From JOHN MICHAEL GREER
The Archdruid Report
Last week’s Archdruid Report post, despite its wry comparison of industrial civilization’s current predicament with the plots and settings of pulp fantasy fiction, had a serious point. Say what you will about the failings of cheap fantasy novels—and there’s plenty to be said on that subject, no question—they consistently have something that most of the allegedly more serious attempts to make sense of our world usually lack: the capacity to envision truly profound change.
That may seem like an odd claim, given the extent to which contemporary industrial society preens itself on its openness to change and novelty. Still, it’s one of the most curious and least discussed features of that very openness that the only kinds of change and novelty to which it applies amount to, basically, more of the same thing we’ve already got. A consumer in a modern industrial society is free to choose any of a dizzying range of variations on a suffocatingly narrow range of basic options—and that’s equally true whether we are talking about products, politics, or lifestyles.
I suppose the automobile is the most obvious example, but it has dimensions not always recognized and these bear a closer look. To begin with, the vast majority of cars for sale these days are simply ringing changes on a suite of technologies that was introduced in the late 19th century and hit maturity close to fifty years ago. That’s as true of electric and hybrid cars, by the way, as it is of the usual kind—the hype surrounding the so-called “hybrid revolution” conveniently fails to mention that the same system has been used for more than sixty years in diesel-electric locomotives, and cars powered by electricity were common on American roads before the Big Three auto firms succeeded in getting a stranglehold on the industry during the last Great Depression. Steam-powered cars were also to be had back then—the Stanley Steamer was a famous brand; try finding one now.
What variations can be found nowadays are almost entirely a matter of style rather than substance, and this becomes even more evident when it’s recognized that the auto is simply one way