Saturday, August 27, 2022

A Tarnished Idol

 I was talking with a former housemate of mine named Remi about Costco. 

I love Costco. It's far and away the cheapest place to get anything to do with dairy, any sort of pharmaceutical,  and indeed many other things. The cashiers are almost all what I think of as Sue-level: Sue being a former colleague of mine at Price Chopper who could probably win national bagging championships. 

I love Costco so much I was actually kind of relieved to hear from Remi, who used to work at the membership desk, that their practices at that desk are "predatory".

Walmart's like that. If you're a Walmart cashier, you are also a credit card ambassador, and given the number of self-checkouts in any Walmart, I'd have to suggest that's the much more important job. Don't keep your numbers up? At Walmart, that would result in fewer scheduled shifts (read: fewer opportunities to get your numbers up).

Remi called Costco "capitalism done less wrong", and I'd have to agree with that. Maximum profit margin of 30% on anything in the store. The best wage in the industry by a country mile. You can get a  big beefy hotdog and pop at Costco for less than a third the price Blue Mountain wanted me to pay for just the pop. Their average employee retention is more than three times the length of any comparable retailer. 

...and their membership desk is apparently a big giant turd in the ointment. 

Somehow, I feel better knowing this about Costco. It's not like I was stupid enough to think it was perfect there, but now I know it isn't, so my admiration for the place feels like it's on more solid ground. I think it's important to find at least one flaw in something you adore: otherwise, you've probably got a blind spot. 

N.B.: I said find at least one flaw in something you adore. That goes triple for people. If you blindly admire a person, you're like as not in a cult. But. But. BUT. 

 As Dan Savage says in this video,  

"There is no settling down without some settling for. There is no long-term relationship not just putting up with your partner’s flaws, but accepting them and then pretending they aren’t there. We like to call it in my house “paying the price of admission.”

The key is to see people as perfectly imperfect. With some classes of imperfections this can be difficult. 


My friend Jason got me into reading James Howard Kunstler many, many years ago. He was my introduction into the world as it is, not the world we like to believe we're in. He was the first person I read to outright state our civilization is in catabolic collapse. He laid out his case in The Long Emergency, a seminal work in its field. It's still worth reading, because it was written long before Kunstler lost his mind.

There's no softer way to put this. Kunstler, who had never so much as intimated his political views for many years, very suddenly started doing nothing but shouting his political views...and they were rotten. MAGAty, you might say. His blog, called Clusterfuck Nation, used to be a clean, well lit space on the internet where people talked civilly about the set of interconnected crises we are currently facing and have yet to face. Then, seemingly overnight, everything wrong in the world was the fault of transgendered and nonbinary people and their "enablers".  I ran off screaming into the night. Wasn't the first author I abandoned, probably won't be the last. Luckily -- or at least I consider it so -- through Kunstler I learned about, and began to follow, John Michael Greer. 

Greer is a fellow traveller in the doomosphere, and he's intellectually leagues and leagues above Kunstler. What made Greer initially attractive to me was that he would always post not just about what's wrong, but about how it might be made right, or at least righter. (Greer taught me the difference between a problem and a predicament: the former is solvable, the latter isn't, and if you try to solve a predicament you will invariably make it worse.)

Greer does share with Kunstler a deep, deep distrust of the 'elite'. Far too often, per Greer, people sally forth out of their halls of academia and are surprised, then dismayed, to find out the abstractions they learned in school dissolve upon contact with the real world. Then, because they're human monkeys, they fall into the monkey trap and double down.

You want examples.

Here's one: The rapid decline and fall of Target Canada. This is the Titanic of business stories, and in its own way just as fascinating. Murphy was an optimist in this place: even things you'd think couldn't possibly go wrong went wrong. Most of it out of misplaced hubris by a bunch of MBAs with zero big box store experience. 

We're all being told to buy electric cars to solve the fossil fuel crisis. Never mind that the manufacture of these cars can easily be argued to be more environmentally destructive, never mind the lack of charging infrastructure, and don't you dare ask what happens to the electrical grid when everybody has to plug in. The People Who Matter say that This Is The Way, and to question them is environmental blasphemy, you fossil fuel fossil.

