I know most people will read my previous article and think they can see a realistic scenario for surviving without electricity. Let me see:

1. Going completely pre-industrial. Have a farm, grow livestock, staples and vegetables, use animal waste and compost as fertiliser. Use wind or water to power a mill. Manage a forest as a sustainable source of fuel for the winter. Great plan, it would work, until hungry, desperate, violent and armed people from the cities come and take your farm. If you resist they kill you, if you don’t resist they make you their slave, and since there’s lots of them, the farm suddenly can’t produce enough to sustain all of them. Best case scenario, they repeat the dark ages feudalism scenario and occupy several farms on a territory, and take 10% of produce from each. This is long-term sustainable, but it would take lots of trial and error until they get there. Let’s say you were very “lucky” and you get to live as a serf.

2. Going sustainable high-tech. Have a solar power plant on your farm, produce biodiesel for your tractor, grow animals, staples and vegetables. Great plan, and it would work, until something breaks down and there are no spare parts; also, everything from 1. applies and you are eventually found by an armed gang and either killed or enslaved.

3. Let’s say you create/live in a sustainable enclave, or you are seriously lucky and your community can control a power plant (hydroelectric or nuclear) that can work sustainably for decades. You also have functional agriculture and limited industry. Good for you. Now you’re the prime target for everybody else in the world who wants what you have. You defend it, and the armed conflict destroys the assets and now nobody has them; everybody dies. Or you don’t defend them and somebody else takes over, and you are either enslaved, killed or exiled.

4. You have an underground shelter stocked with food, have access to a filtered water source or huge tanks of water, have some sort of a power generator that can go for decades (let’s say it’s hydroelectric, powered by a subterranean water flow). Nobody knows you’re there, and you don’t know what’s outside. You possibly use your underground facility as a base for conducting raids on the surface, to replenish your supplies. Congratulation, you became a Morlock.

5. Join an armed gang that robs, kills and enslaves people. The problem is, you turn into a predatory beast and sacrifice virtue for survival. Not the best tradeoff to make, in my opinion.

6. Form an alliance with farmers, where you protect them with weapons and they feed you. Alternatively, the farmers form a wider alliance and feed a protective paramilitary force that’s known and trusted. Joining such a community is a good option, if they will take you, but the problem is that they will most likely shoot outsiders on sight.

7. You have an unsustainable, but substantial cache of supplies. You wait for things to improve. They don’t. Your supplies either run out, or attract robbers.

8. You belong to some native community that traditionally survives off the land in some rainforest, desert or wasteland, where trained traditional people can live off the land, but the resources are so shitty nobody else would find it worthwhile to fight over. The problem is, if you don’t live like this now, it won’t happen.

So, this is my problem with preparing for apocalyptic scenarios: when I apply game theory to them, they all either turn into dead ends, or shitty life that’s not worth living. All the prepping scenarios where you can do something constructive are those that assume a local, contained disaster where the rest of the world is fine and help will eventually come, or a disaster that degrades the civilisation, but everything more-less manages to limp along afterwards, and improves after a while.

Looking into the eyes of pure evil

For the last week or so, the Ukrainians have been shelling the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant (that has been taken by the Russians at the very onset of the war and not part of any military action). The Russians have arrested two Ukrainian agents inside the plant, who have been providing the Ukrainian military with the coordinates guiding artillery fire.

The danger isn’t from them hitting the reactors; nothing short of a nuclear bomb could penetrate the reactor dome. The main problem is the interruption to the power supply to the water circulation pumps in the reactors, which is what triggered the Fukushima Daiichi incident, because this is the weak point of the solid fuel fission reactors; if you either cut the cooling, or the moderator rods get stuck on the outside position, you get a meltdown. You can guard against this by initiating a complete reactor shutdown. The second problem is the spent fuel rods pool, which is nowhere near as well protected as the reactors. However, in my opinion this can cause only a localized incident, since you need a reactor meltdown for shit to really hit the fan, because it is then that the superheated steam carries the vast amount of highly radioactive particles high into the atmosphere, from where they spread globally, which took place in Chernobyl. In my opinion, threat to the reactor coolant circulation pump power supply is the greatest danger in any solid fuel fission power plant.

