WHY HAVE WE come to assume that “progress” is always good? The Nazis’ treatment of Jews progressed toward their final solution. And many individual Jews followed a line of progress: get an ID card, move to a ghetto, get on a cattle car, arrive at a camp, work at the camp, go to a gas chamber, get put in an oven, rise as smoke, fall as ashes.
A stalker can progress from one stage to another, beginning with e-mails, then phone calls, then moving to the victim’s community, then haunting places the victim might go, then showing up at the
victim’s home. Cancer can and usually does progress. Addictions, including cultural addictions, can and often do progress.
That’s not to say that progress can’t be good. A friendship or romantic relationship can progress as surely as can an abusive relationship — the affection you feel growing with time, leading to a deep familiarity and comfort as the relationship matures.
In a lot of cases, progress is good for some and bad for others. For the perpetrators of the Nazi Holocaust, the technological progress that made possible more efficient ways to kill large numbers of human beings was “good,” or “useful,” or “helpful.” From the perspective of the victims, not so good. For the perpetrators of the United States Holocaust, the development of railroads to move men and machines was “good” and “useful” and “helpful.” From the perspective of the Dakota, Navajo, Hopi, Modoc, Squamish, and others, not so good. From the perspective of bison, prairie dogs, timber wolves, redwoods, Douglas firs, and others, not so good.
In 1970 Lewis Mumford wrote, “The chief premise common to both technology and science is the notion that there are no desirable limits to the increase of knowledge, of material goods, of environmental control; that quantitative productivity is an end in itself, and that every means should be used to further expansion.” Mumford asked the same question that so many of us ask, which is, Why on earth would a culture do so many crazy, stupid, destructive things? His answer cuts through the typical cornucopian garbage: “The desired reward of this magic is not just abundance but absolute control.” Mumford knew — as we all do — that there was no hope in proceeding “on the terms imposed by technocratic society.” He didn’t think change would be easy, saying that it might take “an all-out fatal shock treatment, close to catastrophe, to break the hold of civilized man’s chronic psychosis.” He was not optimistic: “Even such a belated awakening would be a miracle.”
Most people today have not awakened from the Cult of Progress. Even with the world being dismembered before their eyes, nearly all public figures continue to be members of this cult. The same is true for many nonpublic figures — for most of us — as we seem unquestioningly to presume that tomorrow’s progress will bring more good things to life, and will simultaneously solve the problems created by yesterday’s and today’s progress (without then creating yet more problems, as “progress” always seems to do).
For those who benefit from it, progress is about improving their material lifestyle at the expense of those they enslave, steal from, or otherwise exploit. For everyone else, it is about loss.
Progress. In vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean, there is forty-eight times as much plastic as phytoplankton.
Progress. One million migratory songbirds die every day because of skyscrapers, cell-phone towers, domesticated cats, and other trappings of modern civilized life.
Progress. A half million human children die every year as a direct result of so-called debt repayment from so-called third-world countries (the colonies) to so-called first-world countries (the nations that have undergone progress).
Progress is polar bears swimming hundreds of miles to ice floes that have melted away, till finally they can swim no more. Progress is nuclear weapons, depleted uranium, and “drones” piloted from an office in Florida to kill people in Pakistan. Progress is the ability of fewer and fewer people to control more and more people, and to destroy more and more of the world. Progress is a god. Progress is God. Progress is killing the world.
The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins said that science’s claim to truth is based on its “spectacular ability to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command.” Anthropologist Leslie White stated that “the primary function of culture” is to “harness and control energy.” Quite simply, this culture is about enslaving everyone and everything its members can get their hands (or machines) on. What is another word for making someone jump through hoops? Enslavement. In this culture, progress is measured by the ability to enslave, to control, and to do so with ever-increasing efficiency. The ultimate goal is to control everyone and everything.
I know, I know, I can hear the cry of the cult members now: “If progress is so bad, why does everyone want it?” Well, they don’t. Nonhumans certainly don’t. But they don’t count. They’re only there for you to use. Many humans don’t want progress, either. Or at least they didn’t, when they still had intact social structures. That’s why so many indigenous peoples have taken up arms in defense of their ways of life. I often think of a line by Samuel Huntington: “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion (to which few members of other civilizations were converted) but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do.”
Part of the problem is that progress can be not merely seductive, but addictive. My compact OED defines the verb addict as “to bind, devote, or attach oneself as a servant, disciple, or adherent.” In Roman law, an addiction was “a formal giving over or delivery by sentence of court. Hence, a surrender, or dedication, of any one to a master.” To be addicted is to be a slave. To be a slave is to be addicted. The heroin ceases to serve the addict, and the addict begins to serve the heroin. We can say the same for progress: it does not serve us, but rather we serve it.
Every addiction has its allure. I recently had some extended conversations with people who’d used a lot of crack. Their descriptions of the drug’s effects were consistent with what I’d heard from students when I taught at a supermaximum-security prison. The people who’ve used crack uniformly say that crack makes them feel extremely good, and powerful, and invincible. Their descriptions of the high make crack seem pretty damn appealing. Unfortunately the high doesn’t last all that long, and when you come down you not only feel wretched, but you immediately start looking for another hit.
Severe addicts may give up everything else for their addiction. My students had lost their freedom, in some cases for the rest of their lives. Their addictions had cost many of them their families. Yet even after that, a fair number said that if you put that rock in front of them, they’d still find a way to smoke it. This culture’s addiction to progress runs far deeper than any individual’s chemical addiction. It is more powerful than many people’s desire for a living planet.
Progress is hot showers (which require mining, manufacturing, and energy infrastructures). Progress is computers (which require mining, manufacturing, and energy infrastructures, and are used far more effectively by those in power than by us). Progress is the internet, which allows for instantaneous communication with distant loved ones (and which requires mining, manufacturing, and energy infrastructures, and is used far more effectively by those in power than by us). Progress is supermarkets, which require industrial food production (which in turn requires mining, manufacturing, and agricultural, chemical, and energy infrastructures, and is controlled by ever fewer giant corporations).
All other things being equal, I’d rather have a nice space heater to keep my toes toasty warm. But all other things aren’t equal, and I’d rather have a living planet.
I agree with you here ” Most people today have not awakened from the Cult of Progress. Even with the world being dismembered before their eyes, nearly all public figures continue to be members of this cult. ”
I disagree with the broad stroke of use of word “progress” in next sentence “The same is true for many nonpublic figuresâ€”for most of usâ€”as we seem unquestioningly to presume that tomorrowâ€™s progress will bring more good things to life, and will simultaneously solve the problems created by yesterdayâ€™s and todayâ€™s progress (without then creating yet more problems, as â€œprogressâ€ always seems to do). ”
We are entering the Golden Age. All these horrible crimes are unsustainable and we will survive it without returning to dark ages. But we have
to change our thinking, our values, and in my opinion that would be progress, as we are wiser than in past and humanity, all of us, will have
learned lessons from the disaster of industrialized values.
How I say it, is that we have made a huge mistake in looking for happiness outside ourselves in terms of
material comfort. This bankrupts us spiritually and destroys eco system. In
Declaration of Independence Jefferson wrote
“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable, that all men are created equal and independent; that from that equal creation they derive in rights inherent and unalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty and the pursuit of happiness; . .
But happiness was not defined. With separation of church and state it could not be defined. That was the loophole, to allow a material
pursuit of happiness.
So USA and industrial humankind need a more refined definition. The preservation of life must be our happiness. They are not separate
Wow. I’m not disagreeing with everything said here…I too see the the costs of what we call progress. We cost not only the victims but also ourselves in our addition to progress (a well-turned phrase, I might add). But this article makes me want to shoot myself to rid the planet of the costs I’m bringing by even typing this message on a computer. Maybe it’s just too early in the morning for me to have such a purely bleak thesis; or maybe I still have hope that as a species we might redeem ourselves AND that not every single change in the world has been caused by our hands. I’m usually on the same bandwagon as the author, but this was even too much for me to take. Let me off to take a breath.
Obviously…I typed too quickly and meant addiction to progress, not addition…
I hope you had some time to take a breath. I really hear you. After reading a lot of Derrick’s work, I’d find myself fixing something, then looking at the screwdriver, saying “ohcrapohcrap” in my head and imagining all that went into the mining, manufacture, design, marketing, distribution, and so on of that thing.
You are not your computer. You are not any of the things around you, the material objects, the social structures, the mental worldviews.
Yes, you are entwined in them, you probably grew up in them, but you do not need to identify with them. You do not need to blame yourself for them. You also do not need to swear off using them for fear of further damaging the world.
Part of this addiction to progress, and this identification with it, is that it makes us feel huge, makes us feel like we have a huge effect on the world. If I use this computer, if I drive this car, if I pay my mortgage on this house, if I do all the things that my life seems to be composed of, I am part of the system that is ruining the world, I am in fact a big part of it.
This is true, and it isn’t, at the same time. Massed together, yes our personal actions, whether as consumers, coordinators, resource extractors, financiers, distributors, whatever other part we may play, we are doing all this. But removed from all that, we humans are rather small on our own terms. We walk at a certain pace, we need a bit of food and water each day to keep going, we can only yell so loud or step on so many bugs before we get tired. This crack that we’re collectively smoking, call it science, call it what you like, acts more like PCP, numbing us to the damage we cause and urging us to destroy ever more of the world around us, and ultimately ourselves. If we stop smoking the crack personally, the systems we’re entwined in still appear to us, and still are, extremely destructive. However, we can regain a healthier sense of our own personal power, and we can learn not to equate ourselves with that system, to separate our identities from that system.
Your typing a message on your computer to convey your thoughts to whoever’s reading this page might seem like it’s caught up in this same system. But shooting yourself is only the logical endpoint if you consider yourself inextricably bound and identified with the system. Ask yourself if this is indeed true. Ask yourself if this is the only way for humans to live, which means it’s the only way that you or anyone else you know or any other cultures you know could possibly live.
Even if you consider what it would take for you, or you and the people you care about, or you and your whole community, to sustain yourselves totally without support from the system, and decide that’s not for you, that doesn’t mean you’re a horrible person. It doesn’t mean the only thing for you to do is shoot yourself. It means that you have realized how destructive this system is, and can decide for yourself how you can best serve life, given your talents and motivations and particular experiences. Just because you use a computer, or drive a car, or whatever, doesn’t mean that you support the system that produces and encourages the use of computers, or cars, or whatever.
