Interview: Ran Prieur


Ran Prieur is a writer and permaculturist

Avi Solomon: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Ran Prieur: I am known on the Internet as somebody who writes about dropping out of society, the critique of civilization, sustainability and the collapse. I'm a softcore doomer. I write about why this entire society is unbalanced and a large mistake and why the mistake is ending and how you can, how we can get out of it. How we can live better.

Avi: Who has influenced you the most?

Ran: I always tell people my two biggest influences are Ivan Illich and Charles Fort. Everything I write can be derived from those two guys. Ivan Illich wrote his most famous stuff in the early 70s. He was a big critic of industrialization and centralization and certain kinds of technology.

Ivan Illich was not a primitivist. He thinks that technology can be used very well and can be used to live much better than primitive people but it mostly has not yet been used that way. Ivan Illich was so smart and wrote so clearly that reading him is like looking at the sun. You just read a couple of sentences and then you're like, "Wow! I have to look away, that's too much", and you kind of process those sentences and you go back and read a little more.

I like to think maybe in 10,000 years, humans will be so smart that everything Ivan Illich wrote will seem completely obvious and self-evident. But for now, since he only wrote like 10, 20, 30 years ago, it still seems totally brilliant.

My other big influence, Charles Fort, wrote about paranormal phenomena. He was like the grandfather of paranormal researchers in the early 20th century. In the 1920s he wrote several books where he would go through old scientific journals and pick out anomalies that dominant science ignored and he'd put these anomalies together into a lot of satirical science and satirical theories.

But he also had a very serious side. The key to understanding Charles Fort is the first chapter of his first book, The Book of the Damned, where he's completely serious. After that, he's mostly joking. But what he's completely serious about is a philosophy in which it doesn't make sense to break up the universe. It's a single unified whole and if you break it up into parts and categories, it's like drawing lines on the waves of the ocean. All our systems of thought try to impose, at least our systems of rational thought, a certain kind of artificial order on this undifferentiated whole.

And Charles Fort had this concept called the "old dominant" and the "new dominant," which kind of anticipated Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts, where you use a bunch of ideas, and then you get all these anomalies at the end that are excluded because they don't fit. And then finally you get a new story, this might be going a little bit into what Kuhn said, but finally you get an adaptation. You get a new theory that includes all the anomalies and that's the new dominant.

But Fort understood that there's never a final theory. Only the universal can really exist. So no matter what kind of theory you have, you are always going to find anomalies at the edges until you get all the way out to the entire universe, which might be much bigger than we imagine.

Somehow between Ivan Illich and Charles Fort, you can derive most of what I've written.

Avi: You seem to be an underground hero of sorts.

Ran: Well, I don't know if I like to be a hero. I think it was Nietzsche who said that nobody who understands fame wants to be famous. So fame is like a mental illness in the followers of the famous people. I don't think I want to be a hero. I want everyone to try to be their own hero as best they can. I guess I like the underground part of it. It's certainly better to be an underground hero than to be a giant star.

Avi: Who's your audience?

Ran: My audience is a wide variety of people. I've got Anarchists and Libertarians, I've got Christians, I've got... my audience is mostly on the fringe though. I've had emails from people who live in vans, people who have vast amounts of wealth, more than they want to say. So my audience is people who read my website and like the way I think. It's hard to make any generalizations about them except that they're at least mentally a little bit outside the mainstream.

Avi: Why is your 'How to Drop Out' essay so popular?

Ran: That's easy. It's popular because people want to drop out of society. That's the number one way that people find my website. They go on to Google and type "how to drop out of society" and my "How to Drop Out" essay is the top hit on there.

And they come there and they read it. Then, I suppose people like it because I'm not dogmatic about it. I don't know if anybody's read the CrimethInc books. The CrimethInc books are purely motivational books. They're like "Woohoo it's so exciting and drop out and live like an anarchist in the streets and hop a freight train to Bolivia" and "Woohoo quit your job now. Drop out now". All motivational writing is lies. If you take it seriously, if you take it at face value, it's all lies. It's always harder than that. But I still admire the CrimethInc people for inspiring people. It's very inspiring if you read it to motivate yourself, so long as you don't take it too seriously. I try to give more serious answers and explain how difficult and painful it is to live outside the system.

The term "drop out" is problematic but using it for now, people think that it's a fun, easy escape. Like, "Oh we have to do all this dreary stuff in the dominant society and have this job. And if we can just suddenly drop out, it becomes easy". Then they crash and burn. They get drug addicted. They're not able to motivate themselves. It's actually much more difficult to live outside the dominant system than to live inside it. Otherwise, the system would not be so successful.