The Western press has been spreading Ukrainian lies, such as this one:

KYIV, Aug 14 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned Russian soldiers who shoot at Europe’s largest nuclear power station or use it as a base to shoot from that they will become a “special target” for Ukrainian forces. (Reuters)

Yeah, somehow the small Russian military contingent that basically guards the powerplant against potential Ukrainian attempts to blow it up (which showed amazing foresight by the Russians, by the way) are “threatening” the power plant and the poor Ukrainians simply have to defend themselves by trying to cause the next Chernobyl, and the Western press is just spreading this propagandistic lying garbage.

By the way, Ukrainian artillery fire is being guided by the Americans, to the point where the American specialists are both providing the Ukrainians with coordinates and entering those coordinates into the American weapons. Which makes one think which country meets the definition of a sponsor of international terrorism.

I’ve been talking about good and evil recently, and if this isn’t an obvious example of evil, then I don’t know what to say. Systematically shelling a nuclear power plant in attempt to cause a radiological incident that could spread across Europe, and brazenly lying about it to shift blame, that’s just evil. If that isn’t evil, then nothing is.

Tiers of good

I wrote an article about the tiers of evil using the Witcher in-game universe as illustration, but when I wanted to write a similar article about the tiers of good, I encountered a problem. You see, the pool of good but powerful characters in Witcher is so shallow, I had nothing to write about. I’ll give it a try, just so that you see what I mean.

The first ther are good and helpful, but ordinary beings, such as Tomira the herbalist, Dudu the doppler, Dandelion, Roche, Zoltan, Crach an Craite and others. They basically mind their own business, but they try to help people and join good causes.

Next come the witchers; they go around the world and basically remove things that kill people, making it a better place. Sure, they charge money, but considering how they spend it all on gear, it turns out they actually don’t profit from their labor at all, and in fact do it out of pure altruism. They could, in fact, use their skills for evil and be much better paid as hired assassins or thugs (and some, in fact, do), but the vast majority of them don’t, which means it’s a choice for good, and it produces significant good consequences. Geralt is an outstanding example even in that company, because he makes very deliberate and calculated choices to improve the world by his actions, and is personally very powerful.

Then we have the good mages – Triss, Yennefer, Ermion and others – who are sometimes annoying and irritable, but powerful and helpful. They are powerful in different ways than the witchers – more magical power, but also more sensitivity to physical attack – which means they complement with the witchers most excellently; if a witcher defends the mage from physical attack while the mage does his thing, the result is more than the sum of its parts. Also, you can pretty much reduce a mage to an ordinary person with a dimeritium bomb, while a witcher will shrug it off and kill you with a sword.

The next level are the higher vampires, specifically Regis; they don’t use powerful magic, but they possess innate abilities that look like magic, and they are extremely powerful, and also extremely hard to kill. When such a powerful being makes a conscious choice for good, like Regis, the result is someone who is powerful, smart and helpful, and when he combines powers with someone like Geralt, they use detective work, alchemy, magic and brute force to great effect, and they are also fun to watch and they always have interesting opinions about human society and politics. Also, if you observe what a mess a higher vampire can make when he is ruled by rage or malice, it makes you appreciate the good ones even more, because you get to see it’s a willing choice, and not at all an easy one. They are prone to strong passions as a species, and a choice for good requires quite a bit of discipline and control for them.

And here we bump into my problem – there are no gods in the Witcher universe. There are no super-powerful angelic beings. The best I can think of is the Lady of the Lake, who tries to promote and enforce some basic principles, or Gaunter O’Dimm, who is not really good in any true definition of the term, but more of a predator who selectively destroys evil, arrogant and worthless beings. He is occasionally helpful to the good ones, but excessive help from him comes at a high price that is seldom worth it. However, if we see him as some kind of a super-devil that selectively plucks the evil people out of existence and thus shows that a choice for evil and callousness might not be worth it, I am forced to classify him as a phenomenon useful for enforcing positive moral principles. The “gods” of the Witcher universe, however, are all false and ridiculous. The “prophet” Lebioda is an obvious caricature of Jesus designed by atheists; other “gods” such as Freya or Melitele probably don’t even exist, which is what “allgod”, the lardass sylvan living in a basement of an elven ruin, actually points out: sure, he’s not a real deity, but unlike all other false gods he actually exists enough to talk and offer some advice to the peasants. Basically, all the religions in Witcher are exactly what atheists think of religions, and this is why the Witcher imagery is useless for describing the actual good that exceeds normal human metrics. Furthermore, this is the case with basically every other fictional universe imagined by humans: they apparently don’t know what powerful good beings feel like, to the point where they can’t even imagine them properly. Also, since the experience of darshan is apparently rare among writers, they can’t write from actual experience.

