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347: Totalitarian Centrism


C-Realm_347KMO welcomes John Michael Greer, the Archdruid, back to the C-Realm Podcast to talk about binary thaumaturgy and other means by which political conversation in the United States has been reduced to meaningless utterances meant to divide the population into antagonistic factions. Phatic communication which is devoid of substantive content has replace analysis in contemporary political discourse, particularly on television. In response to a question about the danger of austerity playing into the hands of right wing demagogues and giving rise to fascism, JMG explains that fascism is not a right-wing phenomenon. Rather, fascism is something that arises from the neglected center when divisive political language has driven participants to extremes and left the center unrepresented in mainstream discourse. Polarizing language clears the way for totalitarian centrism.


Music by The Little Stevies.


Here previous conversations between John Michael Greer and KMO about JMG's books:


The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age

The Ecotechnic Future: Exploring a Post-Peak World

The Wealth of Nature: Economics As If Survival Mattered

14 comments to 347: Totalitarian Centrism

  • Sam

    Great episode!

    The suggestion that fascism isn’t right-wing because it was opposed by right-wing factions (as well as left-wing factions) is one of the most bizarre assertions I’ve ever heard. It’s not like being “centrist” excludes being extremely right-wing (or left-wing, or whatever), at least for some definitions of “centrist” (probably not “values compromise between political extremes”, but “is at the center of the dominant ideological spectrum in a given place and time” and “identifies with the political and/or cultural mainstream”).

    The discussion of media struck close to home. I’m certainly over-stimulated in that sense, I’ve (probably too unironically) described myself as a “media junkie”. Having a lot more media I want to consume than time to consume it causes me quite a bit of anxiety sometimes, though I realize that not being able to get around to everything is not really a problem (there’s always going to be more interesting / fun / fascinating stuff than anyone has time for, anyways).
    I did think the idea of society “running on magic” (and specific sorts of magic at that) was a fascinating way of framing that issue. Reminded me of some comment (I forget from where) about how what sorts of drugs societies favor and disfavor says a lot about those societies. Try combining that with the media-as-drugs analogy.

    The bit towards the end about the visibility of a slow collapse reminded me of a post about ruins and Peak Oil that I’d read just recently.

  • Larry Lowe

    John Michael Greer is a handful to listen to. I’d love to have KMO use an audio tool to slow down the rate of speech without changing pitch to reduce the rate of the flow of ideas and concepts.

    That said, he begins by accurately describing the media induced pseudo polarity on non-issues that serves to define the basis of broad public discourse and concern in the country, something I’ve long been aware of but never had the exact two words to describe: Binary Thaumaturgy.

    Culture has been reduced to which brand name, policial party, sports franchise or economic percent of the population you support or oppose.

    If Thaumaturgy is the change of consciousness, manipulation of focus of consciousness, and then if we need to effect change in the consciousness of the 1%, we need a means of using this majic to change their priorites and wants. Anyone got any ideas? How about a Facebook Game App that sucks people into running a sustainable society, not a growth society? Make it charming, make it engaging, involve social gaming rewards, suck in a mass audience and perhaps we can change some minds. Facebook is potentially the new mass media.

    Televison is numbing, mesmerizing and induces mental stupor. Interactive media is engaging, involving and induces participation. We need to get the level of discourse up to a civilisation scale society.

    KMO’s final thoughts speak to the ability of thoughtful discourse to change consciousness.

    • KMO

      Larry, if you remember my recent discussion with Lon Milo DuQuette, using magick to change the mindset of the one percent is probably barking up the wrong tree. All the demons you summon and put to work with theurgy will only change yourself. Magick may be the art of effecting changes in consciousness in accordance with will, but it’s the magician’s own consciousness that magick gives him power to manipulate. Now, as JMG defined it, it does seem like Thaumaturgy is something that can be directed against someone else’s consciousness, but I’m not really of a mind to try to beat the one percent at their own game. I’d rather play a different game. Maybe we can make our games look like so much fun that they’d want to play with us, and then they will have the motivation and the example to model their consciousness after ours. That brings us back around to using the tools and methodologies available to effect changes in our own consciousness. What is your will?

      • Sam

        To extend the analogy, you can use magic to change someone else’s consciousness like you can use cooking to change someone else’s waistline.

      • Larry Lowe

        Good points, KMO.

