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Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation Paperback – October 30, 2009 by Charles Hugh Smith (Author)

The value I extracted from this book required too much sifting and sorting. It could do with a complete revision to about half its considerable length. I bought it because of a recommendation and because the reviews on amazon were good. Initially I thought I was on to something big, but then I began noticing the inconsistencies, sloppiness and redundancy. Readers are warned to “be skeptical of any `natural laws’ which are being applied to human culture and history” (83), after which they are oriented to our present world through a long discussion of just such “natural laws. ” E.g., “If we apply the Stick/Slip hypothesis to the global economy then we understand that . .. [etc., and] . … If history or the Peter Principle is any guide we will not do this consciously or voluntarily because we are incapable due to incompetence” (87). A fairly large number of typos suggest the book was carelessly edited. Utterly banal observations like the following are common: “A free people will want control of their own lives, sustenance and destiny” (322). General statements of questionable validity abound: “humans tend to fill every available niche to the maximum carrying capacity (123) . .. States tend to expand whenever the opportunity presents itself as the spoils of conquest . .. outweigh the costs (124). “Thumbnail comparisons of today with the 13th, 16th and 18th centuries (128) are glib and superficial. Many of the author’s claims just don’t strike me as accurate. For instance, regarding the intellectual framework of Elite dominance, “this process of gaining compliance is not a conspiracy; it is a complex mixture of conscious and unconscious realignments of incentives and disincentives (27). “While there is truth in the second clause, conspiracy cannot be so easily dismissed; it’s part of the mixture. The public’s consciousness is subverted with diabolical art and precision, as Smith himself recognizes in his frequent allusions to such phenomena as “ginned up deceptively packaged quantifications” (170), “the self esteem industry” (231), and “the mass marketing/propaganda system” (229). I was a bit put off by respectful appeals to the authority of Karl Marx (e.g., 141); also by the listing of a book by Noam Chomsky, a former hero that I’ve come to see in a very different light; and the listing of a book by the neoconservative Ben Wattenberg. Several usages of the term “common purpose” (e.g., 213, 214) made me wonder if the phrasing was merely accidental or whether this book is informed by and/or surreptitiously dispensing a politically correct totalitarian subversiveness. Do a google search on “common purpose” if you don’t know what I’m referring to. I lost count of how many times the word “ontological” appears. Even after looking it up in the dictionary, I’m still not sure what it means. How does this word add anything essential in a phrase like, “capitalism’s ontological drive to deploy capital and knowledge” (279)? Smith seems to be aware of this problem, for at one point he actually explains what the word means in parentheses: “superficial and ontologically (that is, inherently) misleading quantitative traps” (278). This smacks of inflated diction, as does a term like “cognitive bias” (171). How is this any different from just plain “bias”?The sloppily circular wording in a phrase like the following is the footprint of a mind that lacks keenness and isn’t fully engaged in what it’s formulating: “Solutions and responses are dynamically evolving in response to changing circumstances and feedbacks” (286). Doesn’t this guy have an editor?Note the repetition, almost word for word, in the space of less than twenty lines: “Even if it [sic] a single tomato vine in a pot, everyone must gain the experience of nurturing, harvesting [etc. ] . … Even if it [sic] a single tomato harvested from a single vine in a single pot on the deck of an apartment, then the experience is necessary [etc. ]” (320). Or this, in a paragraph of only six lines: “The responsibility for educating our young does not fall on some distant amorphous bureaucracy, but on parents and the community . … the . .. education of the young people is still the responsibility of the parents and community at large” (370). I would not put up with writing like this in a freshman research essay. Clearly, we are not dealing here with a mind (or a book) of the first order. Despite these obvious and very annoying flaws, however, I did find a good bit of value in Survival Plus. It includes a fair sprinkling of valid observations – “the entire college degree industry is largely a skillset trap” (171); good advice – “Place your money in credit unions or small local banks which actually recycle the money into your own community” (339); and instances of pithy wording – “a politically potent entertainment of divisive finger-pointing and rancor which works to create superficially appealing `us and them’ ideologies” (105). Smith’s critique in Chapter 5 of the “splendid isolation” strategy for confronting social collapse is engaging and correct. His extended discussion of the interplay of social classes – Plutocracy, State technocratic elites, the productive (or middle) elements, and the bread-and-circus-placated dependents at the bottom – furthered my understanding of what we are living through in these times. Thus, under pressure to support the burgeoning demands of parasites above and below, members of the productive class have three choices: (1) to work ever harder for the material comforts they esteem – a recipe for heart attack; (2) to try and reform the system – with the cards stacked impossibly against them; or (3) to opt out – the beauty of which is that it’s non-confrontational, it’s perfectly legal, and it starves the beast. By the end of Chapter 21, I was feeling pleasantly vindicated, since I understood this intuitively long ago and have lived accordingly. Later chapters develop the principles and methods of constructively opting out. One almost welcomes the challenge, despite the immense hardships it will entail, as starving and flushing out the cancer of corruption can only be of benefit in the end. Smith calls for a reset to our original Constitution, passes on some insightful guidelines from one of his correspondents, and underscores that only a fully engaged citizenry can make the “Great Transformation” a lasting success. There are two areas, however, to which I think Smith gives insufficient emphasis in his macro-analysis. First, we are in the late stages of a whole raft of mathematically exponential crescendos – with population growth, drying up of cheap energy sources, expansion of money and credit, loss of forests, fisheries, farmland and so forth all coming to a head at once. Chris Martenson’s website has a 3-hour “Crash Course” video seminar that explains these aspects of the present crisis much more crisply and professionally than Charles Hugh Smith’s book is written. Second, there’s the little matter of the police-state tyranny that’s taken deep root all around us, which is actually integrated and global in scope. If this development doesn’t make your blood run cold, you haven’t been paying attention, and you’re ignoring the last hundred years or so of history. Smith is right that we shouldn’t succumb to either complacency, at one extreme, or fatalism at the other. Decent, engaged, productive folks ought to be in this game to win. Though I don’t know how you reconcile this with the extremely dire prospects humanity is facing, Smith’s book glosses too lightly over these twin realities. Overall, Survival Plus has a lot of useful content, but it’s intermingled with way too much that’s unsound, incomplete, poorly executed and superfluous. So . .. two stars or three? That was a tough call. The book is itself a simulacrum – one of Smith’s most frequently used terms for identifying the fraudulence our culture is choking on. The book is a counterfeit, a pretense, a shadow of what it attempts and really ought to be. In the end I followed an age-old principle, focusing on the positive, and gave it a three. Check it out!

