The C-Realm (C is for Consciousness!) is one of fewer than ten podcast I listen to on a semi-regular basis. I was delighted to discover the the C-Realm’s Manifesting in Meatspace Tour would be coming through Portland before I left, so I made it a priority to get my tuckus down there and check it out.
The event was hosted at The Record Room on Killingsworth. About twenty-two people manifested themselves. There were several short guest speakers talking about their books. I recognized KMO immediately. He seemed taller than on the podcast. I introduced myself briefly, and offered to get him a beer. He said he’d wait until the after party, so I helped re-arrange furniture and sat down. One of the intro speakers, who was also hosting the after party, had written a fiction book with a gaming theme on collapse. Sadly I’ve forgotten his name, but I bet he’ll pop up again.
I plopped own in the front row, and started in on my Angry Orchard cider immediately so I could sober up in time for the after party. One of the first things KMO did after taking the stage was suggest that we point some awareness at our phones, and to turn them off for the duration of the presentation in favor of staying present with the other physical human beings in the room. After sending one last Time-Dependent Host- Refrigerator Repair Instructional Text, I de-powered my Umbilical to the Ghost of Steve Jobs.
KMO elaborated on his own history, starting with his early techo-utopianism. He talked about how reasonable it had seemed when he started the C-Realm Podcast in 2006, using the technology needed to create the podcast an an analogy for how fast things change. In 1992, for instance, modems weren’t fast enough, computers weren’t powerful enough, and the software for doing it would have been very expensive. By 2006, the combination of a laptop he already had, Skype, a microphone, and an inexpensive plug-in for Skype that allowed the user to record the audio, plus an astronomical increase in broadband made it possible for him to start the C-Realm Podcast. He’s been doing it every week since, with only one exception for Exotic Foreign Travel. He also talked about his relatively dumb phone, which he hardly ever uses, and how primitive it seems compared to modern smartphones despite being only a few years old.
His early attempts to get interviews with people like Ray Kurzweil and other Singularitarians, who believe that the increasing pace of technological change will shortly make all of our current problems irrelevant, didn’t go as well as he hoped. He then talked quite a bit about the current situation of disempowerment and disconnection that so many people feel, and how tempting it is, under those circumstances, to imagine that some kind of Deus Ex Machina would come along and Fix Everything in the near future. He used different term that will come to me. Maybe “iminitism?” For many Evangelical Christians, the Left Behind series represents this scenario, with all loyal Christians experiencing The Rapture, with the rest of humanity “left behind” to endure a time of great trials, the coming of the Antichrist, etc. For techno-utopians, it’s The Singularity, the moment when technology will become so powerful, cheap, and pervasive that solving all the problems of human misery will be trivial. This is a theme that would appear again later.
Since the Singularitarians weren’t returning his phone calls, he instead he got interviews with more collapse-oriented people like Dmitry Orlov and Joe Bageant. His first book, available for $10 at the event, called Conversations on Collapse, is the transcripts of many of those original interviews. I picked up a copy for my friend and metamour Lee, who would have come but for the intervening 2200 miles to Austin, Texas. KMO then went on to talk about this early phase of collapse, peak-oil, and similar interviews and the worldview behind them. He also talked about his own work history of employment at Amazon.com, where, at one point, he was able to exercise his stock options and end up with a fairly huge amount of money. This allowed him to quit his job and live large in New York for almost 10 years. He said that despite the money, and maybe because of it, he ended up worrying a lot about what would happen when the money ran out. But this somehow didn’t translate into spending less until it was basically too late. He was then forced back into “real work” in the insurance industry, hated it, and had to live very lean for many years as he struggled to find a better way of being. At a later point, when the subject of being rich came up, he actually said he was grateful he didn’t wait another few months to cash in the options. Why? Because if he had, he would have been a millionaire, and not only would he have been robbed of many of the terrible-but-growth-inspiring experiences he had while being broke that eventually lead to the creation of the C-Realm podcast, but he feels that, like many rich people, he would have felt like, somehow, he “deserved it”, despite the fact that it was largely a result of circumstance. He seemed genuinely grateful not to be rich, which is a sentiment I’ve had myself on many occasions. Money beyond what’s really needed for a good life is, like a house full of kitchy junk or expensive furniture, a massive burden and waste that degrades the quality of life, and also denies others the benefits that money, or the resources it represents, could provide.
