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August 22, 2007 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Spending years clarifying my observations of the community and putting them down on paper slowly revealed a society beset by a fatal condition; an affliction that has been destroying us at an ever increasing rate for two centuries and must eventually return us to barbarism. A final result that should be no surprise, as it has overtaken every other civilization; a fate that appears as inevitable and as irreversible as old age with its increasing feebleness and dementia. I was no longer interested in why our bureaucracy was full of incompetents? but why our society was full of incompetents? My original aim to improve my community with technology was replaced with answering the question, why does a community age like any other creature?
Philip Atkinson knows: civilization is in decline. And he's determined to tell you about it. Find out the truth about Nelson Mandela, AIDS, obesity, parenting, standard weights and measures, and, of course, the Ten Commandments. We're screwed, guys. Sit down, read a book, and watch it burn.
posted by nasreddin (44 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
One wonders if this implies that Australia is a separate and distinct civilization.
posted by nasreddin at 8:28 PM on August 22, 2007

Short of nuclear war or a comet strike, there's too damn many people on earth for everything to return to true barbarism. Even what we consider the more backward civilizations today are still a vast improvement over much of human history.
posted by IronLizard at 8:34 PM on August 22, 2007

The citizens of 1850 surely would have considered the citizens of 1950 to be unbelievably barbaric and uncultured. The citizens of 1450 would have burnt the citizens of 1950 at the stake.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:51 PM on August 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

The problem with metric is that every unit is based on the number ten. In weight, for example, there are 10 mg in 1 cg, 10 cg in 1 dg, 10 dg in 1 g, 10g in 1 Dg, 10Dg in 1hg, 10 hg in 1 kg, 10 kg in 1 Mg, and so on. Although metric's decimal structure is much acclaimed by supporters of conversion, the rigidity of constant multiplications of ten frequently means that metric measures overshoot desirable or useful proportions.

posted by Avenger at 9:04 PM on August 22, 2007

The reason Philip Atkinson's views are in the news this week is because he's apparently a member of the think tank Family Security Matters, which has been trying to flush a recent article of Atkinson's down the memory hole.
The wisest course would have been for President Bush to use his nuclear weapons to slaughter Iraqis until they complied with his demands, or until they were all dead.


President Bush can fail in his duty to himself, his country, and his God, by becoming “ex-president” Bush or he can become “President-for-Life” Bush: the conqueror of Iraq, who brings sense to the Congress and sanity to the Supreme Court. Then who would be able to stop Bush from emulating Augustus Caesar and becoming ruler of the world? For only an America united under one ruler has the power to save humanity from the threat of a new Dark Age wrought by terrorists armed with nuclear weapons.
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:11 PM on August 22, 2007 [2 favorites]

Wow, Guy Smiley. I didn't even realize it was the same guy.
posted by nasreddin at 9:14 PM on August 22, 2007

What he says has a grain of truth to it---in terms of construction and surveying you could argue that it's much cleaner to talk about 1 inch, or 1 foot, than 2.54 cm or 30.48 cm. Certainly.

But... what if you want to talk about 1cm? Or 1mm? Or, not specifically those units, but say 1/100"? The lack of precision and difficulty of working with overlapping scales is where imperial fails. Just because day-to-day measurements are... less convenient (and are they? Really?) should be no reason to reject it out of hand.

The rest of the stuff he writes... is interesting. Captivating, even, although I can't quite decide what to make of it. But his screed against metric is just ridiculous.
posted by vernondalhart at 9:17 PM on August 22, 2007

I'd say the whole thing is pretty ridiculous. Like Oswald Spengler mixed up and re-served. The metric stuff is just the icing.
posted by Anduruna at 9:23 PM on August 22, 2007

Public contempt for the property of others is nowhere revealed more clearly than in the supermarkets. When grapes are placed on sale, customers can frequently be observed eating the fruit for which they make no attempt to pay. To some this is a taste test to decide whether to purchase the grapes, but many just take them as they pass, and frequently hand them to others in their group. I have observed customers nonchalantly eating the grapes while queuing to have their purchase weighed.

I am loving imagining this guy fuming silently in the supermarket as he watches somebody eating a free grape, thinking to himself, Wait till I get home and tell that guy what I think about him on my web site, then he'll be sorry, but it'll be too late, you nonchalant thief!
posted by escabeche at 9:26 PM on August 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

The only place I really like the Standard system of measurement is in metalworking. It's totally coincidental, but it works out pretty well that thousandths of an inch (0.001") are about the best tolerances you can get using conventional machine tools, and ten-thousandths (0.0001") are the best you get out of grinding. I'm sure the rest of the world gets along using millimeters, but I've always thought that was convenient.

I'd be happy to switch to degrees Celsius right now, though. Distances and weights/measures ... eh, I fail to see the advantage quite so much.

Oh, and this guy Atkinson -- clearly on crack. Either too much or not enough, I'm not sure.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:27 PM on August 22, 2007

...which has been trying to flush a recent article of Atkinson's down the memory hole.

