What comes after acts of God, Nature and Man?

Warning, I use the word “shit” and “fuck” multiple times in this essay. I call it emphatic speech and claim the right to use it. However, I really don't want to shock or hurt anyone with my language. If you hate naughty words, watch this instead. 

I too claim the right to be angry, frustrated and disappointed.

Phoenix Tattoo on a woman's back.

Phoenix Tattoo on a woman's back.

I'm saying that when the super storm comes and goes (acts of GOD, or acts of GODS, or acts of Nature, or acts of Nature + Humankind, or merely acts of Humankind) and sweeps away all kinds of man-made crap (I'm not talking about fatalities here) like the tsunami that swept Phi Phi Island clean. Next, the Arch floats up to the virgin shore and spills out all of its cargo that we use to rebuild the same shit that was washed away or destroyed, only now it's even worse, because the same shit looks like new shit. A Phoenix by any other name. The shit that replaces the old shit, is new and improved shit, and makes us believe, that this old wine in new wineskins is actually fresh and different somehow from the old shit. We are lead into a world of make-believe, wondrous at the workings of the Wizard. (The Wizard, you know, is Money. And its only attracted to itself, like Dorian Gray and his picture.)

Why does this happen time and time again, as it happened at the New Jersey shore; as it’s happening on Staten Island? We see Governor Chris Christie standing in front of houses on stilts. What a man! He's saved the day. We are rebuilding!

Governor Chris Christie surrounded by media and constituents after Sandy.

Governor Chris Christie surrounded by media and constituents after Sandy.

Turn on the TV: we have riots in Baltimore because of the same old shit that happened in LA and London; we have earthquakes in Nepal that's killed thousands because of the same old shit that happened in China years before; we have a volcano blowing its top in Calbuco with people running for their lives because of the same old shit that happened in Pompeii hundreds of years ago. 

(For now let's leave out the many socio-political eruptions, tremors and bursting bubbles.)

Will we ever learn?

Probably not, because the system is corrupt and antiquated. Until communities start rebuilding from new sets of values plugged into a NEW SYSTEM, nothing can really change. At least nothing can change fast enough for this ranting blogger.

“But look around yourself Steven, look at all the shiny new stuff, look at all the cool science going on, contemplate the new technology that’s going to save us, have some faith in the billionaires and their think tanks will ya! We’re all going to live to be 150 years old, thanks to the new pills, super foods and machines. Have some faith in The Singularity. Knowledge is going to save us brother. Things aren't that bad buddy. Come on snap out of it. The world needs Stevie Cleghorn forever man. Don’t give up on us!”

The people can, and maybe they should, burn down their crappy, neglected neighborhoods in Baltimore, but if that's what they want to do they'd better have a plan and an idea of what they want to put in it's place. Not just the sustainable, energy efficient buildings, green jobs and community organic gardens; not just the oil and gas jobs that the fracking companies will bring into the devastated old town (opportunity knocks) not just guillotines, but the mindset and cultural values with all the systemic and structural elements that constitute the foundation of transformation. But wait, think again, do we have the ability to do this? Who's leading us? The same old thugs? The same old, old boy networks? All we seem to have are cronies and their cronies. All dressed up and spouting their boilerplate and flashing their thumb drives stuffed with legal ease from ALEC. The whole pseudo-innovative lot of them are fooling themselves and fooling us.

Why don't we get it? Because many of us are mental and spiritual hostages to a rotten set of values. And yet, when we look back, while standing on the shoulders of giants, we see brilliant thinkers everywhere, all the time. 

Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton

We've got all kinds of nice science and tech stuff coming online, able to be monetizes, Yippie, and various bubbles around the world that seem paradisiacal, but they're really just Truman shows. The game is corrupt and it always has been. We are humans and we're not as wonderful as we think we are. Homo Hubris. Vain little people. Run away aliens! Come back if we survive and don't bother making the earth stand still

Phuket, Phi Phi and most places devastated by acts of God/Men/Nature are being replaced with more neoliberal shit meant to support the extraction economy, passing the costs onto the poor and ignorant people wherever they are, not to mention future generations. They never matter. So much for human capital, social capital, intellectual capital and our children's future.