Given how everybody uses the phrase "the rat race," it's popularly understood that the dominant society is not the best way we can live. And people want to live differently and it's damn hard, that's why so few people do it.

I kind of emphasize that in my essay. One of the points I make that people really seem to resonate with is that you get depressed for a few years if you're in a highly regulated system, highly regularized from the first time we started school. From kindergarten on, we're in this rigid structure where every minute is regulated, especially with the younger kids. When I was a kid, we still had unstructured time, play time in the afternoons. And now, people have everything planned for them.

When you quit that, and you have these vast blocks of time where there's nothing you're supposed to be doing, people get depressed. Even I got depressed, and I like unstructured time. What you're doing during that time is you're learning to self motivate. And it's not easy, you have to, it takes some time and you have to kind of go through a difficult time and almost hit bottom. I don't know why you say "you hit bottom." That's not a good phrase. But yes, you get depressed for a few years when the structure is removed and you have to learn to regulate yourself and motivate yourself in a life inside yourself.

You don't have a life inside yourself because it's been crushed out of you. So over several years you have to grow that life inside of you to the point that it can motivate you to do things. If you persist, you'll get there.

Avi: What does self sufficiency mean to you?

Ran: Well, I'm a little wary of the term "self sufficiency" if you take it in a strict sense, self sufficiency is a lie. Our ancestors have no history of individual self sufficiency. We lived in cities and towns and villages and tribes. They're always, you're always dependent on other people historically. That's the way we've always lived.

There's the ideal of self sufficiency. Bill McKibben wrote a great essay, it's called "Old MacDonald Had A Farmers' Market: total self-sufficiency is a noble, misguided ideal". He starts off talking about how Thoreau was not self sufficient. He would go into town every night to his mom's house for a big dinner. He had friends come and help him out. He was not a mountain man in any way. He was interconnected to other people and people think, "Oh he's cheating. Thoreau didn't do it right. I'm going to do it without cheating." But there's really very few people in history who've been completely self sufficient.

I guess I've here defined self sufficiency differently so that it's a good thing. It just means that you're not over a barrel. It means that nobody's got you in a position where you have to do what they tell you to, or something bad will happen. Especially no faceless institution has you in that position. I suppose arguably you could be dependent on another person where you have to do what they say. I don't know. I don't think so.

I think really, in the ideal society, the ideal system, everybody has the absolute right to say no. The ideal, the root of all freedom is the freedom to say no. Before you can be free to do what you want, you first have to have the freedom to do nothing, which means, you're never in a position where you have to do what somebody says.

So, that's the root of self sufficiency. The trick is to get in that situation where you never have to do anything alone, you have to do it through connections. It's too difficult to do it through mythical mountain man self sufficiency. You have to do it through connections with other people so you have to build communities or find communities around you that will trust you and give you slack to eventually contribute.

Well, that's getting into all kinds of other subjects about community building and how people are depressed. You have to go through a period of depression to get between regulated and free. What happens if you have a whole bunch of people that are going through that period of depression at the same time, who takes care of them? These are difficult questions.

Avi: What's your take on permaculture?

Ran: I'm careful to define permaculture. People have all these definitions of permaculture as this or that. First of all I should say I am a permaculturist. I've got the permaculture certification. I've taken a design course. I went to the convergence last fall. I'm going to go to another event in Spokane, maybe even another event in Seattle. I love the permaculture movement.

But the word "permaculture", I always carefully define it as a brand. Permaculture is a brand like Nike or something. You know, Nike has the symbol. That's all they own, that wave symbol, and they use that wave symbol to subcontract the making of the shoes, and the advertising, and everything.

And of course permaculture is noncommercial, but it's still a brand in the sense that they take this word and they bring all this stuff in under the umbrella of that word. Whenever there's a word that points to something good, inevitably people kind of veer off from reality. They start using that shortcut.

They say, "Oh permaculture is good". And then, things that aren't so good can get in. We're seeing it happening right now with the word "organic" and with the word "sustainable". There's some marginal stuff. There's some dodgy stuff that's getting in there. So sustainability now means "let's continue the Western industrial lifestyle without making any sacrifices". That's a silly definition. And but that's kind of wormed its way into the definition of sustainability.

Eventually, permaculture might point to some stuff that I don't agree with but for now, I like everything that the word "permaculture" points to. I like that it's focused on rebuilding the top soil and growing perennials and growing food and transforming yards into useful spaces, making everything have multiple functions.

