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Kate Devlin

May 29th, 2011

What Would Jesus Do? (Part I) @ 02:35 pm

I am not a Christian,not a "believer" but I find myself increasingly fascinated by the various theories kicking around about the nature of the "historical Jesus". Growing up I got something of a religious education, on and off, at several Lutheran churches,Sunday Schools and confirmation classes my parents enrolled me in in between moves around the Northeast US. Growing I've also gone to a large number of church services of various "mainline", i.e. non-fundamentalist Protestant denominations. My religious education, if that's what its to be called, had always been lacking. The various religious teachers tried to make the material "relevant", and trendy and hip, something which is essentially impossible with Christianity. The upshot is that never really learned the "bible stories; part of any Westerner's cultural literacy and most of what I know along those lines I picked up later.Admittedly of course as an adolescent Christianity and the bible was pretty far from being a core interest of mine. Anyway.....

As I mentioned I've gone to a lot of church services growing up. Some sermons were quite good, a fair number were dreck. I could never understand even the best church sermons though. I literally could not make heads or tails of most of what was said. The central idea is that somehow or other "God" the prime mover of the universe, took human form once and only once as a poor carpenter's son in a somewhat backward area of the Roman Empire 2000 something years ago.As a little kid I was something of a science nut and from a scientific worldview this just does not make any sense.

The many church services I'd been to told us that we were supposed to be either grateful, relieved, or generally over joyed about the "good news" of Jesus. Somehow if we believed in Jesus we would be saved, although what exactly we would be saved from and for was always vague.Generally we were to be saved from our sins, somehow, although the more sophisticated sermons didn't dwell on that as much. Anyway sometimes the salvation story was expressed very simplistically, in a borderline fundamentalist way, and at other times this idea was expressed more poetically as almost a spiritual metaphor."Believe in the Lord and you'll be saved" or "have faith in Christ and you can be spiritually redeemed by trusting in His example" Either way it never did anything for me. Except for a few brief periods I have never felt particularly guilty or "sinful", why would I need my "sins to be forgiven", I didn't feel I did anything wrong or that I should feel guilty about. I didn't need to be "redeemed"The guilt and redemption meme didn't apply to me.

Churches I'd been to tried hard to drum into our heads a missionary drive. We are lucky that we are Christians and we "know the good news", its our duty to tell this to others. One day coming home from Sunday School I told my Dad about this, that we should "share the good news of Jesus". My Dad got me off this pretty quickly."Why should we have to convince other people of one particular religion? Why not let people believe what they want? I had to admit he was right, I didn't have any answer to this. In recent years I've come to intensely dislike missionaries.

The only which attempted to explain the Christian idea of the "miracle" of the resurrection was the "Story of Pi" by Yann Martel, a Spanish-Canadian writer. A young Indian boy is lost at sea , alone in a small boat with a ferocious hungry tiger. By "sacrificing" and making offers to keep the tiger at boy. Eventually the boy is able to develop some sort of relationship of mutual respect and make friends with the tiger. It suddenly dawned on me, after all these years, that's what Christianity is supposed to be about.

Another way Christianity may make some kind of sense is the gnostic/existentialist interpretation of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, best expressed in "Though A Scanner Darkly" (the book is far better than the movie). The novels follows the adventures or mnisadventures of a futuristic nark agent (or double agent) and the gradual disintegration of his mind though massive drug use and the sense of community he finds, or tries to find in the "futuristic" but highly burnt out and deeply alienated counter-culture of the 1990s.One by one the hero watches his friends have their brains fried. He observes all this though his own deteriorating sense of perception.Its sad and quite moving and the story is a fictionalized version of PKD's own life in the 1960s and 70s.

The novel ends with the hope that someday, in "the fullness of time" the protagonist will again be made whole.

That's the only way Christianity could make any sense to me.

April 5th, 2011

Only One Globe Music @ 03:56 pm

I got a website up. Its called "Only One Globe Music". Its an attempt to promote unique musicians from around the world. I'm picking artists I like who seem to be expressing the nascent "global culture" we are moving into. I am wary of cultural misappropriation and sometimes phony "worldbeat" music, but I am trying to showcase what I think is the real thing.

Yes, I am hoping to make money off this. I'll see what happens. Right now I'm linked with Amazon. I'm hoping to break out of this and find a way of dealing directly with the musicians.