The lucky bubble-people live in their fantasy world and self righteously try to tell us all how to live. While we live in a ground hog day in the coldest winter Stockholm has ever seen. We, the dumb and dumber, sit back and take it up the wazoo, wipe and say, "thank you Massa Boss". We've been thoroughly snowed in more ways than one. And, even if we can "kill the babysitter" (Cable Guy) we'll only construct a new and improved babysitter to take its place. 

Such is Maya. Thus spoke Zarathustra. 

I ask you, are you FUL? Are you leading a Fuck U Lifestyle? Your buddy may have earned his fuck you money, rendering him a real man, kind of like Nic Taleb. Well, I say I've been leading my Fuck U Lifestyle all along, and I don't give a flying fuck about their magic Wizard. I use money because I have to. I spend, but never for effect. I am only addicted to lived experience. And yes, I have a huge carbon footprint. I'm nothing special. I'm a hypocrite too. Damn me!

People get what they want. The invisible hand tickles their ticklish orifices and gives them the illusion that they can climb to the top of the pyramid and frolic with the angels on the head of an Adam Smith pin

So keep the faith you credulous souls, and run on down the street burning mega stores so a poor mom can spend the whole day running around trying to find a place to buy Pampers. Tear it all down, or better yet, don't bother, just steal a big screen TV, go home, plug it in and start watching The Truman Show, or The Cable Guy, or MTV, or THE NEWS. We’re loving it. We're just piling on the queen of spades until the whole house of cards collapses. Then we can get our guns and defend our barter-wine from those freemen who want to steal it. Don't you just miss "The Wild, Wild, West".

Kevin Spacey as President Francis Underwood - A long way from President Bartlett. 

Kevin Spacey as President Francis Underwood - A long way from President Bartlett. 

(The whole thing is televised Gil Scott Heron. Rest In Peace.)

We can't escape climate change. All of us will have to live with it. We can't run away to our gardens, our gated communities, our alternative lifestyles, and live our fantasy life. Reality is encroaching. It's all going to catch up with each and every one of us. So hop on a plane, fly to Phi Phi Island, a place with more ATMs per capita, per square meter, than any place on Earth. Withdraw some cash and get a tattoo, get your tongue pierced and then go eat a pizza before running back to your air conditioned room to watch the latest episode of Mad Men. Paradise, that's what we call it, while we’re working on our skin cancer on the beach. We also giggle while watching large numbers of Chinese tourists taking selfies with monkeys, and participating in snorkeling school.

Some of us may try sailing far out into the Indian Ocean where there is a whole lot of nothing, perhaps hoping the wind, currents and swells will push us to a formerly deserted island where the passengers of flight 370 are living in harmony with themselves and their environment, only hoping that the lucky sailors will choose to stay. “Please don't go and tell anyone you've found us. We can't let you do that. Trust us, soon you'll see we don't behave like a cult. Our island is high and can handle a good three meters of sea level rise. We have everything we need here. Trust us, you'll see. This place is blessed by God.”

It's sad to think that our thoughts and dreams ultimately turn out to be a whole lot of nothing. We are mediocre existentialists, mediocre nihilists, mediocre phenomenologists, mediocre whatever. Or, we're all just survivalists, whatever station we occupy, enjoying the excitement of it all.

So go ahead, burn it all down and put up a parking lot. (I hope Joni Mitchell recovers.)