There's lots of permaculturists who're into lots of stuff about building. They're pioneering the rocket mass heater which is a great new technology that can greatly reduce the amount of wood we have to burn to heat a small place. So permaculture combines very ancient technologies with brand new ones.

Avi: What has being a caretaker of your land taught you?

Ran: Well, being a caretaker is not that hard. If you've got primitive land that gets decent rainfall you just have to not kill stuff. Mostly, I just let Nature go up there. That hasn't taught me that much.

But what I've learned from is trying to actively do things up there, like build a cabin and plant fruit trees. I've learned that you can't just stick a plant in the ground, unless it's a native plant. I've learned that you can't just stick a plant in the ground and expect it to thrive unless it's a native or invasive. I've planted a lot of plants up there that have died and the ones that survived, a lot of them are just squeaking by. So it's difficult to grow fruit trees and nut trees and berry bushes.

And it's very, very difficult to build a cabin. I bought it in 2004 and I thought, "Oh, I'll go up there next summer and build a cabin". And now, like more than six years later, I've built a 45 square foot cobwood hut. It's going to be maybe two or three more years before I build a cabin. It's a huge job.

So, the land has taught me that it's easy to idealize about all these things you're going to do when you get land, but a lot of these things are very difficult. Another thing it's taught me is to not idealize the whole back to the land thing so much. I go up there for a six day stay, and I go a little nutty in the head. And I'm an introvert. What would happen to an extrovert if they go up there, right? I don't really don't want to spend more than a week up there alone. I want to go back to the city and hang out with other people and get back on the Internet.

I suppose maybe if I had a community of like 50 people up there, that might be enough to keep me from going nutty. But I've given up on the whole isolated, back to the woods kind of thing. Now I'm not thinking of my land as a homestead. I use the Russian term "Dacha". Dacha is like you have a place in the city and then you have a little piece of land in the country with a little cabin on it where you grow some extra food and you can go there to stay. I'm calling it a dacha now rather than a homestead.

Avi: How do you conceive of collapse?

Ran: I call myself a softcore doomer. Maybe 10, 12 years ago I was more a hardcore doomer and I expected big, sudden, global catastrophe. And then year after year, I see people predict that and they're wrong. The system just keeps muddling along.

I had a shift in my thinking after Katrina because I thought, OK, suppose you'd asked all the doomers "What would happen if New Orleans, America's largest port city, got completely flooded and no economic activity in there at all for months?" And they said, "Oh that would be the first domino in the chain. That would knock down the whole house of cards". And then, unless you actually lived in New Orleans, it was a mild disaster. Gas prices went up a bit and life went on about the same. That was part of what turned me into a softcore doomer. Now, I do not believe there's going to be a fast, global collapse. There's going to be, there will be local hard crashes, and globally, it's just going to muddle along and decline. There are going to be some regions that do really bad, and other regions that thrive. I don't think the human population can continue to be as high, and it's going to get really ugly in a lot of places.

Hopefully I'll try to be in a place that's pretty good to go through the ongoing collapse. I call it the ongoing collapse. It's not something in the future. I like what John Michael Greer of the Archdruid Report said. He said the collapse we're now in started in the mid-70s when American oil peaked.

Ever since then we've been in like a stair step decline where things get a little bit worse, then a little bit better, then a little bit worse, then a little bit better, then over the long term, worse. But worse isn't just that the money economy is getting worse, worse is that the big systems are cracking. Every collapse is an opportunity for something else. Every time a door closes, another door opens. And the metaphor I like is grass growing through pavement.

How does pavement turn into grass? The pavement does not physically transform into grass. The pavement cracks and grass comes up through it. That's what I see happening throughout my lifetime and throughout this century.

Avi: Does history keep on repeating in cycles?

Ran: Yes. It has kept on repeating in cycles and I think we're entering towards the end of a pretty big cycle now. The cycle is driven by oil but I do not think this is the last collapse.

People always want to think they're at the end of history. Like, "this is it". That everything is coming to a head right now, and after we're through this great crisis, it's just going to be smooth forever.

Even the most pessimistic people think it's going to be smooth forever because it's all going to be extinct. And then the optimists think we're going to be in eternal utopia. But I think it's going to keep on repeating in cycles maybe forever. At least for a long time. I often say that it's going to take humans 10,000 years to figure out how to live.

I want to be careful with the word "evolution". If you use evolution to mean progress in an absolute sense, you're using it in the wrong sense, in an unscientific sense. But the correct way to use "evolution" is "adaptation."

But, adaptation doesn't necessarily mean we can't get better. There has to be something you're adapting to, and what we're adapting to, what we're not yet finished adapting to I think, is our own human intelligence.