I'm using a Wordpress blog format. Wordpress is open source and easy and fun to use. I'm not entirely sure if its the best way for me to go with this project.

This is very much of a work in progress. I admit I'm a newbie at this.If anyone reading this has any advice or suggestions lease let me know. I need all the constructive criticism I can get.


March 31st, 2011

Namoli Brennet @ 10:26 am

Namoli Brennnet is a young transgendered folk singer based in Arizona. I've been intrigued by her for a while. I haven't seen her in concert although I'd like to. "Goodnight Arizona is very moving.

The quality of this video is not the greatest, it seems many of her videos are temporarily down. This should provide a good look at her; Her website;


March 28th, 2011

The Heart of A Heartless World @ 08:46 pm

I came across this comment, from a website/blog of a Facebook friend. Its the best take on the Marxist view of religion/spirituality (something easily misundersttod) that  I've seen so far.
First a comment from the late Kurt Vonnegut

…But there are still plenty of people who will tell you that the most evil thing about Karl Marx was what he said about religion. He said it was the opium of the lower classes, as though he thought religion was bad for people, and he wanted to get rid of it.
But when Marx said that, back in the 1840s, his use of the word „opium“ wasn’t simply metaphorical. Back then real opium was the only painkiller available, for toothaches or cancer of the throat, or whatever. He himself had used it.
As a sincere friend of the downtrodden, he was saying he was glad they had something which could ease their pain at least a little bit, which was religion. He liked religion for doing that, and certainly didn’t want to abolish it. OK?
He might have said today as I say tonight, „Religion can be Tylenol for a lot of unhappy people, and I’m glad it works.“

and an answer

Monty Casin

When Marx said that „religion is the Opiate of the people“, he did not mean to deride religious advocates. He was merely remarking about just what you have said, religion’s tendency to „salve“ the wounds caused by oppression and inequality (feudalism, slavery, wage-labor, European colonialism, etc.) without redressing the wounds inflicted by that oppression, eg., the tendency of esoteric sects–Dominicans, Franciscans, Carthusians, etc. to „flee the sins of the world and devote themselves to God“– Marx would compare this tendency to the administration of an opiate, dealing with the symptoms (the immediate unpleasantness of inequality) rather than the illness itself (the conditions that create that inequality). This is not the most proper distillation of his philosophy of religion, which can most properly be found in his Contribution to a Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and The Poverty of Philosophy which both attack traditionalist, rationalist and idealistic doctrines (religious or secular), which he argues fail to see the necessarily interconnected nature of the material and ideal realms, which eventually led Marx to distance himself from his own Hegelian roots, while yet „coquetting“ some of the terminology (as late as „Capital“ he refers to „contradictions“ and „antinomies“, a term Hegel borrowed from Kant, and Kant from the Patrician theologians, at large).

Though I am not arguing the Church is itself a success or a failure (by what standards would we measure this, even?), I will assert that it is in the interests of human progress to encourage and promote not only toleration but diversity in community, that, furthermore, cultural conformity and homogeneity stifle diversity and arguably hinder society from engaging in pressing issues, eg., redressing the exploitation of labor, organizing the proletarian as a class, critiquing existing power relations, advancing the rights of minority groups, etc. Though I do not believe it must necessarily take the form of explicit advocacy, I think that to the public confession of faith amounts to religious advocacy and derails inquiry into these pressing social concerns. After encountering various intellectual arguments for Christianity, it has come to my attention that most of these just don’t hold water. The typical argument lays claim to tradition as a foundation for belief, when this is tantamount to arguing „if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.“ If this were the case, we would view the structure of atoms as Democritus explained them, the revolution of the sun as Ptolemy taught us, the passage of time as Kant described it to us and so forth, when we know better. Just because a certain belief is historically entrenched does not mean it is right.

Read the whole thing here. The guy's blog is definitely worth check9ing out.


The relationship between Marxism and religion/spirituality is something I've been interested in for a long time. I will be writing more about this i  future entry.


