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Weekly Digest: At the Ark Head
Welcome to my weekly digest for September 30, 2022.
For new subscribers, this contains a roundup of my recent writings and podcasts, as well as links to the best articles from around the web this week. You can control what emails you get from me by visiting your account page.
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At the Ark Head
One day after my post this week about five ways to respond to societal decline, in which I identify “Build an Ark” as one of the strategies, Venkatesh Rao at Ribbonfarm (which has a lot of popular articles but may be most famous for the “Gervais Principle”) dropped a piece called “Ark Head.” In it he describes how people in our society are starting to exhibit ark building like behaviors. Like many of his pieces, it’s very interesting. Here’s an excerpt:
One mental model for this condition is what I call ark head, as in Noah’s Ark. We’ve given up on the prospect of actually solving or managing most of the snowballing global problems and crises we’re hurtling towards. Or even meaningfully comprehending the gestalt. We’ve accepted that some large fraction of those problems will go unsolved and unmanaged, and result in a drastic but unevenly distributed reduction in quality of life for most of humanity over the next few decades. We’ve concluded that the rational response is to restrict our concerns to a small subset of local reality–an ark–and compete for a shrinking set of resources with others doing the same. We’re content to find and inhabit just one zone of positivity, large enough for ourselves and some friends. We cross our fingers and hope our little ark is outside the fallout radius of the next unmanaged crisis, whether it is a nuclear attack, aliens landing, a big hurricane, or (here in California), a big wildfire or earthquake.
We’ve concluded the flood cannot be stopped, and we’re building arks to retreat to. The specifics of the arks don’t matter: utopian city-states, tech sectors (like AI, crypto, or metaverse) that seem capable of weathering the flood, narrow altruistic ventures, or artistic subcultures. With or without DAOs and Discord servers. If you can retreat within it, and either tune out or delusionally recode the rest of reality, it works as an ark. The point of an ark is to survive a cataclysmic flood while preserving as much of everything you care about as possible. Not to make sense of the world past the hull. Ark-head is a survivalist mindset, not a sensemaking mindset. If there are portholes in the hull of your ark, all you see out there is stormy flooding, and you don’t care to make sense of it.
Ark-head is an interesting collective diagnosis. It’s not depression, anxiety PTSD, or collective brain fog, though all those currently common comorbidities tighten the grip of ark-head on the psyche. It’s an unconsciously adopted survivalist mindset that draws boundaries around itself as tightly as necessary to maintain the ability to function. It’s a pragmatic abandonment of universalist conceits to save your sanity. If caring about the world leads you into futile anxiety-provoking derangement syndromes and PTSD, you draw the circle tighter and tighter until you can care and function.
Click over to read the whole thing.
It’s interesting to see Rao picking up on the same theme at the same time as me. It helps convince me that I’m right to see a broadening perception of a state of societal decline. And I’m gratified that he also sees the Build an Ark strategy as one of the key coping mechanisms.
New Content and Media Mentions
New this week:
Five ways to respond to societal decline (paid only) - An examination of strategies I label Resist and Reform, Accelerate the Collapse, Enjoy the Decline, Build an Ark, and Deny and Proceed.
My podcast this week is on how to view the media’s reporting on foreign countries. Following people like Noam Chomsky, I argue that contrary to popular belief, the media tends to support the government line in reporting on foreign countries of interest to our establishment. Paid subscribers can read the transcript.
At American Reformer this week Scott Yenor writes about family policy for a great country.
Note that American Reformer has a great looking updated web site so be sure to check it out.
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Will the Generator Become the New Air Conditioner?
Back in February I did a podcast on the third worldization of America (paid subscribers can read the transcript). One of our great stereotypes of the third world is unreliable power. In that podcast I go into detail on some Wall Street Journal reporting that objectively shows our electric grid reliability is in decline, and how the number of people and organizations installing their own backup power generation has soared.
An article in Michigan’s Macomb Daily (a suburban Detroit newspaper, I believe) speaks to this issue of grid reliability as an issue there, and highlights further anecdotes about the exploding rates of people installing generators. Here’s a quote:
When Joe Brewer took over his father's electrical contracting business, Metro Electric, there wasn't much demand for standby generators that provide homeowners with backup electrical power to HVAC systems, security systems, and household appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, and water heaters. They were considered costly and unwarranted.