At some point 10,000 to 40,000 years ago, we got so smart that we were able to make these huge mistakes with our intelligence. We can see all the technologies that are coming out right now. Many of them are going to turn out to be tragic mistakes.

The way that our civilizations have destroyed nature and made all these short sighted decisions, we have not yet evolved to use our own intelligence and power wisely. And I don't think we're going to do that in another 30 years if we've only come this far in 10,000 years.

We're still making many of the same mistakes that the ancient civilizations made. So, I think it's going to be a long time before we figure that out, how to use our power wisely. By then, we might have developed even new powers that we have not yet even imagined.

Avi: What advice would you give to a smart kid in high school right now?

Ran: My first advice would be: Whatever you do, don't go into debt for college. This is a point about college that some people don't understand. And that is, the main thing you learn in college is how to think and act like an educated person.

If your parents both went to college, then they raised you, then you already know how to think and act like an educated person. You don't need to go to college to learn that. If you come from a lower class family and your parents did not go to college, then college is much more beneficial to you.

People who've been to college and learn to think and act that way get a lot more respect in the dominant society. Just the way you say words, the way you carry yourself. So that's a big benefit of college. You don't necessarily have to pay tuition to do that. You could learn that by osmosis. Hanging out in a college campus.

When I was in high school, I was completely unmotivated. I did not know how to motivate myself at all. I was just going through the motions. So I went to college because college was the thing to do. It was a lot cheaper back then in the late 80's when I went to college. My parents had some money saved up so I didn't have to go on debt for college.

But, boy, I would not want to be a smart kid in high school right now because unless you're tremendously good at self motivating, it can be hard for you to quit high school and not go to college and find something to do and not just crash and burn.

Maybe I would say go to community college to get your basic stuff out of the way or hang out at a college campus. If you could get a staff job at a college campus, then you can kind of get the college experience, and even take a few classes.

I don't know. I would not want to be a kid in high school right now. The generation that is coming up now is going to have a really tough time. Be adaptable, that's the advice I'd give.

"How to Drop Out," read by Ran Prieur:


  1. Interesting fellow.

    I can’t say I agree with all his advice – at least I don’t think it applies to everyone’s circumstances – but he has some keen observations.

    I especially liked Of all the species on Earth, only humans are that stupid.

  2. When I was a kid, we still had unstructured time, play time in the afternoons. And now, people have everything planned for them.

    Is this true? That’s horrible. Kids should structure their own playtime ad hoc. That’s why it’s playtime.

    There’s going to be, there will be local hard crashes, and globally, it’s just going to muddle along and decline. There are going to be some regions that do really bad, and other regions that thrive. I don’t think the human population can continue to be as high, and it’s going to get really ugly in a lot of places.

    I sometimes think this, but then I wonder if I’m being overly pessimistic because I see people coming up with ingenious solutions I never would have imagined. I’ve given up on seriously trying to guess at the future.

    You don’t need to go to college to learn that. If you come from a lower class family and your parents did not go to college, then college is much more beneficial to you.

    I don’t know about this. Different individuals learn in different ways. Some learn by listening to someone else explain and answer questions. I know as an engineering physics major, I never would have learned all the math I needed from books. I think it all depends on the person, what they’re interested in and how they absorb understanding.

  3. I’ve had Ran’s website bookmarked for several years and I appreciate this interview. Very interesting to see the gradual shifts in his thinking over the years of trying different things. Originally his ideas meshed with my ideas that began forming in high school. I wish I would have read his college advice back then.

  4. Being a life-long ‘outsider’ type myself, I want to get on board with this guy, but I can’t shake the fact that what I’m reading is simply way too pompous to do so. I’m agreeing…then he says things like (paraphrased) “well, it’ll take you idiots another 10,000 years to figure out how to live properly like I do” or “college is only good for you poor kids, because none of you even sound like you’ve had an education.”

    Dude is just substituting one system for another, and the one he’s got now is worse, because it’s self-imposed.

    “Drop out” is just high-and-mighty code for “I’m too afraid to fight the system, so I’m going to run away.”

    1. He said it’ll take 10 000 more years (probably not an exact number) for humanity and he didn’t exclude himself. And he never said that everybody should drop out. Or fight the system. And he kind of stressed the importance of finding or creating a community.
      And if someone can live of my thrash, I think that’s a good thing.
      Nothing is for everyone. Not one way of life is for everyone.
      I found him inspirational. Though I get inspired by a lot of people, a lot of ideas and a lot of things.
      And I don’t define people by their thoughts about that tragedy 10 years ago. There’s been so many tragedies before and since then.