March 23rd, 2011

The pot is almost boiling @ 11:46 am

The Arab Revolution of the past few months has been one of the most exciting things to happen in decades. Unpopular kleptocratic gerontocratic dictaors were overthown in a matter of weeks. I became somewhat emotionally involved in the events in Egypt's Tahrir Square. At the peak of the Cairo protests I spent a whole day glued to CNN.For a time I suspected there might be a Tianamen Square style massacre in Cairo, it seemed like that was in the cards. I almost started to cry one day as I heard how journalists were being chased away from the scene. Western journalists were being scared away while Egyptian and Arab journalists were physically assaulted. The protestors held their own and, to an extent, asserted their "hegemony" in a "war of position" (yeah, I've been reading Gramsci)

Mubarak was forced out!. The old ruling classes are still running things in Egypt and Tunisia but the popular forces have gained important victories.

The media makes the Arab Revolution look like it's technology driven, its a "Twitter Revolution". Its not technology driven, its class struggle driven. Technology and "social media" provide an important vehicle and organizing point but they certainly didn't create the situation. Yemen, a very poor country with a low literacy level and where few people have Internet access is undergoing a revolution right now. It looks like the president could be pushed out any day now. The army is divided and there may be some sort of military coup.

The situation in Libya is more complicated. One of the best takes on the situation there is here:


The World Socialist Website also has some interesting articles



In a nutshell:

Qaddafi is a shit. He's a repressive kleptocratic dictator despised by most of his people. Unlike the other Arab countries the revolt in that country does not appear to be as directly working class based. We should still support the Libyan Revolution. I do not support Western intervention, the "no fly zone", the bombing, etc.There is no such thing as "humanitarian intervention". I oppose Qaddafi, support the rebels, while also opposing interventiion. The Libyan people are capable of fighting their own revolution.

I do not fully understand the reasons for Western intervention, what is really behind this. I may be naive. Western powers clearly want to influence the direction of the Arab Revolution. It cannot be allowed to develop into a threat to the oil supply and toUS and French hegemony in that region.

The intervention does not appear to have a stated political goal. What's the purpose of it? To protect the rebels, protect Benghazi from a masscre which may have happened if Qaddaffi retook the city, to enforce some sort of cease fire? None of this makes sense. It appears the intervention was motivated by a short tern "use it or lose it" mentality. If the revolution had been crushed and Western powers did not intervene, this would be a blatant weakening of power of the West. Power doesn't mean anything usless its used. My theory, anyway.

The logic of the intervention will obviously soon move towards "regime change". Whether this is stated or not the Western powers want to overthrow Qaddafi and install a "comprador" puppet regime similar to that of Karzai in Afghanistan or Maliki in Iraq. I have a feeling that, as tragic as the situation in Libya already is, it could become a lot worse.Qaddaffi is portrayed in the media as a complete nutter. He may very well be suffering from borderline personality disorder. This shouldn't disguise the fact that he, or whoever is running things in his regime (possibly his son Sayeed) is highly intelligent and seems to be making all the right moves to restabilize the regime. I also have a hunch that things will not go smoothly for the US and European powers.


Down with Qaddaffi!
Support the Libyan rebels!
No to Western intervention!

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign........ @ 11:07 am

From now on I will try to be faithful to livejournal and I will make regular posts. I've had some huge ups and downs in my life recently, I am a very private person. I don't necessarily want to share every detail of my life with everyone on the planet who speaks English and has Internet acess. I am going to make a fair number of future entries "friends only". If you are interested in reading this, send me a message describing yourself and if I either judge you to be a cool person or if I know you in real life, I'll be happy to add you.

March 17th, 2011

The Cult of The Angels @ 09:39 pm

I came across a fascinating, "real life" religion recently. I have known that there are several highly syncretic religions that exist in enclaves among the Kurds, a people who live in northern Iraq, parts of Iran, Syria and other countries. The Kurds are a people who, because of the vicissitudes of history, do not have a homeland or a nation-state of their own. I guess Iraqi Kurdistan, since 1991 essentially independent comes close to this. Right now I don't want to get too bogged down in Kurdish history or politics, which I'm far from an expert on.

I have known about the Yazdanism (there seem to be a zillion different ways of spelling this). Yazdanism is a monotheistic religion which seems to have borrowed from Zoastrianism, Christianity, Islam,Sufiism, Gnosticism, perhaps Hinduism and (excuse my pun), god knows what else.  This religion believes there has been several different creations and the Divine has appeared in the form of avatars in different epochs.

Since Iraq fell into chaos after the US invasion these people have been increasingly persecuted. I forget the details, but there was a  sectarian fueled murder, a massacre really of Yazdis several years ago.

