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The end of the culture of narcissism The energy wars have exposed a disturbing fantasy

Blame fossil fuels. (CRISTINA ALDEHUELA/AFP via Getty Images)

Blame fossil fuels. (CRISTINA ALDEHUELA/AFP via Getty Images)


September 29, 2022   5 mins

How did political conversation, especially online, become so crazy? Blame fossil fuels.

When Christopher Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism in 1979, well into the post-war wealth boom that turbocharged the industrial era, he argued that narcissistic tendencies develop partially as a result of industrial society. He identified phenomena as disparate as the modern school system, sport, psychotherapy, advertising and consumer culture as playing a role in the development of widespread, unchecked narcissism. But he didn’t go far enough: it was a glut of energy resources that instilled in us the belief that we could control nature as if we were gods.

For decades, our standard of living in the developed world seemingly increased without end. The improbable access to energy coupled with crony capitalism turned wealthy societies into pure consumers, swallowing anything and everything the economy could imagine and manufacture. Our system was unrivalled in history. Our inner Narcissus was unleashed.

Two major trends influenced our narcissistic tendencies in this energy-rich universe: we developed personal meaning in consumption, turning what we wear, where we eat, and where we shop into our religion. Consumption became a signal of belonging in a world breaking apart any semblance of community.

We also developed a collective philosophy of progress that told us we have won history: we had conquered all the resource and material challenges of the past. We believed that our collective wealth as a species was only going to keep growing. No wonder, then, that progressivism, in its traditional sense, became the widespread political psychology exactly as the upward slope of oil consumption looked almost exponential.

These two widespread psychological outcomes unveiled the worst of our egocentric propensities. On the one hand: we identified with what we chose to consume, an inward-looking narcissism, displaying self-worth through ostensibly corporate fandom, a religion of the self. On the other, we displayed an optimistic faith in human limitlessness.

Fusing the two together, the abundance of cheap energy lumbered the developed world with a narcissistic psychosis. You can see this in everything from the overvaluation of an individual’s salary and power as measures of success to the denigration of caring roles and familial obligation. In each case, the focus is on the individual thriving while ignoring the interdependence that makes life possible.

But look at the world today: the seemingly constant upward trajectory of humanity is faltering. On the far side of industrial development, we have begun to reach a peak — in affluence, in meaning, and now in access to resources and position. Increasingly, there is widespread social disorganisation and political dysfunction as our high-energy society reaches its material limits. Economic theorists call this the crisis of capitalism; energy analysts call it peak oil; social commentators call it the meaning crisis; Weber called it disenchantment; Marx called it alienation. Whatever we want to call it, we have fewer resources now and it is changing how we think.

According to relative deprivation theory, as individuals in a society achieve a certain level of affluence and sense of security, any lowering of that standard leads to a feeling of entitlement and a sensation of being robbed. Sociologists suggest this sense of loss can often foment social movements and result in society wide outbreaks of deviant behaviour.

But this general sense of malaise and unease has also created a widespread culture of victimhood. Similar to Lasch, who relied on the clinical diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder to explain societal narcissism, I believe that these tendencies are manifested in borderline personality disorder, or BPD. The characteristics of BPD include a sense of paranoia, the feeling that you are on the receiving end of unfair treatment, and a sort of mental witch-hunt against the individual or group believed to be behind it.

The political factions we now see arising out of various forms of social disorder — environmental, economic, financial — demonstrate just this trend: a widespread cultural outbreak of borderline personality disorder, centring around victimhood. Just as the seemingly endless exploitation of cheap energy caused us to once see ourselves as gods, our now-dwindling resources have us seeing monsters lurking everywhere in the shadows.

Consider the class of overproduced elites, the neurotic radicals of our current era. Working on the assumption that cheap energy and growth would maintain its trajectory forever, our institutions oversaw the creation of more white-collar positions. But today, at the end of the hyper-industrial era, these positions are becoming scarce. And what follows is not just a sense of deprivation-fuelled entitlement, but also a kind of bitter in-fighting with victimhood as its currency.

