exactly. A simulation of the thing is not the thing itself. So, the stodgy New York Times, which worries very much about whether you should use “that” or “which” in a sentence, has made biology optional. Which is stunning to me.

JHK: Yeah. And, you know, it’s an indication of our increasing inability to think clearly about anything. The final product of all that is we become unable to construct a coherent consensus about what’s happening to us, and therefore we cannot make a coherent plan to do anything about it.

DJ: A coherent consensus of what is happening to us?

JHK: Yeah, we can’t construct a coherent consensus about what is happening to us.

DJ: Can you be specific about what you mean by “what is happening to us”? I agree with you, I just want more detail.

JHK: Well, for example, the suburban matrix we were just talking about. It’s self-evident that we’re really going to have to reorganize the physical arrangement of living, on the terrain of North America. We’re not going to be able to continue to live in suburban Dallas, in Minneapolis, and Washington Beltway, suburbs. That stuff is going to fail. And it’s gonna fail grotesquely and badly. What our destination really is, is having to return to walkable communities. But we’re unable to even have a conversation about that. Every conversation about transportation that we’re having is just about how to substitute one sort of motive power for another. We never talk about; maybe it would be a good thing if we became conscious of the need to move back to walkable communities and neighborhoods.

I was associated with the New Urbanism movement for many years. I still am. And that was their principle contribution. It’s one of the few kinds of programmatic things in our culture that actually offers something concrete.

If we’re going to survive this bottleneck that we’re heading through, of planetary problems, there’s no question but that we’re going to have to make our shit smaller, we’re going to have to make it more local, and we’re going to have to resize and rescale virtually all of our activities, and probably our institutions.

And this is an enormous task. And we’re not able to even think about it.

Here’s another example. Probably one of the things that we could have done in the last twenty years to mitigate the way – the problems with the way we live physically in America is we could have rebuilt the conventional railroad system in America. But we were too techno-narcissistic. We had to – we were only able to think of building a high-speed rail system. And now we can’t do that because we missed the window of opportunity for doing that when there was a lot of – when there was still a lot of wealth in the system, or at least nominal wealth.

The other countries who did it; France and Spain and China; they got it all done in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. We just blew it off because we weren’t interested. Not for any good reason. We just weren’t interested in doing it. We were more interested in driving around. So we didn’t do it. But it’s tremendously important, because if we don’t have a conventional railroad system that works, that connects up all the localities in America, we’re not going anywhere in North America. North America is a very big continent.

There are a lot of reasons why it would have been a good idea. First of all, it was a project that could have been done fairly easily. The infrastructure is mostly still there, lying out in the rain, rusting away. But it’s still there, okay? It’s something we’ve done already and we know how to do it. It would put tens of thousands of people to work, at all levels of work, from management to labor, and would have created a lot of jobs.

But most of all, it would have given us some sense that there was something we could do about our situation. And made it possible – built our confidence up to approach the other things that we have to do. For example, we’re going to have to reengineer the way we do farming and food production in this country. It’s probably gonna have to be on a much finer and smaller basis, with smaller farms. It’s probably gonna have to be much more organic. It’s probably gonna require much more human attention. And less mechanical, or at least less engine-powered activity.

You know, it’s so obvious, it’s so evident that we’re going to have to do that. We’re not going to have the natural-gased based herbicides and fertilizers, for one thing, to just pour them on these sterile soil mediums to grow giant industrial crops of pepperoni sticks and corn. Or cheese doodles, whatever we’re growing out there in Iowa.

These are projects that we need to think about. And we’re not even thinking about this. It’s not even in the arena. All we’re thinking about is how we can make transsexuals more comfortable in our culture.

DJ: So…two directions, again. You can choose, or do both. One of them is that a dear doctor friend of mine is doctor by day, environmentalist by night, and I love how he applies the medical model to – the medical model has problems, but let’s leave that aside – what I mean by medical model, is he always says the first step towards proper treatment is correct diagnosis. The reason I’m saying all that is because this is part of what you’re saying, it seems to me, is “Look, people. We need to do an accurate diagnosis.” And if we apply the – if we look at how environmentalists are approaching the problems they face, instead of it being “You have emphysema. We are going to do this to fix the emphysema” it’s “Well, you have emphysema, so why don’t I give you a lollipop to make you feel good.”

JHK: It’ll be a solar powered lollipop. By the way, I saw this very clearly – I had some brushes with Amery Lovins in the Rocky Mountain Institute. And they were like the poster child for this kind of idiotic thinking. They were a leading environmental foundation in America – still are, I suppose. And for years, they were working on this project that they called the Hyper Car. And the whole idea of the Hyper Car was it would be exquisitely aerodynamic, and it would get fantastic, supernaturally great gas mileage. And that would solve the problem of energy resources. Right?

