I DON’T KNOW about you, but whenever I attend some “green” conference, I know I’m supposed to leave feeling inspired and energized, but instead I feel heartbroken, discouraged, defeated, and lied to. It’s not the inevitable talk about farmers (re)discovering organic farming; about plastic forks made from cornstarch; about solar photovoltaics; about relocalizing; about the joys of simple living; about grieving the murder of the planet; about “changing our stories”; and most especially about maintaining a positive attitude that gets me down. It’s that no one, and I mean no one, ever mentions psychopathology.
Why is this important? Because those in power destroy sustainable communities – and not just sustainable indigenous communities. If people develop new ways to live on their land more sustainably, and those in power decide that land is needed for roads and shopping malls and parking lots, those in power will seize that land. This is how the dominant culture works. Everything and everyone must be sacrificed to economic production, to economic growth, to the continuation of this culture.
A few months ago I was watching a documentary on David Parker Ray, a serial killer from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, who is suspected of killing up to sixty women. He kidnapped women and held them as rape slaves. He turned an entire tractor-trailer into a well-stocked torture chamber, where he videotaped what he did to them. In the documentary, an FBI profiler compared Ray’s attitudes toward his victims to those most people have toward tissues: Once you use them, are you concerned about what happens to them? Of course not, she said. And that was how Ray perceived – or rather didn’t perceive – his victims: simply as something to use and throw away.
When the profiler said this, my first thought was passenger pigeons. Then chinook salmon. Then oceans. How deeply do most members of this culture mourn passenger pigeons? Salmon? Oceans? This culture as a whole, and most of its members, gives no more consideration to the victims of this way of life than David Parker Ray gave to his victims. Blindness to suffering is one of this culture’s central defining characteristics. And it is a central defining characteristic of sociopathology.
The New Columbia Encyclopedia states that a sociopath can be defined as one who willfully does harm without remorse: “Such individuals are impulsive, insensitive to others’ needs, and unable to anticipate the consequences of their behavior, to follow long-term goals, or to tolerate frustration. The psychopathic individual is characterized by absence of the guilt feelings and anxiety that normally accompany an antisocial act.”
Um, how sensitive are members of this culture, on the whole, to the needs of native forests (98 percent gone), native grasslands (99 percent gone), ocean life (90 percent of the large fish gone)? How sensitive is this culture to indigenous land claims? How clearly are members of this culture able to anticipate the consequences of destroying forests, grasslands, oceans, or denying indigenous land claims? With sea level already rising and glaciers already disappearing, how capable are this culture’s decision makers of anticipating the consequences of global warming?
Dr. Robert Hare, an expert on sociopaths, states that “among the most devastating features of psychopathy are a callous disregard for the rights of others and a propensity for predatory and violent behaviors. Without remorse, psychopaths charm and exploit others for their own gain. They lack empathy and a sense of responsibility, and they manipulate, lie and con others with no regard for anyone’s feelings.” I’m reminded of something Red Cloud said: “They made us many promises, more than I can remember. They only kept but one. They promised they would take our land, and they took it.”
Hare also says, “Too many people hold the idea that psychopaths are essentially killers or convicts. The general public hasn’t been educated to see beyond the social stereotypes to understand that psychopaths can be entrepreneurs, politicians, CEOs and other successful individuals who may never see the inside of a prison.” They can be the president, a boss, a neighbor.
Let’s now consider the dominant culture in relation to the characteristics of sociopaths as listed in section F60.2 of The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, published by the World Health Organization, Geneva, 1992:
a) callous unconcern for the feelings of others. Where to start? Have members of this culture shown any concern for the feelings of the indigenous as they’ve stolen their land? How about the feelings of nonhumans being driven from their homes, or those being driven out of existence? Further, doesn’t the mainstream scientific community demand that emotion be removed from all scientific study? Aren’t we also told that emotions must not interfere with business decisions and economic policy? Do chickens in battery cages have feelings? What about dogs in vivisection labs? What about trees? Rain? Stones? The culture goes beyond “callous unconcern” for the feelings of these others to deny that their feelings even exist.
b) gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules and obligations. Is there an action more irresponsible than killing the planet? Now consider the norms, rules, and obligations of this culture. Norms: rape, abuse, destruction. Rules: a legal system created by the powerful to maintain their power. Obligations: to get as much money and power as possible.
c) incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them. I live on Tolowa land. The Tolowa had enduring relationships with their human and nonhuman neighbors for at least 12,500 years. When the dominant culture arrived here about 180 years ago, the place was a paradise; now the place is trashed. Exploitation is not an enduring relationship – whether with another animal or a landbase.