      Avi Solomon, great interview, could you please interview Ken Wilber or Douglas Rushkoff aswell.

      1. I think we’ve had enough Douglas Rushkoff right here on BB, directly from the horse’s mouth, as they say.

  5. Salient points abound, and clearly Prieur recognizes that the world he is dropping out of is not an accidental one, but one of political, sociological, economic and ultimately – – – Philosophical design. The 800 pound proverbial eleplhant that I see, could be gleaned by reading “Atlas Shrugged”. Prieur is a looter. He loots dumpsters and depends on the work of other individuals. If the commerce he despises but accepts as necessary didn’t exist, there would be no materials,no bicycle, no surpluses, and no food in the dumpster of Whole Foods for him to live from.

    He talks about freedom turning on the ability to say no. I would add to that, that the basis of intelligence is recognizing a weak argument. I’ll buy the ill’s of societal design he points towards, but I will never buy his lack of moral character, or his desultory excuse for a set of human values as worthwhile beyond a cursory examination. He may be bright, but his premises in large, are well, Stupid.

  6. I wanted to like this guy so I went to his website. When I saw his 9/11 FAQ, that was the end for me.

  7. How do you ‘drop out of society’ but have a ‘website’ and a fan base? Does he like come back once a week for attention whoring?

    Also, as someone whose parents went to college, I disagree that that alone makes you think ‘like an educated person.’ My parents are smart as hell, but having time away from them where I had to be independent, where I had to sort out (and accomplish) the tasks for 4-5 classes, and where I was exposed to people of races, beliefs, and genders I’d never encountered is what made me think like an educated person. My parents took it as a given that I’d go to college and strongly urged me NOT to go to school in my home town, precisely so I’d get the experiences I described.

    He also sounds like one of those guys that does something, reaps all the benefits, and then badmouths it later. “I went to college, and it’s how I met my beautiful wife and got the wherewithal to earn the skills I need to be an adult. But now that I’m an adult it doesn’t really help me much, so screw college, I never needed it.”

  8. Some interesting thoughts there, but he seems to be missing the idea of building communities who approach this together rather than as individuals.

    The Walk Out movement seems more viable:
    As does the transition town movement in the UK:

    We’re going to need a lot more of this kind of work as we face the slow collapse, now that the era of cheap abundant energy is over.

  9. It still feels like a trendy hobby, rather than a serious commitment.

    Ran’s not dropped out of society, he’s just bought into the normal middle-class goal of having a weekend bolthole when life in the city gets a bit too much.

    Ran uses a truck like the rest of us, buys his building supplies in Home Depot, and had $12000 dollars to spend on a “place in the country” (I wish!)… he even wants to put satellite internet in his cob house!

    Having said that, his advice from the 2004 essay is good: basically, you can’t “drop out” completely, but you can find a mental space that gives you some freedom from the pressures of society.

    I can’t see how that links to the doomer scenario though… could be summarised as “there’s more to life than work, so find something interesting to do in your free time”.

  10. This guy indulges in some of the most absurd 9/11 conspiracy theories. His argument is invalid.

  11. To quote my brother
    “Ran Prieur is a boss, not in the sense of hierarchical employment in the sense of a boss.”

  12. He lost me when he essentially refused to answer anything. For example:

    “Well, I don’t know if I like to be a hero. I think it was Nietzsche who said that nobody who understands fame wants to be famous”
    “Well, I’m a little wary of the term “self sufficiency” if you take it in a strict sense, self sufficiency is a lie”
    “But the word “permaculture”, I always carefully define it as a brand. Permaculture is a brand like Nike or something.”

    He doesn’t really answer much. permaculture is, if anything, the practical side of the movement – it’s not about why you should be doing things, it’s about how to do them once you’ve decided to. You buy a book about permaculture, and it spends the entire time talking about how best to look after your vegetable garden in a three-season system, so the chickens have one third of the garden to roam at any given time.

  13. I have to agree with the above comments. Some of his stuff makes sense, then you get to the apparent doublethink, and finally you come to

    sorry, but no.

    greebo #6 also has a great point about community, and working together.

    Heck, all the above comments are sane, sensible, well thought out, and show this guy to be a nutter with a summerhouse in the woods.

  14. Dear high school kids (all of them, not just the smart ones),
    Do everything possible to go to college. Seriously. Somehow this guy seems to think that the only thing you learn at college is how to “think and act like an educated person.” However, a “smart kid” or anyone who actually attends classes and puts forth effort into the academic side of their chosen major will absolutely learn more than an affected social manner. The value of what any honest person learns at college – socially, academically, emotionally, etc… – far exceeds the monetary cost incurred. Also, you end up with a degree, which has very real value in today’s world.