About the Author Charles Hugh Smith writes the www.oftwominds.com blog and is the author of seven novels and five nonfiction books.


Survival+: Structuring Prosperity for Yourself and the Nation Paperback – October 30, 2009 by Charles Hugh Smith (Author) Review

This is not your casual nighttime reading. It reads more like a textbook from college than anything else, so be prepared to concentrate. I found myself slowly reading each page, pausing, then rereading it again. It is so filled with concepts and scenarios to sift through and reflect on, that it can be overwhelming at times. It is by no means a “reference” book that you’ll turn to when in an emergency, more like a long term strategy book that you better have memorized before SHTF. I read it probably a year ago, and off the top of my head the key concepts I remember out of it are the following:1)All political parties are flawed, including libertarianism (my personal choice), and will lead to an inevitable breakdown of society in one way or the other, sooner or later. In the case of the USA, we are headed there sooner. 2)If you accept 1), then you better get prepared to survive some turbulent times. Striving for self sufficiency will only make you a target, so you are better off finding some like-minded neighbors and building a network of people than have the skills and resources to help you survive. Then you better make yourself useful. Learn a skill that “matters” so you are needed in the above-described network. -Read Reviews-

I will admit I am partial to Mr Smith- I read his blog faithfully, with great interest, every day ([. ..]). So, I was not disappointed by this book. The author is right on target with his assessment of what exactly is wrong with the country and our economy today (too many entitlements/feelings of entitlement by many, massive govt complexity and overspending which is leading to collapse, overreaching/ bloodsucking plutocracy out to keep the debt-serfs in line, draining military expenditures among many others). He is neither “left” nor “right” but just *practical*. The book is not only a captivating read, but actually has clear solutions to what ails us. Not everyone will want to hear the truth (or what needs to be done), but Smith tells it like it is in his usual intelligent and thought-provoking way. Trust me, there are some hard facts to swallow here, but we must swallow the right pill or we will never wake up! This book is very different from the majority of books out there. I also enjoyed the “learning concepts” at the end of each chapter- amusing!

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