Thursday, January 12, 2012


It seems the first two posts of this blog in 2012 are meant to provide correction and clarity. Two posts ago, in my 2012 Forecast, I mentioned the film Thrive. Here is some of what I said:

"We are facing a long decline as the resources to maintain the life we have grown accustomed to grow ever scarcer. At the same time, I read the work of Charles Eisenstein, and watch the film Thrive, and I want very much to believe that I will see the world they envision in my lifetime."

There have been a flurry of reviews about this film, by several writers I admire, including Eisenstein, and they have all been profoundly negative. Rob Hopkins called it "horrifying". John Michael Greer called it "meretricious nonsense". Strong statements. I agree with Greer more than I do Hopkins, though I can see why Hopkins has had such a strong reaction, in that the movie may have the effect of encouraging people not to concern themselves with the actual crises that face us, in favor of empty anger against fictitious crises, and false hope in the salvation of physically impossible energy schemes. That is basically Greer's argument, that Thrive is little more than an extreme form of the narrative of progress, a means to hide from the failure of the narrative of progress.

I liked the film. I think that's because I didn't take it very seriously. How can one? If you've seen it, you know, the thing is preposterous. I mean, David Icke is the most prominent interview. Seriously? I remember thinking, I wonder if Vandana Shiva knew what this film is about, that she did this interview for? Whenever I heard Foster Gamble talk about the principle of non-violation, I kept thinking, well, I probably wouldn't put the word violation in any slogan around which to structure a movement. And, I wonder what all those rich dude's are going to think about your slogan, when you put them on trial and take their money to build your fancy world?

Just about every conspiracy theory making the route through the underbelly of the culture, makes an appearance in Thrive. (Aliens, too.) Basically, some bad people at the head of a few families, are engaged in a conspiracy to dominate the world, to the point of engaging in plans to exterminate whole populations. That last bit I hear more and more about these days, governments and elite conspiring to kill billions. I think it's an idea welling up out of our collective unconscious, a low level awareness of the trials humanity is likely to face in the not so distant future, with the decline of available energy - including and especially rich people. It's easier to blame shadowy banking figures, than the Western standard of living. If I blame the Rothschilds, I don't have to question my lifestyle. Throw the specter of free energy into the plot, and now I'm free to live however I will forever and always.

Possibly the most insidious aspect of this film is the idea of free energy. His evidence for free-energy isn't evidence at all, but anecdote, and hypothesis. Even so, he asserts that the only reasons we are not awash in free-energy, are the machinations of elite perpetrating a global domination agenda. It's not that I don't believe such energy schemes may be possible. I just wonder, has it occurred to those who truly believe, that it might be a hundred, or a thousand generations, before we figure it out? Has it occurred to anyone but Rob Hopkins, that we aren't ready for free energy? Do we really think the cruel, capricious, petty, monstrous, ugly, exploitative people who inhabit this time, are capable of the responsibility of free energy?

Damn. I just wrote all that, and now I go back to my forecast post and all I said, and now I'm asking, how could I have liked this film?

Because I want everybody to thrive. I don't want people to have to go through what we are going to go through, the next few decades.

Georgia Kelly of the Praxis Peace Institute accused Thrive of a "reactionary, libertarian agenda." I consider this a hopelessly mundane perspective. Because what Foster Gamble is advocating, though he doesn't know it, is the Anarchist utopia, in which everyone is living in the fullest expression of their purpose. Which is inevitable, but no more a possibility now than free energy. The Libertarian dream of everybody living without the interference of government or rulers is the fantasy of a future world with a lot less people in it, who are a lot stronger than we are today. About all the Anarchist and Libertarian can do now is live responsibly, according to one's principles. Government we know has failed us miserably, which neither Kelly nor Hopkins seem able to comprehend. They want to believe government is a solution, because a sudden Libertarian fix in this time is truly horrifying (just as would be a government without free enterprise). Someday however, there will be no government, nor any rulers, capitalists or democrats or otherwise, because we will have transcended the need. But that might be a hundred thousand generations from today.

Meanwhile, if we are to thrive, we are going to have to choose to, individually, because the culture is not going to help. The culture is like Thrive the film; to paraphrase Greer, an exposition on the inevitability of progress, a refusal to acknowledge the actual world we actually inhabit. Which is why it's a good idea to enjoy Thrive, without taking it very seriously.

And as I corrected a quote of mine, I would also like to add that I feel I have done Charles Eisenstein a dis-service, putting his book and the film Thrive in the same context, as if they were equal.


Luciddreams said...