d) very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence. The civilized have been eradicating the indigenous for ten thousand years. The United States is constantly “discharging aggression” against (i.e., invading) other countries. Individuals and corporations and governments discharge aggression daily toward coyotes, prairie dogs, sea lions, wetlands, coal-bearing mountaintops, and oil-bearing coastal plains.
e) incapacity to experience guilt and to profit from experience, particularly punishment. How much guilt do you believe timber company CEOs experience over the destruction of ancient forests? And the word profit here does not mean the financial profit they derive from killing forests, oceans, and so on, but profit in terms of hindsight. After deforesting the Middle East, all of Europe, much of the Americas, Africa, and Asia, does it seem at all plausible that those in charge are learning from their past mistakes? Are they learning anything from their decisions and policies that are altering the climate through unrestrained burning of coal, oil, and natural gas?
f) marked proneness to blame others, or to offer plausible rationalizations, for the behaviour. Do CEOs take responsibility for their violence? The average rapist for his? George Bush blamed forest fires for his urge to deforest. Clinton said it was all the beetles’ fault. And many still rationalize their denial of our rapidly warming planet every time a winter storm slams the East Coast.
Of course we don’t all act this way. But those of us who are not sociopaths, who are trying to live differently, need to step up and call out the larger culture for the way it behaves.
Sharing our finite planet with this culture is like being stuck in a room with a psychopath. There is no exit. Although the psychopath may choose other targets first, eventually it will turn to us. Eventually we’ll have to fight for our lives. And so if we want access to a landbase we can inhabit, and want our descendants to be able to live there long into the future, we need to organize politically to stop this lethal culture in its tracks.
Or we could learn to do The Work of Byron Katie and share it with others. See http://www.thework.com or check out her books, starting with Loving What Is.
I would go so far as to say that psychopathology is encouraged and promoted on television and in video games. If people can’t see what’s sick about watching other real humans get hurt on a screen or bipedal animation that get slaughtered in massive numbers by your average teen then animals, birds, plants and trees don’t stand a chance.
How does it feel to know that your world and all that you love is in the hands of madmen?
My 21 year old daughter called me on my use of the word psychopath, and I had to concede to her.
Sociopath is the word I meant at the time. For a model of the psychopath think of the Javier Bardem character in “No Country for Old Men”.
A sociopath is a pretty good description of a corporate leader, but not your average Joe who isn’t really paying much attention to what’s going on.
I’m not quite sure how to respond to this article. On the one hand I find it kick-in-the-guts devastating, a wake up call of the highest order. On the other hand, it makes me feel extremely frustrated. So the powers that be and the dominant culture are psychopathic. What do we do about it? Is the aim to try and heal the culture? Or should we simply admit defeat and head for the hills. There’s a nihilistic edge to Derrick’s piece that I find difficult to comes to terms with. Guidance welcome!
Sadly the same destructive forces and mechanisms of denial are now being turned on the average citizen who may find that society has as little concern for him as it has heretofore shown for nature, indigenous peoples and those chickens in the cage. If environmentalism is to ever succeed it must somehow demonstrate to people that their interests and the interests of nature are ultimately the same and that those who destructively exploit nature are doing the same to humanity.
Mr. Jensen gives the impression the madness is a recent thing. I believe the madness began with the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, where it all began 6,000 years ago, and is now reaching its logical conclusion. The rise of the city-state was accompanied by big agriculture, authoritarian religion, ideology, militarism, the money economy, and the conquest of indigenous peoples and nature. Driving that conquest has been hubris, beginning with Gilgamesh clear-cutting the cedars of Lebanon, defying the gods and destroying the forest guardian, Humbaba, leading to the ecological collapse and desertification that destroyed the early Mesopotamian civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates valley where present-day Iraq is located. Although Mesopotamian civilization did not survive, its legacy of deforestation, overgrazing, water depletion, soil erosion, and war lived on, spreading throughout the Middle East, further West to Greece and Rome, then followed Western civilization to America. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida have deep roots in this first civilization. So does Europe. So, for that matter, does America, from the Columbian landfall to Manifest Destiny,and our current, politically dysfunctional, hyper-consumerist society. The madness always existed but industrialism has multiplied the effects of the madness by increasing the technological power of destruction.
So Mr. Jensen. The world has not gone mad. It always has been, at least since civilization began. You are just seeing its intensification.