There is also another Kurdish religion ,Yarsanism, sometimes called Ahi-i-haq, which means "People of the Truth". Yarsanism also has an interesting and complex cosmology with a system of primary and secondary avatars appearing in successive epochs. It seems to be a complex melange of some form of pre-Islamic paganism,Mithraism , Zoastrianism and Shia Islam. It also seems closely intertwined with a very esoteric form of Sufiism. Yarsanism (it has several sects or branches) generally seems much closer to Shia Islam than Yazdanism. People studying this religion can't decide how to classify it. This religion believes in a sort of progressive evolution guided by a World Spirit. Yeah, it sounds very much like Hegel. Yarsanianism has incorporated several ancient Iranian revolutionary movements, such as the Mazdaks, and a group called the Red Hats, into its cosmology.

I've been fascinated by these religions. I'm intrigued more by the fact that a seemingly non-Abrahamic monotheisms (if that's what they are) exist and I haven't yet studied their beliefs thoroughly.

Okay, I was researching these religions and I came across some interesting info on < http://www.kurdistanica.com/?q=node/103> which has a ton of information on Kurdish religions (but so far they seem a bit slim on other aspects of Kurdish culture). Kurdistanica in turn seems to get their infomation largely from a Dr. Mehrdad R. Izady, an American scholar who seems to be an expert in this field. According to Izady both Yarsanianism and Yazdanism are branches of a religion called the "Cult of the Angels". According to Izady the Alawi sect, prominent in Syria, is the third major branch of the Cult of the Angels. There are smaller branches as well. Incidentally the secretive Alawis are the fifth largest religion in the world. The Alawis appear to be a branch of Shia Islam but outsiders who have studied it cannot really classify it. The Alawi religion has a similar cosmological system as the rest of the "Cult", successive creations and avatars. Ali, the son in law of Mohammad and the subject of veneration among Shia is a prominent figure in the Alwai religion, although this is taken (according to Izady) in a very non-Islamic direction.

Izady (whose theories seem to be backed up by others, according to what little research I've done) says the Cult of Angels may be based on a very ancient Indo-European foundations. Like Hinduism this religion has been able to absorb other religions while still retaining its basic structure. The Cult of Angels twice tried to "take over" Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of Persia, surviving among the Parsis of India today, was never popular among the Kurds. However it seems to have received enormous influence from the Cult of Angels several times in its history.  Shia Islam has also been influenced by the Cult, and in turn been influenced by it.

To me, anyway, this kind of ancient lore is fascinating.

I've been intrigued by the "Kushiel" science fiction/fantasy novels of Jocylen Carey. The Kushiel books are set in a sort of alternate 17th century France. Its an alternate world in which something like Christianity exists, only Christians are seen as dour, judgmental, and ultra-puritanical and the religion has never become very popular. Jews exist and are respected. The religion of this society seems to be very similar to, essentially a Western version of, the Cult of the Angels. What I found compelling about this was this religion is portrayed as very sex positive.Their are "sacred courtesans" and temple prostitutes, only without the negative connotations this would have in our world.

The initial action takes place in "Terre d'Angle", Land of the Angels. The religion is the Cult of the Angels in an Enochian/ Gnostic/Christian setting. Jesus (who is a good guy, compared to the evil Yahweh), dying on the cross, fertilized the Earth Mother with his Sacred Semen. A race of angels were born. These angels came to Earth to help humanity. At first they had a hard time of it. Some of them went to India where they weren't treated well. Then they went to Persia, where they were treated very well. Finally the angels founded the Land of the Angels. The aristocracy  of Terre d'Angle is supposed to be partly descended from these angels.

The Kushiel novels follow the career of a young courtesan who is an "anguisette", i.e. a professional masochist. Her clients are decadent aristocrats. Her calling and unconventional sexuality have a religious/spiritual basis.

The Kushiel novels actually did not work for me as novels, I read about two thirds of the first one, Kushiel's Dart but I couldn't really get into it. The plot line was the usual tedious faux medieval adventure story with long drawn out battle scenes. This might be just me of course, the Kushiel novels are extremely popular. I just don't read novels that often. For me the alternate religion and the sexuality of the main character was far more compelling. It was a cross between the geisha culture of Japan and 17th century France in an alternate history setting seemingly based on Kurdish religion. At times I wish a religion like this had been able to take root in the West.

