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foxwizard ☾

💌 Art thou cockles warm?

Time for a museletter

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Arctic Fox” by Sir Ross William Charles, 1794-1860

Did you know that the phrase “warm the cockles of one’s heart” means ‘to cause someone to feel happy, affectionate, or emotionally uplifted’. (I did). But did you know it is supposedly derived from the Latin term cochleae cordis, which translates to “ventricles of the heart”...? Fascinating, nay? I’m not sure one needs to be that specific—the general heart as a whole would probably suffice. But ‘cockles’ is a fun word, and I relish odd specificity, so: I hope yours are warm.

Capitalism does love it some stone cold cockles, though. It does not reward or advantage those who broadly care. It favours those who abstract, extract, exploit.

’Tis ever a fear of mine: to become cold hearted. Even if in a recent post I contemplated becoming a lawful evil wizard—I ultimately decided I couldn’t. It’s actually too hard, if you know what you are doing.

I also fear becoming dim-witted. As you ought, too. It seems to be the consequence of our distraction-economy-cum-exponential-age. Just last week a report found that Gamers Have Become Less Interested in Strategic Thinking and Planning. (I’d suggest this also applies to executives, chortle). This is but one of the many weak signals that, in aggregate, point to our collective dumbing dimming down.* The increasing prominence of shorter-form, attention-grabbing, polarising and emotive content, coupled with algorithms that create ideological echo-chambers and intellectual regression—this is dimming our light, too.

* This is not a new phenomenon. Nicholas Carr wrote of this nearly 15 years ago in The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

Oh I know most can’t sense the gloaming yet; they’re still fixated, like moths, upon the bright promise of Big Tech; blinded by manufactured hope. (It’s not their fault.) If I were less intellectually honest and more commercially savvy, I would groom myself to be the beloved propaganda-puppet to the incorporated egregores who serve the whims of Moloch. “Things might seem bad,” I’d say, “but if we ignore the overwhelming trend and instead focus on a subset of select data that enables those of us within the elite hegemony to feel good and stay comfortable, it doesn’t look so bad! That’s progress. So remember, when things look bad [pause, turn to camera]—there’s always hope.” [standing ovation]

Hoho, but things are getting darker. We’re well into the fourth turning. It’s the end of the world as we know it (but not the end of the world). The darkness we experience now may well be a necessary precursor to genuinely brighter times.

Crises are catalysts.

Paradigms change via sublimation.*
Incrementally—then suddenly.

* Just as sublimation involves a direct change from solid to gas, paradigm shifts can involve direct transitions from one set of foundational principles to another without gradual, incremental changes. This can happen when a crisis reveals the inadequacies of current paradigms so starkly that a direct leap to a new paradigm is necessary. We just need to hope that it *is* a leap into a paradigm that is conducive to greater complexity and the flourishing of all life—and not a fall into a kind of cyberpunk authoritarian dystopia.

Once we allow our vision to adjust to the dark, we are then be able to see and discern the glimmers. And by glimmers I mean: notions so nebulous and weak they might seem to be but whimsical velleity. Yet—like benevolent will o’ the wisps—such glimmers might just serve to lead us out of the dark.

Because, to co-create a world more curious and kind (and a future less grim) requires that we tend to the conditions that bring about warm heartedness 🧡 and bright mindedness 🌞.

I hope these museletters contribute to this endeavour. They may seem dark and doomster at times—though I can assure you: I am well, and wish only the best for you and all of us. My intent is not to depress you, but rather: to illuminate the ways that otherwise dwell in the penumbra.

In How to Lead a Quest I wrote of the delusion of progress—as distinct from meaningful progress. It’s largely a question of orientation and directionality.

There’s also a question of perspective. Meaningful progress for you, individually, might mean undercutting others so that you can get ahead. But this self-interest perpetuates our multipolar trap, ensuring a collectively worse future for us all.

Here is an audio excerpt of Daniel Schmachtenberger describing the multipolar trap.

An audio excerpt of Daniel Schmachtenberger describing the multipolar trap

But there are other options available to us—if we but quest for them. Quests, as I define (in an oddly un-mythic manner) are the search for viable alternative options to the default. I think it quite clear that the current default trajectory of our “civilization project” is unviable; choosing to not choose an alternative will have devastating consequences.

Degrowth might be a viable alternative

Degrowth remains an apt directionality to orient towards—yet I will admit that the term remains unpalatable to a world weaned upon capitalism.