But there are pockets of sanity. Always were. They are everywhere. In our more peaceable communities, in our art and music, our literature, and in indigenous cultures. Are they enough to stop the madness? I have no answer. I believe industrial civilization will consume itself. I see a dying way of life in the grip of ever more desperate temper tantrums, industrial civilizationâ€™s final frenzy, clinging to an ideology of power, wealth and the exploitation and control of nature that will only consume itself, a hyper-capitalistic GÃ¶tterdammerungâ€“a spasm from the dying of a rough beast. We may either destroy ourselves, or what is left of humanity will regroup and come out better in the long run. Continued human survival will depend on a shift from being creatures predisposed as they are now to violence, territoriality, ideology, self-interest, and destructive use of nature to being creatures predisposed to awareness, mindfulness, compassion, generosity, love, and, in Wendell Berryâ€™s terms, â€œkindly use of nature.â€
Another point: Mr. Jensen should pay attention to how nature is fighting back. Look at the violent weather in 2010 around the world. Devastating whole regions with violent thunderstorms, drought, wildfires, epic flooding and it will only get worse as the planet fights back against its abuse by human industrial civilization, fights back against CO2 emissions. He calls for humans to resist the power structure that continues this 6,000-year abuse, but nature is already beginning a mighty resistance. I say, we humans better yield now if know what is good for us. And maybe try to get along with nature…
I amend my comments to the extent that Mr. Jensen does allude to past abuses by civilization, which have not been corrected by contemporary humans, and he does hint that the madness is not just a recent thing. So I was not correct in saying that he ignores this historical continuum. But I stand by one of my original points–we may not be able to resist or stop this civilization. It contains in its very nature the seeds of its own destruction. We may ended up sitting on the sidelines watching it destroy itself, not able to stop it. Won’t be pretty, but if we survive this cataclysm, those who survive may just be able to come up with a better way and live it while the planet heals. If human consciousness has adequately evolved we may have learned from the experience and practice a more sustainable way of life and our stories will warn us not to make the same mistake twice if (and that’s a big IF) we as a species survive our first big mistake. If we don’t, we will be one of the shortest-lived species in the history of the planet.
This is not that I do not recognize the great and positive accomplishments of human civilization, but so far we humans have not been able to disentangle those from the slow-moving disaster of militarism and the continued exploitation and destruction of the natural world (including indigenous cultures, the healthiest of which have been relatively peaceable and connected to place and living comfortably within nature’s arrangements). Humanity is now at a crossroads, where the model that has informed the 6000-year civilization may be at its inevitable end.
Jensen’s essay is spot on, though I might rephrase his issues as “blind selfishness” and the modern American perceived “entitlement to immediate profit,” which I guess is the last vestige of the myth of manifest destiny. But what Jensen, like most environmental writers and all politicians, media, technocrats, economists, and right-wing religious spokespersons fail to seem to notice or mention, to paraphrase Jensen: Itâ€™s that no one, and I mean no one, ever mentions TOO MANY PEOPLE.
Many and most of our environmental woes–ethical and health-related and economic, not to mention political–are directly related to and essentially caused by the human overpopulation of our part of this continent, drawing too heavily on its providence (now called reserves) including food, minerals, and open space for sanity and re-creation of spirit.
This human over-crowding creates the pathology quite similar to the recognized overgrazing of cattle on public lands. This is the primary and I mean most basic issue behind and below our environmental failure. Too many of us resulting in too little space and too many demands. It’s all in the math. Growth including population growth simply cannot continue forever (therefore the pathology). If our capitalistic system requires continual growth forever, we need a new system.
The article has an interesting title. the world had not gone mad. It is the human population that has gone mad, as so soundly described. However, the mad decisions made by humans are unsustainable because they are destroying the life support system. Natural forces have always been in control of what happens and they will continue that control even as the delusion that is civilization disintegrates. No amount of rhetoric or financial manipulation can alter that stark reality.
Mr. Jensen’s gig is built around the concept the humans are fundamentally flawed so deeply that we are surely doomed as a species. His rhetoric seems designed to shock and convey hopeless despair.
I agree with the comment that his observations about human nature do not reflect a recent development within the dominant culture. There is deep evolutionary biology behind the patterns that he notes, but I would also note that progress has been made. True, we continue to rape the planet, but Mr. Jensen’s comments would not have been part of the public dialog as recently as a few hundred years ago. I believe that our collective awareness of our place on this planet is growing. The central question for me is whether or not that awareness will translate into meaningful action in time for us to assume an integrated role on Gaia and preserve a future for our children and the other organisms on this planet.