No worries man. I think to risk being wrong is admirable if you are capable of admitting you were wrong when the time comes. This may be a case of your optimism getting the better of you. Personally I haven't watched the film because of all the negative reactions I've seen by reviews from people who's opinions I trust. I just see no point in wasting the time on it when there are other things I'd rather watch if I'm going to watch something. The six part hero's journey with Joseph Campell and Bill Moyers is a good example (i've been working my way through that series over the last few weeks). If you've never watched them I highly recommend that you do.

there's six of them and they are one hour each. Joseph Campell is definitely one of my mentors. That man couldn't help but let pure wisdom fall out of his mouth every time he opened it.

But if my opinion matters, I respect you more for being able to eat your words (however slightly you did). Nothing annoys me more than people who can't admit when they are wrong.

Luciddreams said...

correction, it's "The Power of Myth" with Joseph Campell and Bill Moyers.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Yeah, JC is sort of like the Grandpa I always wanted. I've listened to him and Terrence McKenna, just to remember how it is possible to talk.

Was it optimism that lead me to ignore the misgivings I had about Thrive? Perhaps. I do want to believe there is a way out of this mess, that there is some profound Black Swan in our immediate future that will save us from our energy predicament. Leaving all possibilities open, I clearly glossed over a more nuanced interpretation of Thrive, until I was presented with such opinions by others, and I could no longer deny it. That is called accountability, and you are right, that is in short supply in this day and Age.

Your opinion does matter. Thank you.


Justin said...

The way I think about our present situation is that we are suffering a bout of mental illness as a culture.

There are many of us who would rather destroy the world than go without the feeling that we can own/control it. One problem with control is that it is contagious with use. Abusers create abusers with abuse, victims internalize the logic of using violence to get others or the world to conform to what you want it to be. (People often give many rationalizations and justifications for why things have to be the way they are in a system built on coercive and controlling mechanisms like ours.) This makes it very hard to shake off, especially when overthrowing a system of dominance usually requires the over-throwers to use violence and become intoxicated with their sense of control.

I wonder how Eurocentric my thoughts are. Eastern cultures have philosophies that are less controlling, some are explicitly about recognizing the follies of controlling anything other than oneself. I wonder if they learned those lessons centuries before the younger, upstart, European culture.

Take China. They have shown a remarkable facility with adopting and discarding ideologies of control, or at least that is our interpretation of them. They were communist until roughly 1979, about 10 years ahead of the curve on the end of communism. The European communist countries pursued it to the bitter end. A lot of people are predicting huge problems in China with an exploding real estate bubble and classic capitalist over expansion, my guess is that they will discard capitalist growth/control ideology just as easily as it becomes counter productive, while we are going to follow capitalist ideology to the bitter end. (And I wouldn't be surprised to see China abandon global capitalism in the coming years, and move to a protectionist/colonial model). I also wonder how much of my thumbnail version of recent Chinese history, which is how we commonly understand their culture, would even be recognizable as close to accurate to the Chinese mind.

An analogy may be to observe a carpenter work and conclude that he exclusively uses his hammer to do his job, go on about his commitment and skill with the hammer, only to be interrupted and confounded when he picks up the saw. We are locked into binary thinking about which tool is best, the carpenter knows that no tool is best, but some tools are better suited for some jobs than others. Wisdom that comes with experience.

William Hunter Duncan said...


If a species said to be conscious, acts in a way that is fundamentally detrimental to the biosphere on which it depends utterly, then no question, we are suffering from a kind of mental illness.

Most of the Nations of the world are now fixated on economic growth as a defining paradigm. They will be until such time as it becomes apparent that that is no longer possible for any nation. At which time, we will transition into a period of re-localization. That will entirely depend on the character of the locals.

That period will probably coincide with radical climate transformation, as the burning of fossil fuels is not likely to abate for some time yet. It's a recipe for increasing madness.


Justin said...

My reply was rambling and divergent, trying to hit too much at once.

Anyway, according to the discussion, Thrive offers a vision of unfettered control and power over our world enabled by energy. Currently, its fair to say that industrialists and capitalists are doing the central planning, they are fixated on valuating and controlling the world's resources with money. And they use a lot of violence when that control is threatened or challenged.

I was just trying to riff on that idea, and go somewhere with the notion that impulses to control lead to violence, value of the individual and domination whereas empathy leads to identification and placement of the individual within the context of the whole. I believe the empathy strategy will become more relevant given the state of the whole right now. These are two drivers of conscious thought, I suggest that our current civilization has run and will run the control paradigm to its end.

Our major accomplishment, science, is a testament to our intense study and search of the impulse to control. We are currently genetically modifying life, for God's sake. As any battered woman will tell you, or any of the animals we torture in our scientific experiments would tell you if they could, the impulse to control often leads to mindless violence. Of that, I think we agree.