March 14th, 2011

Someday..... @ 03:56 pm

The Future Is Wild II

I've long been fascinated by the future.Ben Franklin once said he felt bad because he wouldn't be able to see the world 100 years in the future. I feel the same way.The future won't necessarily be better or worse, just different.On the other hand, unless there's a major catastrophe or regression, its safe to say that technology (if not society) will be more advanced.

What will the world be like 10, 50, 20, 10 or even 1 year from now? As you can probably tell from my other posts here, I'm a Marxist. Marxism is misunderstood by most people. Its not a doctrine or a dogma or a political plan. Correctly looked at, Marxism is  set of tools for understanding society, history, the dynamics of capitalism, and the nature of historical change.

Marxism sees class struggle as being the main, but not the only, motor of historical change. This can happen in a direct political way though strikes, demonstrations, etc. Class struggle can also influence technological change. The capitalist production of value, which is what the system is based on, is a social relationship based ultimately on working class exploitation.Most mainstream future scenarios, such as the George Friedman book, leave this out entirely. Geo politics, technology, or even alien interventions drives social change. They are avoiding the issue.

Sometime I will try to write a detailed but readable exposition of my understanding of Marxism. A youtube channel, Kapitalism 101 by Brendan Cooney, provides an excellent lessons on Marxist economics..

Right now I'd like to talk about some of my predictions for the future.This won't be a hard hotting analysis but some educated guesses about the direction the world will be heading in.

I'd go as far as to say that 20 years from now the world, at least in its geopolitical configuration, Life for a percentage of the world's population will start to dramatically change as well.

Where am I going with this? Lets see...

As I'm writing (early march, 2011) the Arab Revolution has been going on for  about a month and a half.Kleptocraric dictatorships, closely integrated with European and US capitalism but intensely unpopular at home, have been over thrown in Egypt and Tunisia. Factions of the ruling classes are still in power in those countries but they under siege and are gradually ceding ground under mass pressure.

Muanmar Qaddafi, the dictator of Libya, began his career posing as an Arab socialist and Third World nationalist. Today, 41 years after taking power, its quite obvious the guy is just another brutal kleptocrat, He has to go. Unfortunately the protest movement in Libya has gotten bogged down into a civil war.My guess is that Qaddafi will go down within the next month and a half ( again I'm writing in the beginning of March). Sadly this will probably be very bloody.

Qaddafi has been closely integrated into Western capitalism for quite some time. This is proving to be very embarrassing to European leaders. The head of the London School of Economics had to resign basically for accepting much moolah from Qaddafi in return for allowing his demented son to turn in his ghost written doctoral dissertation.Tony Blair worked as a PR consultant for Qaddafi. way to go Tony!. I thumbed though his autobiography recently, its good for few laughs.

After Qaddafi I think Saudi Arabia will be next. Currently, on the surface, the regime seems stable. Saudi is run as a very efficient police state.The Saudi family, the :House of Saud" operates as a vast, complex patronage network. The oppression of women and the system of gender apartheid reaches bizarre extremes. Women can't drive cars, ride motorcycles, mopeds, or even a bicycle.Recently a woman was whipped for watching a male newscaster on the TV evening news without a male relative with her. About five years ago there was a fire at a girl's school. the religious police wouldn't let the girls out of the burning school because they weren't veiled. They burned to death.

The only religion allowed is Sunni Islam. A fifth of the population is Shi'a but that religion is suppressed.Saudi Arabia has high unemployment and there is growing discontent with the regime.

So far, as I write there have been small protests. Within the next two months this will dramatically increase, especially after Qaddafi goes down.Two or three months from now I think Saudi could be facing an upheaval similar to that currently facing Bahrain.Saudi Arabia obviously is extremely important to the US. Its certain if the Kingdom faces turmoil there will be some sort of US intervention, although the US will try to keep this as indirect as possible.If US troops are involved the situation will be messy.

.On the surface it looks like Iran will come out a winner. The regimes enemies-Saddam Hussein, Mubarak and (temporarily) the Taliban have been taken down. Iran has more influence in Iraq. The theocracy won't be able to take advantage of this for long though.
The theocrcy in Iran will face turmoil although I don't think the regime will go down right away. The protestors have gone way beyond denouncing electoral fraud and have become radicalized. The key is the Iranian working class. There are increasing strikes but as I understand  the worker's movement isn't near a situation of regime change.The government in Iran will be under increasing strain thoufgh the next several years.