Humans are not intrinsically evil and nor are they intrinsically good. Mr. Jensen’s recurring theme suggests that ethics and morals (in this case, sane behaviors) are somehow distinct and separate from the evolution of our species. It would seem that sane and good behavior has a separate reality beyond our relativistic perceptions. This is nonsense. Ethics and morals are derived from our evolutionary roots as a social primate. Mr. Jensen’s indictment of our species reflects his willingness to stand in judgement, but little understanding of the fact that we are simply another organism on this planet. At this point in geological time, we happen to tread the planet with a very heavy foot. This is neither moral nor immoral, sociopathic or sane. It simply is, and it has practical consequences for ourselves and the other organisms on the planet.
Jensen’s world is a grim place, a sad place. It is a place where our insanity prevails as part of the human condition. I reject this view as wholly unjustified by the facts of our evolutionary biology. Mr. Jensen would shock us into behaving properly by pointing his righteous finger in judgement. This does not work to get an addict to enter recovery, and will not work with our addiction to consumption.
We need practical solutions and clear, non-perjorative dialog about how we are to find a future on this finite planet. Mr. Jensen’s tirades here and elsewhere are nihilistic and infantile. There is certainly no scholarship reflected in such a view of life on this planet.
Mr. Jensen why don’t you join the ranks of us who are taking affirmative action to build a more sustainable future? Yes, the dominant culture is fucked up and always has been. When and how will this change? At least the folks at green conferences are seeking solutions. It is unfortunate that this makes you sad. It give me hope. A friend of mine used to say: It matters little what you think, feel or say. What really matters is what you do. What positive action have you taken in the last few years, Mr. Jensen? Is it satisfying to define yourself by selling hopelessness? Do you have this truth locked up, or this there just possibly another way to look at the human organism?
We talk about neuroconservation (mind and ocean) and oceanophilia all the time, in particular WRT the oceans. Thanks Mr. Jensen, and other commenters, for sharing.
You are right on; as in the past!! Gilgamesh is the template of our civilization!!
My view is that as a culture, we are “addicted” to Convenience. And things are going to have to get worse before things change. We will need to start running out of clean water, for example. Then maybe the car washes and lawn sprinklers will be turned off. And this is just one example. There are many others.
It is obvious you aren’t familiar with Mr. Jensen’s work, otherwise you would know that if he assumes anything about “human nature,” it is the opposite of what you’re suggesting. Nice straw man, though.
Regarding overpopulation, I think you’ve got it backwards, Jeff. Widespread environmental destruction is not a disease. Neither is overpopulation. Rather, they are symptoms of the pathology Derrick is describing in this essay. You seem to have a very astute awareness of the situation at hand; I’m merely illustrating why I believe the issue of overpopulation went unmentioned.
. . . and don’t forget the great god ronald reagan who, after removing jimmy carter’s solar panels, was quoted as saying “you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen ’em all.”
mad indeed . . .
One thing about Jensenâ€™s essays — they sure get people talking! Why is that?
Several places in the article and the comments refer to “indigeneous peoples” in a manner that connotes active earth stewardship. I tend to agree with Jeff Fair that a key issue is population. The indigeneous people’s greatest asset was not their “ecological ethic,” but rather their smallness of number. And even that didn’t keep some of them from hunting certain species to extinction. I don’t know what the answer is, but I know it’s NOT a return to some mythologized time of the hunter/gatherer society. I also tend to agree with an earlier comment about the earth being a self-healing organism which is already beginning to “fight back.”
Iain Mcgilchrist, former Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director of the Royal & Maudsley Hospital in London), offers an awesome voice of reason and experience in his ‘new’ (2009) book, THE MASTER AND HIS EMISSARY, where he explains in extraordinary depth and detail the workings of the human brain; primarily the differences between right and left hemisphere — all the way from the time of the ancient Greeks up to the present. If you want deep insight into the psychological and pathological manner in which the manifestations of brain function spell out the current self-destructive path Society is treading, read this brilliantly revelationary and stunning book! (Yale University Press). For profoundly well-documented explanations of why we behave as we do, there is nothing more mind-boggling. Wthout our brains we are nothing; with them working as they do in their ‘divided nature, we risk becoming completely separated from our senses and true Reason. And therein lies our downfall. K. Eberhardt Shelton in Devon, England
I see people in the workplace that are borderline psychopaths. They continue to work in a toxic environment with those like themselves and wallow in their communal
psychotic comraderie. It is evil that breeds evil and Americans are very good at it and have been getting away with it far too long.