But, as Erin Remblance writes, Let’s Not Call It Something Else.

“The term ‘degrowth’ is honest, not trying to sugar coat the severity of the situation with fairy tales of technology and green growth, or solutions that aren’t workable, or not likely to be viable. Because of that honesty, ‘degrowth’ gets noticed.”

And let’s not kid ourselves: our current trajectory is dire. ⇜ Yet this realisation also creates countervailing narratives. Just as raising awareness of climate change serves to raise selfish behaviours that hasten the impacts of climate change, so too do museletters like this potentially give rise to folks who—fed up with reading this wizard’s worldly aspersions—decide to be the champions of some kind of naïve-solutionism instead. It’s a tricky to dance with this knowingness.

But I shall be striving towards doing more to illuminate a constellation of visions.

Just as with the cosmos, it may be difficult to see the stars that make up the constellations if you are surrounded by the polluting city light. But—if you find a spot dark enough, and give yourself time—they will reveal themselves to you. And then we might be able to use them to navigate by.

Degrowth is one such option within the quiver of options available to us. It increasingly seems to be one of the more viable options available to us. But how it comes about, I’m not sure. What I do know is: the sensibilities implicit to degrowth are worth considering.

The post-growth* guide offers great insight for those of us who seek to align business efforts within planetary boundaries.

* Degrowth and post-growth are related yet distinct. Nate Hagens, the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future and host of ‘The Great Simplification’ podcast posits that “degrowth is what we should do, but post-growth is what we're going to have to do”. The two concepts share enough overlap that I am happy to conflate them outside of academic contexts, though.

Jason Hickel, author of Less is More—How Degrowth Will Save The World* presents a perspective on capitalism that many of us are increasingly realising.

“This is the core principle of capitalism: that the world is not really alive, and it is certainly not our kin, but rather just stuff to be extracted and discarded—and that includes most of the human beings living here too. From its very first principles, capitalism has set itself at war against life itself.”

* Gosh damn but publishers do so love books that promise to save the world. I remember Tyson Yunkaporta’s publisher chose a similar title for his brilliant book Sand Talk—How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World. I guess it’s a little humbler than “will” save the world. But sometimes I wonder if all us would-be world-savers ought chill out and first just focus on doing less harm. Mind you, this is a point both authors make here—and most authors don’t get to choose their subtitles. So... yeah.

This resonates with the perspective of The Basilisk. “Everything a Basilisk looks at dies,” writes Paul Kingsnorth. “It walks through a dead world thinking it is seeing reality.” We have such a lens on reality now. Many are exhibiting the obligate sociopathy* (to borrow Daniel Schmachtenberger’s term) on social media in relation the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people. Dehumanising language has been normalised. The slaughter of children? Normalised.

* When power-seeking behaviors are rewarded in systems without being kept in check by ethical considerations, we see the rise of individuals who are willing to use and abuse power for their own gain. Consequently, we end up with systems dominated by those who lack ethical constraints (think: politics, media)—meaning that regular folk are obligated to adopt sociopathic behaviours if they are to compete.

Or at least, this is what is being attempted. But there is a countervailing realisation emerging. One of cooperation, mutual flourishing and coming together. And it’s quite galvanising.

Through the eyes of The Basilisk, capitalism would see you not as a human—but as a resource. A human resource. Something to burn (out), in order to fuel the machine.

But another paradigm awaits—if we can somehow avoid sliding into authoritarian dystopia.

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Gosh—I know I am sounding like some sort of radical at the moment. But I am trying to remain level-headed about it. The Fourth Turning Is Here, and in response to rampant individualism and decades of exploitation, the wheel is turning back to the collective, and civic engagement.

(Of course, we will likely see an over-correction in the next decade, hoho. But give it another decade and the next generation will over-correct for that—or so the Strauss–Howe generational theory goes).

Anyway—back to degrowth as but one of the seemingly viable alternative options available to us. As honest as the term “degrowth” is, I can understand how some—when first hearing it—may consider to it to be something quite dour. But, as Professor Jason Hickel writes, there are accelerationist possibilities even within a degrowth scenario. Exciting. Some snippets:—

“[...] a degrowth scenario is not a ‘smaller economy’ (i.e., a low-capacity economy). It is a high-capacity economy which is reducing less-necessary production, and therefore is suddenly endowed with spare capacity that can be redirected for necessary purposes.