Take the madness of our universities as an example. Individuals prepare their whole lives to go into academia, only to graduate into a cratering job market with nearly-impossible-to-land positions. In certain fields, PhDs work for years as low paid adjuncts or postdocs, often moving around the country with young families in the hopes of one day finally landing a tenured position. But instead of recognising the end of limitless white-collar growth as the proximate cause, frustrated would-be academics turn to those gaining the limited positions as both the enemy and the cause. In a dark psychological twist, victimhood politics have now become a means to secure a scarce position.

Similarly, those suffering from clinical BPD have been known to use their sense of victimhood as a way to control situations or achieve desired ends — such as when privileged white women pretend to be women of colour, or when activists attempt to dethrone existing “privileged” elites under the pretences of racism, sexism or some other victimisation of underprivileged groups.

But while this trend might be most immediately apparent within leftist, or “woke”, identity politics, there is also a parallel strain of victimhood politics in something like the red-pill movement made up primarily of young men. Frustrated by the lack of healthy male role models, opportunities to experience coming of age rituals and meaningful work, these men have now turned to women as the proximate cause of their ills, like early-modern peasants blaming witches for their misfortunes.

They bemoan the gynocracy, haunted by memories of mothers and teachers who have controlled and scolded them throughout their lives. And as a result, they seek out strong and often toxic role models who feed into their victimised self-perception and encourage misogyny. Fundamentally, this is just the same kind of aggrieved politics as the derangement of late-stage liberalism: this is not the life I was promised, I must find a nearby scapegoat to pin the blame on.

These are just two examples from the Left and Right, but this broader culture of BPD is widespread and growing. Radical feminists blame men, ecomodernists blame Luddites, vegans blame ranchers, environmentalists blame climate change deniers — the list goes on. But while this culture is clearly unhealthy, it’s also a natural and understandable psychological response to the sense of powerlessness fostered by an increasingly constrained material world.

The ultimate destination of this narcissistic fantasy is ridding the world of all its evildoers — a kind of gnostic apocalypse in which only the truly righteous will enter the kingdom of heaven. Yet this is the exact opposite of the cultural approach we’ll need to survive. In the previous era of increasing resources, we had the riches to increase our independence; we no longer needed one another to survive. Today, however, as resources and stability begin to wane, we must rely on one another again.

The antidote to the individualistic culture of narcissism created by the upswing of energy resources, as well as the culture of victimhood birthed by its painful downswing, is a culture of interdependence, an acceptance of limits, and a reliance on mutual care. Historically, humans living within material constraints were forced to rely on one another to get by, with some of the worst impulses of human nature constrained by mutual interdependence. Our greatest moderating force is the experience of being relied upon, and relying upon others.

Fossil fuels drove us all crazy: perhaps the collapse of man’s brief age of energy abundance can make us sane again.


Ashley Colby is an environmental scientist and co-founder of the Rizoma Field School.

RizomaSchool

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

My initial reaction to this essay was mild disappointment. It summarized social trends that have been described at length many times before: consumption-based globalization leading to an atomized society filled with ennui; over-educated but underemployed “elites” dissatisfied with their lot and causing trouble, not least through “wokeism”.
I wanted to ask this author, like so many other authors who describe what ails modern, Western societies, what do we do about these problems? Can you provide suggestions for a practical course of action to at least begin to address these problems, and not just empty platitudes that end with a chorus of Kumbaya?
Turns out, when I googled the Rizoma Field School which the author founded, she is putting into practice one possible path toward social reconciliation and a sustainable future. I browsed the website and recommend it:
https://rizomafieldschool.com/
I won’t take up space summarizing the Rizoma approach except to note it appears to be a form of localism based on sustainable living practices, plus political activism to promote these values. Agree with it or not, these people are at least trying to address the huge problems facing our society and not just endlessly dissecting the problems themselves.
Maybe Unherd would consider a series of articles by people who are trying to address, in a practical way, the challenges of sustainable living and growing social interconnectedness instead of alienation. I’d appreciate reading those articles more than yet another article about Liz Truss or Georgia Meloni.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Bryant
Jason Highley
Jason Highley
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Couldn’t agree more!

Aaron James
Aaron James
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I spent a lot of years amongst the Hippy peoples – and the cults and the lost people – this rambling article is just nothing but streams of half baked cod psychology and new age post modernism wrapped up in clever correlations and quasi-plausible analogy.