In old movies, there was a stock scene where the hero is belted in the kisser by a friend or lover, and after shaking off the hit, he looks them in the eye, and says, â€œThanks, I needed that.â€ I always feel that kind of rueful gratitude after one of Derrickâ€™s â€œhits.â€
In the zen tradition, the disciple who the master strikes most often is the one the master feels is closest to realization. In their school, what they call â€œgrandmotherly zenâ€ is held in low esteem for its coddling of students.
Thanks for this essay Derrick — I needed that!
Dorie — Your perceptions are right on target. The psychopathology outlined in the article is endemic and viral in our society. Evil has become a banal commonplace given in our distorted human world. It has reached the point that those who would point this out are accused of being deranged by the truly afflicted ones. Thanks for your thoughts on this.
Karen — Fascinating. Tell us more about this research. Is this parallel to the loss of feminine perspective in our male dominated culture?
I will literally run out and get that book, The Master and His Emissary. I am an artist and work mostly with the right side of my brain but I see a lot of left brainers that lean towards psychopathy. But then, I wonder what leanings Hitler possessed.( He did design the VW Bug) It is truly a mind boggling subject.
Welcome back Griz, we missed you. I admire your ability to self-correct. A rare capacity in todayâ€™s world. Certainly Derrick is aware of, and roundly condemns the civilization project from its remote beginnings to the present disastrous outcomes of its ill fated trajectory.
Mike, THE MASTER AND HIS EMISSARY is about EVERYTHING to do with the manner in which (primarily) right and left hemispheres of the brain function; all kinds of factors come into the equation, including masculine/feminine, Nature, culture, politics, simply EVERYTHING. A big book with over 100 pages (in small print) of notes and bibliography. The initial little Master/Emissary story (by Nietzsche) is a metaphor for the state of things in the world today. The lesson in it for me is that unless we take on board what we need to learn about our brains’ functioning in relation to how we live on the earth, we can do all kinds of ‘good’ things; recycle, create Transition Towns, send supplies to the poor, plant trees, etc., but none of that will make much difference in the long run unless we learn to decipher and understand why all the ‘bad’ stuff is happening, and consequently focus on why a monumental shift to the brain’s left hemisphere is at the root of all problems — then figure out how to initiate a new age of Renaissance or Reformation, or whatever.
Karen in Devon
For another excellent treatment of this general line of thinking, read Paul Shepard’s “Nature and Madness,” published in 1982. Donald Worster described it as, “a bold, original account of modern environmental destructiveness as a failed development of self” in Western civilization.
The Paul Shepard essay suggested by Jeff09 can be found here: http://www.primitivism.com/nature-madness.htm
Another approach that is also explanatory is: Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution, Second Edition [Paperback]by
Richard — I have been part of a Wilber study group for several years now. We are currently reading Aurobindoâ€™s Synthesis of Yoga, which also has significance for resolving our current crises. Maybe you could say more about how SES is relevant to our discussion? Thanks for sharing.
Karen — Thanks for your input. This sounds like a meaningful approach. Are you familiar with William Chilton Pearceâ€™s book, The Biology of Transcendence? Pearce is the gentleman who wrote The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, a couple of decades ago. He is still growing new insights.
Karen — Thanks for your input. This sounds like a meaningful approach. Are you familiar with William Chilton Pearceâ€™s book, The Biology of Transcendence? Pearce is the gentleman who wrote The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, a couple of decades ago. He is still growing new insights.
Double post. My bad.
Scott, thank you for the link. I was referencing Shepard’s book, but hadn’t been aware of the essay.
I have been engaged in helping the environment for over 30 years, and “we” have never had so many people doing work in improving/saving the environment as we do now. While I understand the feelings expressed in this article…I have also felt the same way on many occasions, feeling hopeless & helpless is paralyzing at best. We can point forever at other people’s “sickness” while being grossly unaware of how we cooperate with them. This doesn’t help us deal with our own darkness. One cannot gain sanity by pointing out everyone else’s insanity. If only the media were as interested in telling the stories of the majority of sane people who give of themselves for the greater good. My hope is that people will see a more balanced view, because that is what is real…if you look for it.
â€œIf you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world,then eliminate all that is dark and negative in
yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.â€
As a soon to retire librarian (generalist) it is nice to see some books mentioned in this discussion. By far my favorite author was Jiddu Krishnamurti (“in nature is healing”) for information go to http://www.kfa.org/ His life’s work was all about the topics covered in the article and comments section.
You’ll also find good sources at http://transitionculture.org/ If you are a teacher see works by Ivan Illich and Paulo Freire.
