Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sobering Up

Anarchy A to Z:
a guide to understanding our history unfolding for the anesthetized and apathetic

L is for Limits

   When I was in college, I had a friend who carelessly lived--and almost died--by the 30-rack of Keystone Light. If he wasn’t with friends playing beer pong, he was managing the keg at a frat party. If he wasn’t with his brothers, he was at the bar. Our little Northern California college town was a bad place for someone who takes to the drink. Any night of the week one could find 50 cent shots, dollar pints or two dollar Long Islands. We went to a few house parties where we dumped six or seven half gallons of liquor into a plastic tub and simply add one of those cardboard cartons of Kool Aid to make it palatable. We called it Jungle Juice, but it should have been called a stupid-shit-o-meter. Every ladled cup was a step closer to a fight, an inch closer to death, a mile farther from the people who truly cared about you.

   In his worst three years, he pissed myself, spit on his sister, stole some random girls pizza before intentionally burning her with a cigarette, tried to convince a very large woman to fuck him behind a dumpster. The ambulance got called at least once and he spent three different nights in jail. And this is just a fraction of his escapades. Many told him he needed to learn my limits. But it wasn’t really about learning how to balance his physiological limits with something completely incompatible with good health. He was in a bad spot mentally, and it crept into his psyche. He had an alter ego, even though he wasn’t schizophrenic. His name was Drunk Steve.

   Drunk Steve didn’t pay attention to limits. He proceeded to stumble around town in his own universe. He didn’t need limits. He would presumably wake up in the morning a little hung over, hopefully in his own bed, without any broken bones or bloodied body parts. The fact remains that he had limits, even if he ignored them. He did, in fact, need to know his limits. It took him a long time to come to fully realize the damage he had done to his friendships. He’s still discovering the damage he did to his body.

   What if we knew our limits? Would we ride our bicycles more to save some cash and hydrocarbons? Would we plant a garden or meet our local farmer? Would we stop buying into the political circus and create parallel institutions in a spirit of mutual aid? Could we divorce ourselves from our lifestyles? Smash our Magnavox? Throw our iPods into the wind? Would we be willing to live simply, to enter into a compact of voluntary material poverty if it meant access to greater humanity or even enlightenment? 

   Ah, the hyperbole of a pessimist! And his false dilemmas! What reason has he!? We need to be pragmatists. Remember?

   Our spectacles conceal our fears. We turn to the solitude of group identities because reality is like Jungle Juice, but without the Kool Aid. It tastes like shit. We don’t want to drink the Kool Aid called reality. We would rather live and die by our spectacles, in shallow soulless shells of humans that never learned to be human. The Kool Aid won’t kill you, though, drinking it won’t save you either. But it most certainly will help you sober up.

   We live in an age of limits—I’ll be attending a conference by this name Memorial Day weekend, so check back with the Mad Mind of a Man later. Our media narratives are proof positive we are ignoring these limits. With all the talk about gas prices, you hear competing claims that domestic drilling or the Keystone XL would solve the problem on one hand and that it is simply a matter of demand on the global market—the developing world is mighty thirsty and wants to drink up the milkshake. The latter is the more factual claim, the former a political stunt to speak to the fears of crusty old white conservatives who are already deeply skeptical of science, Democrats and dark-skinned folk. To talk about oil demand immediately validates the former’s claim that we need to produce more. But that’s not going to happen. We’d rather ignore the supply side of the equation. More on peak oil later.

   We live in a world of demographic limits too. Malthus’s predictions were not disproven, only postponed. 7,000,000,000 is a lot of mouths to feed. The Green Revolution was itself a spectacle built on petrochemicals and genetic manipulation. It is a complex dinosaur. It doesn’t take much to roll the snowball down the hill. With the unpredictability of climate change-induced extreme weather, we can expect to see the Malthusian skeptics and the techno-romantics look at each other with gaping mouths. “Dude. I didn’t believe it could happen.” No shit, dude.

   Aside from food, humans need water. Many of the world’s people are already water insecure. As climate change ushers in prolonged droughts, and hydrofracking, agricultural runoff and industrial pollution continue to render potable water poisonous, Americans too will know water insecurity. An Old West adage reads: “Whiskey’s for drinking. Water’s for fighting over.” I hate needles, and pain, but I’ve always said, if I get a tattoo, it will bear this mark. If you are going to permanently brand yourself, you might as well brand yourself with something that won’t change. I suspect, it will only become more prophetic with time. If you’re from the arid West, you should know what I’m talking about.

   We don’t really need to be drinking whiskey, because we’re already drunk. And when we’re drunk we’re already past our limits. We’re drunk on the illusion that economic growth will recover, that growth can be limitless. We’re intoxicated with the present. We keep thinking, like Drunk Steve, we’ll wake up in the morning with one helluva story to tell. We keep believing that we can keep pushing our limits, that we can continue to live in an advance and complex industrial society.

   The reality of limits says otherwise. We need to sober up to our limits. But instead, we’re still stumbling around, bar-hopping as if tomorrow is as given as the sunrise. We can hydrate with some reality Kool Aid and recognize that the age of the industrial civilization is in collapse. When we sober up, our heads might hurt for a while, but at least we can begin to manage the transition to a world where less is more, a world where we no longer spin the stupid-shit-o-meter.

   Know that we have limits and we can sober up. It really is that simple. Drunk Steve eventually sobered up.

   Trust me. I was Drunk Steve.


  1. Hi Drunk Steve, I suspected as much. Even so, it looks as if you managed to keep more brain cells than others are born with. This summer, England is officially in a drought. We have water restrictions already and the drought is forcast for the forseeable future. Who knows if rain will come in six months for winter? Rather than blind, I think we're locked into a system where we pay for water we're not allowed to use.

  2. Can't always know where the line is till you've stepped over it! I hope we can all clear the hangover and evolve. We make our own wine, which is a healthy compromise.

  3. My name is Steve and I was a drunk once. Back in my younger days. I have a clear head these days, for better or worse.

  4. I think it's getting harder and harder for people to perceive that there are any limits- except maybe on physical resources. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month. My alphabet is at

  5. Greetings!

    I'm trying to visit all the participants of the 2012 A to Z Challenge and I have arrived at your lovely blog. Good luck with the rest of the year!

    Donna L Martin