From The Wilderness To The End Of Civilization
By Carolyn Baker
09 November, 2009
Carolyn Baker reviews Mike Ruppert's peak oil movie "Collapse"
Why would someone go to a movie that is essentially an interview of someone else? Don't we go to movies to be entertained or watch documentaries in order to be inundated with voluminous information and breath-taking cinematography? What would compel anyone to sit for 82 minutes watching some guy chain smoking while he's being interviewed about the collapse of industrial civilization in a room that looks like a bunker?
If incessant adrenalin rushes enhanced by stupefying special effects are what you desire, seeing "Collapse" should be postponed until you are ready to hear, see, and feel how Director Chris Smith's uncanny discernment is brilliantly conveyed in one of the most poignant, but inspiring movies of this decade.
When was the last time you saw a movie that opened with a plea for revolution-no, not the kind with bullets and bombs, but the kind Thomas Jefferson said should happen every twenty years-a revolution in our thinking? In fact, the kind of revolution Mike Ruppert calls for in the opening scenes is one that takes place inside us. In fact, that kind of revolution is one he's lived since he was a political science major at UCLA in the seventies. Whether you like him or not, whether you agree with him or not, you cannot argue that every word that comes out of his mouth in "Collapse", issues from bone-marrow experience-the kind none of us would ever welcome, the kind some of us would have long since committed suicide over, the kind most of us would gladly walk away from. Yet, Mike Ruppert is still alive, still speaking his truth, and amazingly, still able to laugh and play music.
From this point forward in this review, I will refer to Mike Ruppert as simply "Mike." That's because despite the fact that we've had our disagreements in the past and not a few "come to Jesus" moments, this guy named Mike--"Ruppert", "MCR", the LAPD narc, the investigative journalist, and "batshit insane conspiracy theorist" as he has been derisively labeled, is still my friend, and has been for almost a decade.
So what kind of movie opens with the main character coming in, sitting down, lighting a cigarette, and being asked, "So who are you?" Shortly, the viewer may be thinking, "Wish they hadn't asked that question because I really don't want to know." That means that by the time you've heard three minutes of Mike's personal story, you are already appalled and prepared to plug your ears and do anything but hear more. Your first response may be, "That can't be true", yet his story is fully documented in writing and by verified numerous eyewitnesses. In summary, his was no ordinary childhood and certainly no ordinary law enforcement career. All roads led to that career as a highly decorated Los Angeles Police Department detective, and everything after has been impacted by it. For as Mike very clearly states in the movie, that clean, dedicated, twenty-seven year-old cop is still alive in him and has always wanted some answers-and yes, some justice.
But to the same extent the conscientious cop lives within him, so does the cartographer, the map maker, whose life depended on finding out how the world really works as opposed to how we've been told it works. I would say that at least 80% of his work has evolved out of an attempt to save his own life. That brings it down from ivory tower speculation to a cellular, soul level.
So if you're still hanging out with doubts about the validity of Peak Oil, you won't be after you watch this movie's second segment. I've heard and read volumes on Peak Oil, but Mike's explanation always rings in my ears more loudly than that of any other because of its clarity and simplicity. However, he admittedly stands on the shoulders of numerous Peak Oil researching giants such as Dale Allen Pfeiffer and what he calls "The Three Wise Men": Colin Campbell, Matt Simmons, and Richard Heinberg.
Mike explains that it requires the mind of a cop to understand how Peak Oil fits into the rest of the map of events in terms of motive, means, and opportunity. It is now the fundamental underpinning of foreign policy-not only that of the United States, but of all industrial nations. Institutionalized denial of Peak Oil or the refusal by our government to tell the truth about it is nothing less than criminal, according to Mike, because it means that we are building our future as if Peak Oil doesn't exist-sacrificing the lives of future generations so that we can live comfortable lives based on a lie. As for "alternative energy options", I've yet to hear anyone surpass Mike's explanations of how futile and farcical this notion is in terms of sparing us from a global energy crisis. On a small, local scale, renewable energy is necessary and useful, but it is an untenable solution for the long-term, big picture reality of the end of the age of oil.