Here’s a way of thinking about that Richard Dawkins quote on science’s claim to truth that I’ve found helpful. Control and truth are not the same thing. So people can invent GPS systems. Does that mean we’re ridiculously amazing and whatever we do is justified? Not really. It means that the world is powerful and magical enough to allow GPS systems to be created. Just as it’s powerful and magical enough to allow Polynesian navigators to sail thousands of miles across open ocean by memorizing stars and reading wave patterns and dead reckoning (remembering where they’ve been). Just as it’s powerful and magical enough for so many other beings to do similarly ridiculously amazing kinds of navigation. Only those kinds of navigation don’t require the production of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic components, don’t require vastly unequal economic systems, and don’t allow a select few to manage and control those navigational systems for whatever purposes they like.
Using a computer to communicate is, in one sense, participating in this culture of control that refuses to consider the effects of its actions on others, but in another sense, it’s just people using whatever means are available to communicate something important.
This view of the ‘progress’ of society deals with the many failings in what has been done. However, it is an anthropocentric view. It does not look at what the systems installed by society have irreversibly done to its life support system. It does not take into account that natural forces are in control of what happens. Humans can only make decisions, good and bad. They will inevitably have to come to terms with the fact that the esteemed progress is unsustainable. They will have to cope with powering down as ecological forces exert control.
Derick is correct… it is an addiction, a disease of the soul!
Ever since discovery of the appearance of Homo habilis approximately two million years ago humankind has been defined as toolmaker, technician, and tinkerer. Whether or not a direct link to Homo sapiens can ever be definitively unearthed is a moot point. Clearly we humans live and die by our tools. But, while necessity may be the â€œmother of invention,â€ what manner of need could have led to the never-ending flow of new tools and technologies evidenced today? What of this unyielding pace of technological innovation that seems to be of another, qualitatively different order?
The Greek techne suggests â€œcraftâ€ or â€œart,â€ the practical discipline of making things. Technology, then, would refer to the results or products of techne â€“ artifacts, devices, tools, and other handicrafts â€“ the artifices of human culture. This sounds like an old story, about which we can be neutral. But we are not neutral; we adore our modern technologies excessively. Is it because they create nice, clean, artificial surfaces, insulating us from the wild and uncultivated underbelly of life, of nature, of our own embodiment?
With America leading the way, the path charted and engineered by Western civilization has spawned a hegemony that is rapidly overtaking the globe, socially, economically, and culturally. This unheralded ascendancy has unleashed a domination of values, which unlike political hegemonies of the past, is lightning fast, wide ranging, and spreading insidiously, artfully enabled by those very technologies to which it has given birth.
Engineering and technological sophistication now appear to constitute the religion of a new epoch. The foundation stones of a nascent techno-theocracy, they march us, hyper-rationally, to a contrived and perhaps apocalyptic Eschaton. Their dominion is so totalizing that they have undermined our very enjoyment of a more spontaneous life, lived naturally on Mother Earth. After all, the â€œvirtual realityâ€ they promise seems less messy than the real thing.
With an implacable call for progress in our visually dominated world, it is no wonder we are so enthralled by the steady array of new toys and tools paraded before our eyes. But why do HDTVs, TiVOs, iPhones, iPods, cell phones, Blackberries, electronic notebooks, and a myriad of other digital gadgets hold such sway, and command our rapt attention? Some might call it convenience; others would say itâ€™s just the fulfillment of the American Dream-the Holy Grail of our continuously advancing civilization
A large part of this digital delight may simply be a function of its visual appeal, the marketing hook that drives our consumerism. Perhaps it really is all about the spectacle. Or maybe itâ€™s the continuous enhancement in microchip effectiveness and processing speed, betraying our â€œend userâ€ mentality â€“ to accomplish more things more quickly so we can buy more toys and move more rapidly into a brighter future.
More pointedly, perhaps, these technologies serve as valuable tools of social, economic, and cultural control. They encourage and validate our fixation with civilizationâ€™s fundamental construct, unilinear time and its underlying implication â€“ the necessity of historical progress. This insures our continued dependency and our unquestioned faith in a certain path or trajectory; let us call it the curriculum of the West.
All the while, these same technologies distract attention from the inchoate, but developing sense of our own anonymity in todayâ€™s digitized, urban landscape. They signal the arrival of a new world, the global village, where we all share common values and concerns. But it is an erector set village, artfully crafted from our own infantile dreams of omnipotence â€“ Western domination â€“ now exported around the globe. These technologies claim to â€œconnect us.â€ But, it is a hollow promise aimed at disarming a potential epidemic of cultural alienation that might otherwise expose the tinkerers on the scaffolding propping up the gloss of our blueprinted lives.
So our suspicions go undetected and our faith in the curriculum remains intact. We continue on, accepting as axiomatic that the paths of technological advancement, happiness, and righteousness coincide; in fact, we take for granted that progress is a good in itself â€“ the only legitimate means of achieving happiness and living the good life. But why canâ€™t we jettison this belief? Why this insatiable need for novelty? Why is it we have so little regard for what is primal and founding? And, why do we attempt to light up every corner of the globe, demystify the naturally chiaroscuro quality of life, making everything one-dimensionally bright? What is it about the curriculum of the West that is so captivating?
It may be that this race for technological innovation is nothing other than the best efforts of our civilization to ensure that we citizens keep producing and consuming, and remain focused on the future. We are being led to the abattoir of our own planned obsolescence by a marketing wizardry that locks us firmly onto a path of never-ending progress. Could this also explain our disproportionate emphasis on free will and unrestrained choice in America? After all, it provides an unassailable platform from which to produce and market an inexhaustible stream of saleable products and commodities that in turn validates our freedom, again keeping us future-oriented and chasing the ever-receding horizon of our Dream.
Who could argue with the shrewdness of such an agenda, or its efficacy in herding us into quiet submission? I was just as susceptible, just as committed to the plan, as were my fellow citizens. But I also sensed that this driving â€œwillâ€ to consume was not part of my natural constitution. It seemed to be the result of a story we had all been told about the future, about â€œmaking something of ourselvesâ€ and â€œgetting ahead.â€
Certainly, no one could deny that America had achieved great distinction for its material advancement and its extravagant pursuit of innovation. Nor did I wish to underestimate the value of specific advances in medical science and biotechnology. But that did not mean all progress was necessarily good, or even necessary.
Could I let go of my MacBook or do without email? No. Not completely. But, I refused to buy the iPhone, the TiVo, or the Blackberry; and I rejected a host of other gadgets and toys. I knew that I was being ensnared in a vicious cycle of work-buy-owe, and that I was partly to blame for the entire arrangement. I was a willing accomplice, collaborating with our clever cultural missionaries. I had become just another spokesperson trying to sell the Dream to the rest of the world, perpetuating the illusion.
Yet, along with most of my fellow citizens, I could not just renounce all the â€œbenefitsâ€ of this way of life without consequences. The social covenant our ancestors had entered into long ago guaranteed that each and every one of us would come to rely on these tools as a matter of simple survival. I recalled what Rousseau, perhaps the single most important Enlightenment figure, had written centuries before in his work, On the Social Contract:
“[Civil society] must transform each individual into a part of a larger whole â€¦ deny man his own [natural] forces in order to give him forces that are alien to him and that he cannot make use of without the help of others.”
As I now saw things, we had proceeded too far down this road for anyone to turn back. If I, or anyone else, were to survive in civilized society â€“ and really, one could no longer leave it because our own natural forces had long ago been replaced by civilized ones over generations of indoctrination to the curriculum â€“ then I had little choice but to make use of the tools provided, or perish. I was in a double bind from which I could not easily escape. But at least I understood the game, some of the rules, and the potential consequences of playing it. Such awareness enabled me to develop healthier positioning with respect to the curriculum and its artifices; I no longer permitted them their insidious and unchecked control over my life.
Wade Davis views on ancient culture and progress.
As a gratefully recovering addict, I take exception to Derrick Jensen’s manipulation of the disease of addiction for his end instead of allowing it to make its comment on his ideas.
Addiction is a low grade spiritual quest that provides a gateway to a full spiritual life.
Our use of our drug of choice is the way that we, addicts, avoid the present, avoid experiencing fully our emotions and feelings.
As Anne Wilson Schaef observed long ago, American society emulates all the same character traits and behaviors that we, individual addicts, have. Thus, the paradigm of addiction helps us understand our group actions.
Unless we understand the paradigm, it will mislead us as surely as our personal disease misleads us.
It is only when speaking as an addict that I use a false name when commenting. I do so because the wisdom of our tradition of anonymity also teaches us that it is what is said that is important and not who says it.
I think Derrick focuses so much on what certain human cultures have done because that’s what we can have an effect on. Natural forces will do what they do, and we would do well to pay attention to them, but ultimately we’re responsible primarily for our own behavior and that of the culture we live within.
Industrial technology enthralls people because it produces things that seem so wholly separate from the natural world, when really their origins are less visible than, say, the digging sticks and ostrich-egg shells used in the Kalahari Desert. They allow a false sense of separation and superiority, a feeling of “We made this” and not “the world has allowed this to be made”.
This may be a disturbing comparison, but it’s as if (male) scientists manipulated a woman into gestating and bearing robotic children so that the scientists could say, “Look, we have created life!” as the woman lies close to death from the abuse (no doubt administered according to the most modern and rigorous technical protocols). Why would someone do this? Well, for starters, the robotic children can be operated by remote control. Real human babies, not so much, being self-conscious and willful beings.
The double bind you describe at the end of your post is very real. Understanding the game, as you say, is key, allowing you to be in a healthier position.
Thanks for posting the Wade Davis interview. Wade is very forceful but gentle in his defense of other cultures. I hadn’t heard the Australian Aboriginal philosophy described in that way before, as focused on maintaining the world, though that seems consistent with what I’ve read about the Dreaming as the eternal present that’s coexistent with the original process of creation.