The big one here is China. That country is in a similar situation as the Middle East kleptocracies. the rural economy largely collapsed in the 90s. There is mass unemployment among migrant workers. Elements of Chinese society have been relatively immune from the great Recession but there is growing discontent. The number of mass incidents, that is any "unrest" a work stoppage, strike, riot, or insurrection involving more than 25 people has dramatically increased over the past few years. In 2010 there were 200,000 such mass incidents. The PRC state is visibly worried.Much of this unrest though is locally directed. There are still illusions in the top leadership, the "good czar" syndrome. This may be wearing off soon.

There have been a few recent attempt among urban middle class elements to organize protests. These have been easily.suppressed. If a protest movements stemming from peasant or urban working class layers breaks out, this will be more problematic for the regime.My guess is that China will have a "slow motion" slide into an Egyptian style situation.

There are huge real estate bubbles in Beijing, Shanghai, Chonqing, and other cities. The bubble can';t go on too much longer. Families will be stuck with high debts, although Chinese families pool their resources more than in the US, leveling out losses.Regions in China are still growing but much of the growth is fueled by unproductive investment.

For the past 20 years or so there's been unspoken agreement between factions in the CCP. After the crash this is bound to fragment.

The are various ways a scenario could play out but I think that sometime in 011 the regime will dace severe strain by late 2011.The PRC will go down within the next 3 to 5 years.

Somethings that won't happen. "Peak oil" not wih standing, we won't run out of oil anytime soon.No rapture or tribulation.On the other hand no 2012 Harmonic Convergence either.China, for better or worse, won't dominate the world.

In the US;

To make a detailed scenario beyond 2020 (as I'd like to sometime) I would have to know much more than I do about economics, both nationally and globally, natural resources, and political structures. Some guesses though

By the 2030s

Something to look forward to...... @ 02:39 pm

The Future Is Wild

This comes from a BBC miniseries documentary which came out a few years ago. It follows what might happen if the human race suddenly became extinct and goes 200 million years into the future.Its on youtube, although somewhat scattered in different editions.

5 million years from now there's a ice age. Much of North America and Europe are covered by huge ice sheets, as they were a million or so years ago.The videos show seal like animals, evolved from our muskrat, pathetically moving across European tundra, trying to escape their wolf like predators, evolved from rodents. The muskrat/seals animals make a pathetic mewing noise which is both very sad and funny at the same time. Tragicomic might be the best word.The CGI is excellent.

The Amazon rain forest dries up and becomes grassland. There are funky birds, a cross between peacocks and ostriches, being traved by "baboonkaris", carnivorous predators which evolved from our monkeys,

Jump ahead 100 million years. The world is wetter and warmer.Antarctica has been moving northwards. The glaciers melt and the continent becomes temperate.Antarctic birds evolve to fill a variety of niches. Some climb trees, some go back to the ocean. The future birds compete with birdlike insects.Throughout the world mammals are close to becoming extinct with future birds and squid like animals giving them a run for their money. The last remaining mammal is a sad mole like animal.

200 million years from now;

Within the past 100 million years there has been a major species die of (this has happened several times in our planet's past).Mollusks-descendants of snails, barnacles,slugs, and squid, have emerged as the dominant life forms. Slug like animals the size of elephants lumber though tropical rain forests, filled with vegetarian much different from anything from anything in our world.Our flying fish have become literally flying fish and have taken the place of birds.

Continental drift continues and 20 million years from now the world's continents have again combined to form a gigantic Pangaea super continent. The interior region of the super continent will be largely inhospitable desert.

Overall this is a fun series. There's intelligent (but for me a bit tedious) discussion of the dynamics of evolution. Its possible to skip over this and look at  future animals.

Another work, a book by the British biologist Peter Ward speculates about future animals supposing that humanity doesn't die out.I haven't read this yet, its definitely on my list.According to reviews a million years from now most higher animals are extinct. The survivors, besides humans, are rats and some birds.These animals thrive on vast garbage dump areas.The rats have evolved into a variety of complex forms and the birds have attained a level of intelligence. These future animals are dangerous to humans who accidentally go into their areas. People have criticized Ward for not changing humanity much. A million years from now there is still the University of Washington, in its same place geographically.

Anyway, we do have a lot to look forward to. Either way,no matter which scenario is more plausible, millions of years from now a good time will be had by all, or at least by some.