That's no longer the case.
With Michiganders experiencing more power outages and for longer periods of time the demand grew and in 2015, Brewer's business expanded to include the installation and maintenance of standby generators. He sold 20 in that first year and the numbers have been doubling ever since. In 2021, the company installed nearly 400 residential and commercial generators. "It's really been picking up in the last five years," said Brewer, who had purchased the building next door in order to accommodate the growing business. "These are all generators being installed," he said during a tour of the Romeo warehouse. What used to be a luxury has become as standard as air conditioning.
Click through to read the whole thing.
When backup generators costing thousands of dollars are starting to become standard equipment even in residential properties, this is a very negative sign about the state of our core infrastructure.
You Don’t Have to Buy from Businesses that Hate You
It’s no secret that a lot of businesses have become explicitly leftist, leaving many conservatives buying from companies that explicitly oppose them and their values.
New Founding’s ALIGN newsletter curates businesses from around the country that don’t advertise that they hate conservatives. It’s a great list even for liberals to join because the ALIGN folks find so many high quality, made in America products, often owned by amazing entrepreneurs. I’ve bought from multiple companies I found through this, including most recently Crayon Rocks. There are also often special deals and promotions.
They’ve now launched a beta version of the ALIGN Guide, which is a database of hundreds of these companies. It’s a great place to find amazing American products from people who love our country and share your values.
Full disclosure: I have done consulting work for New Founding
Best of the Web
NYT: For Suburban Texas Men, a Workout Craze With a Side of Faith - This is a great front page profile of the F3 - fitness, fellowship, faith - early morning workout craze. Just remember: you read it here first. I interviewed F3’s president Frank “Dark Helmet” Schwartz last year. Note: despite the name, this is not actually a Christian ministry. People of any faith or no faith at all are accepted as full participants. It might better be called fitness, fellowship, and spirituality.
Richard Reeves: A Nation of Boys at Risk - American Compass posted this excerpt from a new book by the Brookings Institution’s Senior Fellow Richard Reeves’ new book Of Boys and Men. I’m not convinced that a lack of male teachers is the main issue with schools and boys. Take more men and put them through today’s teacher training and into today’s heavily ideologically constrained school environment and I’m not sure it would make a big difference. Also, more career and technical education could be good if it facilitated people with an aptitude and interest in skilled trades like electrician or plumber going into those fields. But done poorly - and since it’s America it probably will be done poorly - this could just shunt more men into lower paying, lower opportunity fields. We are not Germany, where there’s still a large base of high paying, highly skilled manufacturing employment in specialty firms.
Yahoo: The wealth gap between single and married Americans has more than doubled in the last decade - “And at a time when more people are staying single for longer, building wealth on your own is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Vox: The child care crisis just keeps getting worse - Pandemic shortages of day care persist. One problem is that the industry is built on sub-living wage labor. But paying a humane wage would dramatically raise the price of day care. I explored this in my IFS piece on the DIY family last year.
WSJ: Billionaire Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Files for Divorce From Second Husband - Unlike many, I don’t take pleasure in the relationship struggles of others. It’s interesting that after Jeff Bezos, she married a school teacher the second time around. Whether it be to a billionaire or an Average Joe, the degree of difficulty dial on marriage in the US has been turned up a lot.
John Harris, a co-founder of Politico there, calls for the US Constitution to be re-written in order to prevent any future Republican president from governing in a conservative manner. Similar to the New York Times op-ed by law professors from Harvard and Yale saying that the constitution is broken and should not be reclaimed, this is another example of how the left, despite its endless talk about “our democracy,” has only the shallowest of commitments to our institutions and constitutional system of government. The minute the wrong person gets elected or those institutions start doing something of which they disapprove, their ostensible respect for them goes out the window.
The rapper Coolio passed away this week. Dan Ozzi posted an excerpt with an interview he had with Coolio that sheds light on the nature of male feuds and how they can be resolved.
Also, somebody posted a tweet thread with four excerpts a from Sylvester Stallone interview in 1977, just after Rocky came out. This is an amazing and unexpected interview.