Mendo Island Journal — Timely. Useful. Sometimes Cranky.

Todd Walton: Critical Delusion

In Around Mendo Island, Guest Posts on November 19, 2010 at 6:59 am

Under The Table

“The fraudulent practices that got people into homes they couldn’t afford are at the heart of our problem.” Robert Scheer

There is no doubt I am happier and more productive and healthier and much more hopeful when I lose touch with the world outside the local watershed; and I am especially happier when I don’t read articles by Robert Scheer and Chris Hedges and Jim Kunstler and other brave and intelligent left-of-the-now-non-existent-center pundits. When I do read articles by these folks, or essays by relatively moderate commentators like Paul Krugman, I feel depressed and hopeless and mentally bludgeoned because these well-meaning folks keep saying the same things over and over again, week after week, month after month.

So to climb out of my slough of despond, I abstain for days on end from news of the outside world, and the bloom returns to my cheeks, and my writing picks up steam, and new melodies present themselves, and I improve as a husband and friend and neighbor, and I start to think life is pretty okay; and then someone sends me an incisively gruesome article or someone emails me a link to a frightening treatise, and I am once more sucked into reading commentaries elucidating how and why things in the great big world are, indeed, going from bad to worse, and I feel bludgeoned again, and while I’m being bludgeoned I try to make sense of the avalanche of facts about the legions of crooks who own and run the world, though the ultimate sense to be made is the same sense I’ve been making since they ran Jimmy Carter out of office in 1980 with a fake oil shortage, to wit: we’re headed for even bigger economic and environmental catastrophes than the ones we’re in the midst of.

And it occurred to me as I was reading Robert Scheer’s recent tirade from which I culled the opening quote—The fraudulent practices that got people into homes they couldn’t afford are at the heart of our problem—that I have the same difficulty with Scheer and Hedges and Krugman and Kunstler that I had with most of the speakers at the anti-war rallies during the George Bush years, which is that these angry intelligent people are so stuck on exposing the already entirely exposed current crop of crooks that they don’t delve deeply enough into human nature.

For instance, yes, millions of people were duped into buying homes they couldn’t afford, but that is not the heart of the story. To get to the heart, I will pose and answer three questions. 1. Why were those tens of millions of fraudulently sold houses so incredibly expensive? 2. Why were tens of millions of people so easily duped into buying absurdly expensive houses? 3. Why, in the recent California election, did a majority of voters defeat a proposition that would have, for eighteen dollars a year, made our several hundred fabulous state parks wholly viable and free to everyone?

The answers to these questions are:

1. In 1996, in the working class neighborhood where I lived in Berkeley, California, a little (and I mean tiny) house went on the market for 139,000 dollars. After six months on the market, this eensy teensy house sold for 119,000. However, four years later in 2000, this same iddy biddy house sold for 540,000 dollars, and my neighborhood was working class no more. Two years later, in 2002, this same miniscule home sold for 790,000 dollars. Now, honestly, these price increases did not occur because of fraudulent practices. These increases occurred because of collective insanity springing from greed, fear, and delusion. Thus I conclude that collective insanity is the answer to why all those eventually fraudulently sold houses were so expensive and unaffordable even had they been sold without a hint of fraud.

2. Many millions of people were so easily duped into buying insanely expensive houses they could not afford because they, the duped people, were greedy, fearful, and delusional. Why they and most Americans were and are greedy and fearful and delusional is another question, one might even call it The Big Question, and I’m coming to that.

3. The majority of voters in the last election voted against paying eighteen dollars a year—the same eighteen dollars they spend on useless crap every day—for eternal free admission to hundreds of groovy state parks because they, the No voters, are greedy, fearful, and delusional. Yep, the same answer as numbers 1 and 2.

Therefore, I conclude that greed, fear, and delusion are at the heart of the economic meltdown, the perpetual state of war, and the takeover of our country by crazy amoral jerks, not fraudulent practices that got people into homes they couldn’t afford. The end. Not quite.

“It is the author’s working assumption that the words good and bad are meaningless.” Buckminster Fuller

Let us investigate greed, fear, and delusion, shall we? Okay. I will endeavor to make this interesting rather than depressing. Greed, I think we can agree, is born of fear. People who constantly overeat and over-consume (expressions of greed) are afraid they won’t get enough to eat and will die of starvation. This fear-induced greed, whether partially or entirely unconscious, was probably ignited in the greedy gobblers in early childhood and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a real lack of food or safety, but springs from primal fears that every human is genetically prone to. Once the fears of starvation and/or homelessness are ignited in a person, quelling those fears is no easy task.

Over the course of my life, I have known a good number of people with millions of dollars, and none of these millionaires considered themselves wealthy or felt they had enough money. When I asked them why they didn’t think they had enough money, the universal answer was that they lived in fear of some sort of catastrophe rendering them poor and homeless and soon to die of starvation or worse.