I understand Derrick’s feelings re: green conferences. For many years I attended and spoke at such events, sharing ideas, models, optimism, and hope with others. This was in the mid 1980s to mid 1990s. While awareness has increased since then, so has the destruction. And worse, we know way more now than then about the long-term implications of what we’re doing. And way worse, corporations are more powerful today than they were then, and local and small-scale, while more actively supported, have also received major hits, esp. with regard to local stores, suppliers, and all that have met their demise thanks to box stores, corporate chains, and so on. It’s like we’re always starting over, taking one step forward and two steps back.
Personally, I think Derrick’s on to something here, with regard to pathology. A psychopath or sociopath can’t be reached by normal human means, their brains aren’t wired for it, they just don’t get it. And it seems as though these kinds of sick behaviors are contagious, viral as someone just posted. People who aren’t afflicted with the disease sort of stand back, do their best to protect themselves and their loved ones and their places, when they can but it’s not enough because of the immense power and reach the infected have taken, and been given.
I’m not suggesting I don’t have my dark side, we all do. And certainly it’s important for me to face it and deal with it. But what we’re dealing with here is way more than our personal darkness. We’re dealing with the darkness of a culture that has been growing and expanding for hundreds (perhaps thousands as many have said) years.
Victoria, I agree that there is a more balanced view most people are not privy to because it isn’t reported on by the media. This is frustrating. It’s also frustrating how the media pushes lies and misinformation as truth (like the magical disappearance of all that oil that simply sank to the ocean floor – I mean didn’t we all know this anyway?). Despite this lack of balance, and despite the lies and misinformation, the bad stuff, the evil if that’s what one wants to call it, is also real. Climate change, cancers, species extinction are all too real.
I also get frustrated by those who say over and over that Derrick does nothing to make a difference, as if writing is nothing. (Plus I’m sure in his daily life he does way more than we know.) Everyone has a gift to give. Derrick has vision, compassion for the more-than-human among us, and a great talent for writing. So he’s using it. As a writer myself, I often feel that what I do is meaningless, insubstantial. Others tell me this isn’t true. But Derrick’s writing gets out there way more than mine does and the fact that every one of his articles in Orion generates so much controversy and conversation proves he’s doing something right. I for one am grateful.
In my opinion:
Science is a psychopath: it deconstructs and examines the minutest particle while completely FAILING to see the big picture. (atomic bomb, ddt, plastics) It has developed vaccines and cures for that which would otherwise keep the human population (naturally) in check.
Industry is a psychopath: it takes what it wants (the lives of humans toiling till death) and gives back waste (pollution and poisons).
Mainstream regimented schooling is a psychopath: it brainwashes young children by feeding them propaganda from their countries viewpoint, usually stifling individuality and free thought. (the same can be said of militaries)
While I long for the (inevitable) collapse of current civilization and all of its destructive ways, I fear it also, as I have a 2yr old grand daughter that I want nothing but the best of times for.
I have 3 of you books Mr Jensen, and will soon be reading “A language…” on a retreat to the north woods of Minnesota.
Denouncing the evil capitalist exploiters may feel good, but I am not sure that it does very much to advance the discussion of real solutions to our dilemma. Our basic problem is comittment to a specific intitutional basis of economic activity rather than a committment to short term gratification. The twin pilllars of our economic system are private finance and the competitive accumulation of domestic consumption rights (both present rights and future rights in the form of ‘savings’). Dedication to these institutions inevitably makes our economic activity growth oriented, and this dedication extends far beyond the captains of global finance and manufacturing. Such well known exponents of ecological economics as Herman Daly, Lester Brown, and Bill Mckibben show no signs of understanding the fatal weakness of these institutions. They want to reform these institutions by adding to them some form of ecological cost accounting, but they are utterly unwilling to consider abandoning them.
The alternatives to these institutions are conceptually simple but nevertheless terrifying to contemplate for most people. The alternative to private finance is community finance in which risk is socialized, so that we do not have to demand interest as the price of infrastructure investment. Some forms of infrastrusture investment already follow community principles (e.g. roads, bridges, schools, etc). When we build a new school we do not give money to a school corporation and then expect them to pay us back with interest out of the tuition fees they collect. We simply pool our collective resources and build the school because we believe it is a useful piece of infrastructure. This kind of investment needs to be extended to manufacturing infrastructure as well. The first question we should ask about any piece of infrastructure is whether it will help to maintain the welfare of the community in the long term, not whether it will make money for private investors in the short term.