I wish he wouldn’t talk about the “barbarism” that’s inherent in all humans, for which culture serves as a control. I mean, that’s part of life too, and I think that can get too easily misinterpreted.
Could you talk more about how Derrick manipulated addiction? I thought it was a pretty good comparison. What do you mean when you say “addiction is a low grade spiritual quest that provides a gateway to a full spiritual life”? That does sound different than Derrick talking about this particular addiction, the addiction to control. Is it that the behaviors or substances or situations that we are addicted to feel enough like something good that we pursue them as if we were pursuing something healthy? That the impulse that drives addictions in the first place is good, but misdirected and fixated on something unhealthy, or in an unhealthy intensity or focus? I could also read it that, through being addicted to something, and then overcoming it, that process leads to a full spiritual life.
Every word of it is worth reflecting and acting upon. None could have conveyed the evil effects of our “progress” addiction more beautifully.
Jensen seems to enjoy languishing in the interminable landscape of modernity. It allows him to criticize the purveyors of the addiction, the addicts themselves, and then anyone who attempts to break the addiction in a way that is, by his reckoning, banal or trivial. In a previous polemic, he scoffs at people who think taking shorter showers is going to “save the planet.” In this one, he indicts all of Western civilization for being addicted to them. No wonder readers are left with seemingly no way out other than suicide!
Oh good grief. There are so many positive things going on right now, so many people dedicating themselves heart and soul to stopping the destruction and healing the planet. Why keep berating people for screwing up? Ranting and raving doesn’t change a thing. Here are some ways we can get off our self-destruction and addictions and live like dignified, intelligent beings who know better than to shit in their own nests:
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Quit y’er bitchin’ and start a revolution!
The term “progress” has positive connations, which aren’t going away any time soon.
So it would make the most sense to say that what generally is considered progress (e.g. more mining) isn’t progress at all.
Instead of saying that you’re anti-progress, why not just say that you’re anti-killing, anti-destruction, … etc ?
(.. regardless of whether or not you say you that you are pro-“progress”)
Amen to Makla and Rebecca. I guess this was my point in my initial comment, though much better said by you. While I do share so many of his views, the bleakness and frank hopelessness of this was exhausting but ultimately unhelpful. I read another interesting article lately (sorry, not in front of me to reference). It hinted at how good we liberals are at showing how smart we are and how well we can define problems, but through all of our arrogance somehow offer very few solutions. Amen to this also.
The point of Derrick Jensen’s writing, as I see it, is to make people feel the hopelessness of persisting in our current holding patterns. He doesn’t scoff at people who take shorter showers because its the right thing to do, he simply points out that taking shorter showers will not save the planet, and that to pretend that it will is delusional. That seems fair enough to me.
When Rebecca Swan says to ‘start a revolution’, she then links to a video of the Bolivian climate conference. This project of Morales’ seems praiseworthy, and the notion that the 2 billion (mostly poor, ‘third-world’) people who will be most effected by climate change should have a vote in a referendum is reasonable enough. However, to expect that the leaders of the United States, Europe, China, India, Russia, Japan, etc. will do what’s right and ratify their decisions and abide by the will of the people (esp. poor people) is to persist in a delusion. The people in power will never do what’s right for the planet or the people who live on it. They got to be powerful by exploiting, enslaving and killing the planet and people, and they happen to like being powerful. They are not going to stop doing what makes them powerful just because we ask nicely, or because we have impeccably reasoned arguments. They will not even stop if you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the current course means planetary doom, and will of course be their own funeral as well as ours. They will always have a rationalization, a way of subverting the truth, a way of justifying their continued subjugation of all life. Everyone knows this.
Our democratic processes (such as they are – by now they are hollow forms, if ever they were otherwise), and the means by which power has been resisted most commonly in the last century, have all proved impotent to stop the insanity of the powerful. Jensen points this out, over and over in his various columns and books, not to promote hopelessness for its own sake, but to help people realize that what we have been doing is not working, and will not work in the future. If we are serious about saving life on the planet, we need to get serious about resistance. We need a a ‘culture of resistance’ – as Arundhati Roy recently called it, a ‘resistance with consequences.’ What that means to people, and what changes they will make in their own lives, is up to them to decide. Whatever they decide, their decision will hopefully be informed by what Jensen claims as the sixth premise of his book Endgame, and which to me seems like an unassailable fact –
“Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.”
Malka says Jensen’s readers are left ‘with no other way out but suicide’. But it is suicidal (in fact ecocidal) to persist in our delusions. Rebecca’s idea about starting a revolution is more to the point – but a referendum is not a revolution. A revolution, by definition, means removing the powerful from their positions of power, depriving the powerful of their power. We need to start thinking about that.
‘Progress’ is what a disease does. Maturation is what healthy living beings do. We need to grow up and face the reality of our situation. That is why Derrick Jensen’s work is so important.
A brilliant post, really!
I think your assessment of both Jensen’s appeal and the meaning of Premise Six is right on. But, I don’t see revolution or resistance as a solution. In fact, if you and Derrick are correct that this is a disease, a disease that is progressing (like a cancer), and has no hope of going into remission (is unredeemable), than I do not understand the logic suggesting revolutionary change…
The agenda of this civilization’s curriculum is now deeply entrenched in our bones, and the disease is progressing. Certainly, we can do things to slow the progress down, limp along a bit longer… but I don’t for the life of me, see a way out of theis condition.
Now, I know Jensen talks about getting serious with resistance, but, is he just not suggesting that we take down the master’s house with his own tools? How could it be otherwise?
Revolution simply supplants one power structure with another, witness global politics over the past 6,000 years!!!
I hate to be a pessimist; but I see no hope for the human race, and only a bit more for the planet when we have had our way with her!!!
Take heart, kulturCritic! The referendum was just the beginning. First we have to get organized, focus our collective attention on the problem. Then we take action.
Here’s one example:
Transition Towns http://www.transitionnetwork.org/ is a global movement that began in Kinsale, Ireland a few years ago. Geologist Colin Campbell, godfather of the peak oil movement and local resident, spoke in 2005 to a group of Kinsale students, and the class resolved to transition their region away from fossil fuels. The name and idea has spread rapidly â€” there are now 274 Transition Towns across the world, in countries like Japan, the USA, Chile, Germany, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Finland.
The power of billions of people organizing and creating a different world – free of addictions to materialism, fossil fuels and “progress” – sounds like a revolution to me.
Rebecca – tell me when you all throw away your computers, cell phones, ipods, etc…
And if you are going to tell me there are other, alternative energy sources like wind and water, etc, you are simply playing into another magician’s hand. Even the production of the equipment necessary to generate that powerr, let alone make the products, is a huge problem for the environment.
And your Transition Towns are not going to bring politics or big business to an end, not even to its knees. But, trylu, it will burn itself out eventually. Then, the real question is will your Towns be able to live without power, withour computers, without high speed travel…
Maybe I am missing something here, but I just see how your math adds up.
Maybe you will be free of the addiction to “fossil fuels”, but never free of the addiction to FUEL generation of some kind or another.
Listen, I think the Amish have been doing your thing for quite a while (by and large). Are we all ready for that?
I also went to the site of yours, and I am not reassured by the comments of Bolivia’s Ambassador.
â€œThe only way to get climate negotiations back on track, not just for Bolivia or other countries, but for all of life, biodiversity, our Mother Earth, is to put civil society back into the process. The only thing that can save mankind from a [climate] tragedy is the exercise of global democracy,â€ said Boliviaâ€™s UN ambassador, Pablo Solon.
Civil society IS the problem; getting it back into the process means nothing more to me than watching IT progress…
And I do not see “global democracy” being the right direction for anything… Globalization is one of the KEY problems.
And, I don’t know if it is “mankind” we should be saving. anyway!!
Well, to begin at the end, the point was to save mankind – from a climate tragedy – and all of life. If you don’t care if your fellow human beings survive, I don’t know what to say to that but I think we all sink or swim together.
Getting civil society on board means to stop trusting The System – the ones who got us into this mess in the first place – to save us and collectively organize.
As far as Transition Towns – the point of that is to transition to a sustainable way of living on the earth. If that means living like the Amish – would you rather do that or go down in a roaring ball of crude oil fueled fire?
I’m not saying those are our only two choices – but what if they were?
I have lived two different times in my life without electricity, running water – no computer, cell phone, etc. One time was in a cabin in the mountains in the 90s. Another time was in a tipi for 9 months. I feel lucky I was able to experience those times. I know it’s possible to live simply and be happy and fulfilled.
Time ghost–your points are well taken. Perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment of Jensen’s thesis. Unemployed as I am, along with a high percentage of others in this country, it was perhaps too much for me to consider taking on the “powers that be” when my immediate future is fraught with so much uncertainty. But with all this “free time” on my hands, who knows?
Saving “mankind” is an anthropocentric view of the situation… this is what got us into the predicament in the first place.
“Civil Society” IS The System!!. Civilization is what Jensen is talking about. Surely you understand that Rebecca. You and I both know it is not just a particular political party, or corporate hegemony; it is the whole thing… WE are the ones who got us into this whole thing in the first place!
So, I guess I would ask you to explain to me how you unwind the whole thing?
Rebecca, I am saying that the conditions for the possibility of a return NO LONGER EXIST, either in nature or in our psyches… the reach of industrial economy has seen to extinguishing the first; and our reprogramming through over 6000 years of inculcation under the curriculum of the west has seen to the other.
Sure, there can be pockets of resistance, if you will. Hell, there are still indigenous tribes (WHO KNOW HOW TO LIVE LIKE THIS) that are resisting the onslaught of the Curriculum. But, it is nearly impossible for them to stave it off much longer, let alone for some profoundly mesmerized Westerners like us to do so.
You write that if “this [culture] is a disease, a disease that is progressing (like a cancer), and has no hope of going into remission (is unredeemable), than I do not understand the logic suggesting revolutionary changeâ€¦”
The logic is clear. If you don’t identify yourself with the culture/cancer itself, but rather with the once-healthy body that is afflicted by it, then you do anything in your power to get rid of the disease. You fight for your life. Cancer itself is ‘irredeemable’, antithetical to the life of a healthy body. But the body afflicted by cancer is potentially redeemable. Cancer can be beaten. The prognosis that we are already irrevocably doomed is premature, though we are certainly doomed if we do nothing, or if we content ourselves with placebos, or with medicines that do not suit the severity of our disease.