On the one hand, I think it's good that the wingnuts are at least ashamed of some ideas. On the other hand, I think it probably would have been better if they had left it up and instead offered a conservative rebuttal as to why Atkinson was wrong.

Their actual course of action gives the impression that they secretly agree with Atkinson but just don't want the information getting out there.
posted by Avenger at 9:29 PM on August 22, 2007

330ml Coke is what is destroying our society? Umm, right. Please share that bowl with me, Mr. atkinson.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:59 PM on August 22, 2007

Look guys, it's a royalist. Finding one of those is like finding a pterodactyl in your back yard. Call the Museum of Natural History, quick!
posted by Clay201 at 10:01 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Another arrogant-bastard social conservative steps up to the soapbox. "Civilization is dying!" he says. Damned right it is, and has been ever since there were bitter bald men like him to point it out. Everything decays-- our only consolation is that crap philosophers decay along with everything else, and that Atkinson along with all his work will be buried irretrievably in a few decades.

His writing is all slightly vile, but his endorsement of (obvious pseudo-scientist) Mohammed Ali Al-Bayati is inexcusable. He's sure AIDS is caused by modern medicine, and doesn't care how many times he has to cite himself to prove it. Anybody who pushes the work of a dangerous hack like that without disclaimer has a profound lack of scruple.

What an ass. I bet the next great genocide in the Western world is lead by an out of work software developer. Thank God this one isn't charismatic enough.
posted by Fimbaz at 10:04 PM on August 22, 2007 [3 favorites]

This guy's a nutjob.

"The very least that must be done to halt the Hispanic invasion is the mass enslavement, or execution, of the invaders, which must be followed by an American invasion of Mexico to enforce American language and values upon the Mexicans" - Philip Atkinson

Yes, this guy's a nutjob.
posted by jefbla at 10:07 PM on August 22, 2007

Damn Western Civilization...get off of my lawn!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:30 PM on August 22, 2007

That first link, where Atkinson rants about losing a fight as a child, is so telling. It takes up practically all of his explanation of himself except for his pride in becoming a leach later in life.
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:44 PM on August 22, 2007

Yup, he's a nutjob (see tags), but he has a pretty awesome collection of 17th-19th century writing (under the "read a book" link).
posted by nasreddin at 10:46 PM on August 22, 2007

I'm wondering why I guy in Australia is talking about 330mL soft drink cans. Australian cans are 375mL.

Also, this guy has too much spare time, and much more opinion than rhetoric skills or writing style.
posted by kjs4 at 10:55 PM on August 22, 2007

Wow. Compared to this guy, we MeFis don't think about plates of beans at all.
posted by davejay at 11:04 PM on August 22, 2007

Is this a dude recently on Colbert or Daily Show? Got himself spanked in the interview?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:13 PM on August 22, 2007

The simple truth that modern weapons now mean a nation must practice genocide or commit suicide.

Genocide... mass enslavement... the misplaced fury over shoppers who pilfer the random grape... And this guy is 'pro-civilisation'. What do the barbarians have left to offer?
posted by maryh at 11:40 PM on August 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's a lost article which, for some reason, I can no longer find, but the real reason Atkinson wants nuclear war is so that surviving humans will mutate some new fingers and toes, thus putting our post-Holocaust Christian society on a good footing (ha ha) by parting ways with the evil, godless Metric System.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:46 PM on August 22, 2007

Genocide... mass enslavement... the misplaced fury over shoppers who pilfer the random grape... And this guy is 'pro-civilization'. What do the barbarians have left to offer?

Yeah, it is sort of odd (or maybe it isn't) that he doesn't see the contradiction in promoting genocide, enslavement, dictatorship and ignorance as being "civilization".

Look guys, it's a royalist. Finding one of those is like finding a pterodactyl in your back yard. Call the Museum of Natural History, quick!

A living royalist, like a hypothetical living pterodactyl, would actually belong in a Zoo rather than a museum. Sadly, we "barbarians" are somehow terribly civilized which means that we won't stuff Atkinson into a cage where he belongs.
posted by Avenger at 12:16 AM on August 23, 2007

This is not very polite.
posted by flabdablet at 12:24 AM on August 23, 2007

"... mass enslavement, or execution, of the invaders ..."

From the Ten Commandments link:
Thou shalt not kill: Every one's life is precious, without exception.
Italics indicate Batty Atty's interpretation. It's a wonder his head doesn't implode.
posted by oncogenesis at 12:33 AM on August 23, 2007

Avenger sez: Yeah, it is sort of odd (or maybe it isn't) that he doesn't see the contradiction in promoting genocide, enslavement, dictatorship and ignorance as being "civilization".

Except, all these things are actually products OF civilization... c.f. Against His-Story, Against Leviathan.

Go ahead, lump me with Godesky (even though I'm not completely convinced of the anti-civ arguments).
posted by symbioid at 12:33 AM on August 23, 2007

Atkinson shows what happens when a little, paranoid mind gets hold of one book (Toynbee). As the saying goes "a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing".