The alternative to the competitive accumulation of domestic consumption rights is work and income sharing. Any one who is willing and able to work should have confidence that they will be allowed to help in the building, maintenance, and ongoing operation of the community’s infrastructure and that they will receive an income that allows them to have a good quality of life. If someone works themselves out of a job by figuring out how to maintain adequate services with less expenditure of labor and other resources they should have confindence that their income will not suffer thereby.
What I am describing is, of course, a form of ‘socialism’, and the vast majority of people who call themselves ‘green’ make the sign of the cross and run off screaming when they hear these kinds of suggestions. Of course there is good reason to fear these kinds of changes. Such a revolution in the fundamental institutions of society is not going to come about without a painful period of political struggle. Nevertheless if our conversations about the future are to be anything other than predictions of apocalypse and self-righteous denouncement of the vilains who are bringing it about, then we need to articulate alternatives to the normal institutions of our society beyond which many well intentioned people can perceive nothing but a chaotic void.
I checked out “the Master and His Emissary”‘s first chapter, listened to the a pdocast interview, and will be interested to see the reaction. I remain a skeptic of MacGlichrist’s theory – he is trying to advocate for some sort of vague, prelapsarian spiritualism rather than the scientific materialism he sees triumphant. Of course, this may be a brutally reductionist understanding, but life is short, there are many thinkers out there, and this kind of high-culture “theology,” even if based on some sophisticated acquaintance with science, is tiresome – though not in the repetitive way of the hectoring autological Jensen.
I’m astonished that no one has mentioned the work of the Zeitgeist Movement as an alternative to our present course. They are the only ones I have found who seem to have a plan to work our way out of this mess, short of manufacturing dozens of guillotines, setting them up outside Congress, the White House, the Pentagon and Wall Street(which at this point, I’m starting to consider…) The time is too short now for discussion and the niceties of waiting for ‘the vote’ and other scams. Either we take out the sociopaths by direct action or do an end run around them, or they will kill the entire planet trying to make one more day of ‘profit and growth.’ Until Mr. Jensen is a permanent guest on ‘Crossfire’ or some such other economically based talking head show, no one is even discussing the issues publically that are critical to our survival. He’s right, it’s all insane.
I agree that nature is fighting back, and that civilization is self-destructive … but I think we need to ask, who will be the survivors of a “crash”? Those in power will use whatever means necessary to maintain their lives and way of life, which I think adds to the urgency of resistance.
On the topic of population – I think it’s not mentioned because it is not a primary problem. For example, let’s say a small (less than carrying capacity) travel to a pristine livable planet. Then they enact the same cultural vision that is dominant here on Earth. What will happen? Yes, population is a problem, and sustainability will require less people on this planet – but we need to strike at the cause.
A great book to accompany this essay is ‘My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization’ (1994, Shambala). Please read it and share it…and praise creation 😉
A great book to accompany this article is ‘My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization’ by Chellis Glendinning (1994, Shambala). Please read it and please share it…and praise creation 😉
Justin Russell said: Is the aim to try and heal the culture? Or should we simply admit defeat and head for the hills. Thereâ€™s a nihilistic edge to Derrickâ€™s piece that I find difficult to comes to terms with. Guidance welcome!”
I hope you check out the latest on my blog that deals exactly with this dilemma. Hope to see you there!
When I was in Africa a number of years ago, I was lucky enough to met Gill Marcus, an anti-apartieid freedom fighter in her youth who eventually became Nelson Mandela’s Director of Finance, and eventually the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. At the end of a gripping talk she gave to a number of us, she said, “It’s not good enough to stand up for what’s right… we have to learn how to stand up against what’s wrong.” Her admonition shot right through me. She named my my weakest personal ability, and I’ve noticed ever since that it’s one shared by many, if not most, of us. I’ve been toiling to learn how to stand up against what’s wrong â€“helpfully â€“ ever since.
I loved this article, and agreed with it. What I missed was a few ideas from the author about what to do about living in a sociopathic culture.
I feel that hundreds of thousands of us can see, discern, feel, and taste “what’s wrong”… but as Gill pointed out, what we need now is for more of us to spend our precious time coming up with solid ideas regarding how we can go about standing up against what’s wrong: One by one; Group by Group; and Organization by Organization.
Here’s one idea: If every thought-provoking author dared to carry a paragraph or two concerning even a single idea of how we might go about standing up against the wrong they are writing about, their articles may get some terrific traction.
Keep it up…. With huge appreciation & thanks
Yes, we can all agree there is a problem… but how many of us will rise to fighting the problem?
One man did, not so long ago: The Fox.
Out of the mouths of babes….