Which is why, though the global climate referendum or the Transition Town models are both good things in themselves, they are only part of the solution. As I said before, revolution means removing the powerful from power, or removing the power from the powerful. These movements do not address how that will happen, except to say, ‘if everyone joined a transition town, we’d be OK.’ Yet if even I don’t find it possible to join a transition town, how can I expect people with 2 or 3 jobs, 2 or 3 children, chronic health problems, or who have never even heard of transition towns (and probably never will) to join them? The most pressing problem we now face is how to begin a culture of resistance one that weds ideas of sustainability and justice with an uncompromising resistance to power. Billions of people in all walks of life are fed up with this system. They need to get together, and figure out a way to fight back.
You also say: “I know Jensen talks about getting serious with resistance, but, is he just not suggesting that we take down the masterâ€™s house with his own tools? How could it be otherwise? ”
As Jensen points out in his books, a house can be taken down by anybody’s tools – it doesn’t matter whose. Jensen also points out that we play right into the master’s hands when we believe that the tools, and the house for that matter, “belong” to the “master”. The tools belong to the people who built the house, and you can bet the master didn’t get his hand’s dirty with that. The house was built by slaves or wage-slaves, and it is theirs to tear down using whatever tools they see fit.
And, finally, you say: “Revolution simply supplants one power structure with another, witness global politics over the past 6,000 years!!!”
This is only partially true. When the indigenous of Europe (also known as ‘Barbarians’) brought down decadent Rome, they did not immediately take up the mantle of Empire. It took centuries for Europe to take its place as Rome’s successor, and in the interim many different cultures persisted in their independence, with varying degrees of success. But eventually, you are right, they were subsumed by Civilization. And of course the modern revolutions all had as their aim the taking over of the ship of state, so of course they did result in ‘another power structure’ – that is precisely what they were shooting for!
But we are living in a unique historical moment. It is possible to imagine a revolution with bioregionalism and political and economic decentralization as its values. One which rejects the logic of the state, and of the centralized economy, and which views our relationship with each other and with nature as a web of reciprocities and relationships, rather than a competitive gauntlet of violence and greed. In any case, throwing up your hands in despair is no solution. You’re right that we are fucked – but to what degree we are fucked is up to us.
“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time as come.” – Victor Hugo
Personally, I think Mr. Jensen is a romantic nihilist. Deep in the background of that position is the yearning for connection. It is a spiritual quest and each of us has to do it alone and when you find that connection, you know what you have to do. Breaking an addiction is also a personal journey. No one can do it for you. Joseph Campbell said follow your bliss. What does that mean? You decide. Do what you have to do. The I Ching says you cannot fight evil directly. That gives it power. What does that mean? You decide.
To bring down western civilization?
You decide. It is a question of thinking deeply and then acting. There are no gurus. You are your guru. What effect do you want and why? There are only questions really. Ask them.
I am beyond caring what other people do. I will do what I have to do from my own understanding. Really what else is there to do? Think about it. The earth does not need saving. She will continue forever with or without us. Peace and blessings.
It’s true what you say, rhonnda. That’s why I do what I do. I love my work. It gives me great joy to be a warrior for peace and sanity.
“The most pressing problem we now face is how to begin a culture of resistance one that weds ideas of sustainability and justice with an uncompromising resistance to power.”
This new world of yours sounds like a very hard task-master, Time Ghost.
Resistance to power, increases power both in that resisted, and in the resistance itself.
“Justice” sounds like another legal powerplay based upon the same logistic reasoning that gave birth to the Western curriculum from Greece (which, by the way, is on the brink of anarchy… thank the goddess!. The logistic, by the way is as follows: applying universals to particular cases and drawing conclusions regarding what is just and unjust!
And, still TimeGhost, you have not answered my basic question… how to overcome the 6,000 years of indoctrination of the human race to the rationality of civilization, its underlying assumption of historical consciousness and its various moving parts. the politics of progress,etc.
Greece is in the midst of a rebellion… The anarchists and others have been building up a resistance culture for the last several years in that country, building on the movements of previous generations. The rebellion would not be in such full flower right now if the groundwork hadn’t been laid by dedicated insurrectionists. A good example of what I mean by a culture of resistance.
I think you know what I mean by justice. I don’t consider justice a legalistic concept – the west has no monopoly on justice. BP/Halliburton needs some genuine justice right now. ‘Applying universals to particular cases and drawing conclusions’ is not always a bad thing. I believe it is universally wrong to spill millions of gallons of oil into any body of water, and that those responsible for doing so in this particular case should be held accountable, or at the very least be stopped from doing it again.
I don’t know how you overcome 6000 years of indoctrination of the human race. I don’t think that’s the right question. How do I overcome my own indoctrination, and what can I do to fight against the dominant culture, to stop the atrocities – these questions seem more to the point. The idea that resistance increases the power of the state is just a slogan. It is basically meaningless, like the ‘master’s house/master’s tools’ cliche. Anyway, what other choice do we have than to resist? Only to give up, or to try to ignore the problem. But that is impossible for us, isn’t it?
I am not saying that I disagree with insurrection or resistance; although I do not think it would lead to anything very much different. And I also believe it would lead to further actions, one many sides.
I do subscribe to the idea that, as decendents of our early Homo ancestors in the Pleistocene, there was a long period of pre-history (approx 2MM yrs)where human lived in an egalitarian manner, based upon kinship ties. This has been characterized by some as an anarchistic way of living; insofar as there was no hierarchichal power structure, and no head of state. Certainly there was guidance by elders of tribe or clan; but no ‘political’ authority outright. So I do subscribe to this view of primitive anarchism. However, I do not think it can be replicated at this late state in our history.
The overwhelming evidence from anthropology, archeology, paleontology, ethnography and the history of religions strongly reinforces the view that a new set of problematics arose with the transition from an egalitarian kinship-based, predominantly nomadic hunting/gathering lifestyle characterizing the Paleolithic, and autonomous villages representative of the Neolithic, to more sedentary, hierarchically structured lifeways, based primarily on intensive plant and animal domestication economies, that erupted onto the scene at the close of the Neolithic period.
This transformation had an incalculable impact upon human consciousness over the ensuing centuries, producing entirely novel categories for understanding and manipulating the world. Reality was constituted differently after the birth of civilization than it had been previously. This would have resounding reverberations for all generations to follow, entrenched as they were in new hierarchies and institutions that would appear, including formal institutions of education.
Borrowing terminology, I have called this new model according to which reality was thereafter constituted, the curriculum of the West. The burgeoning temperament for this new way of seeing the world affected every dimension of life as civilization arose, and cities continued to populate the globe over subsequent millennia.
Immanuel Kant said in his intro to the Prolegomena to Any Future Meaphysics,
“It is never too late to become wise; but if the change comes too late, there is always more difficulty in starting a reform.”
I personally think it is too late. Perhaps there was a glimmer of hope during the “Dark Ages” in Europe… but after that, I think not. I believe all hope of a recovery was thereafter lost.
That does not mean we shouldn’t make individual choices, (as Rhhonda suggested in her post) and live lives differently than suggested by the curriculum; it just means that political action, and an effective overturning of the system, is beyond our ability.
Certainly, we could imagine that civilization will self-destruct; but what comes up from the ashes is anybody’s guess. Certainly your Transition Towns may hold the key; and there are a number of other scenarios, beyond Mad Max and the Thunderdome.
I do believe there is something within each human being, an instinct or pre-rational intelligence, a fernal memory trace of what we were and how to live; but I believe the awareness of such a memory will never dawn for the great majority of humanity
At the end of last post I meant a “feral” memory trace
Time Ghost quoted Victor Hugo: â€œThere is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time as come.â€
Hugo was wrong. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and lots of them look good but do not lead to good things. What matters is a change in human behavior. Are we ready to *be* different?!
I am not a Christian, but I think Jesus wuz right: loving each other is the real revolution. And the only revolution that can succeed to overturn the 6,000 years of domination. Are we ready? 🙂
KulturCritic: “I am not saying that I disagree with insurrection or resistance; although I do not think it would lead to anything very much different.”
Then obviously you wouldn’t bother with it. In which case, it seems to me – judging from your analysis of this culture – that you would just stand by and watch civilization destroy the planet as it collapses.
Vera: “I’m not a Christian, but I think Jesus wuz right – loving each other is the real revolution”
And how will that stop BP/Halliburton? How will that stop Monsanto? How will that prevent predator drones from blowing up children in Pakistan? How will that prevent ‘progress’ from reaching its terminal stages and killing the planet.
Rhondda: “I am beyond caring what other people do… The earth does not need saving.”
Again, what about BP/Halliburton. And what about the 100 or so species that will go extinct in the next 24 hours? What about the half million human children who die each year as a result of ‘debt’ repayment schemes?
The earth’s crust may not need saving – it will certainly remain after we are gone. Nothing else is certain at this point. This civilization certainly does have the capacity to end life on the planet.
You all should go back and read Jensen’s ‘Resistance Resisters’.
OK TimeGhost; so what do you suggest?
Rhondda, you said:
“The earth does not need saving. She will continue forever with or without us.”
I don’t know how you define earth. But to me, earth is a great web of life, and now I’m witnessing civilization exterminating between 100 and 200 species a day from this great web of life, from the biosphere, or in other words, from earth. And Derrick has listed in this text a few other insanities that civilization is and has been commiting for the last ten thousand years or so.
In other words, in my view, we – humans and nonhumans – are all integral parts of the earth. We ‘are’ earth.
Oh, and I’d rather have as a friend or ally someone whose goal is to bring down this madnessivilization and who is using all kinds of civilized tools such as computers, writing books,making music, using weapons, and all to bring it down than someone who is “green” and “spiritual” but who’s promoting the continuance of hierarchy, agriculture, industrialism, urbanism, and other civilized omnicidal practices.
I think that soon, people won’t be able to choose civilization over earth, because at the rate at which civilization is exterminating life on the planet, there won’t be much of a planet left to choose from.
It’s true that too much Derrick Jensen can be a “downer” (perhaps Jensen’s addiction, no?).