I mean, Amery Lovins apparently gave not one second of thought to the idea that maybe a car-dependent suburban existence is not the best way for people to live. And maybe we ought to engineer something different than that? Instead of building Hyper Cars? But, I mean, that’s the level of thinking that’s out there. And it ought to be appalling. It’s just astounding.

DJ: The book I’m writing right now is called “Bright Green Lies” and it’s exactly on this crap. Having said that, you’ve mentioned Peak Oil early on, and how it’s playing out, but then you used a phrase, I don’t remember exactly what, but basically playing out in ways that perhaps people didn’t expect – I don’t remember exactly what your phrase –

JHK: That’s quite right. It’s not exactly what I said but that’s quite right.

DJ: So, can you discuss – can you define peak oil for listeners, and then talk about how you perceive it playing out?

JHK: Well, what peak oil is really about is peak oil that is economically – that makes economic sense.

Excuse me. Let me say that again. Peak oil is about oil resources that make economic sense to get out of the ground. And by that I mean what we say is the energy return on investment for oil. And that means: how much energy does it take to get a barrel of oil out of the ground? At the peak of the American industrial adventure, let’s say, the 1950’s, we basically got about a hundred barrels of oil out of the ground for every equivalent barrel that we put into the operation. By the 1990’s it was down to about thirty-odd barrels of oil back for every barrel we put in. Now it’s about seventeen. So what you can see is the amount of payback you’re getting for the investments that you’re making in getting oil are going down, down, down. And in some cases we’re past the point where it even makes any economic sense to even pursue it.

For example: the Shell Oil “miracle” that people have been touting for the last five years. This is the thing that’s going to allow happy motoring to continue forever. You know, I said we lived in a wishful thinking society and there is something I call the “master wish,” which is “Please, God, can we keep on driving to Wal-Mart forever?”

Okay, that’s the master wish. And shale oil seemed to be the answer to that. Wow! We’ll be able to just frack and frack and get oil, and no problem.

Well you know, it turns out that almost none of the operations for getting shale oil out of the ground are economically rational. They all lose money, the whole thing’s been a Ponzi scheme based on the low interest rate financial shenanigans of the central banks, and what we’re going to see is that these companies drilling in the shale deposits have borrowed enormous amounts of money that they’ll never be able to pay back, they’ll reach a point where they won’t be able to get more money to continue their operations, and one by one they’re gonna go bankrupt and production is going to go way down again.

So you can think of shale oil as basically having been a kind of a stunt to make it appear that we could continue living the way we do. And frankly, a lot of the stuff that we do, in terms of policy and group decisions and group activities are kind of Potemkin activities designed to disguise the fact that we probably can’t keep going like this.

It’s very discouraging to live in a culture that is that out of touch and that reality-averse, but that’s where we’re at. So right now, the public is especially confused because gasoline at the pump seems to be extra cheap. And the price of oil per barrel has gone down so much in the last two years, so it’s now like, $43 a barrel today, I guess?

The trouble is, the companies that drill for oil can’t make money at $43 a barrel. So they’ll pretend that they’re in business for another couple of years, and then they’ll be gone. And then, we will be truly in a condition of, with a supply problem. And then the price will go up again. And, you know we’re liable to probably have scarcity problems before we even have another protracted price rise. So, that’s where we’re at.

DJ: So, haven’t you said that – and I’m sorry if I get the numbers wrong, my memory is just crap. But haven’t you said that basically the economy requires that oil be below, I don’t remember what it is, $60 a barrel? But the oil companies, in order to function, require it to be above a certain price. So there’s a very –

JHK: Yeah, that’s the basic equation. But it was $75. The price of oil, per barrel, above $75 a barrel, crushes economies, and below $75 a barrel it crushes oil companies. So it’s a real predicament.

DJ: So, if I were to try to boil down your work into a couple of phrases – please forgive me if this is inaccurate, but it seems to me it would be that the oil age has been a one-time blowout and if we – one may, because one’s entire economy and way of life is based on it, one might want to think about what that means for the future.

JHK: Yeah. I think that’s a fair assessment. A fair summary.