(Pity I won't be around -- I don't think -- when both modes of transport become uneconomical. It'll be a real blast to see the intelligentsia scratching their heads then, I'll tell you. Actually, by then I expect many of them to be hanging from lamp posts, but we'll let that be.)

I don't like how the word 'elite' has been so thoroughly co-opted. It's supposed to mean the best of the best. In common parlance today, it's more likely to mean someone in a position of power with a narrow, self-absorbed, and above all self-serving attitude on everything. Plus condescension at anyone who is clearly too unwashed to even contemplate the Lofty Heights. Let's never forget that.

More 'elites' behaving badly: look no further than Boris "Lockdowns for thee and not for me" Johnson. Or Doug Ford, or Justin Trudeau, for that matter. The corruption and hypocrisy does span the political spectrum, and while I will argue until I'm blue in the face that once side is a lot more dangerous, I can't deny how every instance of Those In Power living by different rules only pours gasoline on the "burn it all down" people.

Remember how we were told sanctions against Russia would drive the country to its knees? How's that working out for you? Everything the West did to hurt Russia richocheted back on us. Not so much us here in North America, at least not yet, but if you live in Britain, you will soon be in a world of hurt. Other sources state their "reasonable worst case scenario" is much more "reasonable" than "worst case".  The 80% electricity rise is baked in at this point. The brownouts and blackouts? We'll see. 

And yes, we will be dealing with this in Canada and the U.S. eventually. I'm tears-of-relief lucky to live where I do: this year we've had derechos and tornadoes and drought, but we still have crops in the ground. Many of Britain's will fail this year. Same throughout Europe, same in China. China's largest freshwater lake just dried up. Rivers in France have done the same. I highly doubt the West will stay united against Russia when the economic forces we unleashed start seriously biting our butts and chomping our cheeks. And I can't say as I blame them.

Again, please understand: I think Putin is a menace among menaces and the war in Ukraine is a monstrosity. I'd love to see nothing more than Russia driven out of Ukraine and the Crimea both. But -- ahem -- this is important.

America is not the only country that gets to act in its perceived national interest. And let's please not insist that America, of all nations, has pursued those interests blamelessly!

Back to Kunstler, who I long ago abandoned, and Greer, who has recently crossed a bridge too far with me. Both of them are "burn it all down" people. The difference is what's seeded after the fire recedes. For Kunstler, it's people like the lamentably unlate, decidedly unlamented Mustard Misanthrope who recently infested the White  House. For Greer, it's people much closer to the land, political views unimportant, but a mix desired. Monocultures kill biomes and they don't help societies much either. 

The thing you have to get about Greer. I've been following the man for more than a decade and at this point (or at least at this point two weeks ago) I'd have to say I was a follower. I have quoted and linked Greer more than most sources put together, and I've done it without shame, even though some of what he writes is...esoteric. Out of the mainstream. I believe the common term is nucking futs, or something like that. He's an astrologer, among many other things, for instance. I have nothing but contempt for newspaper horoscopes but I also recognize astrology has a history that spans millennia, has accepted methods of practice, and...let's just say the guy's made enough predictions using astrological methods that came's hard not to at least keep the ol' braingate maybe not open, but at least unlocked. 

He's an operative mage -- the older, much older word for 'magician' that really means 'wise one'. He is fluent in many streams of magical thought, and I highly recommend examining that world with a mind as open as you can make it. What you'll often find is a different nomenclature than you're used to saying...what amounts to the same thing you're used to hearing. So once you get past the weird words and really look at the concepts might be surprised. 

If it all means the same, why have differences

That's a fair question that's well beyond the scope of this already bloated blog, which is Ken's way of ducking the fair question. Seriously folks, I can answer it, but it'll involve three blogs worth of sidetracks and while I like bronzed men as much as the next fellow, there is such a thing as too many tan gents. The shorthand, oversimplified and vastly insufficient answer would involve asking people of different religious faiths to explain why they believe they do, and especially why their religious rituals take the form they do. You'll find the rituals vary widely but the goals are always broadly similar, and the same is true of magic. 