Camus, wading into the absurdity of civilized life, concluded that “the only legitimate philosophical question is suicide” (though he came down against it, believing that we must live the contradictions and rebel against them).
Isn’t it ironic, though, that the inclination of the first commentator was to use the most violent technological tool at hand – a gun – to do the deed!
Indeed, at this juncture, at which the contradictions of human culture are so overwhelmingly destructive, perhaps Camus would no longer “imagine Sisyphus happy” eternally pushing his rock up the mountain, and would conclude that suicide is more responsible than revolt, which merely changes the roles and reproduces the absurdity.
But letting go need not be another violent last act of humankind, splattering its diseased mind over the landscape as a departing insult to the earth.
When each of us can arrive at the point of equanimity at which welcoming death is no more frightening than awaiting the next sunrise, then we will have matured to the point where suicide may no longer be the only moral choice.
Because we are a death-denying culture, we sow death in our wake. As long as we continue to deny and defy death, we will continue to propagate contradiction and absurdity on this verdant earth and attract what we most fear.
Time Ghost said: “And how will that stop BP/Halliburton?”
How else but by unprecedented levels of cooperation? We won’t get there by bickering. We must be in such deep communion with each other that all those “divide and conquer” tactics will get nowhere.
You got something better?
Abuse of power, stemming from inadequate spiritual development, is the most serious problem in our world. As a result rich people are destroying life everywhere. They are serving a false god: money. In their cunning they have persuaded most of us to join in this destructive dance of endless acquisition and consumption. Unfortunately, spiritual development needs serious and prolonged work. Few are inclined to commit to this work. Hence the fascination with various â€œfixesâ€ that bypass the real answers. The source of our problems is within ourselves. â€œA manâ€™s (or womanâ€™s) character is his (or her) fate.â€ Some ancient Greeks understood this, most did not. The endlessly recurring problems we will continue to face all have this common inner origin. Until enough of us take the first step, and acknowledge our responsibility for the mess we are in, there will be no real solutions. Methods and paths to facilitate our real growth have existed since antiquity, but those deeply deluded in a material era are tragically unaware of their desperate need of them.
Mike, you are onto something. What do you figure is the first step?
I’m with you. For at least since the start of the Christian era, we have thought of ourselves as “children of God” (at least those who are not blinded by the false faith in the material world, money and reason).
As Swami Beyondanama (and other wise ones) suggest, it’s time we became “adults of God”. It is time for a global maturation of the human species. It is time to stop waiting for the messiah (or the hero or leader) to appear and realize that, collectively, we have a messianic mission: to recreate heaven on earth (where it’s always been for those with eyes to see).
And it’s not really such a long or difficult process. It starts by opening our eyes and our hearts, silencing our troublesome minds, and listening for the voice of Gaia.
Only three things are necessary for a spiritual up-wising: surrender, trust and gratitude. In indigenous cultures, this is done through Vision Quest or other rites of passage. One such quest can turn a life around because it reveals the sacred in all things and allows one to hear the quiet voices that have always been whispering for our attention – voices which cannot be heard amidst the rush of modern life or the endless chatter of our minds.
By the way, for those who would like to read the latest blog from a man who truly “gets it”, Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting with Jesus, check out: http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2010/05/blogging-toward.html#more
Your deeply spiritual invocation is well heeded. However, let us step back and understand what was involved with “indigenous” rites of passage, vision quests, etc.
Pre-civilized and archaic rites of passage were possible and full of meaning because they were grounded… they were based upon a pre-reflective and powerful experience of fusion with the natural world, as well as an equally strong bond of kinship with the tribe and clan. Those preconditions are virtually absent today.
Pre-civilized consciousness was characterized by a much smaller sense of ego differentiation than we experience today. The breakup of the original fusions between self and world, mind and body, individual and group that presented a more holistic integration of being-in-the-world, that consciousness has been irreversibly altered by the birth of rationality, civilization and its trappings.
Both the consubstantiality of our fusion with the world, and the plurivocality of its meanings has been lost. Listening to the voice of Gaia may have been feasible 6k, 10k, or 30k years ago. But now, it is almost impossible. The degree and nature of our separation is such that reintegration is nearly unrecoverable.
Maturation is not a lonesome affair of modern psychotherapeutic individuation. It is an affair that unfolded within the context of a community (small bands) where the individual experienced the reality of its totemic affiliations. We cannot force individual maturation today, in the sense that pre-civilized groups were able to realize it. The social conditions for the possibility have been lost. Even the Western religious conventions of Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation are ghostly remnants of an archaic sentiment.
And you are dead wrong in suggesting that WE have a messianic mission. Messianism is part of the problem. We have no mission on earth; missions are created by the ‘children of god’ who are on a crusade to convert, change or save the world… and to destroy anything and anyone in their way as they move forward in the name of their respective god… be it Yahweh, Allah, or any other.
You say, Mr. Riversong, “Only three things are necessary for a spiritual up-wising: surrender, trust and gratitude.”
Wrong again, I’m afraid. First you need an irreducible experience of fusion with nature, with the world we inhabit. Only on that basis is the openness you speak of feasible. Again, we have lost that sense of original fusion. Certainly, I would agree that a feral memory trace of this still resides within the human genome. But the accretions of hundreds of generations of civilization have eclipsed that experience; and the industrial transformation of the world we now inhabit has all but extinguished hope of a recovery… Swami Beyond-The-Thunderdome’s teachings notwithstanding.
However, I do believe you are on to something important when you speak about our relation to deathâ€¦ however, I donâ€™t know if it because we are â€œdeath denyingâ€ or â€œdeath fearful.â€ But then maybe the denial is tied up with our fear of death.
“The degree and nature of our separation is such that reintegration [with nature/natural community] is nearly unrecoverable… The social conditions for the possibility have been lost.”
You asked earlier what I thought we should do? Here’s a thought – Create the social conditions under which what seems impossible today may become possible tomorrow. Part of the reason resistance seems so futile to us now is that we all feel so isolated. And yet there are millions of people who feel resistance to this civilization in their hearts. I am reminded of the Jewish mystical concept of Tikkun – the gathering of the sparks which had been scattered in the darkness. As impossible as it seems that we will ever overcome our alienation – from ourselves, each other, and the natural world – it can be done. Its like falling in love, or learning how to play an instrument. At first it all seems awkward and impossible. Gradually, though, if you are dedicated, your experience deepens, and you connect on deeper and deeper levels – with your instrument, your lover, with nature, with yourself… Perhaps we will never make it all the way back to Dreamtime, but who cares? We need to begin.
I think a culture of resistance begins when people connect and speak out – about the fact that there needs to be a culture of resistance in the first place! And when people stop trying to find any reason they can come up with to deny that need…
People need to get together and talk about what is happening and what needs to be done. Not just on internet message boards, either. In real life.
That’s my big idea. Get together with your friends and start thinking “within the context of a community (small bands)” as you put it (the anarchists call these small bands ‘affinity groups’). Start thinking about what your small band stands for, what it loves, what it wants to protect, what it is fighting for, who it is fighting against, and how best to win the fight. Start thinking about how best to multiply your efforts, to spread the word, to create a movement, a ‘culture of resistance’ that is resilient and strong. Through this process, we will get closer to the ‘original fusions between self and world, mind and body, individual and group that presented a more holistic integration of being-in-the-world’. We will become real human beings again, and create real communities, ready to make a stand and fight back.
This is a crude outline of an idea both big and simple. It seems potentially like a path toward two important goals – mending our alienated selves/relationships, and fighting to protect nature and our communities.
You say resistance isn’t possible because we are too far removed from nature, and i say that nature is doomed if we don’t resist. Its a double bind. The solution has to address both problems… I’m not saying that it will be easy. But I think it will be a lot more exciting and fulfilling than simply saying that our condition is ‘irreversible’ before even attempting to reverse it…
“How else but by unprecedented levels of cooperation? We wonâ€™t get there by bickering. We must be in such deep communion with each other that all those â€œdivide and conquerâ€ tactics will get nowhere.
You got something better?”
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Do I have something better than what? Love and co-operation? No. I agree with you, those are two most excellent things. How, in and of themselves, they will defeat the corporate extinction machine is beyond me, however.
You referenced Jesus earlier. Joseph Campbell once said something funny about Jesus, in reference to pacifists – ‘Jesus said love your enemy, but he didn’t say don’t have enemies.’
By the way, I don’t think I was bickering with you when I asked how ‘loving one another’ would stop BP and Halliburton from murdering the Gulf of Mexico. Its an honest question, and an important one. How?
But perhaps once we are in ‘such deep communion with one another’ I won’t be compelled to ask such divisive questions.
Joe also says this
“Regardless of what the New Agers and Earth worshipping goddess cultists believe, we cannot haul six billion people back into pre-technology or support them in any natural sustainable fashion. Most of the world’s common people accept this, however unconsciously, thus the lack of protests and counter efforts on any meaningful scale. The new totalitarianism is its own justification, and nobody in America or Europe is going to kick up much sand so long as the Darfurs and Haitis remain on the goddamned TV screen where they belong.”
Look Nature is already lost to us… it is just a matter of time.
We have just seen the destruction of the wetlands and a good portion of the coast in the Gulf(and all that lives there)from the likes of our civilized heroes. And the company that owns the rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico has made a $270m profit from insurance payouts for the disaster.
I have no problem with “affinity groups” or FB friends that are of like mind and heart. I could even accept those who “twitter in silence”.
But I do believe the threshold has already been passed, and we are already in the midst of collapse. I guess the best to be done now is not to talk about the collapse within your band, clan, community of “affinity group”, but to actually seek a way to ride out the decline. And I think it is too late for most Euro-Americans to begin the process of rewilding or starting a farm and living “off the grid.” It is too hard, and we don’t have the stomach or the desire for it.
I am now living in an apartment in Central Siberia, far away from the maddening crowd; but don’t look now, becuase these Siberians are starting to want what we had for decades and have been selling them in the press and media… And don’t you know, those damn Chinese (all 1.5 billion of them) they want the same shit we have been enjoying for decades as well; and the Indians (in India-Mombai, etc) they want to provide all the service contracts to American merchants, and collect all the dough, so they can get some more of this shit too.