DJ: Okay, I’m going to bring in somebody else for a second. That is, the great Upton Sinclair line about it’s hard to make a man understand something when his job depends on his not understanding it. And how much of that is playing into – so much of my own work is so concerned with how and why – it’s concerned with denial, and how we can, you know, be killing the oceans and not attending, or whatever it is we’re doing, how we can have a way of life based on oil and think that suddenly having one percent – or, for God’s sake, Mark Jacobson, thinking you can power the entire economy with wind and solar. It’s completely nuts. So, why do we do – why the magical thinking? I know you’ve been saying this again but I don’t think people can hear it enough. Why the magical thinking?

JHK: I think there’s one phrase that I’ve been using – I didn’t originate it but I think it’s true, that is very helpful in understanding, and it’s called “the psychology of previous investment.” Some people refer to “sunk costs”, which is a very similar concept. And the psychology of previous investment means that you’ve put so much of your personal wealth and your collective wealth of your society, *and* your identity, into a certain set of beliefs and activities, that you can’t imagine letting go of them. That’s exactly what’s wrong with the suburban predicament; we spent most of the wealth of the post-World War II USA on constructing this matrix of suburban crap. And now we’re stuck with it. And we can’t imagine changing it, or reforming it, or doing without it.

I’d have to say that the New Urbanists actually did a yeoman’s job of imagining a way to change it and reform it, but they were barely listened to by the culture, and barely paid attention to. So it’s very difficult for us to overcome the psychology of previous investment. I think that’s it in a nutshell. It’s a gigantic thing, it affects all of the so-called narratives that we spin out for ourselves, and of course narratives are not the same as the truth. And that’s why we live in a reality-optional society, for the moment.

One more thing about this. If you think of a sine-cosine wave form, which is just a simple wave form that goes up and down and up and down, I think there are moments in history when groups or cultures or societies are more self-aware and more conscious and more able to understand what’s happening to them. And then there are times at the bottom of the trough, where societies are unable to put it together. And that’s where we’re at. It’s tragic and sad and unfortunate and that’s where we happen to be at the moment.

DJ: So, reality-based and non-reality-based worldview, one of the first words that comes to mind is postmodernism. Would you like to take a swing at postmodernism?

JHK: Well, postmodernism is a grab bag of a lot of things. It’s an architectural movement, it’s an art movement, it’s a set of political views, or geopolitical thinking. So it’s a lot of things. But perhaps the most pernicious thing about it is that it grows out of the increasingly self-referential pseudo-metaphysical bullshit that emanates from the graduate schools. And you can see this a lot – because I traffic a lot with the architects and the city planners – you can see it a lot in the graduate schools of architecture and art, where every graduate student has to spin out a new metaphysic, to kind of explain some crazy-ass new way of – novelty thing that they’ve introduced into a way of designing a building.

Under the rubric of postmodernism, it’s really not okay to emulate any kind of past cultural success. So if someone has learned how to do, y’know, design a neighborhood or a church or a school or a home, you can never do it – you can never employ those devices in your own design, you have to come up with something completely new. And then you have to come up with a metaphysic, a metaphysical theory to back it up. And so we’ve just been involved, or engaged in this shitstorm of phony metaphysics for decades. It’s such an avalanche of bad thinking and false ideas and stupidity. Certainly in the universities they are no longer able to sort out anything. That’s exactly why you’re seeing the nonsense that’s going on, on campus now, with the social justice warriors and the incredible thought policing that’s going on. Which could be thought of as a kind of intellectual martial law, on campus.

And that has been the consequence of what’s happened with postmodernism in the education system. Now, as a corollary, perhaps, on the larger scale and the bigger picture, you can see, sort of, the strange consequences of what’s happened with our inability to think and our reality-optional culture, in terms of the political disorder that we’re now generating. Nobody expected Trump. But Trump was a direct consequence of all the reality-averse politics, and economics especially, of the last twenty years.

The politics are now reaching a kind of a threshold of complete breakdown and dysfunction, at least in Washington, DC.

I don’t think people necessarily expected it, although I certainly wrote about it. I more or less predicted that we would see it. And I pretty much predicted that we would see the government, the federal government would become increasingly impotent, ineffectual, and paralyzed.

And also, I think you can say that it’s just another manifestation of what is probably the fact that anything organized at the giant scale is now getting into trouble, whether it’s a giant university, or a giant corporation, or a giant department store chain. Big institutions are now starting to fail. I think you can state categorically that these overly large, over-scaled, enterprises and institutions are going to systematically fail from here on.

I guess I got up a kind of a rabbit hole there, so forgive me.

DJ: No, no; this is all fabulous.

I read somewhere, it was in one of your essays, where you were talking about the political correctness and SJW’s, and you said something about how – once again, forgive me for mangling it – you said something about how, basically, if you’re not going to accomplish something in the real world that will resolve the primary concerns of your class, you will become increasingly strident about language. But you said it much better. Does that sound familiar?