At the age of thirty, Zarathustra goes into the wilderness and so enjoys his spirit and his solitude there that he stays for ten years. Finally, he decides to return among people, and share with them his over-brimming wisdom. Like the setting sun, he must descend from the mountain and "go under."
On his way, he encounters a saint living alone in the forest. This saint once loved mankind, but grew sick of their imperfections and now loves only God. He tells Zarathustra that mankind doesn't need the gift he brings, but rather help: they need someone to lighten their load and give them alms. Taking his leave of the saint, Zarathustra registers with surprise that the old man has not heard that "God is dead!" 
Upon arriving in the town, Zarathustra begins to preach, proclaiming the overman. Man is a rope between beast and overman and must be overcome. The way across is dangerous, but it must not be abandoned for otherworldly hopes. Zarathustra urges the people to remain faithful to this world and this life, and to feel contempt for their all-too-human happiness, reason, virtue, justice, and pity. All this will prepare the way for the overman, who will be the meaning of the earth.
On hearing this, the people laugh at Zarathustra. Zarathustra suggests that while it is still possible to breed the overman, humanity is becoming increasingly tame and domesticated, and will soon be able to breed only the last man. The last men will be all alike, like herd animals, enjoying simple pleasures and mediocrity, afraid of anything too dangerous or extreme. Zarathustra says, "'We have invented happiness,' say the last men, and they blink." The people cheer, and ask Zarathustra to turn them into these last men.
Just then, a tightrope walker begins walking between two towers in the town. A jester comes out behind him, following him, and mocking him for being so awkward and moving so slowly. Suddenly, the jester jumps right over the tightrope walker, upsetting him and making him fall to the ground. Zarathustra approaches the dying man, and allays his fear of damnation by explaining that there is no devil and no hell. But then, the tightrope walker suggests that his life has been meaningless and that he has been a mere beast. Not at all, Zarathustra suggests to the dying man: "You have made danger your vocation; there is nothing contemptible in that."
That night, Zarathustra leaves town with the dead tightrope walker to bury him in the countryside. A poor day of fishing, he muses metaphorically: he has caught no men, but only a corpse. On his way out, the jester approaches him and warns him to leave. The jester says that Zarathustra is disliked here by the good and the just, and by the believers in the true faith. Only because Zarathustra isn't taken seriously is he allowed to live.
Outside the city, Zarathustra encounters a hermit, who insists on feeding both him and the corpse. After that, Zarathustra goes to sleep. He reawakens with the conviction that he must give up preaching to the masses, and seek out like- minded companions to join him. Rather than be a shepherd, who leads the herd, he must lure people away from the herd. The good and the just, and the believers in the true faith will hate him even more for this, for he will appear to be a lawbreaker and a breaker of the table of values. However, Zarathustra believes this breaking of laws and values will be a glorious act of creation.
The portrait of the "last man" is meant to give us the ultimate result of nihilism. Lacking any positive beliefs or needs, people will aim for comfort and to struggle as little as possible. Soon we will all become the same—all mediocre, and all perfectly content. We will "invent happiness" by eliminating every source of worry and strife from our lives. 
Nietzsche first wrote "God is dead" in section 108 of The Gay Science, the book immediately preceding Zarathustra. 


As activists, the number 108 holds an important lesson for us, as it represents the trinity of time: 1 for the present,0 for the past and 8 for the infinite future. As it relates to activism:
1 is for acceptance. It represents the singular ‘now’ moment; what is. It reminds us that we cannot change anything unless we understand and accept reality.
0 is for integration. It represents the integration of the past. It reminds us that we cannot change anything until we integrate our reality, and combining everything until it just is; until there is no negative or positive, just the mix, if you will. The integrated whole.
8 is for the transmutation. It represents the infinite, the undefined potential. It reminds us that we can change our reality in infinite ways, yet only after acceptance and integration of the entirety can we see and understand and act on that potential.

The 108 formula is quoted from an article by Ethan Indigo Smith. I don't agree with many of his views, but I love the spirit with which he holds them. I like passionate people.

Keep on learning! We learn and then we die. 


"Well, I hope that may have given you some entertainment, something to think about, and I hope that it may have done something to set you free from thinking in material and logical terms when you are in fact trying to talk about living things." Gregory Bateson 1980, three weeks before he died. 
Portrait of Gregory Bateson

Portrait of Gregory Bateson

Gregory Bateson's socratic dialogue with his daughter, "Why does everything always seem to get in a muddle” talks about the infinite ways his daughter’s room can get muddled up because there is only one way that she likes to organize her things. The “one way”, and the infinity of possible other ways seem to exist in strings of theoretical universes. Keeping with the movie references: Welcome to the Matrix. 



Steven Cleghorn

Steven is an autodidact, skeptic, raconteur and film producer from America who has been traveling since he was a zygote. He's a producer at The Muse Films Ltd. in Hong Kong and a constantly improving (hopefully) Globe Hacker. He's seeks the company of interesting minds.