Some of these millionaires were children of the Great Depression, some were grandchildren of the Great Depression, and a few were great grandchildren of the Great Depression. None of these millionaires felt they had enough money to be safe, which is why they needed more money than the millions they already had. How much more? As much as they could get until they died so they could leave as much money and property as they could to their children who would also never have enough no matter how much they got. In other words, they were all insane. And more importantly, you and I are no less insane; we simply lack those millions of dollars.

Indeed, I think that the acknowledgment and understanding of our inherited collective insanity is the key ingredient missing in the diatribes of Hedges and Scheer and Krugman and myriad other alarmist writers. These well-meaning pundits preach that corporate crooks and their political proxies and the crooks’ fathers and grandfathers did such horrible fraudulent things because they, the crooks, are inherently evil, i.e. insane. But the deeper truth is that these crooks are merely standout psychopaths in our vast population of crazy people.

“Humanity is moving ever deeper into crisis—a crisis without precedent.” Buckminster Fuller

So what is the solution? Few pundits offer pragmatic suugestions about how we might solve the problems caused by the insane elite manipulating our collective insanity. They, the pundits, speak in grandiose terms about throwing the crooks in jail or shifting our national economic policies in ways the insane crooks will never permit unless we overthrow them in a violent revolution, and I’m too old for that. However, I am confident we have the power to cure our society of the insanity that grips us.

First, we need to admit that we, you and I, are part of the problem. To that end, please repeat after me. I am greedy and fearful and part of our collective insanity. You didn’t repeat that after me, did you? Come on. Give it a try. I am greedy and fearful and part of our collective insanity. Good. Speaking the truth can weaken the grip of madness.

Secondly, we need to understand the basis of our greed and fear and resultant insanity. And that basis is, drum roll, please…our belief that there is not enough for everyone—not enough food or money or houses or fun. Why do we believe this? Because it used to be true, but it isn’t true anymore. Through the grace of collective genius and accumulated knowledge and the collaboration of the universe, we now possess the wherewithal and know-how to provide every person and every living thing on earth with enough of what they need to live healthy, happy, and meaningful lives.

You flinched, didn’t you, when you read that last line? Or you stiffened or frowned or thought This guy is nuts. Why? Because you don’t believe there is enough for everyone. But there is. Prove it, you say. There are now seven billion people on earth, you say. The fisheries are depleted. The biosphere is threatened with massive pollution and degradation beyond the point of no return. War! Famine! There can’t be enough for everyone. It’s natural to be fearful and greedy. We’re not delusional; you’re the delusional one, Todd. You with your Buckminster Fuller bullshit. There isn’t enough for everyone. There’s not. There’s not!

Yes, there is. And I’m glad you brought up Buckminster Fuller because Bucky, besides inventing the geodesic dome, wrote a book entitled Critical Path, the last book he published before he died; and in Critical Path he expresses the hope that whomsoever groks (deeply absorbs and understands) his message will try to translate Bucky’s stream of consciousness prophecies and revelations into language and art and technology and design and behavior that will open the minds of others to the paradigm-shifting truth that, among other things, there is enough for everyone, and we need to focus our individual and collective genius on transforming human culture to reflect that truth.

By the way, the expression critical path refers to the steps to be taken in order to accumulate and apply sufficient knowledge pursuant to accomplishing a particular goal. Bucky’s introductory example of a critical path process is the challenge posed by President Kennedy to design and implement the safe transport of humans to and from the moon, a task that required many quantum leaps in knowledge and technology in a very short span of time to accomplish the stated goal and simultaneously illustrate the astonishing things our well-funded collective genius might accomplish.

In conclusion, we need an all-nation critical path program to reverse global environmental collapse and to give everyone enough to live healthy and fulfilling lives. And while we’re helping to implement this marvelous global program, each of us can work on programming our individual psyches to accept the truth that we, collectively, have enough for everybody. And because there is enough for everybody, we no longer need to be fearful or greedy or delusional. There is enough for you, enough for me, enough for everyone. There really truly is.

(This essay first appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser November 2010)

Astrologers have told Todd that his natal chart indicates preternatural optimism. His cheerful web site is

  1. Ol’ Bucky also penned another interesting tome titled “Nine Chains To The Moon”, wherein he postulated his thesis of history concerning the first true internationalists, the so-called Great Pirates, who had a lot to do with the foundation and institutionalization of the fraudulent practices cited above. So even Fuller seems to understand that along side the fabulous possibilities and potentials are some very real structural problems and a deep manipulation/control agenda that has been intentionally pursued over the ages. What exactly keeps us from collectively implementing this obvious “Critical Path” solution? Aren’t things bad enough? I don’t share the need to own everything so I don’t know the answer, but the notion that there really is plenty for all goes at least all the way back to the Sermon On The Mount, and yet still we struggle.