THE DEADLY ACCURATE MAP
About the same time that Mike's newsletter, From The Wilderness began publishing stories about Peak Oil, he started connecting the dots between a number of other issues, and several articles published on the website at that time by Catherine Austin Fitts and by Mike, revealed the likelihood of a massive housing and debt bubble that would inevitably burst and result in a global economic meltdown. In his numerous articles and lectures, Mike began admonishing people to get out of debt, buy gold, pay off credit cards, and learn to grow their own food. It is illumining to return to the From The Wilderness website from time to time and revisit the economic forecasts made there which predicted the current crisis superbly. Some aspects of timing and minor details may have fallen short of accuracy, but for the most part, the forecasts were spot-on in terms of the larger picture.
Others, including myself, read, wrote for, and published aspects of the From The Wilderness map which at the time resulted in being scorned and called crazy. Those years from 2001 to the beginning of the economic crash in September, 2008 were especially tough for many of us in terms of being labeled inveterate doom and gloomers. Some of my close friends who got it were calling me "Cassandra Baker" and with good reason.
But neither Mike nor I have broken out the champagne to celebrate how right on target we were during those years because the collapse of civilization and all of its attendant horrors is not something to celebrate. However, we are both buoyed by the number of people who paid attention and acted accordingly and are still doing so today. Likewise, we are inspired and encouraged by the people who have awakened more recently and all those who are just now connecting the dots and experiencing in their bones, the same revolution to which Mike refers in the opening moments of "Collapse."
Fiat Currency, Fractional Reserve Banking, and Compound Interest-these are the only three things you need to know, says Mike, about money. These three inherently comprise a pyramid scheme; in fact, the entire global economy is a pyramid scheme. It is based on the infinite growth paradigm which has now collided with something much more powerful. Our economy is collapsing, but many other countries in the world are collapsing much more rapidly. In summary, the people who have been running the planet are now losing control.
Anyone who has been researching the collapse of industrial civilization understands, as Mike clearly reminds us, that a global population explosion occurred almost simultaneously with the discovery of oil as the 19th century moved into the 20th . Population has steadily increased as the availability of oil has increased, and it is axiomatic that as access to oil decreases, so must the population.
A question that naturally arises from these disturbing realities is whether or not the human race can understand them and change its behavior in time to avert catastrophe. At this point, Mike reminds us of three types of responses to a Titanic-like situation. One is the deer-in-the-headlights response in which one is frozen with fear and surprise and begins to ask, "What does this mean? What do I do?" Another kind of response is, "We know this is happening, we know we're all going to die unless we build lifeboats, so let's get busy doing it." Another group says, "This is the Titanic; it's unsinkable."
Everything is going to break down differently in different places, according to Mike. Currently, we are seeing the bumpy plateau of energy prices which fluctuate wildly. The critical, lethal point of the plateau for the human race is when oil prices spike again, and no one can afford to buy the oil, at which point, everything will shut down.
THE TRANSITION PHASE
What is critical now is for us to begin to put new structures in place before the old infrastructure completely crumbles. That phase could last between 20 years (which would be incredibly fast) to 50 or 100 years. What is crucial is that we don't panic but rather analyze our own local situation to see what structures must be put in place there. Shortages will occur, but most likely, gradually as opposed to abruptly. Specific shortages will happen in specific places for a specific period. Thus, what is important is not to prepare for the end result of collapse, but to prepare for the transition.
When asked if a collapse be "prevented" by human ingenuity, Mike pensively responds with, "No amount of technology, no amount of human ingenuity can overturn the laws of physics and the laws of the universe." Humankind's greatest peril, he asserts, is to believe that it can overturn the law of the universe and "become God."
He very directly admonishes us to: Buy gold, insulate your house, restore the soil around you and grow food in the restored soil; get organic seeds and store them; get a land line and realize that your cell phone will not be available as the system's collapse exacerbates. Local food production is the most fundamental key to human survival in the collapse of industrial civilization.
For example, when the Soviet Union collapsed, North Korea and Cuba were desperately dependent on Soviet oil. The two nations adapted to the loss differently. North Korea maintained its rigid communist system, and millions starved. The Cuban government, however, adapted by growing organic food almost everywhere, abandoning the agribusiness model. The idea was to grow food where people were going to eat food, and the result was remarkable resilience-and survival. The phenomenon to which Mike is referring in this section of "Collapse" is extremely well documented in the 2006 film, "The Power of Community". In summary, in the new human paradigm, everything will be local, and as all animals species know, survival must occur in community, not in isolation.