There is absolutely NO shortage of oil. It exists in huge amounts. Same with coal, same with gas. It has issues though – all kinds of them, as we know like Ukraine being all totally about energy, $, economic war – and nothing about democracy.

I will sum up the first bit of her thing – and this is True. The wealth of any society, ever, is lineally correlated with the amount of energy they consume.

When they say they want us to consume less energy they mean to reduce our standards of living, decrease our wealth. Fine – but just say it. The thing is – this also means keeping the poor poor – to stop them increasing their energy consumption (wealth).

Energy = $, and as we know $ = Power. Thats what it all about, The New Green Deal is not about doing good it is all Power. She cannot see that… she thinks Green is about doing the right thing. Like so many other fools think the Ukraine war is about doing the right thing, Democracy – Wrong! It is all about power – The New Green Deal is just another kind of war – when it gets going you will see the destruction, wealth, poverty, Power it is really about.

If you remember energy = $ then you know energy = wealth and power – that is what will drive it all, this green – hippy ideology is just useful idiots being played.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Aaron, a rare pleasure to totally agree with you on something here. It’s not entirely clear whether the article itself might not be a narcissistic fantasy now I think about it.
I’m really not convinced by this cheap energy and materials shortage narrative. Things may look that way right now. But technology and human ingenuity also have a say in what happens next.
If we can eventually harness nuclear fusion (not a given at this point, but certainly a possibility), I don’t think we’ll need to worry too much about cheap energy. There’s no real reason existing nuclear power needs to be quite so expensive either. Resource shortages ? Copper and some other metals possibly. But we’ll recycle and reuse better. Energy storage for renewables will also improve.
Finally, if the temperature of the world does increase as much as some claim, I’d suggest we won’t be needing quite so much energy for heating (and enjoy more productive agriculture in the UK)

andy young
andy young
1 year ago
Reply to  Peter B

Actually there’s an interesting by-product of the fusion research : plasma drilling. The enormous reservoir of geothermal energy locked under the mantle has been inaccessible due to the rising temperature of the rock destroying conventional drill bits, but plasma drilling wouldn’t have that problem. Early days but it’s looking promising.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Your response largely is ad hominem. The small part of your response which attempts to be substantive merely is a sub-Sarah Palin copy-pasted right-wing rant about fossil fuels. You’ve managed to miss most of the points made. Nice one.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Good to have you back sanford – your regular ‘needling’ keeps us on our toes….

M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

It is not just $$. It is also food.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

I guess I’m just one of those other fools who think that supporting Ukraine in its defensive war is about doing the right thing. The Ukrainians also must be fools, fighting for their homeland, their families and what they believe in. “The ashes of their fathers, and the temples of their gods.”

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  harry storm

I don’t want my children to have to pay for Bidens war. We really haven’t been told the truth about the history or motives of what’s been going on over there. That whole country is full of corruption and the billions paid will never be accounted for. Our govt doesn’t give two rats butts about Ukraine they just want regime change. Say what you want about trump he never got us into a war.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron James

Exactly so.

Jacobus De Wet
Jacobus De Wet
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Excellent analysis, thank you.

I lived for years in African villages
(I’m South African) with no running water and electricity.

This is not a comment on poverty.

I never viewed these people as poor, as they were independent and created their daily lives with much laughter and hard work.

The only narcissism I ever saw was when white people from their opulent backgrounds came to visit the ”natives” for “insight”.

I came to the same conclusions as you…industrialisation and opulence created a very wrong and infantile idea in the west. And the one who has the most opulence, America, is the worst off in the narcissist department.

Best wishes for your work.
Annelie de Wet.

PS …There were traditional healers in the villages, and Westerners came for healing and advice…I soon realised there is no real cure for “opulence” – as no one wants to live with less. They, most of all, always believed that some easy bunny from a hat would be pulled for them to fix their pains and crisis of meaning.

There is probably a small percentage of people who make the transition to liberate themselves from a plethora of false ideas about what is necessary for a good life.

Best wishes, once again.

M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago
Reply to  Jacobus De Wet

Abused children are the worst narcissists.A lot of them go into politics. Does “I feel your pain” sound familiar?