    Which doesn’t change the fact that doomster blogging is now a successful cottage industry, and turning off the TV & computer will almost always produce a feeling of spaciousness and freedom.

    Over and out.

  2. Thank you very much Todd for your sincere lament. Pretty much everyone who feels feels your pain, as it is theirs too, and mine.

    OTOH, on the issue of individual character, I suspect that you agree that our actions speak for our spirits better than our words. I know many who act selflessly on a regular basis, make sacrifices both of time and money, to help others to whom they are neither in debt or for fear of criticism lest they withhold that assistance.

    If I were to be forced to supply you with a simple answer for the complex question of why everything is falling apart and our expression of so much discomfort with the messengers, I would say that our Achilles heel has been our credulousness toward authority. Like the Red Queen we set about to believe as many impossible things that our leaders tell us as possible. The killing blow was for authority to convince us that we, as part of our humans nature, are seriously flawed and therefore dependent on our betters for guidance. Set that up for a tribe of intelligent sociopaths and the rest is all the history there is. So called “history” is a big part of the problem. We have been robbed of our actual history which has been replaced by a series of narratives and myths in which we, as ordinary humans, are cast as miserable, clueless, amoral idiots. The source of all of this rewriting of history and substituting of a pack of lies, where self respect should reign, is the top of whatever class structure is in power. Intelligent people can always be trusted (as is also true of the rest of us) to slant a story in the direction of their own interests very skillfully.

    The fact is that this system of jerry rigged social relations that we call “civilization” is simply flawed at the root by the introduction of the idea of legitimate coercion in the pursuit of advantage in the social arena. But that is largely the venue of the special people, not for little people like ourselves. Amongst ourselves we little people do quite well actually. We routinely demonstrate acts of courage and sacrifice regardless of what our propaganda addled brains may be making our lips say. Although the scribblers routinely paint us as otherwise, given the opportunity, we are proud of our good characters, which makes us very poor competitors since we exercise restraint in asserting advantage. That is the essence of being an ordinary person.

    We, the little people of the US, are not the problem, even if we are going nuts under the stress of tyrannical gangster rule and frequently making embarrassing scenes in public.

    We, the little people of the US, could form mock Grand Juries and hear evidence and come to some conclusions about what is wrong and what to do about it from an educated perspective, but, unfortunately such initiatives can be expected to be blocked by those who believe only in prices, not equal justice under law.

    All the crap that is going down doesn’t depress me because, I think, I have no vested interest in maintaining much of anything from our rotten status quo. That is why I don’t refer to myself as a “doomer.” It seems like a term of disrespect, by the way. Personally I think of myself as a catastrophist where catastrophe is seen as the inevitable cure for hopelessly dysfunctional systems.
    You seem like a really nice, intelligent guy. I totally support any personal decision you may make to avoid stressful inputs. Go enjoy the beach instead. I would.

  3. Well, I thought about going to the beach today, a beautiful negative tide this afternoon, but it was so cold and wet I decided to skip it. I did have a nice ramble around the village doing errands, and now I’m home stoking the fire to get the house warm. My point, perhaps not well made and intentionally oversimplified, is that so long as we, collectively, operate on the principle that there is not enough for everyone, then we’ve got a collective situation conducive to ruthless power grabbing and the maintenance of that power at all costs. The reasons for this compose history; and history, as herb so adroitly points out, is a problem for reasons that would and have filled many a book.

    I took a course during my brief stint in college from Norman O. Brown, the first course he taught at UC Santa Cruz in 1968. The course was entitled Myth and History, and Norman was greatly puzzling and disturbing to most of the people he lectured to because he spoke in poetry with magnificent pauses between thoughts, and he was forever suggesting that so-called history was mythology slanted, as herb suggests, to serve the ruling elite. The New Testament, we now know, is an anthology of gospels, the editors of which left out several really groovy gospels that suggested one might connect with God directly. Only those gospels that said one must go through Jesus via an accredited priest to connect with God made it into the collection. And we know what resulted from those editorial decisions.

    I’ve gotten three emails so far from people trying to explain to me why I and Buckminster Fuller are wrong about there being enough for everyone, never mind that when Bucky wrote Critical Path there were barely three billion people on earth and now there are seven. Obviously distribution of resources is a vast challenge, as is over-population, but I honestly think we have the capacity, whether we use that capacity or not, even despite our overlords, to effectively change the way we collectively and individually operate on spaceship earth. Imagine if through conscious effort millions of people who had not done so before began to “routinely demonstrate acts of courage and sacrifice.” I think there would be a sea change in our culture and in the world.

    Per herb’s suggestion, next sunny day I’m going to the beach. Meanwhile, I will continue to work my ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, at extremely variable pay, and hope to swing a few folks around to my way of thinking and making music.

    • I think it has been well-proven for years, UN and Food First, that we grow enough food to feed the world and it is distribution that is the problem.

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