Anyway. Some of Greer's track record: he predicted the correct winner of the 2016 election the instant that winner announced its candidacy, and never wavered in that prediction. He did not predict the Tangerine Tyrant would win another term, but he did suggest it would be a lot closer than the polls were saying. Greer likewise predicted Brexit, of which he is a staunch supporter -- but he would tell you the methods used to attain it were predictable, wrong, and wrongly predictable. Greer firmly believes, and I have come to agree with him, that nearly every nation on the planet will eventually balkanize. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say Scotland's gonna be the first to do it. 

Most importantly, Greer keeps his eye on the past for clues to the present and future. There is this tendency to think the ancients, and really anyone up until the current generation, were all stupid dumbfucks. This is, needless to say, dumbfuckery of the purest sort. No, the ancients didn't have everything right, either -- and that knee-jerk invocation of a binary is one of Greer's most common points, we all do it, often without meaning to -- but nor did they have everything wrong. Can you imagine what Socratic Greeks would make of political "debate" today?

But two weeks ago Greer started talking about covid vaccines.

He believes they are dangerous. He believes -- no, he KNOWS -- that they've killed 20,000 Americans, that they've done absolutely nothing to stop the spread of the disease, and....sigh.

Worse, he went and produced what at first glance seemed to be a well thought out, well sourced refutation of the claim that the covid vaccines are safe and effective.

I have lost friends over the vaccine.

One of them was a nurse, and to me a nurse that shuns vaccines is akin to a cop that hands out alcohol at every traffic stop. Another was a dear friend of long standing whom I unforgivably lashed out at over her refusal to get vaccinated. A third threw his lot in with the "Freedom" (sic) Convoy that desecrated Ottawa for a month, and nope, sorry, I can't run away fast enough from that bullshit. 

Now here's a man I damn near idolize saying the vaccines are unsafe and ineffective.

So I dug into his sources. Worth a look, right? Didn't take ten seconds before I saw AstraZenica mentioned five times, and right away I had a sinking feeling in my gut, the feeling like Greer was racing behind Kunstler and trying hard to overtake him on the Paranoid Parkway. 

AstraZenica was found, very quickly I might add, to have about ten times the adverse effects of Moderna and Pfizer. Because people can't math, "ten times" sounds terrifying. We're still talking a minuscule percentage, but it was an order of magnitude higher than they expected.

Can anyone find AstraZenica vaccine in 2022?

Nope, because it was yanked. So while of course you can include any adverse effects the AstraZenica vaccine produced, it's disingenuous in the extreme to suggest Pfizer and Moderna are equivalent. 

And while yes, 3000 people died after vaccination, literallty anything could have killed them: drowning, lightning strike, car crash... 

I didn't even have to go to the trouble, really, of looking at the sources. If what Greer claims is true is actually true, it's unprecedented in all history. You're taking about a conspiracy theory involving millions of people. You're looking at governments worldwide voluntarily shutting down their economies, crippling their tax bases, mandating a vaccine that kills people? Seriously? 

Greer also calls the vaccine 'experimental' and claims it wasn't sufficiently tested. There are many people who believe this, and it's not really their fault since the media, always eager to manufacture controversy, has reported it that way. In reality, human testing of an mRna vaccine began in 2015, and even if it DID only take eight months to develop, that number is utterly useless. What really matters is the number of person-hours. And of course Google won't readily spit that information out, but it was a worldwide collaborative effort and I'm willing to state more person-hours went into this than into any other vaccine in the history of vaccines. 

I'm not impressed with Greer. This is very uncharacteristic of him. He's usually the person straightening other people's thoughts, and to find his so...mistaken and misguided on something was an eye opener.

But you know, having your eyes open is usually a good thing. Keeps you from running into loyalty traps.

It's possible, even likely, that I haven't been bringing enough critical attention to bear on Greer. In my own meek defence, I must insist that he has rarely steered me wrong before, and never deliberately so. This makes it a blessing, really, to discover a weak spot in the man's thinking. It humanizes him for me...and makes me cautious to accept further pronouncements without blinking.

A tarnished idol reminds you idolatry is a sin -- or if you don't like religious terminology, an error -- for a reason. 

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