    Debt is only scary to people who are unwilling to do the work it takes to pay it off, and a college loan is the very best kind of monetary debt to carry into your chosen profession. Don’t ever let some pedantic wannabe hermit lecture you about an educational establishment he obviously didn’t pay attention to.

    Dear BoingBoing,
    Please don’t feed trolls, especially professional conspiracy theorists who can’t wait to tell us how wrong we all have it. At the very least, read the trolls’ websites and stick with people who have some kind of realistic grasp of the world the rest of us live in. Please?

  15. I read the FAQ on (9/11). He reads Charles Fort ! Since there are gaping holes in the official 9/11 reports, he’s asking and trying to find the answers to questions a lot of people are asking. My straight laced science teacher thought Sagan was a loser cause he smoked pot and would not entertain any discussions of his books.

  16. Wow! I never expected two of my favorite blogs to cross pollinate like this! Thanks for the interview Ran!

    @jalmos : at the heart of anger lies fear

  17. It sounds to me like he’s just another part of the system he purports is going down.

  18. This guy’s philosophy strikes me as that of the teenage variety, but instead of ranting about screwed up “the parents” are, it is “society” that has serious problems. (I’m guessing that when he was in school, all his teachers just didn’t understand him!) How this guy makes being a parasite sound morally superior…amazing. We adults will continue to try to work together to try to make society better, a little at a time. You kids go ahead and run away from home…I’m sure you’ll show us! And after you’re done plucking those organic eggs (that we paid for) from the trash, be sure to put the lid back on the trash can. And be quiet about it, would you? Some of us have to work in the morning.

  19. Huh. I wanted to like this guy, but when I went to his 911 page, I did.

    “Anyone who challenges the dominant story is immediately reclassified as a conspiracy nut!”

    Which is exactly true for the same reason that most Americans ‘know’ that hippies were dirty, anarchist, regressive stoners. Most of us don’t like or know how to think for ourselves, so we wait for an authority to say something and that becomes our opinion.

    Good luck with that in your unchosen future.

  20. He has some interesting things to say, more thought-out than most people who advocate impossible back-to-nature ideals. The downside is that he balances his rationality here with batshit insane things on his web site like the world trade center was deliberately bombed from the inside because the buildings didn’t fall over like we exepcted, and other nonsense.

  21. I don’t go along with everything that Ran Prieur writes on his page; or as is the case lately, links on his page. He has demonstrated himself to me as being biased in a left wing preference. Not to take anything away from left wing ideology, but given a choice of a red or blue car; if you always trash talk the red car and critique the blue car for not being the way a good blue car should be, you got a bias. I don’t think Ran Prieur wants an audience that would go along with every thing he wrote; or happy because he wrote or linked to it.

    What I do like from his page is a poking of my thinking.

    I also find I have convergence on things I perceive as some of his core concepts.

    1) A deterministic mechanical universe of scientific proof is not the universe we live in. There is fairy dust in the mix.

    2) Your job should not be how you hang up your life 9-5 40 hours a week for 40 years. It is not good for our biological world, and it is not good for our psychological health. Other things should take the place this ends of money. Life and feelings matter more.

    His personality does come out. Some of it is cool, some of it may seem pompus. Yet there is much written by well respected authors, that make use of “the stupid masses” lament. Confucius comes to mind off the top of my head. The word Pagan use to have like meaning as used by early Christians.

    For me I do see Prieur having a heart for humanity and wishing them to stop destroying the world and themselves and live more gently and humanely. He gets thrown the same head lines the rest of the world gets and that can inspire bouts of scorn.

    Maybe people are hoping for a more tactful presentation of some of the ideas Prieur has to present. I consider if that to be the case, it is unfortunate that the package is more important than the substance for that person to consider subjects. Ran writes and if people are interested great. He has his own life and he expects others to have theirs.

  22. I don’t actually care whether he is a farce or pretensious. All I care about is when people advocate things that have been done in generations that came before and did not lead to the predicted outcome. The hippies and more broadly the back-to-the-land and communitarian movements of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s definitely had some effects on US society. But did either of them in any way remotely accomplish what their advocates claimed was the point (even if the point was to have no point) ? And punk definitely has had an impact both on the US and the UK and possibly wider afield, but has it actually changed things in any ways that are remotely like the original chants, goals, tastes of the original punks?

    So drop out all you want. But a few folks from your parents (or grandparents) generation did that too. And a few folks from their parents or grandparents did too. And yet … here we are. Something to think about.