Thardiust said...

It's good to remember that homo sapiens aren't born to be fixated on continuous economic growth and that our current predicament is just an experience we're going through to learn a lesson. The more we resist whatever this lesson attempts to teach us the more pain mankind will feel as new situations come up which make the truth behind it all easier to see. Since most people are going to resist what's true within and around themselves, the best thing anyone who's aware of how bad things really are can do now is just focus as much as possible on whatever they want to see more of while painfully disengaging from a slowly dying system that's going to keep making it harder to do so. As for Thrive, it's better to watch that movie more from a metaphorical viewpoint than a literal one :) Here's a pretty interesting video which explains what society is currently going through at large as a case of addiction. It's pretty long, so I'd watch it whenever you have enough time.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Command and control is what we know. And science is also about our innate curiosity. We will continue to practice the scientific method long after we have let go of control and violence.

Will we let go of control and violence, in the West, anywhere, anytime soon? I think any of us can, and many are. The question I think is, how do we react to those who will not let go of the methods of command and control, and the threat of violence? The condition of the world speaks of more of both.


Absolutely. Thank you for the link. I can tell by your comment, you are learning to get out of your mind and into your body. Good work,


Justin said...

Science is a tool. Some tools have an inherent purpose. Guns, for instance, are tools whose only purpose is to kill something quickly. I don't think that makes them inherently evil or violent, but their purpose is still fundamentally about killing. Science is inherently a tool of control. Its entire method is to learn about things in order to quantify, measure, predict and modify them. Like the gun, it does not have to be used to control just because it is in your hand, but that is its fundamental purpose when it is used.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Science can be a tool, and it can be abused, and is. It is also a method to ascertain information about the physical world, which is good. A world without science would be an unfortunate one, now that we know what it can provide us. But science can only understand what it can measure, and much of what is best about being human cannot be measured. That's why I love quantum physics, because it has revealed the presumption of Science as the arbiter of all understanding as the egoic conceit that it is.

As for guns, when I pick one up it feels very comfortable in my hand. If I never have to fire one again, in the potential 40+/- years I have left, I will be very glad.

William Hunter Duncan said...

I would like to add, that saying 'have to' in relation to firing a gun, as I did, is a false statement. No one ever has to fire a gun. We do, or we don't, and live, or don't, with the consequences.

Luciddreams said...

"That's why I love quantum physics, because it has revealed the presumption of Science as the arbiter of all understanding as the egoic conceit that it is."

Now if we can just get the scientist to understand that, or internalize it, or cop to it...cause best I can tell it's like a blind spot in their brain. I've not once every heard a hard line atheist, worshiper of science type ever address this when asked about it. It's always "well science will one day figure it out," and no matter how much I point out that this is just faith in science, as faith in God, it never gets realized.

Science is a methodology that says nothing about how we should live in the world. I include the discoveries of science in my own world view, but I also keep it in it's place lest I risk living a disenchanted life with the rest of them. Mechanical philosophy leads to a Brave New World where everybody must take their soma shot. In our world that shot is a plethora of pills of the serotonin reuptake inhibitors persuasion.

I got to the point in the recent past where prescription fukitol was the last choice for me (I thought). I tried it and it worked wonderfully if the goal is to stay in a "career" that eats your soul away one day at a time so that you can make the house payment. That's what it does. It makes you not give a shit about how pointless and meaningless and, as James Howard Kunstler likes to say, "not worth caring" about our society and way of life has become.

I have realized that these pills assist in the mental shackles the controllers need to keep controlling and profiting. These pills are needed to keep BAU rolling right along. People will react and change their lives when they become no longer tolerable. These pills stop that process and therefore keep things the same.

I'm dropping out of the rate race and moving my family back in with family. I recently blogged about this, maybe hop over and take a look if you have time.

William Hunter Duncan said...


Such is the character of Faith. Faith may give one strength, but it also closes oneself off to evidence that might weaken the framework of one's faith. Leading ultimately to dogma, which leads to persecution and tyranny. Sadly though, scientific materialists seem incapable of seeing the degree to which that worldview demands a kind of faith, "science and technology will save us from resource constraints" It ain't just a religious thing.

Big changes for the family? I will check the blog.

Justin said...

I see by your profile to find your site that you are following my Big Dada blog.

That project is on hiatus, perhaps permanently. I mean to say that I have no more to write in that vein. I am still writing on at

Big Dada and Boutique Revolution are spin-offs of that site. Spin offs are collections of writings that I wrote from a point of view for awhile before moving on.

Anyway, may or may not be worth your while.