JHK: It doesn’t sound all that familiar. But in fact, I wrote a blog on Monday about, sort of about those issues. It was about the so-called Overton Window. And, a guy named Neal Devers wrote a wonderful essay on it. His essay was titled “The Overton Bubble.” ( ) And one of the points that he made was that as the groupthink advanced, as the groups became more and more insecure about their status and who they were and what they were doing and what they were accomplishing, the groupthink would become increasingly insane, and make it almost impossible for the group to think. That was the main point of his essay. And I think it’s quite correct. That’s exactly what you saw manifesting in the universities, where, after all, you know the universities are supposed to be the places where thinking, where good thinking, is most easily available, and is in regular supply.

And what we’re finding now, that the worst thinking in America is now coming out of the universities. And the worst behavior. And the worst kind of intellectual coercion, and despotism.

It’s a very interesting process, but I think the key to it is what Devers said about the insecurity of the culture. So what we’re seeing is this culture in the universities of postmodern, faux, pseudo-metaphysical thinkers discovering that their thoughts have absolutely nothing to do with the real problems that we’re facing in the real world. As that discovery becomes more manifest and our political predicament becomes worse, their ideas become more and more insane and strident.

DJ: Which all reminds me of, for example, the cattle-killing cult in South Africa. When your way of life is floundering – and it makes me think of Joseph Tainter too, where whatever made the culture grow in the first place? When your culture collapses, you just think if you just do it more stridently and more urgently – if you’re an Easter Islander and building big stone heads is what made your culture great, well, things fall apart; “we just need to make more big stone heads.”

JHK: (laughing) Right!

DJ: I often think of the response to global warming, for example. All the solar and wind stuff, which is actually more of a response to peak oil. Leaving that aside, in many ways, (this) feels almost like the ghost dance of capitalism.

JHK: That’s a very good way to put it. And I can’t improve on that. That’s true.

I would add one more thing that I think is very important, and it kind of comes out of Tainter, but it’s an idea that is a kind of cross-platform idea from economics, and that’s the diminishing returns of technology. Originally maybe it comes out of Gresham’s law of diminishing returns of money. Diminishing returns of technology are with us all the time and they’re producing more and more blowback. Tainter’s basic idea is that societies collapse when their overinvestments in increasing complexity do not produce anything of value, and start producing negative value. And that’s exactly what diminishing returns are.

And so that’s what we’re seeing. One of my favorite examples is the phone system. We probably spent – let’s just throw this figure out here, we just probably spent fifty billion dollars over the last thirty years computerizing the phone system, and then turning them into mobile phones and mini-computers, in order to “improve communication”, right? And the net effect of that now is that it’s impossible to get a real human being on the phone, anywhere. Right?

DJ: Yes.

JHK: Yeah. So, how well did that work? How well did those massive over-investments in complexity work? Not too well. And we’re seeing it in everything. That’s the same kind of thing you’re seeing in the electric driverless car, this campaign to add more and more layers of complexity on a system that is already excessively complex. So the net effect of all that will be collapse of the system.

DJ: And a system that is divorced from the physical reality of … the salmon, who used to be in the Klamath River so thick that the entire river was black and roiling, and this year the Klamath Indians had to cancel their Salmon Festival because there weren’t enough salmon. So that’s all divorced from the physical reality from whence we all gain our lives.

JHK: Right. I do believe that this can only go on so long and that what we’re dealing with really here are systems which are subject to fragility and failure. And that they will. That’s the bad news. Our techno-industrial culture and many of the activities in it are going to go away, they’re gonna fail, stop. We’re going to have to make other arrangements.

The good news, if there is any good news, and if there’s really much of an ecosystem for humans and other things left, is that human societies are essentially emergent. And that they will respond to the circumstances that reality presents. Eventually. And they will reorganize accordingly.

So, y’know, when this happens – that’s why I wrote those “World Made By Hand” novels, which was to kind of illustrate to people that in my view – I know your view is a bit darker. Maybe quite a bit darker. But my view, y’know, we will have this capacity to have a pretty major economic and social and political reset to a simpler way of living.

(Cell phone rings)

JHK: I just got a new cell phone. I had to, because I’m going to France in about a week, and I need to make calls there, and I had this crappy old flip phone that I didn’t want to get rid of, and Verizon told me that I couldn’t get the $40 one-month overseas calling plan on that phone. So they made me get a new phone, for an extra $7 a month, and I spent about twenty hours over the last five days trying to figure out how to get my email running on it. And failed, because it’s too complex. Because we’ve added too many layers of complex security on people’s emails. So that it’s now so completely incomprehensible that the people at Apple couldn’t even figure out why I couldn’t get the email installed on the phone.