  23. Personally, I try to find insight where I can. It does not matter to me what else a person says if I can connect to any part of it.

    I found the parts about how much more difficult it is try to follow your own path, rather than to do what is expected of you moving.

    I also found learning of “Operation Northwoods” to be particularly chilling.

  24. I’m confused about what I don’t have the power to say “no” to that’s based on culture, technology, business or socialization. As a citizen, I can’t say “no” to stuff like, you know… laws… but the rest of it? I don’t have to shop, eat, watch or drive anything I don’t want to. Do I? I mean, as he says, it’s much harder to do for yourself… but, then again, it always has been.

    What I say “no” to *RIGHT NOW* is growing my own food, cooking my own medicine and performing my own dental surgery. I have the freedom to say “no” to writing my own novels, filming my own movies/tv, performing my own music and designing my own video games. I very much enjoy the work of others — both culturally and industrially — and say “no” to doing it myself.

    Could we do a better job environmentally, etc? Sure. All kinds of ways we could do better. But I don’t see that rejecting the whole shebang is helpful. Seems kind of over-simplistic and, well… douchey.

  25. Urban density is not the solution to our problems… being more civil and maybe a little more proximal to each other is. Urban gentrification is not the key to that. In fact, the whole reason why we have suburbs in the first place is because people felt that city life wasn’t treating them well. That is a civility issue being suffered by rational adults who flee the situation, not merely a brainless reaction of irrational people being lured away by housing brochures. You could have the cutest, most walkable urban neighborhoods imaginable and if people still treat each other like crap, no one will stay there.

  26. Discuss: “My first advice would be: Whatever you do, don’t go into debt for college…My parents had some money saved up so I didn’t have to go on debt for college.”

  27. The reactions here confirm that Ran holds opinions, has habits and asks questions that make many feel uncomfortable. America still has many taboos. He’s not for everyone and that was to be expected.

    I enjoy reading his stuff. It breaks the monotony and I often find it insightful or thought-provoking.

  28. The rash and pompous :) over-use of the word “pompous” in these comments sprouts from the dynamic between Ran’s personal and neurotic fixations and the similarly poised fixations of people sitting at the other end of the spectrum. People like the reformed hippies of the 70’s who’ve awoken from their stupor of idealism only to find solace in the realistic idea of industrial hard-ship, or, for example, the college graduates who rest the budding of their emotional intelligence on ADMISSION and COMPLETION of a student’ tenure. Does he not encourage thinking people to attend universities? I think he’s just saying that you can don’t HAVE to grind your way through years of a degree that makes you unhappy, whilst holding only the EXPECTATION that contentedness will come when your degree’s over. Sorry, when you get that first job. Sorry again, after that first promotion (Not that all students/graduates experience this).

    I don’t think there’s any need for anger or derision, I think he’s merely preaching HIS guide to spiritual balance.

    Or we could just burn him at the stake. After all, tolerance IS a boring farce.

  29. Here is a thought, maybe Ran is just a person, trying in his own way to do, and to be, what he believes?

    Just like you, just like me.

    If nothing else, he should get credit for openly sharing what he is, what he is doing, what he believes…knowing full well the wide range of responses he is likely to elicit.

    There is far too much work to do, for anyone to waste time Throwing the First Stone.

    One of Ran’s points with which I absolutely agree: do not go into massive debt for college, or for *anything* else…there is always another way. Debt will suck the life out of you, debt makes a free man into a slave. This should not be news to anyone with a brain.

    Is Dumpster Diving “looting”? Is the Perfect the Enemy of the Good?

    Debating beliefs or concepts is fair. Ad hominem quips are not. I don’t agree with everything he says on his site, but I respect him for speaking honestly and for making an effort to inspire dialogue.


  30. In terms of college, I think Ran is just trying to say you should pick institutions which fits your circumstances whether it be a traditional university, technical trade school, art school, an internship, a professional job, or etc. Also, since many colleges in the U.S. have become unaffordable it makes sense that he’d complain about debt forcing individuals to choose from a shrinking set of options which may or may not fit their educational needs and aspirations. I’ve also been told many times that college, life after high school, (and, trust me when I say this life does go on after high school), or what have you is a place in time when you get an opportunity to find then redefine yourself instead of letting today’s public school institutions, which may or may not provide for a student s full intellectual enrichment (especially due to recent budget shortfalls), do it for you. Of course, Ran does without a doubt ramble on a lot during improvisational interviews and like any of us is susceptible to error since, he’s just human. Overall though, his trials along with his errors, as this interview doubtlessly shows, have changed his viewpoints on many issues over time to the point where he’s had to revise or get rid of old perspectives. So, instead of just tearing down Ran’s ideas, I think its important to just take the strong points he makes then build from those while also making our own mistakes while doing so.