Director Chris Smith has succeeded in capturing the essence of Mike Ruppert, and one aspect of that essence is the monumental load of grief he carries regarding having spent three decades crying "from the wilderness" to humanity to awaken and embrace the new paradigm. Yet even as the grief is poignantly revealed to us through Mike's tears, so is the balance he maintains through savoring love, fun, play, and making people smile-all of which are very instructive to those of us who are consciously preparing for collapse.
Mike reminds us of Kubler-Ross's Five Stages of Grief and comments that currently, our society appears to be caught in the Anger stage. Ironically, the day I began this review was the same day in which the Ft. Hood massacre occurred, followed by another terrifying shooting rampage in Orlando, Florida. The protracted debate on healthcare over the course of 2009 has been punctuated with numerous violent outbursts at town meetings and insane rages against "socialism" by thousands of hurting middle class Americans. Caustic vitriol pervades our crumbling culture, and that chilling reality is exacerbated by mainstream media's massive lies, distortions, and omissions. How we get through this phase, according to Mike, is critical, and unfortunately, we have little in the culture to assist us in moving through it. However, once we do, and once we begin experiencing acceptance, we are then able to discover like-minded "passengers" on the Titanic with whom we can ally to build lifeboats.
I was recently asked if I thought it was possible that I could be "wrong" about Peak Oil and climate change. My response is that it's possible to be wrong about anything. But as Mike so powerfully comments in "Collapse", there is no longer anything to debate. Engaging in debate on these issues is very much like debating whether the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Peak Oil and climate change are happening; what's to debate?
For those who expend energy with political solutions, Mike points out that capitalism, socialism, and communism are terms "that need to be put in the trash can immediately." The only thing the human race will be concerned with in the future is survival, and ideologies and political parties are showing us less than nothing about how to do this. Engaging in large-scale political processes is not only futile, but deprives us of the energy we need to be investing in survival. All these ideologies were created on the premise of infinite resources, and none offer a balance with the planet's resources and other species.
Yes, we have a sincere, likeable guy in the White House, but, says Mike: He's a prisoner-a prisoner of the government, of politics, of the Federal Reserve, of a system that's archaic. Don't make success or failure rest on his shoulders. The only thing any of us can possible change is our minds.
Stop running from your fear, Mike admonishes us, and starting moving toward embracing your fear because therein lies our ability to survive. This will be, he optimistically reminds us, the greatest evolution in human thinking our species has ever known. Do not run away from your fear, your love, or any emotion because that is the life experience. In those emotions we find the richness of art, music, poetry, and all human creations. Our greater work, he says, is to pull that richness out of the rubbish of civilization's paradigm--a comment which bears uncanny resemblance to what I have written in Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization's Collapse.
Asked if he would ever "walk away" from three decades of work, Mike asks: If there was a German in 1932-33 who had the foresight to look ahead and see what the end result of the Third Reich would be, could they have in good conscience turned around and walked away? We are collectively as a species responsible for what may be the greatest holocaust in human history-our own suicide.
While I have no negative comments regarding "Collapse", I do have concerns about two issues which could be interpreted as contradictions. One is Mike's statement in the movie that during the Bush administration, he believes Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were paying very close attention to his work. The viewer is left to wonder about his rationale for this bold statement, especially as he concludes the comment with, "that's all I care to say." Three decades of persecution by the powers that be does not, in itself, indicate that any two members of those powers were intensely interested in Mike and his work. So I'm left wondering what he knows that we don't.
Those of us who have been close associates of Mike in the past witnessed his dramatic exodus from Los Angeles to Ashland, Oregon in 2006, based as he said at the time on what a horrible place he believed L.A. would turn out to be in collapse. Yet it is precisely to that city that he returned in 2008. One may be tempted to accuse him of hypocrisy, but only if one does not understand that Mike spent most of his life in L.A., and it is for him "home" in every sense of the word. Some people preparing for collapse choose to relocate to exotic locations; some choose what is familiar and comforting.
The movie draws to a close with Mike's recounting in detail the Hundredth Monkey story. For all its poignancy and sad moments, "Collapse" leaves us with great optimism, joy, possibility, and inspiration. While the logistical focus of the movie is on Mike Ruppert, the ultimate focus is on each of us-on that part of us that knows in every cell of our bodies that we are now in the throes of collapse and that our survival and the meaning of our very existence lies in embracing and to some extent living the Michael C. Ruppert that abides in all of us.