M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Localism has its limits. All 92 elements are not evenly distributed.

S Q
S Q
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

S Q
 9 minutes ago

I think she is very naive. ‘Right wing’ market liberals often think there are no limits to growth and deny any kind of global ecological/resource constraints. Lefty green localists on the other hand seem to imagine that we could abandon all that complexity wrought by modernity on the back of massive energy/material throughput but retain all the liberal trappings – a world of mobile individuals, freely choosing self determining etc. The narcissism is much less about consumerism per se – and much more about the idea that we can define our identity and life project without any kind of communitarian constraint. It’s not just modern dentistry that would disappear, but liberal feminist conceptions of gender emancipation through the labour market, the sexual revolution
.oh and anything ‘trans’ related
.oh yes and abortion
.. Personally, I don’t want to give up modern dentistry. I could use the internet and play my banjo. I guess I could even accept a shorter but more active life
in a community of church going believers. I would holler in delight at the reversal of the sexual revolution and all that trans/non-binary pathology that us ripping our society apart. But that is the point. If you’re a localist green of ANY persuasion, and if you want to be in any way coherent – you HAVE to be conservative, religious, communitarian and see the emancipation of the individual birthed by the Judea-Christian Imago Dei
.as leading not to freedom to do anything, but freedom to be constrained by the transcendent, by GOd
which in practice means freedom to be constrained by concentric reciprocal relations to other people – children, wife, husband, neighbours
humanity. Localist greens who think that their constrained future will be like Greenwich village or Champagne Socialist Republic of Islington
..should probably put a sock in it and campaign to keep the oil flowing

Which is probably what will happen anyway. As there Germans are discovering – life without complexity and high energy flows just sucks and will soon lead to war. Conservatives on the other hand, are going to have to work out how to localize and reciprocate and get back to Church, without depending on a peak-oil mad Max collapse fantasy. But if that does happen, they are in much better shape than the mung-bean warriors.

R K
R K
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Agree with your suggestion vis-Ă -vis Unherd (and, frankly, all media/platforms) that the “unwashed masses” are tired of problem-reporting devoid of plausible solutions.

What would better serve readership is inclusion of material from thinkers who legitimately describe a problem and put forth one or more viable solutions (with supporting data).

We already know “the world” is one big CLUSTER (yawn).

What we want to know are potential pathways to remedy that situation.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“(S)ustainable living practices.” — “You’ll take what we allow you to have and be happy with it or else.”

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

We don’t have ‘over-educated’ elites. We have ‘under-educated’ elites. We have had Cameron and Osborne knowing little of economics, despite studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at supposedly one of the best universities in the world. We have had Johnson trying to force technology on us that hasn’t yet been invented, probably because he never studied a STEM subject. We have industrial elites who have closed down our manufacturing base and allowed us to be dependent on China for basic goods and medicines. In Germany, the elite decided to make their country a hostage of Russia.

Peter B
Peter B
1 year ago

Perfectly stated. This needs repeating until enough people get this. It’s a long time since we’ve been led by first rate people (who of course do still exist – they just aren’t in politics these days).

M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago

Politicians must be able to pass a course in thermodynamics. That would weed out quite a few.
A passing acquaintance with Carnot might work wonders on the political class.

John Aronsson
John Aronsson
1 year ago

Colby mentioned “overproduced elites.” Over production of elites has long been recognized as something that will destabilize any regime and has been a factor in the English, American, French and Russian revolutions.

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
1 year ago

The reality is that we’re now entering a period of “forced scarcity” whereby progressive politicians do their utmost to take away future consumption decisions from their citizens.

If such a politician decides their State uses too much energy, they gum up future energy pipeline projects with regulations and decide to shut down nuclear power plants in the State even when these plants have decades of useful life left to give.

Shortly thereafter, citizens don’t have enough energy to power their freezers and refrigerators during blackouts/brownouts (causing tremendous amounts of food to be wasted), so citizens purchase standby or portable generators which are far worse for the environment…but at least they are able to conserve refrigerated food that also takes massive amounts energy to produce.

So then the politician says he’ll keep the nuclear power plants active for a little while longer but he’ll ban the future purchase of gas-powered generators…and he’ll make all future car purchases reliant upon the same energy grid that the politician is destroying…this silly back-and-forth game goes on and on and on.