KMO then discussed how, although he was very much on board with the idea of human-induced climate change, he’d had a change of heart after his long immersion in Peak Everything culture. He saw another Deus Ex Machina lurking in the diminishing pools of oil, and he didn’t buy it. This narrative states that “when the oil runs out, the world will magically be forced to change, civilization as we know it will collapse, and we will all be forced back into being hunter-gatherers.” Many of those narratives, he noted, were based on the assumption that the Power Elite would do nothing to stop the collapse, which is obviously not the case. He feels that instead, it’s more likely that collapse will happen slowly over a longer period of time, with fits and starts, with the Power Elite claiming “Everything is OK Now!” during each brief but inevitable upcycle before the next crash. He also pointed out that this is likely already happening. He said he was surprised that no one had called him on what he felt was a fairly radical departure from his most recent Narrative, and chalked it up to his tendency to get deeply into one narrative, before seeing some issues with it, before diving into another, parallel explanation. This pattern seems common among many self-educated truth-seekers I know.
At this point, he asked for the beer. 🙂 I got him an IPA on tap.
The discussion of the Power Elite and what to Do About Them came up frequently in both the presentation and the questions afterward. He mentioned a quote that “There are no enemies, just damaged people.” He then admitted that he’d had his own fantasies about marching The Man to the guillotine, but had realized that what we really needed was more connection and compassion. That revolution invariably leads to chaos and unnecessary bloodshed. That anger and revolution have their own agenda, and *not* the agenda of the people revolting. He discussed this in relation to the question “What do we do about these Crazy Republicans and Social Conservatives?” “Go to those people” he said “and listen to them.” (I’m paraphrasing here) “Not just long enough to start an argument about their position, and not just long enough for a pause in the conversation, but really seek to understand where they’re coming from, and then, once you think you understand, state their concerns back to them in your own language. Because it’s at that point, and and only at that point, that they might be willing to listen to you.” He also said “A great way to do this is to go sign up for a handgun class with a local NRA affiliate, go to the range, and demonstrate clearly how not good at shooting you are. When they offer help, and they will, accept it with appropriate gratitude, and really try to learn what they’re teaching. This will put you on their turf, in their safety zone, in a place where they can experience the joy of showing you their technical skill. Then you have a relationship instead of Talking Points.”
Even as someone who is profoundly ambivalent about gun laws in the United States, this sounds like a great idea. It also turned out to be Accidental Foreshadowing, which, naturally, is The Best Kind.
Especially when it comes to guns. 🙂
There was also some discussion of Theodore Kazinsky, aka the Unibomber, and how while he had obviously gone off the deep end, many of his critiques of modern culture resonate strongly, especially when the source of the opinions and observations is hidden from the audience to prevent pre-judgement. There was some discussion of another philosopher about how maybe some technologies, like genetic engineering, nanotech, and AI might have long-term consequences that were inevitably inimical to human life. A group consensus on not pursing science in those areas might be wise, but is incredibly unlikely, at least until our own Butlerian Jihad.
This lead into a discussion about how to deal with the Power Elite. Contrary to a lot of conspiracy theorists, there are many different kinds, they have competing and often contradictory agendas. However, one thing that many of them have figured out is how to use wedge issues like abortion, etc., to stoke anger in the public against “Those People on the Other Side” to distract away from their own power agenda. KMO talked about the value of being aware, when Someone is Wrong on the Internet, of the anger one feels. And instead of acting on that anger, asking the question “whose purpose does this anger serve?” He noted that people only deliberately try to make someone angry when they want the person to behave in a way that’s different from how they normally behave. I felt strong resonance with this sentiment, as I’ve long seen how much of today’s political turmoil is fueled by Money being used to stoke anger and divide people. It was good to hear someone I respect as much and with as much reach as KMO coming to similar conclusions.
After his prepared monologue, KMO took questions from the audience. Many were about the Surveillance State, and how the Man was abusing it. He talked about how, in the era of easily trackable smartphones, leaving the phone at home on the day one is accused of committing a crime elsewhere is admissible in court as evidence of potential foul play. KMO echoed a sentiment that he touched on early, which is that privacy is dead, which is one of the reasons he still has a dumb phone. He also discussed a book by David Brin (one of my favorite authors) that I haven’t read, The Transparent Society, where he pointed out that if we keep pursuing “Privacy” what we end up with is a situation where The Man can watch us, but we’re not allowed to watch The Man. Instead, he proposed that we push for Transparency, so that, at the very least, we can keep an eye on the internal workings of the government ourselves. Although I naturally value portions of my privacy, I’ve long realized what an unsustainable luxury it is, and how incompatible it is with our hunter-gatherer ancestry. I’m already taking steps to become as transparent as possible, which will eventually result in my entire financial life being available online. I think, in the long run, the costs of this are outweighed by the benefits, which is a whole other discussion. Brin also touches on it in his near-future novel Earth, as does Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics.