Anyway, I diverge. My stay here in Siberia is eye-openning. And the eonly reason we may survive the collapse (if my heart doesn’t give out first), is beacuse my wife’s mother and father have a dacha in the forest, where we forage and grows much of our food. But, it is not a ;life I could jump into and engage in without them doing the majority of the work… it is not something I can adjust to. And I don’t think most Americans can adjust to it either. Of course the outhouse is a trip, and there is not running water (but we do have a banya heated by wood). But even there we still depend upon electricity and gas for the stove… so it is quite a challeng… getting off the grid!
Anyway, just some random thoughts. More later.
Kultur said (to Riversong): â€œWrong again, Iâ€™m afraid.â€
Did you mean to sound like a â€œknow-it-allâ€? Wouldnâ€™t it be more accurate to say that Riversong has some of it rightâ€¦ and none of us have all of it right?
Time Ghost said: â€œAs impossible as it seems that we will ever overcome our alienation – from ourselves, each other, and the natural world – it can be done. Its like falling in loveâ€¦ We need to begin.â€
â€œGet together with your friends and start thinking â€œwithin the context of a community (small bands)â€¦â€
Exactly. But donâ€™t start a movement. Keep it in the grassroots. Under the radar. Away from imperial entanglements, *andâ€ also the bickering of movement types who are all about ideologies and being right. Avoid the ideologues like the plague. Stick with good folks you know and focus on doing.
â€œI donâ€™t know what youâ€™re talking about. Do I have something better than what? Love and co-operation? No. I agree with you, those are two most excellent things. How, in and of themselves, they will defeat the corporate extinction machine is beyond me, however.â€
They are a precondition for getting all that done, that you outlined yourself above, and more. And I was not accusing you of bickering. I was accusing the â€œmovement peopleâ€ of bickering, in a general sense. As for provocative questionsâ€¦ why would they be excluded? Provocative questions do not divide people. True believism divides people.
Kultur: fascinating stuff about Siberia and dachas. Can you tell us more about why this is a life you could not adjust to? I meanâ€¦ from the heart. What is it that bothers you most about it? Are you feeling frustrated because you wish you had the skills to do this?
Vera – I only respond like a know-it-all to those who act like they know-it all. That is all I have to say!
Addiction is one of the deep psychological forces that are determining our possible futures. Also known as attachment or clinging (Buddha) or â€œstickiness of the libidoâ€ (Freud). By whatever name this force is very real, and can be discovered in oneself by simply looking. This simple look can (will) become complicated by another aspect of addiction: denial. These powerful forces are not recent modern arrivals; they have been part of the human story from way back. Any attempt to shrug them off, deny them, or counter them with superficial fixes will not work. To believe in the efficacy of such easy methods is actually a manifestation of denial.
Frontal attack being mostly futile, what can deliver us from the endlessly recurring loops of our own self-binding? As Einstein said, we cannot expect to solve these deep problems using methods from the same level that produced them. This brings us to step two on our path of spiritual development: â€œLuke, use the Force!â€ We need to transcend and access problem solving power from a higher level. Our ordinary ego based resources have proved inadequate, as they always eventually doâ€¦â€¦â€¦.
By the way, I am impressed by the thoughtful sharing in many of these posts. I am learning a lot from you all. This kind of process is to my mind an essential part of finding solutions to our pressing problems. I am heartened to find there are folks doing some deep thinking and feeling here. Ill considered action can produce very negative unintended consequences. The deeper the place our actions proceed from, the better our chances are it will be for the long term good of all.
Vera, The first step is becoming aware of the depth and breadth of the disaster that our lives have become. Part B of this step is the realization that we do not have a clue how to fix this situation. The deeper and more devastating these realizations are, the better it will be for your future progress in spiritual development. Remember, spiritual means having to do with truth, reality, beauty, love; it does not necessarily have anything to do with â€œreligionâ€. (It may or may not. Depends.)
Kultur said: “I only respond like a know-it-all to those who act like they know-it all. That is all I have to say!”
Um… why? Just to fan the flames of know-it-allishness? 😉
Mike, I completely agree with your two first steps. What interests me a great deal is… what then? There are now many folks out and about who have already pretty much acknowledged the mess we are in. We have acknowledged civ is falling apart. And that the situation is unfixable… so here we are. Groping toward the next step… toward the Kingdom… 🙂
your flames need no fanning!
I think that Derrick’s sentiments, while very critical, are the key to getting one’s mind to think about how broken our species has become on some levels.
I don’t know how it happened other than at some point a displacement from our true ecological niche.
So it is to the point today (since nuclear weapons) that I wonder why intelligent people are still bringing children to this particular world. I don’t think the answer is sadism, perhaps it is denial?
I can often picture the child saying “Why on earth did you bring me here? Did you want me to see the world being devoured?”
I too often wonder why it is that people so mindlessly choose to bring new lives into this devolving nightmare. One of the ultimate tools for destressing our world on all levels is to drastically (realistically) reduce population. It not only costs nothing to choose not to reproduce, it actually saves a great amount of money and time that could be used for better purposes. I made that choice long ago, and can see no reason to ever regret it.
Of course nationalism, capitalism, and Catholicism continue to do their best to encourage us to â€œbreed baby, breedâ€. The need for more citizens, consumer/slaves, and religious converts must be satisfied. The disease of our time is MORE. Anyone who suggests we need Less is branded a heretic.
I have reread the Bageant post referenced by Riversong earlier, and there is one thing that does not jive with my understanding.
He says: “Having glimpsed that kingdom within, I am very much interested in its pursuit, which is individual and does not much involve rage or politics. In other words, shut my pie hole and grow stronger, and with luck, a little wiser.”
With those words, Joe seems to reduce the pursuit of the Kingdom to an individual search. Isn’t that a trap? Jesus never said go off and be in your own little kingdom within. He built community with the followers. And so did later radical Christians, listening to his good news, which was telling them that the kingdom was within reach. ?
I have a rather long answer to your question about the third step, which I will share when it is done. But your recent post about Jesus, the Kingdom, community, and the solitary quest is intriguing.
A well known bible quote has Jesus saying, â€œ The kingdom of heaven is within youâ€. Interestingly, more recent scholarship maintains that what was really said was â€œThe kingdom of heaven is spread all around youâ€. In effect, what you are anticipating will come in the future, or is somewhere at a distance, is actually all around you right now.
Also, recall that Jesus went apart from his disciples for forty days to meditate in the wilderness. There is also speculation that he spent the years between his youthful appearance with the church elders and the beginning of his recorded ministry in a desert retreat, possibly of the Essenes our some other ascetic sect. Solitary self study, prayer and meditation are basic practices east and west. These properly complement communal activities. If one or the other dimension of practice completely replaces the other, then this is not a fully mature spiritual practice.
Think, for example of quietism in the west, or hinayana Buddhism in the east. By the way, thanks Robert Riversong for the link to Joe Bageant. He and I have some important things in common.
P.S. and M.K….on the subject of reproduction. I did it for the same reason my father did….I want to have at least ten years of my life when I don’t have to cut the grass.
Seriously though, it is a damned good question…and one I pondered well into adulthood until I started my own family at age 45. All I can tell you is that if and when that first one shows up, you’ll hear a cosmic “twaaaaaaang” and you’ll say to yourself, “Oh, now I get it…”
With that comes an acute and very painful empathy for the unloved children of this world…and that is the problem from where I sit, not just the number of babies that are arriving unchecked. Cruel as it always has been, those least equipped to have children are the most prolific at it. And amongst my circle of friends and relatives, one question that is commonly asked of others sends me cataleptic. The question? “Do you want to have children…?” There is no better recipe for shattered childhoods than asking this question before, “Do you want to have someone you love and trust enough to have children with?” Put one before the other and see if your outcome is likely to bring you and yours any happiness.
But really, we just can’t friggin’ help ourselves…as a species anyway. Stack your childless altruism up next to a mother’s love for a child and you’ll know what it is to feel inadequate. You’ll not even be close my friend.
I forgot to add that imho both bible quotes I mentioned are correct. Aramaic, Jesusâ€™ actual language is very flexible and uses one word often to have several sometimes seemingly divergent meanings.
Mike, yes, the meaning of that phrase is ambiguous. It has also been translated as “among you.” “Within reach” is another way to say “at hand” which some other passages say.
You say, ‘Interestingly, more recent scholarship maintains that what was really said was â€œThe kingdom of heaven is spread all around youâ€. In effect, what you are anticipating will come in the future, or is somewhere at a distance, is actually all around you right now.’
My own inner understanding is in sync with this reading. At the same time, Jesus also said things that pointed to the future, such as Luke 9:27, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.” Basically, he seemed to be saying that it’s here, if we but reach out, and at the same time, not quite yet here… it must be “inherited.”
As for the unknown years, he may have been traveling… there is a legend he went to India… and chances are he was very familiar with the tribal way, after all, it was still extant all around in those days.
I agree with your take on solitary practices. Still though, I think the kingdom itself refers to a very particular type of human community. My take on it, anyways.
I was thinking also about those passages where Jesus seems to describe the Kingdom as not yet come. First, we have to recognize that what has come down to us as â€œthe bibleâ€ was written by those who were not present when Jesus was on earth.
Then, from what we know of him in the gospel of Thomas, he was a lot more like a zen master than a traditional rabbi. I think what he was putting in the future was the possible day of his disciples realization in mystical immediacy the experience of the Kingdom, which he could only point to with words, but not deliver to them in its living
I’m not sure what all this talk about Jesus and the Kingdom is all about here. Sounds like I just walked into a Pentacostal or Southern Baptist prayer meeting. But, as far as I can see Christianity (and its founders) are part of the problem, a fundamental part of the problem…not the solution. Here, is part of my thinking about this if anyone is interested.
Along with the birth of civilization with its shift from communal sharing of essential resources, to privatization of access to those resources, a cardinal issue to surface from this change of perspective was the need for control: control of the natural world to ensure food supplies, and control of the citizenry to ensure the protection and safety of those supplies.