As has already been mentioned one shudders to think what "civilization" would mean once the US started nuking the Middle East and shooting brown people on sight in its own streets.

Something else Atkinson seems unable/unwilling to figure out -- if (as Toynbee writes) the decline of Western Civilization started at the French Revolution, and America's power has been growing since that same event (which of course nearly coincides with its own revolution) does it not follow that America's increase in power and prestige is actually a symptom of the decline of the West, and therefore not something desirable? If you believe A, believing B is pretty much de rigueur IMHO.

But Atkinson either cannot see or will not see this very logical syllogism that grows out of the very first premise behind his opinions. You can well imagine the tortured roads on which his thinking tends to travel after that.
posted by clevershark at 12:35 AM on August 23, 2007

Hm. I'd been wondering what happened to my college roommate.
posted by Optamystic at 2:05 AM on August 23, 2007

He grew up in a blue collar neighborhood, went to one of the best universities in the world and led a comfortable middle-class living. This seems at odds with his guiding principle of life: that he's always denied what he truly deserves. On the other hand, he might've gotten farther among his colleagues if he wasn't such a whiner.

Now he can spend his mature years meditating on how civilization can only decline unless the strong oppress the weak more than they already are. It's either revenge fantasy or masochism.
posted by ardgedee at 4:17 AM on August 23, 2007

So he's moved to Australia - and then he complains that civilisation is declining... hmmmm
posted by criticalbill at 5:14 AM on August 23, 2007

loved that exchange CKZ, its interesting the way all Atkinson's replies start the same way: "Thank you for replying to my letter, your answers are bollocks, however." I dont know what it says but its says something. It also made me wish that i'd idled my life into a PhD in Philosophy instead of doing worthwhile things like working since in actual fact, looking back, working has done almost nothing for me
posted by criticalbill at 5:17 AM on August 23, 2007

10 kg in 1 Mg

posted by hangashore at 5:40 AM on August 23, 2007

Metafilter: Tyranny and injustice will reign as delusion triumphs and the community dissolves into impotence.

He has a great line in putdowns, though. From the 3 Quarks Daily exchange:

I can bestow no sensible meaning upon your paragraph claiming I am a subjectivist.

I'm going to steal that.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 5:44 AM on August 23, 2007

Theres a long letter on the site from South Africa Die, Beloved Country which delineates everything wrong with today's South Africa. Doesn't mention AIDS though...
posted by criticalbill at 6:01 AM on August 23, 2007

No surprise he's a nutjob, he's a philosophical relativist who's taken his views to their logical conclusion: his prejudices are all truths, other people's truths are all prejudices.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:17 AM on August 23, 2007

OK, I read his article on HIV and his screed against Nelson Mandela (complete with a defense of Apartheid and phrases like "black savages"), and just assumed he was your garden-variety sad-sack with paranoid schitzophrenia and a website (the organization of his website didn't do much to dispel that notion).

But this guy's got some kind of influence? Seriously?
posted by infinitywaltz at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2007

When the ancient Roman general Julius Caesar was struggling to conquer ancient Gaul, he not only had to defeat the Gauls, but he also had to defeat his political enemies in Rome who would destroy him the moment his tenure as consul (president) ended.

Caesar pacified Gaul by mass slaughter; he then used his successful army to crush all political opposition at home and establish himself as permanent ruler of ancient Rome. This brilliant action not only ended the personal threat to Caesar, but ended the civil chaos that was threatening anarchy in ancient Rome – thus marking the start of the ancient Roman Empire that gave peace and prosperity to the known world.
Wasn't he stabbed?
posted by vsync at 10:43 AM on August 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've decided this is just satire that's too clever for most people.
posted by vsync at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2007

I've decided this is just satire that's too clever for most people.

Nothing would make me happier than that.

I just can't bring myself to believe it.
posted by voltairemodern at 1:10 PM on August 23, 2007

It's really fascinating pathology, really.

If you look at his "two kinds of people" ranting, he acts like he's discovered something novel and new. First of all, this dichotomy goes back to the Apollonian/Dionysian split, or the Stoics/Epicureans or Conservatives/Liberals of today.

And he sees what we'd call liberalism, which he calls "Matrist" as pathological, insane and leading to the downfall of society.

It's like Timecube all over again.
posted by MythMaker at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2007

Come mothers and fathers all over this land
And don't criticize what you can't understand
Your sons and your daughter are beyond your command
Your old role is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand
For the times they are a changing

The line, it is drawn, the curse, it is cast
The slow one will later be fast
And the present now will soon be the past
The order is rapidly fading
The first one now will later be last
For the times, they are a changing

posted by Twang at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2007

MetaFilter: The truth will be vanquished by lies.

To answer infinitywaltz: No. Atkinson has no influence outside of his barcalounger.
posted by beelzbubba at 5:19 AM on August 24, 2007

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