This is a true story out of California.

Of course Gavin Newsom also shows up to energy-emergency news conferences to tell everyone to turn up their thermostat…while he’s wearing a polar fleece…it must have been nice and cool in his home while he asked others to sacrifice. Funny how that works.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
1 year ago

“ Economic theorists call this the crisis of capitalism; energy analysts call it peak oil; social commentators call it the meaning crisis; Weber called it disenchantment; Marx called it alienation. Whatever we want to call it, we have fewer resources now and it is changing how we think.”

This is all over the place. There is a crisis of capitalism now but “economic theorists” have been predicting this for generations. Not related to the present issues. Peak oil isn’t the reason for recent energy spikes it’s the lack of Russian gas. Weber and Marx were talking long ago so what exactly would they be talking about with regards the energy shortage. Marxists don’t relate alienation to energy.

I see at the end she’s celebrating the end of energy abundance which will make us sane. Sane if mad max is considered sane.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Colin MacDonald
Colin MacDonald
1 year ago

Peak oil always seems to be five to ten years in the future, nevertheless oil and gas do require more energy to extract as the easier to obtain resources are used up. Over time then we have less and less available energy as more is used to obtain energy. There seems to be a small band of theorists active on the internet who predict that a lack of available energy is about to cause economic collapse.
My own feeling is that wealth correlates with abundant energy but doesn’t determine it. Swedes use a lot less energy than Americans but don’t seem to lead more materially impoverished lives. If energy becomes gradually more expensive, as it has been doing for last 50 years then America will gradually become more like Sweden, which would be no bad thing! The key word is gradual though, we have net zero zealots aiming to change things FAST, no thought given to quickly economies can adapt to these policies

Last edited 1 year ago by Colin MacDonald
Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

Two major trends influenced our narcissistic tendencies in this energy-rich universe: we developed personal meaning in consumption, turning what we wear, where we eat, and where we shop into our religion. Consumption became a signal of belonging in a world breaking apart any semblance of community.
Perhaps you should read about the Roman Empire. Same issues without fossil fuels.
We have fossil fools, however.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

I’d view the premise of the article, that increasing consumption results in narcissism, as flawed.
The kinds of ‘worship’ of material goods and allegiances to particular brands and products has got little to do with self-regard – rather the opposite. Those who need their lives to be filled with material goods and brand identification are lacking in a fundamental sense of self. Access to fewer of those goods leaves a terrible void which the article tries to delineate.
The answer is posited as being less self-reliant (which is psychologically not the same as narcissism at all) and becoming more interdependent with, or upon, others. That’s all well and good, but we all know there will be individuals who’ll seek to take advantage of that. Of course, we’re all interdependent anyway, even if the complexity of social systems make it seem less so.
Self-reliance, or care of the self, which includes keeping healthy and avoiding unnecessary consumption is surely needed more than ever.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago

Historically, cultures of interdependence were held together by powerful religious convictions. People need to be motivated to toil for the benefit of others who are not family or friends – perhaps for a few there is a genuine sense of altruism but its hard to separate that from the narcissistic pursuit of status through ‘selfless’ actions. And perhaps you can’t. And of course there’s only so much status to go around – its scarcity is its real value. We can’t all be Greta. The fear of eternal punishment or the hope of eternal reward fills the gap for a large chunk of humanity. The communists tried it without religion and found that they needed brutal repression to close the gap. Not that religion ever shied away from brutal repression. It strikes me as incredibly naive to think that all of a sudden people are just going to become interdependent without the usual motivators. It’s clear we are being forced back into a paradigm of interdependence, but make no mistake – ‘acceptable behaviour’ will be enforced with a heavy hand, as it always has been. And those who define ‘acceptable behaviour’ will be as fallible and corrupt as ever.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim R
M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Hamilton’s Rule – biology Kin preference

michael harris
michael harris
1 year ago

The conversations BTL on the sites I read (this one, the various Spectators) and contribute to have very suddenly become a lot crazier and filled with hostility of all kinds. This is very marked below all the pieces about the the pipeline sabotage in the Baltic.
I think this has been caused by increasing fear. That the Ukraine conflict will escalate into nuclear war. That the economic crises building over many years will not be resolved before another great depression. That societies are atomising.
I do wish that there was some reassurance available. But I don’t see it for now.