With respect to control of nature, scientific inquiry eventually found its voice, leading to the articulation of laws by means of which nature could be manipulated. The first formal laws, following an explicitly scientific logistic, appeared in Greece only about twenty-five hundred years ago; but their foundations were laid much earlier â€“ their necessity issuing from the demands of a sedentary lifestyle and early proto-scientific pursuits to gain control over the agricultural cycle.
Second, with the fracturing of kinship in the newly established social settings of cities, kingdoms, and satellite villages, the need for control over persons also became paramount. This was particularly true in larger urban centers, whose populations were comprised mainly of displaced villagers and other relocated strangers. In this context, revealed religion often aligned with already entrenched political hierarchies â€“ temple and palace together â€“ served to provide sacred law for the conduct of individual behavior and control of social relations.
Other emerging disciplines soon set about constructing alternative ways to dissect or cut up the world, identifying effects and linking them to causes on a newly established unidirectional temporal axis â€“ an historical timeline. Through the proper application of the new logistic â€“ linking universals to particulars in the form of laws â€“ prediction and control were achieved.
Scientific laws of course would give predictive control over nature; religious laws, control over human affairs. And history would become a story of the adventures of these diverse but interlaced controlling hierarchies â€“ religious, political, and scientific.
Seemingly locked in eternal strife, science (with its â€œdiscoveredâ€ laws) and religion (with its â€œrevealedâ€ laws) would be enemies in posture only – mutually dependent sibling rivals, established at the dawn of civilization, providing guidance and control in hierarchical institutions now dominating modern life. The conceptual foci of these two siblings â€“ the empirical and the transcendental â€“ were simply two sides of the same advancing historical consciousness, reflected as well in the pre-Socratic philosophical struggles over â€œbeingâ€ and â€œbecoming.â€ Quite simply, science and religion staked out two complementary positions on one and the same â€œobjectiveâ€ reality appearing in the breach from prehistory to history.
In addition to the problem of control, however, there also arose the question of meaning, of historyâ€™s purpose. If we citizens were now locked in a unidirectional historical trajectory, with a present moment that was simply waiting between an historical past bearing down on us and an anticipated future pulling us forward, then what was the purpose, the goal, the endpoint of this forward movement?
Scientific rationality certainly provided the scaffolding upon which to build civilizationâ€™s â€œtowerâ€ but could give no clear guidance about the ultimate purpose of historical life, or insight into the meaningful â€œendâ€ of history. Religion, on the other hand, offered a vision of the ultimate goal, the telos of history, but needed science to supply it with a fallen world of mere objects, along with the unfolding historical drama against which the transcendental vision could play itself out. Together they succeeded in focusing human intuition and praxis on what appeared to be the appropriate direction of historical consciousness â€“ the future, progress, and achieving the proper â€œendsâ€ of life.
It seems almost axiomatic today that progress has become a good in itself â€“ some might even argue the only legitimate means of achieving â€œthe good life.â€ Indeed, scientific rationality and engineering prowess now appear to constitute the new faith of a new era. The foundation stones of a nascent techno-theocracy, they may be marching us, hyper-rationally, to a fabricated and perhaps apocalyptic Eschaton. Their dominion is so totalizing they have undermined the simple enjoyment of a more spontaneous life, lived more simply on mother earth.
The way I see it revelaed religion(eg., Christianity Islam, Judaism) is as much a stumbling block to the way forward (or is it the way back), as are the other institutions of our civilization.
Geez…I think a lot of people on here need to just get out a little more and get some Vitamin D…and try to leave some of the pompousness behind…
This is worse than sitting in an Apocalyptically obsessed church session…
‘Save the planet’ mantra gets so ridiculous…The planet will be okay…She’ll go on and re-create no matter what happens…We might be tragic, and ruin a whole heck of a lot, but we are just the teeniest speck in eterntiy…
All you can do – is what you can do better and more conscientiously every day…
Until those so suicidally-freaked out and wanting the end of their own ‘civilization’ go and model the Amish, or the pygmies…I just can’t stomach all this apocalyptically obsessed navel gazing…Geez…talk about ‘addictions’…
For a start…Give up your computer, call PG&E and turn off your electricity/gas, then give up your cell phone…
Lauren – a lot of people have turned off their computer, shut down the electric and given up their cell phones. More than you know because you won’t hear from them on here . . .
Seems like Vera and Iâ€™s little chat about things religious and spiritual hit a nerve with a couple of our posters. This is predictable and understandable. The tendency to conflate the worst aspects of religion with the the highest values of authentic spirituality has a long history. Reminds me of some tea baggers who condemn all government as evil and seek to abolish it totally.
In my opinion, all the major human institutions at this time in history are deeply and fundamentally flawed. I concur with James Joyceâ€™s character Stephen Daedelus (in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) who said, â€œHistory is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.â€
This said, there is the possibility of a better, truer form of all these failed institutions and cultural belief systems. And there have been throughout history outstanding proponents of better ways, who have also been sharp critics of prevailing institutions and beliefs. Jesus of Nazareth was such a one. Remember, Jesus was not a Christian. A reading of Dostoievskyâ€™s Legend of the Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov should drive that point home.
Rabbi Michael Lerner examines in depth the failure of progressives to go beyond their shallow dismissal of religion, thus ceding this powerful political tool to the right. Whatever you think of the mythic claims and moral failures of organized religions, they remain a potent player in our choice of possible futures. Whether through reforming them, or creating new alternatives (my choice) this is a fruitful dimension for making a new world.
Folks, some of us think that avoiding religion means throwing the baby out with the suds.
KC’s story is valid. What it does not address is this part: As civilization tightened its screws over certain parts of the world, and as priests and rituals and holy writs were used to promote it, prophets arose to bitterly denounce it, and rebels arose trying to fight it or depose it. Most of them are long lost to us; why would histories approved by the overlords permit them to be remembered?
A few succeeded in being remembered. I think Jesus initiated one of the most successful rebellions against the empire ever launched. It managed to make huge inroads into it despite contempt and persecution. It was eventually coopted, but even so, all through the centuries, the flames of that rebellion kept leaping forth… among the Franciscans, the Cathars, the Brethren of the Free Spirit, the Beguines, the Anabaptists.
Jesus was onto something. It is civilization’s message that the past is dreck and superstition, that we have superseded it all with our vaunted progress. I say unto you… 🙂 … why not learn from the amazing successes of the early followers of Jesus? Why not learn from their eventual failure? Don’t we need those lessons today?
Lauren (#59). Geez! You’ re really going to stand by and let your (hopefully) loved ones get slaughtered. And by “your loved ones” I mean the countless members of your own family of humans and nonhumans who are part of your landbase and/or the biosphere.
My remarks about reproduction were not meant so much to criticize those whose chips are already in the pot reproductively, as to put in a positive word for those of us who have opted to sit this hand out. By not initiating new branching chains of consumers into the future, I have done more for the planet and its inhabitants than dozens of zealous recyclers can ever accomplish. Population decrease needs to start somewhen; let it start with me. I derive special satisfaction that all this benefit is achieved by â€œnot doingâ€, a cornerstone of deep eastern spirituality.
A further thought on Derrickâ€™s essay. The obvious solution to any addiction is just stop, donâ€™t do it anymore. If only it were easy to do! It is not. The reason is that the addiction(s) have become deeply embedded in the structure of our identity and worldview. We have come to believe in a way deeper than words that the addictive behavior is essential to maintain our life as we understand it. Look at the almost religious reverence we
accord to â€œour national interestâ€, or â€œour Way of Lifeâ€. How dare anyone sit on the resources we need to continue the lifestyle we are accustomed to!
Who knows what lengths an addict will go to ensure he gets his fix. In his mind, the world owes him at least this, and if it wont hand it over, he will just have to take it.
It turns out that the last thing anyone thought might relieve these terrible obsessions was a deep spiritual experience capable of changing a personâ€™s entire orientation to life. But so it has proved to be for a huge number of powerfully addicted persons.
When we realize that many of the most devastating problems of our world today are based on addiction, these results become relevant. In spite of the cynicism and materialist and self centered thinking of an age sunk in every kind of evil and depravity, deep inner change depends on finding a higher set of values to transform ourselves. If you think â€œevil and depravityâ€ are too strong words to characterize our world today, maybe you just need to get out more and look around at what people are up to.
Try making a list of all the things you are addicted to and would be uncomfortable giving up. Are you choosing your life, or are your addictions choosing it for you? Do you realize how much your precious lifestyle depends on your addiction to oil? Are you aware that your government is acting as your agent to murder hundreds of thousands of people so you can drive your car, etc.?
What are we going to do about it? Do you think any of the commonly proposed â€œfixesâ€ will really solve the problem of our multiple insatiable addictions?
Kerala, one of India’s 26 states has almost the same population as California. Every citizen has health care and free public education through college. Kerala’s birth rate is one of lowest on the planet. Its literacy rate and average life span about the same as the U.S. Kerala accomplishes these remarkable achievments in an economy (GDP) that is about 1/70th the size of California’s. About 35% of every dollar collected in taxes in the state is returned to communities (wards) comprised of 1500 to 2500 people. Plans for roads, schools, cooperatives, clinics
and every imaginable enterprise to make life better for all, are developed by the community in ward gatherings in which every citizen has a vote. Every rupee spent for a project is posted on a board at the project site . Since the inception of ‘peoples planning’ in 1996 more than a million homes have been built for the homeless. The accomplishments boggle the imagination.
I mention the example of Kerala because as the darkness overtakes us in the industrialized world, as we flounder looking for a way out, we must look between the cracks, even in unlikely places. Check out the 90 minute documentary
WHY KERALA, GRAMPA? http://www.tchamberlinmovies.com
Every citizen has health care and free public education through college. Kerala’s birth rate is one of lowest on the planet. Its literacy rate and average life span about the same as the U.S. Kerala accomplishes these remarkable achievments in an economy (GDP) that is about 1/70th the size of California’s. About 35% of every dollar collected in taxes in the state is returned to communities (wards) comprised of 1500 to 2500 people. Plans for roads, schools, cooperatives, clinics
and every imaginable enterprise to make life better for all are developed by the community in ward gatherings in which every citizen has a vote. Every rupee spent for a project is posted on a board at the project site . Since the inception of ‘peoples planning’ in 1996 more than a million homes have been built for the homeless. The accomplishments boggle the imagination.