        I realize it’s easy to misunderstand my concept when I realize I left out a step or two. I’m not thinking about doing majic to directly change one individual. I agree with DuQuette that that process is prone to backfire or even attract the wrong entities into your psychosphere.

        What I am thinking is that (for example, but not specifically) a Facebook Simulation Social App Game modeled along Farmville but with a fundamentally different reward system and game win structure would drive home the meme–for temporary lack of a much better term–of collaborative management of the environment/economy/resources to sustain a population and maintain it is the goal into the mind of the individual player. Interactive media will do that, you don’t need majic. In a sense, the memes promulgated on the web and the means to do so are the new Thaumaturgy, but only if any given one reaches a large audience. (There 80 jillion websurfers at any moment, but only 500 of them are looking at the same website.)

        Now, if there is anything to the morphogeneic field Sheldrake is talking about, and if said simulation becomes a stone-cold runnaway viral hit, then a lot of minds are thinking about collaboration and sustainability as goals rather than how fast they can shoot bad guys or acquire ever expanding resources.

        When enough minds come to that frame of reference, then perhaps the concepts will emerge into the minds of the infamous 1% from their subconscious. It would help if the thing was a hit and earned a lot of revenue for the gamebuilders who could donate portions to worthy causes in a ‘Ben and Jerry’s” fund.

        So I’m not talking about a game where people in networked collaboration try to influence the mind of Donald Trump through synchronous visualization and spell-casting, I’m talking about a game that rewards sustainable behaviors so effectively that it links that to the kinds of primal needs JMG says come to drive our behavior.

        Yeah, I know, it’s sketchy at the moment. May not be a bad idea if it gets fleshed out. May not be the right one, either.

        BTW, I gotta say that the C-Realm logo in blazing glory in what I assume to be Times Square is so the perfect touch to this episode’s artwork. Deft, sir. Deft.

        • Larry Lowe

          Actually, screw it. Let’s give them a game world with a population of 7 Billion and rapidly rising with resources for 2.5 Billion and rapidly dwindling.

          And reward the game players who manage things with the least die-off and best general standard of living overall.

          ModelWorld. Coming to a planet near you. Real soon now.

        • Larry Lowe

          I guess I am thinking as you are in a sense. Make the game help the individual shift/change their consciousness. Rely on traditional game social rewards structure to make it repetitive.

          Rely on morphic resonance to permeate collective consciousness rather than hope that if enough people do enough personal work in non-resonant fashion we will somehow muddle through.

  • Juha

    It’s possible that this issue has been brought before, but I feel like mentioning it; that is, a technical note on the listener-friendliness of the podcast. The impetus being that this episode had a better than usual balance between the sound levels of the interview and the featured music. I feel that generally the contrast between those two, as well as the rooster’s crow and the theme music (especially the new one), is radical to say least. At least I have felt that way on many an occasion since I tend to listen to the podcast on my computer speakers, but not in its vicinity and at a time of day when I shouldn’t be subjecting those around me to loud sounds. It’s quite a drag having to run up to the computer and hastely adjust the volume if relaxed on an acupressure mat, for example. I’d be very happy if KMO would consider routinely normalizing the audio if there is no particular reason why it’s preferable as is.

    • KMO

      Hi Juha,

      For the first 6 years of the C-Realm Podcast, I used Audacity, a free, open-source audio editing program, to create each episode. I’ve recently switched to Adobe Audition, and it has more sophisticated tools for matching audio levels of the various tracks. It is my goal to learn to make even better use of the extensive capabilities of this superior software.

      In the past, I tried putting finished episodes through the Levelator, but it seemed to me that the distortions that the Levelator introduced more than offset the improvement to the volume consistency. If you have specific suggestions for a single pass, whole episode process to improve the aspects of the show that you have issues with, I really do welcome that input.

      Thank you for listening and providing feedback.


  • Danny Deadnettlez

    Thank you for your wise words at the end of the podcast. I feel blessed to bee reminded that it is better to understand than to bee understood! Much grain for the mental grist.

  • James Castleberry

    Great episode with a stunning musical track by the Little Stevies. What really resonated with me was JMG’s call to “lighten up,” which is something I am still in the process of doing. But there really is a freedom in having fewer material possessions to worry about.

  • […] If you wish to learn more about these concepts, I suggest reading about them in the blog of John Michael Greer, Pluto’s republic, and The Trouble With Binary Thinking or listening to his interview on the C-Realm podcast #347 Totalitarian Centrism […]

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