The U.S. mid-term elections will be pivotal. One reason they aren’t a slam dunk for civilization is that no one in our political/pundit caste was interested in fresh tactics and ideas – least of all offering Americans a bigger picture. Like how the real issue is an attempted putcsch by every style of oligarch, united to restore dismal feudalism.
For starters, here’s a fascinating essay by Douglas Rushkoff – The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse. Doug describes how a dozen tech zillionaires – (names withheld under NDA) – flew him into a private meeting where they asked: “a Marxist media theorist for advice on where and how to configure their doomsday bunkers.”
Among their questions (which he describes in his book, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires):
“How long should one plan to be able to survive with no outside help? Should a shelter have its own air supply? What was the likelihood of groundwater contamination? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?’”
The… event. Ah, euphemism for some calamity killing 99% of humanity, with the remainder expected to bow before lords who helped to make it all happen.
(Doug must have signed a weaker NDA than I did, under similar circumstances, since he feels free to describe his own such meeting, if without names. Though I can tell you that no NDA was involved when Peter Thiel asked me similar questions. Alas, my helpfully pragmatic — if non-sycophantic — critical suggestions to improve his ‘sea steading’ notion led him to storm off and never buy me another meal. Then later to adopt every suggestion I had made. Well, well. I know other former PayPal guys who actually want success for a civilization that’s been good to them. The crux: conflating all such guys together is unhelpful.)
The Rushkoff piece is vital reading for anyone who wants to avoid the apocalypse that these ingrates yearn for, in some dullard combination of sci-fi romanticism and fretful apocolypticism, along with nostalgia for the simplicity and sexual privileges of proper feudalism — presumably in a Mad Max wasteland that corrects all of the errors of modernity that made them comfy-spoiled rich, in the first place.
(See also this video that – a little dramatically – goes into the security question and other aspects of the fantasy. The host site can be over-the-top.)
In fact, I know the exact solution to the ‘security staff question.’ Though I told one such mogul “If you can’t figure it out, you certainly aren’t smart enough to survive any ‘event’ aftermath, without protection by the enlightenment nations you so despise.”
Indeed, this kind of delusion was laughably illustrated by the number of Russian ’oligarchs’ – all of them hypocrites who grew up reciting Marxist-egalitarian catechisms five times daily, before stealing trillions from the Russian people – who thereupon ensconced their loot, their yachts and their children in western nations, where it all could be defended by rule-of-law from capricious seizure by the New Czar…
…only to find that rule-of-law can cut both ways. It has that drawback. Which is why some now dream of ending it, altogether.
“Never before have our society’s most powerful players assumed that the primary impact of their own conquests would be to render the world itself unliveable for everyone else. Nor have they ever before had the technologies through which to programme their sensibilities into the very fabric of our society. The landscape is alive with algorithms and intelligences actively encouraging these selfish and isolationist outlooks. Those sociopathic enough to embrace them are rewarded with cash and control over the rest of us. It’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop. This is new.”
Rushkoff writes of a Silicon Valley ‘escapism’ mindset that “encourages its adherents to believe that the winners can somehow leave the rest of us behind.”
I do think Rushkoff is unfair in places. For example, the ‘space billionaires’ cannot be said to be seeking apocalypse, since it would take a century of reliance on a vibrant-rich, generous and nerdy Earth civilization, before Mars might conceivably stand on its own. Despite some thematic overlaps, it is just wrong to equate Elon Musk – or even Jeff Bezos – who want that civilization to last and who seek to evade the Sycophancy Trap, with the prepper parasites.
Moreover, Doug ignores the fundamental response to these prepper nut-jobs, whose every activity proves they owe their vast wealth to luck… and feral predatory cunning… and luck… and not to some vaunted ‘genius.’ (Any mogul who surrounds himself with sycophants has already and thusly proved the very opposite of everything those flatterers say.)
No, the basic refutation is simple:
When ‘the event’ happens, what thought will race through the minds of the real powers of this world?
Real Powers of this world?
Not governments, or princes, or billionaires, or mafiosi… but the nerds who actually run things and do things and get things done. The ‘boffins’ who know stuff. Anywhere from ten million to a hundred million folks who both keep civilization running and who count on it continuing?
Do you imagine they will just go quietly, like the monks at Lindesfarne, or the librarians at Alexandria?
These are the people – men and women of skill and knowledge and dedication – who know nuclear and bio, cyber and chemistry. They run the satellites and the computer networks. They staff the western intelligence agencies and military officer corps.
Many of them know exactly where your prepper compounds are, down to the last millimeter.
They have access to the design schematics.
Moreover, when the ‘event’ happens… enhanced and possibly triggered by pathetic, parasite plunderers… do you think those nerds will keep that knowledge (of the prepper hideouts) to themselves? Taking it with them to the radioactive grave?
Why would they do that?
Consider instead: might they spread that knowledge as far and wide as possible, along with detailed plans and channels to organize in the aftermath… for revenge?
Especially when you’ve collected a tempting high tech nest full of goodies?
How are your ‘former Navy Seals’ – even if loyal – gonna deal with that failure mode? Is James Bond remotely as powerful as Q? As a thousand or ten thousand organized and determined Qs?
== You won’t like us, when we’re mad… ==
I’ve said all this many times, of course. So, even if none of those nerds thought of it before, the meme is out there now. I’ve seen it float freely, so… oops. My mistake. Too late to hit up the would-be lords for a big bribe to keep quiet!
Maybe you can’t envision “Revenge of the Nerds” on such a scale, in a Mad Max aftermath?
Well, try blending A Canticle for Leibowitz with H.G. Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come, wherein mobs that go rampaging after ‘the event’ aren’t going after the books and nerds who they will desperately need, to rebuild.
Rather (much smarter) they will be led by nerds. And – as in The Postman – by a dream of restored citizenship and a final, complete end to the age-old curse of feudalism.
And would be feudalists.
== And hence… get out the vote ==
Think all of the above is too abstract? Well. Recent data show that 665 billionaires have donated almost a billion dollars to the US Republican Party… the party that always fights against transparency laws or any evening of the playing field.
Not all billionaires puppet the GQP! But every casino mogul, Saudi sheik, “ex”-commissar in the slightly relabeled KGB, hedge parasite etc. and half the tech zillionaires have poured a $BILLION into these midterms for the GQP.
I know some of the other half of rich techies, who love to surround themselves with nerdy engineers. Many of them have faults! But spite toward the knowledge castes is not one of them.
And screw em. If this wonderful civilization is to be saved, it will be by us.
It’s not too late to stand up. Twist arms.
A lunatic-incel ‘neo-monarchist’ about whom I have written before, “Mencius Moldbug,” is getting more play among the Mad Right traitors who no longer even pretend to love democracy or the Enlightenment Experiment that made them.
Alas, a much better descriptive word is “kibble.”