My question was a follow-on to the end of a recent podcast. Someone had talked about the benefits of dropping out of modern society as a way to help fix the system, and KMO had said, basically, “the power elites would love it if you did that.” This ran counter to my own narrative that their power was largely parasitic and based on things like middle-class consumer demand, mortgages, etc. In response, KMO said that as long as one doesn’t rock the boat in the process, they’re happy when people drop out of the system, because it’s one more free-thinking person they won’t have opposing them. He also mentioned that the middle class was largely disappearing, and most of the Big Money was in things like Credit Default Swaps and was no longer really tied to the Main Street economy at all. This was the point of biggest contention between us that evening, as I still feel that most of What’s Wrong, while being Orchestrated from Above, is being Fueled from Below, and my own mission of showing people that living a more minimalistic, sustainable lifestyle is actually More Fun than What They’re Doing is Hitting The Man Where it Hurts. Credit Default Swaps can’t exist without mortgages, and even if most resource use these days is business-to-business and not directly a result of consumer consumption, those businesses still exist because people are using them. Seeing disagreement from someone like KMO certainly gives me fertile ground to reconsider that position, though.
KMO also talked about how allowing understandable cynicism to prevent one from political participation simply gives the powerful more leverage. This resonated with me, too. Recently I re-configured my media intake to largely ignore my political activism e-mail account. My stress level, happiness, and focus immediately improved drastically, and I find it’s hard to go back. Personally I think the best solution is to simply set aside a few hours a week to take those actions and send those e-mails, then Shut Off the Screaming and continue my own work, which will likely have more long-term effect on the world anyway.
He also briefly mentioned Robert Anton Wilson, one of my favorite “Blow Your Mind to Become More Aware” authors as an early influence in seeing different points of view.
The after party was a lot of fun. I picked up a Irishman-gone-local name Dermot and gave him a ride in the Metro on the way. We talked about how great Portland was, an how we were both trying to lure loved ones there. Attendance at the party was about the same as the presentation, with a slightly different but largely overlapping cast. I brought some vittles, most of which had been gifted to me the day before at my jujutsu class. Thanks to Lily and Gordon for those gifts, they were devoured gratefully by the party goers, including me. The fact that the carrots had been in the ground in a friend’s garden just the day before was well received by our collection of environmentally concerned do-gooders.
I had several fascinating conversations with people I met at the party. I started talking to one person about deliberate ritual and NLP before hearing about his amazing new community organizing job where he’s created an entity that coordinates local city resources, hospitals, emergency response personnel, and community input to improve health outcomes in the city. The program is now getting extra funding due to its excellent track record. KMO circulated widely, and I chatted with him and listened to him talk to others for part of the time. I didn’t want to monopolize his time when so many people had come to hang out with him, so I consciously pursued conversation with others, all of whom had something interesting to say. I still got more time and interaction than I’d hoped for, probably largely because I wasn’t actively seeking it. Dermot took this picture of us inside when the evening took a surprising turn just as the party was breaking up. We heard something about “a gun in the kitchen,” and, in celebration of our primate heritage, moved quickly toward the source of the danger rather than away from it.
Taking up most of the kitchen was a .50 caliber anti-material rifle that is absolutely the Biggest Fucking Firearm I’ve even seen in my life. It had a dropable bipod like a .50 cal machine gun, a sniper site, and is evidently capable of hitting a target 2 miles away, as well as firing armor-piercing and explosive rounds, all of which are legal in the US. All this gun geekery was presented by a nervous-but-excited member of the local survivalist community, along with a rifle conversion for a common 9 MM pistol that included a holographic site. This kind of site doesn’t require lining the eye up with the scope the way a traditional scope does. As you move the gun around relative to your eye, the laser crosshairs move automatically to stay on target. It was riviting and terrifying in the way that powerful weapons are. The reaction of the crowd was a mixture of fascination, horror, and no small amount of penis envy. Many of us stuck around to fondle the hardware, and KMO’s earlier suggestion of hanging out with the Gun Crowd seemed much more reasonable than it had before. I started the process by enthusiastically thanking the presenter for bringing his weapons to show us, and was barely able to escape his enthusiasm at finding out the hippies weren’t going to eat him.
I got an unexpected treat after finding out that KMO and Olga were staying quite near where my yurt, which naturally I’d talked about to everyone who would listen, is parked, so they came by this morning to check it out. I felt very blessed to get the extra attention, and am always excited to Spread the Word about what I’m trying to do. I exchanged contact info with them, and will be in touch in the future as my current plans, which seem pretty C-Realm compatible, come together.
Thanks to Olga and KMO for making the trip, the Record Room for hosting the monologue, the hosts for the after party, and for all the C-Realm Podcast listeners who contributed to make the trip possible and are showing up across the nation to make KMO feel welcome here in Meatspace!