  31. Reiterating my earlier point, I disagree with a lot of his advice. Also, he does come off a little sanctimonious, but not in a mean-spirited way, just a bit full of himself. And evidently he buys into a dubious conspiracy theory that must not be named (thanks, dMc, for the heads up). But so what? He’s just offering his perspective on life. It hardly seems worthwhile to get upset over it, and the article and essay still make some reasonable points.

    I, for one, don’t buy the notion that holding one or more absurd or obtuse opinions automatically invalidates everything the speaker has to say. In fact, I think this is a real problem in our society that once someone decides they don’t like a person or a group, they stop listening to everything that person or group has to say. Or they ignore that person or group without ever listening to them at all because the clique the would-be listener identifies with has reached a general consensus that the person or group is bad mojo.

  32. First off, Ran is not pompous. To those who are themselves pompous perhaps it comes off that he has the same motivations as you. Authority always has a problem with “insolence”. Ran is “pompous” and a “looter” because he does not recognize the authority you worship.

    Secondly, he bought his land because he is frugal and yeah, a “freegan” dumpster diver too. The dude simply has no need for just about anything. He has a bare bones PC running I believe Damn Small Linux. Dude has no addictions or habits. He’s simply an inquisitive man with a big heart and recognizes the vast, vast, vast amounts of waste and sadness this existence and society produce.

    Ran is not an “authority”, he’s an idea box who believes everything is free at its core existential level. He’s more law abiding probably than anyone posting comments here. He just doesn’t follow your rules. I’ve often disagreed with him. But the nice thing about Ran is disagreement is not a personal matter.

    Ran is not a guru. Ran is just a man with a lot of ideas many of us in the early 2000s here in Seattle and elsewhere (thanks to the Internet) pontificated on a more sane “lifestyle” in this post 9/11 world all at the same time and built off of each other’s ideas. Ran is legit and a simple idealist.


  33. Enjoyed the article. I am a “Ran Fan” having followed his web site for about 6 months. If you enjoy thinking outside the box, and are concerned with the way energy decline will play out or just want to head toward downshifting your economic footprint then I would highly recommend his web site. If you are into conformity …. it’s not likely to be your cup of tea. I also see 9-11 needs to be added to religion and politics as subjects to avoid if you don’t want to ruffle feathers ;-)

  34. I think Ran’s work is in the same vein as Crass… it’s all about self-empowerment. “There is No Authority But Yourself”

    I wonder about anyone Ran’s writing manages to anger. If this interview makes you mad, ask yourself why. No well adjusted person should be upset by anything he writes.

    I know Ran won’t be reading these comments, but he knows how much his fans love him. Keep it up Ran!

  35. I had dinner with Ran, and I can assure you, he is not pompous.
    Wait – he actually lived with us for a few days.
    He does, of course, rub people who are completely brainwashed by the dominant paradigm the wrong way.
    I guess we know who those people are here…
    Think before you react and comment. You don’t need a guru, but you (as in we) all need the ability to be open to new ideas and synthesize, if we are going to have a shot at surviving the ongoing collapse.

  36. Most of these comments try to find one or two details to dismiss the entirety of his philosophies.

    My favorite is this:

    “and had $12000 dollars to spend on a “place in the country” (I wish!)…”

    The man is extremely frugal. He didn’t get that land by buying every latest iPhone, spending a lifetime obsessing over finding opportunities to bring in more cash, buying the most expensive house said cash can barely support, and then finally, one day, purchasing land with dozens of times the income he has.

    I bet his land is the only thing he owns that is more expensive than what you own.

    Also, most of the commenters respond to his ideas about civilization and “going back to the land” by imagining a silly stereotype, like some fool running around in animal skins banging sticks together or something like that. People who live “outside of civilization” have been taking advantage of civilization’s byproducts for as long as they’ve existed. That’s entirely separate from the question of whether or not our form of civilization is a healthy thing that will last. And it fails on both counts.

  37. (P.S. I like one-liners)

    “So drop out all you want. But a few folks from your parents (or grandparents) generation did that too. And a few folks from their parents or grandparents did too. And yet … here we are. Something to think about.”

    And if a few people jumped off the Titanic, that would have changed nothing at all.

  38. Wow…sounds like Ran really hit some nerves. Those who are ranting and raving against him are clearly firmly rooted in the messed up society Ran talks about dropping out of.

    Go Ran! Keep on writing. Love your stuff.

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