Kurt Keefner
Kurt Keefner
1 year ago

This article equates political ideas and feelings with clinical psychological disorders. Always a bad idea. You may remember that the Soviets did the same thing.

David Harris
David Harris
1 year ago

“Whatever we want to call it, we have fewer resources now and it is changing how we think.”
We don’t have fewer resources we have too many people.

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 year ago
Reply to  David Harris

We don’t have fewer resources – we just chose not to use the ones we have – oil & coal because we are captured by the ‘green scaremongering’ and gas because we are having a tiff with the main supplier, aka Putin
Any energy crisis is entirely self made

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
1 year ago
Reply to  David Harris

We have plenty of resources and birthrates are falling.

Max Price
Max Price
1 year ago

Bring on UBI and the Soma I say.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Max Price

Walk the streets in any Canadian city and you will choke on the stench of marijuana at all hours of the day – consumption is off the chart, and a dispensary has replaced most of the stores and restaurants closed by lockdowns. The Soma is here, and UBI is only one election cycle away.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Booze, anti-depressants, tranqs, mood stabilisers and sleeping pills are all more of a soma than marijuana. Something about MJ that non-consumers and youth may not understand is that it is often delivers challenging experiences – from paranoia (hardly soma), to painful, wonderful insights (yes, some of which can be tosh).

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I’m quite familiar with both the pleasures of MJ and also harm it causes. Particularly young people who instead of learning that life requires sacrificing short term comfort for long term success, discover you can feel good for no reason at all. Only when you let it go will you realize the hold it has on you. Only when you step back and see the hordes of young people jumping off the hamster wheel, do you start to consider the impact on our collective wealth and prosperity.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim R
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

I know that happens – the harm – but I do think you are running away with it. It is, objectively, the least harmful of the common ‘recreational’ drugs – alcohol, nicotine – and is used by millions to overall beneficial effect. This is why it is being legalised after a 100 year experiment in illegalisation. Troubled or naive people will find a way to mess up, whether by substances, sex & relationships, motorbikes, surgery, eating disorders etc. The lazy stoner is a cliched trope – you are no so much seeing the effects of MJ of a person, but a person’s effect on MJ. To return to my main point, it is most certainly not soma – an ease producing, numb your worries drug – the main reason people stop is that it disturbs them, produces anxiety, not that it makes them lazy.

Jim R
Jim R
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

I have had this discussion with my children many times. Like you they are immersed in all the advocacy around this drug. You can’t really talk people out of it – just as I won’t talk you out of it. But if you stay alert to what its doing to you and people in your life, you may come to understand it better one day.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

I understand it well enough thank you. Do you drink?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

the strong modern strains are difficult to control unlike glasses of win e – they also more negatively effect mental health sparking schizophenia or s- like symtoms esp semi psychotic paranoia – many ‘shooters’ were MJ smokers. It is not the mellow buzz it was 40 years ago unless you can access that strain….

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Yes, modern strains are stronger – like spirits rather than beer. No need to access old strains, just use less. Moreover, it is now easy to get high cbd, low thc strains – which are calming, anti-psychotic.

Kat L
Kat L
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

Yes it saps ambition from most people. I always dropped dates once I discovered they smoked mj.

M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim R

For lesser afflictions cannabis works.
Dr. Lonny Shavelson found that 70% of female heroin addicts were sexually abused in childhood.
Addiction is a symptom of PTSD. Says Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine Eric Kandel in his book, “The Disordered Mind.”