[...]

In our existing economy, finance is controlled by capital, and capital invests in producing what is most profitable rather than what is most necessary. This is why we get substantial investment in fossil fuels, SUVs and fast fashion (which are highly profitable) and insufficient investment in renewable energy, public transit and insulation (which are either not as profitable, or not profitable at all).

[...]

It helps to recognize that when we talk about ‘investment’, money is just the vehicle. The real investment actually takes the form of allocating real productive capacity: real labour, materials, energy etc. Once we understand this fact, it becomes clear that a degrowth scenario enables investment in green production and innovation, by making real productive capacity available.

This represents an important rebuttal to the claim made by many economists that the only way to ‘fund’ the green transition is first to increase growth. The assumption here is that we need higher GDP in order to obtain higher tax revenues to finance green production (in other words, increase corporate production of stuff, and then take some of the money from this to spend on green production). From this point of view, degrowth is self-defeating: less GDP, less tax revenue, less green production. But the flaw in this thinking should be immediately clear. Corporations do not produce money. They produce things. To say that we need to increase growth (i.e., increase production of existing things) in order to “fund” green production is tantamount to saying we need to increase production of SUVs, fast fashion and private jets in order to increase production of solar panels and public transit. Clearly this is absurd. We can increase green production directly, with public finance. And indeed this process is enabled – not inhibited – by reducing less-necessary forms of production and thus liberating productive capacity to be redirected for other purposes.”

I am not purporting that degrowth is The One True Way. Only that it may well be a viable direction to orient towards. And that, for those of us who genuinely care about future relevance—a state in which whatever we do is coherent to the emergent context (that is: our actions make sense)—it behooves us to explore beyond this already-collapsing paradigm.


Most of the enterprising teams I have worked with in the past nine years since How to Lead a Quest was published have achieved genuine strategic differentiation and advantage—along with enduring relevance—not by fixating upon the seemingly obvious path (like all of their competitors), but rather by:

  1. developing in-house intelligence in emerging domains;
  2. cultivating a living quiver of options; and
  3. deftly executing strategy with metamodern savvy.

Despite our grim-times, we stand at the cusp of paradigmatic change. And some teams are very well positioned for this emergent reality. Those who quest, lead.

Book Dr. Fox for your next conference, offsite or event —> drjasonfox.com 🧡


the museletter 💌 and the spellbook ✨

I have not written a proper museletter for you in all of my autumn. That is not to say I haven’t written—there have been a smattering of spellbook posts shared (below). I just haven’t written a museletter to you in my signature solipsistic epistolatory and career-limiting form.

The splitting of museletter and spellbook was meant to facilitate ‘a curtailing of the dark’. The theory was: my museletters are becoming deep and broody—I need to offer something more pithy-practical on the side. This... hasn’t worked. Instead the spellbook is some sort of confused blend of personal blog, professional propaganda and anti-fascist ranting.

Still! ICYMI, here are the spellbook pages I’ve written since my last museletter to you in February.

I’ll find my groove with these soon. None of these are quite what my next book is about, btw. It’s mostly me cope-adapting to a world that is collapsing even faster than I anticipated. But enough of the gloom! Here are some glimmers that I’m attuning to.

The Rekindling is back 🔥

Post-doom Regenerative Sensibilities for the Collapse-Aware
—a gathering of bright minds & warm hearts seeking new ways

It’s back! PK and I haven’t run one of these since September last year. And: a lot has happened in the world since then. PK had an incredible experience with Tyson Yunkaporta at—from what I understand to be—a pretty sacred gathering of Indigenous folk over in Uganda. And I know they have been in conversation with rather large investment firms actively exploring (and experimenting) in systems of land and ecosystem regeneration. It’s going to be fun to unpack. I am also hoping to gather a couple of folks from within our not-community to share what glimmers they’ve been attuned to, too.

But mostly it will just be great to get the band back together again. And that includes you. There’s a reason I don’t promote The Rekindling too overtly—we want to attract the bright minds and warm hearts. Those curious enough to read one of my museletters this deep. (I already scared away the extractive sociopaths with my talk of degrowth, hoho).

Join us on Wednesday 12th of June, 5:45pm–7:15pm at United Co. then 7:15pm–9pm at the Molly Rose. Tickets via the link below or at foxwizard.com/rekindling

The Rekindling – 12th June 2024 | Humanitix
The Rekindling – regenerative sensibilities for the collapse-aware
Note: We also have a very special midwinter event planned for the evening of July 10th—save the date!