Somewhere, Over The Rainbow...... @ 01:21 pm

I'm fascinated by the idea of alternate realities, other worlds, virtual realities, alternate histories, the future.Perhaps its largely escapism, perhaps its alienation from the contemporary world, I don't know. Sometimes I can almost identify with "otherkin", people who think they are actually animals or aliens from another planet erroneously born into human bodies. Its all nonsense of course, but....
Dolores LaPinocho, the artist/musician and author of the Chaos Marxism blog, talks about this phenomenon. She regarded this as a symptom of a deep seated alienation from capitalist society.

The science fiction writer Philip K. Dick at times in his life felt he was from an alternate history.He wrote novels about alternate worlds, and had at least one novel  Valis,with an apparently alternate version of himself as the main character.

I haven't found a lot along the line of future history that sounds plausible. A few interesting things I've read.

"A Short History of the Future" by Waren Wagar

(The video has no connection with the book, I just put it in for effect)

It was first written in the late 80s, it had to be partially rewritten after 1989 but kept the same scenario.The book covers 200 years of future history. The world goes though three stages. The first is the "age of late capital". This period lasts until the 2040s. There's increased poverty and alienation. Drug abuse becomes rampant. There are increasing ecological problems.The UN morphs into something of a global world government. A cure for AIDS is found but other, similar diseases spread.

Around 2040 a severe depression hits. This has been partly triggered by the huge expense developed countries have to spend to save coastal cities and fight the effects of global warming. In the US a radical reformist movement takes power and the US has its first Hispanic woman president. The US, once the conservative leader of global capitalism, attempts to lead a bloc of radical Third World states.A defeated US presidential , a senator from Tennessee with a history of racism,,finds a legalistic reason for not recognizing the elected president. He organizes an alternate administration. Much of US military goes along with this.A full scale civil war breaks out. The rebels are defeated within a few months, partly with the use of sophisticated nanotechnology.

Throughout the civil war the other developed nations running the would sided with the rebels. With the victory of Federal forces relations between the US and its former industrialized partners  take a nosedive. European and Japanese leader as decide to go for a preemptive nuclear strike against the US.The belligerents miscalculate and the strikes escalate into full scale global nuclear war. Within weeks 3/4s of everyone in the northern hemisphere is killed.

Back track. In the early 2040s a student at SUNY Binghampton, Mitchell Greenwald from Hicksville, New York.Greenwald organizes an online studt group to study the global crisis. This develops into a worldwide socialist party, the World Party. The world Party isn't Marxist but is based more on a variety of world systems theory and is philosophically idealist instead of materialist.Before the nuclear was breaks out Mitchell Greenwald immigrates to New Zealand where he works as a robot repairman.

While the northern hemisphere is devastated much of the south survives.Conservative leaders and countries begin reasserting themselves. To forestall a return to the old system the World Party organizes a series of revolutions. An embryo of a socialist world government emerges. A global civil war occurs, similar to the Russian Civil War of 1919-1923 and with the same moral ambiguities. The world was unified, capitalism was suppressed, brutal warlords were defeated, but all at huge cost.Small nations, finally getting a chance for freedom, such as the Kurds, were defeated.

The World Party, in coalition with similar groups, finally unified the world in a socialist commonwealth.This period lasts for about 80 years. There are good things and bad things about this era.The planet is cleaned up and much of the ecological damage is healed. Technology continues to advance.The cultural avant garde is abolished in favor of democratizing culture, although there is resentment about this. A pro-capitalist resistance movement maintains support. After much controversy a eugenics program is started.

Eventually growing disenchantment against the World State develops. A movement developing in South Asia, the Smalls advocate a decentralized world system. Tension develops and the world looks like its on the brink of a civil war.Finally as Marx predicted the "state withers away" and  the World state peacefully breaks up. The World Party fractures becoming a "decentralized party of centralizers" while the Smalls ironically remain centralized.

The world now enters a counter-cultural period.There's a revival of religion and spirituality.The planet is reorganized into a myriad of self governing communes, tribes, and groups. Increasing decentralization creates problems though. As the book ends there is increasing nostalgia for the World Party era and proposals to revive some centralization.
An intriguing book. It seems to be meant more as a "menu" of future possibilities than a linear prediction. Unfortunately the author, Warren Wagar, who was connected with the world systems theory movement (Immanuel Wallerstein wrote the intro to one edition of the book) died in the early 2000s. Shortly before he died he said the world was moving in the directions he had predicted much faster than he thought.Obviously history won't go exactly as in Wagar's book but I think the rough outlines seems very accurate.