And so, if people aren’t even capable of writing fictional good characters due to their lack of experience with actual powerful good beings, what does this say about this world, about religions, and so on? It’s something to think about, in any case.

Tiers of evil

I’ve been thinking about various definitions of evil, and since I’ve been playing Witcher 3 a lot, I’ll use that as illustration.

The simplest type of evil is something that is universally harmful. For instance, a plague is universally harmful. It kills everybody equally and doesn’t discriminate between good and evil people. However, since a plague is not a conscious entity, you can’t really see it as evil; it’s merely a force of nature, like floods and avalanches. However, we can use this as a reliable standard – for something to be classified as evil, it needs to behave as a plague or a flood, only there needs to be a consciousness behind it.

Going by that, drowners in a pond are evil: if someone finds himself there, they will kill him. They have as much consciousness as wolves, though, so we can’t really talk about very organized evil. Basically, these are localized predatory beings that are universally harmful. In our world, a pond inhabited by crocodiles or a sea inhabited by sharks qualify as habitats of localized predatory beings that will eat you if you go there. The problem is, it’s easy to prove that crocodiles and sharks are dangerous to humans, but are they in fact evil? Is a hawk evil because it eats rabbits?

There’s a human equivalent of this kind of evil: bandits. Order of the Flaming Rose, for instance, consists of former knights that manufacture drugs, kill people and extort peasants. There are also gangs of deserters, pirates and cannibals that are quite similar to packs of wolves, drowners, necrofages, nekkers or ghouls; basically, they inhabit some place, and if you wade in, they attack you, no different from any other kind of pestilent monsters. Are they evil? They are certainly not good in any way I can think of. They are universally harmful, and they are harmful by choice and strategy, so there’s that. If you wanted a conscious plague, bandits are the closest thing. As you can see, the more conscious will and intelligence there is behind harmful actions, the closest we get to being able to easily define something as evil, so it’s obviously more about a state of consciousness, than actions themselves.

Next incremental step would be some sort of a serial killer, for instance that higher vampire that attacked Priscilla and others in Novigrad. He is a believer of the holy fire cult and targets people who are “sinful” in the eyes of his religion, and is much more conscious and deliberate than a pack of wolves and drowners, and also much more cruel, since he works very hard to inflict as much pain to his victims as possible, before he actually kills them. Geralt calls him a sick fuck, which is not wrong, but here we also have a very good taste of true evil.

Where do we go from a vampire serial killer belonging to a sick murderous cult? How about Caleb Menge, the chief witch hunter of Novigrad, the one hunting, torturing and burning mages, alchemists and non-humans in Novigrad? The main difference between him and the vampire is that the vampire is an amateur, and Menge is a professional, someone who organizes a whole movement of torture and murder in the name of madness. Can we go into the next level of abstraction, and say that the theologians who invented the religion that released and organized such evil in the world are the greater evil? Sure, but now we are venturing into very abstract territory, where we might end up with someone who didn’t actually burn witches at a stake, or torture anyone in his basement, and yet we must conclude that he’s more evil than those who do, because this is the logical conclusion we were heading to when deciding that a conscious murderer is a greater evil than a plague or a flood, because harm alone without consciousness does not constitute evil; consciousness, however, without actual direct harm, might prove to be the endpoint of this adventure of logic.

Let’s go further – the Crones of Crookback Bog. They are very easy to see as evil, because they kill and eat humans, with a particular taste for children, they are physically deformed and disgusting, and they are also mentally and emotionally deformed and vile. However, it might actually be that they are worse than that: in a very far past, they poisoned and perverted the ancient oak of Velen that served as some sort of a nexus of a druid circle, a tree of life if you will, and they are keeping it barely alive and feeding it broth cooked from human flesh every year, which might actually be the real reason why Velen is the worst place in the world, full of misery, dark evils, hunger and death. This is a regional evil, so to speak; it’s localized, but at a far wider locale than drowners in a lake, or a vampire serial killer. It is dark, perverted, disgusting, and profoundly evil in every sense something can be evil, from murder to spiritual darkness, and it envelops an entire region of the world.