I mention the example of Kerala because as the darkness overtakes us in the industrialized world, as we flounder looking for a way out, we must look between the cracks, even in unlikely places. Check out the 90 minute documentary
WHY KERALA, GRAMPA?
There is a study not too old, but somewhat (2005) that shows up in orion articles and discussions every so often.
Here we see that Derrick’s comparison between addicts of chemicals and addicts of industrial capitalism and scientific “breakthroughs” … even has a parallel between what happens to developing children with substance abusing mothers or fathers.
According to the study, children in the womb are exposed to not just ten or fifty chemicals, but in the range of two hundred chemicals — created by our machines and factories.
It is a disaster on par with any oil spill, but it gets less press because of how inimitably disturbing it is that the sacred wombs of mothers are no longer a safe place for children to develop.
Your piece on progress was a very raw and poignant look at where we are in this society. I support many of your analogies in the article and was especially taken by the line, “Progress. In vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean, there is forty-eight times as must plastic as phytoplankton.” I look forward to reading more of your work as I am now officially a fan. Keep up the great writing and truth telling.
Shelly Iyabode Neill
I get you, sure. I admire that ethic. As I said, I was there for years myself. When the final call came though, I had to fold that hand. For years I had no need to look too hard at my ethical underpinnings for my childless status. Frankly though, I probably rationalized my inability to form stable relationships, and to indulge my own pleasure, as some kind of greater planetary good. Talk about tragic grandiosity. Well, the outcome is the same, I grant you that. (I don’t know you, so I can’t say what your true motivation is. I will say that it bears some scrutiny, if my experience is any indicator.)
At the end of the day, I’d say the decision to have children, or not have children, is less important than the TRUE reasons for doing either one. Or, as Lowell George put it:
You might think that you ain’t got a hold on yourself.
You might say that you always try your best.
You might think you only need a rest.
You might say that you can only fool yourself.
Yeah, that was me.
Thanks for the feedback, Plowboy. It nudges me to look a little deeper at my motives. I did not mean to imply that my own reasons for not reproducing were solely due to the sorry state of the world awaiting newcomers. That was however a major factor. I began developing a critical understanding of my culture at an early age. Increasing age has only confirmed and deepened my pessimistic appraisal. This is not to say that things of profound beauty and inspiring truth have not been a precious part of my life experience also. Those things help me want to go on living in spite of the growing storms from the dark side.
Early on I made the decision not to make money the object of my efforts. A small inheritance has made this possible with a house in the woods, outhouse and all, an ancient car, and even a computer. So another consideration in my decision not to reproduce was insufficient funds to properly support offspring. At least the homeless cats we seem to attract donâ€™t ask to go to college!
Also, the abuse I suffered growing up (I barely survived) left emotional scars that I did not wish to pass on. Of course I agree with you that each person is free to create their own karmic footprint, and each case is complex and unique. It is however, saddening that so many seem to plunge into the profound responsibility of parenthood with so little thought. The planetary vibration of suffering children is very intense for those attuned to it.
I will say Mike, also, that I found just a little bit of “cover” in stopping at population replacement, i.e., two children.
One of the great horrors of parenthood for the aware(and a source of constant friction between me and my wife) is the sheer volume of disposable consumer crap that I’m told every child “needs.” I’m old enough to remember a time in my childhood when I certainly didn’t, and I constantly challenge that assumption wherever I see it. Here’s the kicker too: The children are happier with less. They don’t even remember what just passed through their fingers when I gather it all up in a pile after the birthday party, Halloween, etc. and either send it directly to the round file/recycling, give it to charity or put it up for a rainy day. In my community though, they’d brand you a heretic if you dared to voice any opposition to this practice. None think of the imprint we’re making on the child, who is very agreeable to the alternative if it was offered as the norm.
I remember very well how happiness was diluted by a flood of too many things all at once. No, better to have one or two precious items than to chase ever diminishing returns scaling mountains of worthless trash.
But, parental guilt as a motivator is on a par with the average dude’s need to flex his mating suitability by driving a flash auto. On that day when the other mothers don’t look down their noses at the child in daycare with hand me down clothes, and the most eligible high school senior chickie opts to date the kid with the Vespa….then we’ll know we’re on the right road.
I was telling someone this weekend, I just never got over the cultural experiences of the early 70’s, the time when I came of age. I took everything I heard and saw at face value and planned the rest of my life accordingly. Now, it is not much of a surprise to me that the predictions are panning out as advertised. Althought I can’t say that I’m much more physically prepared for the coming events than most of my fellow citizens, at least I’m not going to have to work through the denial that will grip most of the pouplation. I did that in 1974.
Thanks for your talk in Burlington, which I was able to hear over FreeVermontRadio.org. Since bought some of your books, and I like how you set out your basic premises in the beginning. I can either agree or disagree, then get what I can out of the writing. Most ‘experts’ hide their basic premises, because if found to be faulty, the rest of the writing collapses like a house of cards.
At the moment I wish only for the ‘progress’ of Vermont becoming an independent republic once again, as we were until 1791. On joining the ‘union’ which quickly became an empire, Vermont became a resource colony and remains so, to this day. We have to get free of the US Empire that is owned, operated & controlled by major corporations and the Federal Reserve… or the word ‘sustainability’ becomes meaningless, a mere matter of buying some more green products and voting Democrat.
Thanks for helping others to look at the world as it really is, rather than through the rosy-coloured glasses proffered by those who would divide us into Left and Right, and keep us squabbling as entire ecosystems become unlivable.
â€œYou may call me a dreamer, but Iâ€™m not the only one.â€
Even now, in spite of all contrary currents, our dreams of love, sharing, beauty, and truth are building a new world, which some day will be fully and universally manifested.
Did that tree just smile at me?
Like when strangers risk
A silent greeting
On a lonely street.
Acknowledging their existence together
And the possible ok-ness of life.
But what has that to do with
A man in Washington DC
Hustling to work
In the uniform of his class,
Or a family huddling together in fear
Hearing the drone of something overhead,
Or a hungry child in Brazil
Wondering when there will be food?
Perhaps nothing. Perhaps everything.
Wow, you opened your argument by invoking Godwin’s law. I think it’s a lost argument by default.
Reading hastily through, I love the comments and hard earned insights. It seems though to me we stand are still standing at the start. But I wonder if we are nationally successful at stopping local Ecological extermination if the Earths creatures will be safe from the Urbanites. Those ruled by authoritative regimes, indoctrinated by historical beliefs maybe the Chinese, Indians, Singaporeans etc. Sorry to single you out, just to use as example. A massive population with high growth disconnected from land, water, living almost like hydroponic lifeforms. Possessing a seamless (it seems)mindset for unending growth. If, for example a country wrests itself from ecological destruction don’t they simply get bought, infiltrated by the growing populations from elsewhere, like the history of colonization?
It seems then we are destined to be overcome by nature or others taking whats left. It seems that by cutting the life-support nature gives freely will then enact the required brake to reduce populations, unless they can be technologically over come. But even then could we be unchanged in our minds? We again see the world as a resource and begin again and sprout anew! (??)
With the talk of messiahs and teachers have you heard of Diogenes, the Greek Philosopher?
I love this quote;
“Diogenes was walking backwards across the Agora, affecting a studied indifference to all who laughed at him. Finally, when he had collected a large following he stopped and announced, “You are laughing at me walking just a little distance backwards while you all lead your entire lives arse-about.”
“And what’s more,” he asked, “can you change your way of living as easily as this?” Whereupon, he turned on his heel and walked off in normal fashion.”
We are mad! (?).
Is it so unthinkable to live with nothing, to live without and act like a dog?
What are we achieving that is so worthy and worth keeping?
Hello Alan S. I love your Diogenes story. Habit, addiction, clinging, bind us to the wheel of our karmic destiny. To let go, to be free is so easy, and yet so terribly difficult. The first step is to recognize our bondageâ€¦.
I dedicate this poem to Derrick Jensen, the friend I met through his writing:
If you donâ€™t hurt
you are sicker
than you realize.
If you donâ€™t cry,
then your heart
may be frozen.
If you havenâ€™t screamed yet,
has become a disease.
I agree, mostly and have quite theory on progress.
… most human activity is trivial & redundant, yielding a higher likelihood for a meaningless human experience for many, but not all. Those who are fulfilling the basic tenants of evolution are pursuing the leading edge of information and making new applications with novel perspectives while at the same time extending the possibility for others to pursue the same leading edge of information building on information. Factoring in figures on overpopulation,over-consumption and existing advancements the bar is now set very high for most people.
Evolution is information building on information (i plus i). The energy transferred through evolution is propagated hierarchically which then overlaps to produce a rhizomatic (aka semi-lattice structure). The more complete formula would then read (i plus i)^h.
This pointless philosophizing sickens me. I’ve looked over all of Mr. Jensen’s works and have found not one single citation of a scholarly article from a peer reviewed journal. He never does a single mass balance equation to support his claims regarding to degradation of a resource base(particularly soil loss). Despite his BS in mineral engineering he has only the most rudimentary and often incorrect understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, and geology as they are practiced today.
One particularly poorly worded claim is that 90% of large fish have been harvested from the ocean. That statement could be either correct or incorrect depending on what is meant by large fish. But he never bothers to codify what he means. All he does is spout unsubstantiated factoids. I guess real research is too much work.
As for the progress fetish in our society, I wholly support it. It works. The biosphere and lithosphere will be devoured. And one day the stars themselves will live and die at our command. That day may be a thousand or a million years away, but it is coming.
The Machine is strong. We must purge the weak, hated flesh and replace it with the blessed purity of metal. Only through permanence can we truly triumph, only through the Machine can we find victory. Punish the flesh! Iron in mind and body! Hail the Machine!
“I, for one, welcome our new (insert meme here) overlords”
Anon has a point. Note even nature is truly sustainable. As our sun ages and leaves the main sequence earth will be uninhabitable to organic life. But you you live as wholly or partially mechanical life in dyson swarms around red dwarfs until they burn out a trillion years from now. So actually becoming horrible conglomerations of metal and flesh is more sustainalbe than being hunter gatherers.
So on that note. For the Empire! Praise the Machine, for it is the savior of mankind!