Daylight 🌅

After reading Craig Mod’s post about his portable e-reader—and after being reminded of how we need to be more careful with The Portals we use—I have been on a quest to limit screen time. For the past eight months, I have been imbibing the horrors of the world via my screens. I’ve been lured into fake arguments and have found myself torn betwixt the need to:
a) Show Up to countervail the forces that would seek to divide us and have us live in fear; and
b) switch off and focus on the deeper work (my book) and in being in my body and present to the wonders of The Real.

It is ever a both-and oscillation. I don’t believe there to be merit in being always-online, nor always-off. Venkatesh Rao said it well six years ago, and this mostly holds true today—though I would err more towards the cozyweb and (sufficiently) decentralised social media protocols over corporate social networks with their obfuscated algorithms.

“We are all now part of a powerful global social computer in the cloud that is possibly the only mechanism we have available to tackle the big problems of the world that industrial age mechanisms are failing to cope with. We might as well get good at it. Do your part. Stay as plugged in as you can.” – source

We still need to traverse the open web—but we do so being especially mindful to keep our wits about us.

Yet still: I’d like to work towards a world where my own screen time is much lessened, and much more intentional. There’s a reason they call it “the web”; a reason they call it “the net”. It is ever so easy to become entangled and enraged these days.

Daylight Computer seems like it might serve as the right kind of nicotine-patch for my needs as I strive to recalibrate my own screen-use time. A muted portal. It works with kindle, obsidian, iA writer and readwise—which is effectively all of what I need to write my next book for you. There’s some cringe to the way they market and position this shiny new product (and there’s an irony to me promoting it here)—but I kinda really like it. We’ll see.

Teaching, schooling, education—and advice to young folk

I’m finishing this museletter to you on my laptop from the bed of a hotel room, before I shower, don my Dr. Fox costume, and then contribute to an event for school principals.

Teachers and principals oft do heroic work. They exist betwixt the crushing weight of an onerous and antiquated industrial system of standardisation that forces abstract competition, an increasingly connected and concerned parent cohort, and the young minds—the students—whom they care very much about.

A couple of months ago the dangerlam and I had the delight of joining PK and Annie from Kearney Group for an advanced screening of one of the films from the Melbourne International Film Festival.*

* Kearney Group sponsor and present the First Nations Film Creative Award.

The Teachers’ Lounge is a tense and unsettling yet moving glimpse into the life of a dedicated young teacher in a German middle school. Director Ìlker Çatak captured the politics—how power works—in a rich and deeply complex way; the kind that would arouse passionate conversation weeks after the movie itself. It wasn’t an enjoyable film (I had to remind myself to breathe)—but Leonie Benesch’s performance was impeccable, and this feels to me to be an important film for all to see.

Inevitably, the topic of Artificial Intelligence will emerge in this event I contribute to. And, potentially, there may be vendors with AI-enabled products to “ease the burden” on teachers so that they can “focus on what really matters”—not realising that in so doing we perpetuate the Jevon’s Paradox and hasten our way to a less-desirable future for all. I’m not default “AI = bad”—but I am keen for us to think a little deeper and act a lot wiser about it. It’s an unpopular stance amidst a world that loves to accelerate.

Here’s a recent podcast I would highly recommend to you, if you have an interest in teaching, schooling, our education system, and how we are preparing our young folk for the future.

Teachers and principles need to be both progressive futurists and pragmatic conservatives—both at once. But this is a challenge. Here’s a quote from the podcast, where philosopher and futurist Dr. Zak Stein articulates the predicament-space we are now within.

“The screens are offering kids a world so far advanced from what schools are able to keep up with that the teachers can’t even remotely compete. This technology gap is widening the generation gap over time, making it harder for the traditional educational systems to engage and educate the younger generation effectively.”

Towards the end of the podcast, Nate Hagens asked Zak the following: “What advice, what portfolio of options would you recommend to a young person, being aware of all this, wanting to live a good life, wanting to play a role in our collective future?”

To which Zak replied:

“If you feel alienated, and angry—you should. [...] Don’t believe most of the adults. And watch out. And have faith in the people who are your age. And also don’t give up on the adults.”

Here’s to not giving up on the adults. And for us adults to not give up on their future. And to cockle warming.

—fw

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further musings

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