The next greater evil on this scale is Radovid, the king of the united North, who actually started the persecution of mages, and who enveloped the entire North in the smoke of pyres, insane religions and slaughter. He is so incredibly evil and insane that I chose to conspire to kill him every single time I played the game. I’m not sure whether he’s worse than the Crones, but he happens to more selectively target good people, and turns the world into a hellish nightmare much more quickly and with less regional constraints.

The worst of all, and that’s already something considering the competition, is Emhyr var Emreis, Emperor of the Nilfgaardian Empire, the person who directly initiated the process that turned the North into a war-ravaged post-apocalyptic nightmare in which all lesser evils flourished. He is a cold, ruthless evil that wishes to grasp and swallow the entire world, to rule over all even if it means dancing on a barren graveyard.

Interesting, eh? In the world filled with monsters, and frequently monsters with super-powers, the two worst monsters I could think of are human.

Land of a Thousand Fables

In one of the extension packs of the Witcher 3 game, the “Blood and wine”, the authors managed to make an excellent and accurate illustration of an actual “astral” process; they called it the “magical entropy”. Spoilers ahead, because I’ll have to provide a description.

Basically, a court mage created an illusory fairy-tale reality where the two princesses could play with the fairy-tale characters when they were children. However, the girls grew up, everybody forgot about the place for decades but it continued existing, and decomposing, to the point where the characters became crazy, malevolent and dangerous. The three little piggies became the three huge aggressive pigs, the big bad wolf killed the red riding hood and the hunter and threw them into the well, and now drinks with the pirates, the pixies are attacking everyone indiscriminately, the girl with the matches is a drug dealer, the Longlocks hanged herself by her own hair because the Prince Charming never came to her rescue because he broke his neck falling down the broken stairs of her tower, and so on.

This behavior of “magical structures” is in fact real and well known in the literature; Alexandra David-Neel, for instance, described behavioral degradation of a tulpa she created, where it became more and more nasty and malevolent with time. This happens as the energy invested in the entity by its creator is depleted, and it loses ability to access higher spiritual states, because this requires more energy. Basically, it loses the highest things it could originally access first, and then progressively degrades to the point of being able to access only the lowest demonic states, after which it completely loses coherence. You can call it astral entropy, tulpa degradation, or structural decomposition; doesn’t really matter, because none of the terms describe the phenomenon completely, and completely new terminology should be devised. What matters is that astral structures have a very distinct and recognizeable pattern of degradation, and they are by design net energy negative, meaning they would require a constant influx of energy in order to maintain a stable state, and if they are not externally powered, they degrade along the arrow of time. The way you need to design astral structures if you don’t want them to degrade is to provide them with either a power reserve, in form of a spiritual “crystal”, which is basically very condense and coherent form of localized spiritual energy, which then acts as some sort of a “soul” that drives the astral structure you designed, or you need to provide it with a link to God, that will keep it permanently powered, but this won’t work if the structure is in any way incompatible with God’s will and nature, but there are ways around this (for instance, when God delegates a duty to grant or deny access to another spiritual being, and this being makes a mistake due to negligence or outright stupidity). There is a third way, that is the darkest black magic by definition, and it consists of tricking souls into forming some sort of a symbiotic relationship with the entity, where they are tricked into powering it, and deluded into believing that they will somehow benefit from the process.

Why is any of this relevant? Well, it is in fact most relevant, because that’s where we are. This world is the “Land of a Thousand Fables”, and it’s powered in several ways: by our own energy captured through deception, by stolen spiritual crystals, and partially, probably, by the will of God, because Satan obtained permission to run his experiment unopposed, for a time. The reason magical entropy, as described in the game, crossed my mind, is because it is an excellent explanation of the phenomenon we are faced with. The structure we are locked within is going to hell because it lost power, which means it is progressively losing access to higher spiritual states, and acting exactly like you would expect from a tulpa that is depleted of energy.

The very specific aspect of this process, that is taking place as we speak, is America losing its “mystique” and attractiveness, like a wicked witch that magically presented herself as a beautiful and good lady, and the magical makeup is starting to show holes, revealing evil and rot underneath.