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Everything that is happening right now is the result of policy imposed by governments and their corporate and institutional partners. There is no scarcity that hasn’t been artificially exacted. As for those poor academics roaming the country in search of tenure, perhaps it’s time to grow up and enter the adult world outside of school.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
1 year ago

our high-energy society reaches its material limits

This is nonsense.
Our limits our self-imposed.
There’s no shortage of ore in the ground, and when we eventually embrace nuclear, there will be no shortage of energy.

gundi Schneider
gundi Schneider
1 year ago

I am a retired energy professional and i appreciated the new perspective this essay gave me on my former industry.
We are now in reverse and the social contracts of the post war era are broken. Where to next?
Personally i have been on consumption strike for 15 years*, no collections, no trophies, give away what is not used, use up what you have, mend…but I am quite alone with that.
*brought on by the trauma of emptying a friends’ house after a divorce and being confronted with a grotesque accumulation of ’stuff’.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Your last paragraph makes exquisitely good sense. Bravo! Now we only have to persuade everybody else that our Age of Independence must give way to a new age of Interdependence.
Perhaps this would constitute the true meaning of “Conservatism”: Comprehending the limits of our resources, which set the boundaries of our consumption, then conserving resources, to assure that there is enough to fulfill everybody’s minimal needs.
As for the equitable distribution of those resources. . . Aye! There’s the rub! We will have to be grownups.

David Webster
David Webster
1 year ago

So cheap abundant energy = narcissism? This ought to make a few heads spin but I would suggest that this is what happens when God disappears from thought or only exists in the far background of people’s lives. Nonetheless, there always has been and always will be arrogant people with the need to overcome their lack of self-confidence and self-worth.
Post modern angst (an arrogance unto itself) longing for lesser amenities does not seem to reflect what the quality of life was like in the past or those whose current situation is going to be be made seriously worse where utility bills use a significant amount of their monthly income.
Arrogance and opulence are their own demise. Look at the turnover on the Forbes’ lists of the wealthiest individuals or the Palace of Versailles and some of its inhabitants.
You don’t have to create a crisis to lead a simpler life or create a crisis to discipline those you despise whose opulence is over the top.
Cheap energy is derived from technological advances in procurement (increased supply) and improved efficiencies (reduced demand). All of which have led to greater productivity and growth. Technological advances will lead us to other sources of cheap energy such as improving solar and wind efficiencies plus hydrogen is a cost problem that will be solved. By the way, solar panels use plastics and windmills use fibreglass for their blades; all of which require fossil fuel products for making the components. After life disposal of these products creates a green problem. Look for the Bloomberg article discussing how 37m fiberglass turbine blades are disposed by taking to a US desert and buried. Can they be recycled? Probably but they are not on a large scale. This requires energy.
The perfect solution will never exist thus innovation and improvement are constants.
The current “dwindling resources” are the result of bad decisions in making the transition from fossil fuels to alternatives as well as some political mistakes. There is a lot of talk but no concrete steps that factor in the reality of the transition to alternatives such as the energy generation output capabilities, infrastructure, component production capability, or in the case of Europe not considering dealing with the likes of Putin. He cut it off gas delivery to Ukraine once before in January 2009. Why should anyone be surprised he did it again? To argue that higher energy are what is needed to cure moral ailments is asinine. Humankind has the ingenuity to solve problem just maybe not fast enough to meet some people’s expectations.

Josephine 247
Josephine 247
1 year ago

Thank You Ashley.. i thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. I believe our spiritual/meaningful evolution was hijacked a long time ago. One comment I read pointed to lack of a sense of self being a cause for our current malaise .. collectively we have, for generations, been manipulated/gas lighted to view our sense of self as separate from our sense of spirit, the latter being achievable only by choice and only by hippys and pot smokers, apparantly. When we collectively combine the 2 states, without coercion, we can resume our intended evolution. I wish you and what you are striving to achieve in your daily works all the best of luck.

Claire England
Claire England
1 year ago

Yes it’s true that academe shamelessly overproduces Ph.D holders, but the problem isn’t lack of jobs. Think of the staggering number l of people who attend college these days. They all need to be taught by someone. The problem is academe’s cast system wherein upwards of 80% of courses ( from Ivies to CCs), are taught by contingent labor, and those coveted TT positions are now held by professors who often rarely teach undergraduate courses, preferring the enjoyable but exploitive work of teaching grad students, and this producing more worker bees for the adjuncts’ life. It’s a situation that needs reform, not fewer college instructors, and we could start by addressing the pointless publish or perish situation, which ends up with lots of pointless and witless blather foisted on the world, resulting in no end of mischief ( but that’s a different essay altogether). We need to reconsider how teaching fellows – rather than graduate student instructors- deserve full time employment with pay concomitant to the investment made in the credentialing system. Fewer deans and their minions would be a good start.