Another book I liked is China Mountain Zhong by Maureen McHugh.. Its a lot briefer than than the other two I reviewed and its not really deep reading but its fun. The name is partly a pun on Sun Yat Sen (the title is his name in Chinese).It was written in the early 90s and apparently was influenced by the author's stint teaching ESL in China.

China Mountain Zhong takes place in the 2090s. In. the 90s, with the "fall of so called communism and China moving towards capitalism the scenario seemed unlikely, now it seems eerily plausible. The idea is that by the late 21st century China, still ruled by the CCP, is now the most powerful country in the world. The US meantime has gone though a depression and economic collapse. There was a communist revolution (aided by the Chinese) and America seems to be something of a Chinese satellite.

The US isn't the oppressive hell hole conservatives might think.McHugh is somewhat vague on the nature of the economy but it seems to be along the lines of 90s Chinese style "market socialism". There are communes and worker managed companies. There also seems to be a bureaucratic hierarchy with the usual amount of complex office politics. The official languages of the US are English, Spanish, and Mandarin.

The novel follows the ups and downsin the career of a part Mexican part Chinese worker, China Mountain Zhong. Zhong happens to be gay. He starts out as a construction worker in new York. He's a basic guy, not particularly ambitious. He has a network of friends he hangs out with and has a passion for futuristic form of hang gliding, a popular sport in this world. His career goes in a circuitous, dialectical upward spiral. Someone he meets by chance pushes him in one direction in his life.He  loses one job but finds a greater opportunity elsewhere.He angers a Chinese bureaucrat but in doing so gets a scholarship to study in Shanghai.There's a touch of spirituality in his life trajectory. Eventually he ends up as an architect/engineer at a communal enterprise in Arizona where he begins to develop a more holistic interpretation of Marxism.

The book is actually quite moving and made me want to live in this world or at least gave me the feeling that I am living in the early stages of this world (this is not to speak of the contemporary People's Republic of China, which is riddled with vast corruption, oppression and exploitation and has nothing to do with any form of socialism.). The novel reminded me a bit of the  Australian  counter cultural film Bliss (one of my favorite films), where a man's like takes a similar spiral pattern.

The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson is an interesting look at the world of the late 21st century. Due to the effects of nano-technology  nation-states largely collapsed. By the 2090s or so the world is dominated by "tribes" which are not based on geography but on other types of affiliation.Among most powerful tribes are the Ashanti and the Neo-Victorians.The Vickys, as their called, have their power base on several articial islands off the coast of China, where most of the action takes place. China itself seems to have broken into two parts, a coastal area called the "Republic of China" and an interior area run by a warlord.

The Neo-Victorians are an high tech imitation or revival of the British empire of the 1880s. Manners, fashion, etc. are Victorian. There's a "Queen" (who doesn't seem to have much power) and there is an aristocracy of "Equity Lords". The religion (which doesn't seem to be taken seriously) is a sort of Goddess religion.The Neo-Victorians or Vicky's have a sort of symbiotic relationship with a nearby enclave of underclass Western expats to whom they contract out work requiring manual labor.

A Vicky computer scientist develops a a sort of "living book" for his young daughter, "A Young Girl's Primer". This is designed as a complex software system which will interact and grow as his daughter grows, acting as an evolving tutor/mentor.This book gets into the hands of a young girl from the underclass enclave, in a barely functional "trailer tash" expat family.The storyline follows her adventures as she joins the Neo-Vicks and that of the scientist, who is forced to spend ten years in an enforced shamanic trance by a small high tech tribal group in Northwest North America.This tribe "kidnaps" his mind and uses it to develop software while he is in the trance. At the end of the book new developments, partly derived from work of the kidnapped scientist, look like they are about to change humananities remaining hierarchal structures such as the Vickys.

The events are almost a replay of late 19th century China. There are events like the Boxer Rebellion.

Interesting stuff. I am not as knowledgeable about this as I should be but I feel the prospects of nanotech may be vastly overhyped. The novel is somewhat overly technologically determinist. Overall though I think there's something there.

Kate Devlin