DJ: And let’s reveal a secret to the people listening to this, that, as we’re talking about these complexities creating increasing problems, that this interview almost didn’t take place because you and I were both getting increasing testy because our emails were not actually arriving.

JHK (laughs) Yeah.

DJ: So this is just a great example of we could not communicate. And thank goodness we actually had the telephone as a backup. And someday people will be saying “Thank goodness we could just walk to the neighbors, instead of the telephone.”

So, we have about five minutes left.

If somebody starts to fully internalize the fact that we are not currently in a reality-based system of discourse, or whatever we want to say, what do you want individuals – what is an appropriate adult-based, reality-based, individual response to that reality? And then, what would be an adult, reality-based, social response to that reality, that we are not in an adult, reality-based social system. How do adults respond to this, individually and collectively, appropriately?

JHK: It is very very difficult right now because the craziness that – the self-referential inanity of our current public discourse and our state of mind is really more like a religious hysteria. It’s like national ergot poisoning. Remember ergot poisoning from the medieval period, where a medieval town would get a shipment of rye infected with a certain kind of mold that produced a, this mold had psychedelic properties, so that when people ate the bread made from the ergot poisoned rye, they would have hallucinations. That’s kind of where we’re at now. This is like national ergot poisoning, we’re so far gone. So you have to understand the current situation as a religious frenzy. And it is very hard for people caught up in a religious frenzy to drop out of it. Because it is completely crazy-making. That’s what you’re seeing with the so-called Democratic-Progressive wing of American politics right now. They are in a religious frenzy.

I don’t know how to tell people how to be independent of that. Most people, or many people anyway, are tied into some kind of institution, whether it’s a company, or a school or something, and it’s very hard for them to escape the groupthink. I’d hate to think of – I’d hate to imagine what it’s like to work on a college faculty right now, and have an independent point of view. You know, you’d be crushed. You’d be persecuted.

DJ: Last week I interviewed Bret Weinstein, who – he teaches at Evergreen – and the campus police told him “We cannot protect you,” because there were roving gangs of students with baseball bats looking for him.

JHK: Well, they were told by the college president not to protect him.

DJ: Yes. I know. I know. I’m validating your point. What happens to somebody who does not go along with the groupthink.

JHK: It’s a religious frenzy, and you kind of have to really just do what you can, lay low, contribute what you can as a public thinker and intellectual, or participant, try to be a little brave about it, try to stand up to the forces of religious persecution.

I think what might mitigate it is – in my view, there’s no question that we’re heading into some kind of a crisis pretty soon. And I do maintain that it’s gonna be a financial and economic crisis. Although right now the political crisis has really gained a lot of ground in just the last six months, and it’s starting to race neck and neck with the financial and economic crisis. It’s beginning to look like both of these things are going to kind of burst at the same time. You know, maybe the end of the summer, the fall sometime. And when we do have a major economic crisis, if it’s an enormous drop in the financial markets, or a currency crisis, or the freezing up of bank accounts, you know, the forcing, the attempt to force people into a cashless society, as Jim Rickards has been warning people about. If we have a government, a crisis of government in which President Trump is forced out for one reason or another. And of course I’m not a Trump fan, but I wasn’t a Hillary fan either.

I think those things are gonna combine to act sort of like a whack in the head with a two-by-four to the American public, and especially to American elites and the thinking classes. I think what you’ll see is, as soon as that happens, they’re going to instantly drop their preoccupations with transsexuals and start paying attention to things that are important.

DJ: Yeah, well… thank you for that. And I guess… I’m gonna ask one more thing, very briefly, or just make a statement. I love the line by Milan Kundera; “The struggle against oppression is the struggle of memory against forgetting”, and it seems to apply too, that the struggle against a non-reality-based consensus, is to hold tight to reality and to broadcast reality as much as you can.

JHK: There you go.

I’d also like to add my very brief, new theory of histories, so people can understand what’s going on. My new theory of history is that things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time.

DJ: That’s great. And I want to add one more thing, or ask one more thing. Which is the line you said before we started the recorder, about sleeping. I love that line, let’s just end with that, it’s beautiful.

JHK: I don’t remember what I said.

DJ: It was about mischief.

JHK: Oh yeah. It’s my alternate theory of human relations.

DJ: And we’re going to end on this.

JHK: People make an endless amount of mischief when they’re awake.

DJ: Well thank you so much. And I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been James Howard Kunstler. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on September 3rd — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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