Jim C
Jim C
1 year ago

The author like our political elites is living in some utopian fantasy.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jim C

Or is merely stating a natural process that is the outcome of dysfunctional political and economic processes eg Nomadland – lots of ‘coming together ‘ to cope with a situation – hardly utopian brother

M Simon
M Simon
1 year ago

IMO child abuse did it.

Hitler was an abused child. Stalin. Putin. Child abuse causes PTSD.

PTSD leaves the victim permanently angry
PTSD leaves some victims in extreme desire for power and control
PTSD destroys human empathy and trust

And Europe still doesn’t notice.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

eco sandaloid zombies are sad people aching to belong to something that gives them some microcosm of identity, and craving for a belief that is granted by their controllers on the net: ditto the racism and LGBT herd. As if delivered like the 10 Commandments to Moses on The Mount, they need belief, and so will not countenance or consider argument, debate or discussion as that would be sacrelidge and heresy, not unlike owning, let alone using a razor!

S Q
S Q
1 year ago

This is very naive. ‘Right wing’ market liberals often think there are no limits to growth and deny any kind of global ecological/resource constraints. Lefty green localists on the other hand seem to imagine that we could abandon all that complexity wrought by modernity on the back of massive energy/material throughput but retain all the liberal trappings – a world of mobile individuals, freely choosing self determining etc. The narcissism is much less about consumerism per se – and much more about the idea that we can define our identity and life project without any kind of communitarian constraint. It’s not just modern dentistry that would disappear, but liberal feminist conceptions of gender emancipation through the labour market, the sexual revolution….oh and anything ‘trans’ related….oh yes and abortion….. Personally, I don’t want to give up modern dentistry. I could use the internet and play my banjo. I guess I could even accept a shorter but more active life…in a community of church going believers. I would holler in delight at the reversal of the sexual revolution and all that trans/non-binary pathology that us ripping our society apart. But that is the point. If you’re a localist green of ANY persuasion, and if you want to be in any way coherent – you HAVE to be conservative, religious, communitarian and see the emancipation of the individual birthed by the Judea-Christian Imago Dei….as leading not to freedom to do anything, but freedom to be constrained by the transcendent, by GOd…which in practice means freedom to be constrained by concentric reciprocal relations to other people – children, wife, husband, neighbours…humanity. Localist greens who think that their constrained future will be like Greenwich village or Champagne Socialist Republic of Islington…..should probably put a sock in it and campaign to keep the oil flowing……Which is probably what will happen anyway. As there Germans are discovering – life without complexity and high energy flows just sucks and will soon lead to war. Conservatives on the other hand, are going to have to work out how to localize and reciprocate and get back to Church, without depending on a peak-oil mad Max collapse fantasy. But if that does happen, they are in much better shape than the mung-bean warriors.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 year ago
Reply to  S Q

‘Right wing’ market liberals often think there are no limits to growth and deny any kind of global ecological/resource constraints.

Wow! Show us what they said!

John Aronsson
John Aronsson
1 year ago
Reply to  S Q

Ordered liberty rooted in a stable culture has always worked out well.

James Jenkin
James Jenkin
1 year ago

There’s no inevitable end to energy abundance. Unless you stop people using sources of energy like gas and nuclear. In that case, I guess, you’re right.
And why would it, in any sense whatsoever, be a good thing. Energy = work. I’m sure you don’t want half the world to go back to back-breaking labour, to burn wood, to kill every animal available, to make women have three times more children – but that’s exactly what your reactionary worldview will create.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
1 year ago

Resources aren’t “waning;” they’re being intentionally withdrawn or ruled out by an environmental movement built on the fundamentally Marxian myth (call it a flat-out lie) that modern economic industrialism is intrinsically destructive to the human spirit and social condition. The alienation, anomie and yes, narcissism the writer identifies grow from decades of the Left undermining the beneficial animating principles of free market economies, individualism, and freedom generally. Nearly every social ill she mentions grows directly out of reaction to the damage done to western culture by the Left’s self-hating mission of destroying the system that has created more and broader prosperity, health and happiness than any other in the history of mankind. Progressives say, “We can’t have that. Who will need us to rescue them?”