DARWIN LYRICS by Low Anthem
1. Charlie Darwin
Set the sails I feel the winds aâ€™stirring
Toward the bright horizon set the way
Cast your reckless dreams upon our Mayflower
Haven from the world and her decay
And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
Fighting for a system built to fail
Spooning water from their broken vessels
As far as I can see there is no land
Oh my god, the waters all around us
Oh my god, itâ€™s all around
And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
The lords of war just profit from decay
And trade their childrenâ€™s promise for the jingle
The way we trade our hard earned time for pay
Oh my god, the waters cold and shapeless
Oh my god, itâ€™s all around
Oh my god, life is cold and formless
Oh my god, itâ€™s all around
Love the lively discussion. Following in Jensen’s (see also documentary “the corporation”) thought train.. 1. Are sociopaths treatable/curable? What would therapy look like and how could we the somewhat sane/sustainable perform it? 2.From my limited knowledge of psychology, I remember that such pathology is usually developmental in nature… ie. It happens to as from abuse/neglect as children. What can we do to save the coming generations from psych/sociopathy? I fear for our current stock pin failing public schools of parents who never cared themselves… the entitlement generations from poor to affluent. 3. If Nazi-style extermination is off the table, (I hope these is never even considered you overpopulation-fearing/eugenics-leaning freaks) how do we resist nonviolently… and raise a new generation of sane, biophilic, happy, people?
Sorry about typos.
Jensen’s insight into the socio-psychopathology of civilization is essential to an understanding of our situation. If you look at the parallels he outlines between the conditions of victims of abuse and those of us struggling to come to grips with our abusers we come to the series of accommodations the abused make that hold them in thrall and paralyze them into maintaining the status quo.
The question of hope falls into this category of accommodations to abuse. We cry out for the necessity for hope as an antidote to paralysis and despair. What is difficult to realize is that hope and despair, paralysis or fervent action fall into the categories of binary double-bind thinking that abuse fosters onto the abused.
Before we can get to any question of what to do we need to come to grips with this. We need to see that there is no functional difference between paralysis and ineffectual activity, between a hope that attempts to bind us to an untenable position and a despair that clouds all that we see.
One hint taken from “recovery” is that some form of reaching the bottom is a healthy stage on the way to overcoming the tyranny of abuse. In this view, hope and optimism are ties that hold us to the abusive pattern, to the “values” of the abuser.
We can also see that this manic insistence that “everything will be fine!” lies behind the insanity that leads to psychopathology. The damaged psyche that grows into an abuser will have undergone a trauma it was unable to deal with and snapped into irreality as a response. The aftermath of this violence within the psyche then leads to the perpetuation of violence to maintain the facade.
Jensen rightly puts the rights of the abused ahead of the right of the abuser for his recovery. Still, unless we are clear about the entire mechanism we are trapped within it.
I think the answer is “kill yourself now, before it’s too late.” >;->
Chris fillie — The problem with the rich and powerful elites that Jensen refers to is that they see no reason to seek treatment. Most psychologists would refuse to treat such folks even if by a rare miracle they requested help, because of the dismal record of failure among those who were foolish enough to become entangled with these types. Your compassion for them is commendable, but these folks only use such concerns to manipulate and con those who evince them.
By the time a â€œleader of industryâ€ or other big shot has achieved their status in the power structure, there is about a zero chance they will relinquish the very traits that have got them to â€œthe top.â€
Truly, the scum rises to the top in our dysfunctional society.
It does us no good to denigrate those we perceive as adversaries. It doesn’t facilitate communication or positive change. I think it’s less a question of malevolence and more a question of world view and the state of an individual’s evolution (per Ken Wilber’s structure). If characterizing them in such negative ways serves as our personal therapy, then we are just as dysfunctional – but with a different malady.
“we come to the series of accommodations the abused make that hold them in thrall and paralyze them into maintaining the status quo.
The question of hope falls into this category of accommodations to abuse. We cry out for the necessity for hope as an antidote to paralysis and despair.”
Bou, does this explain the Obama phenomenon, and his chicanery, in an entirely new light. He is a classic abuser, using the tools as best he can to continue to subjugate the abused… WOW!!
Mike k.. I would be careful with your personal attacks, you have no idea where we all have been, what we have done, and where we are now!!
Richard — One needs to distingish between mean spirited name calling, and careful realistic diagnosis. An accurate assessment of those who are most responsible for the severe problems our world is suffering is an intelligent first step towards finding some solutions.
Psychopathy is a real and serious mental condition. To relate to those exhibiting it as you would to normal people could prove disasterous. This kind of response that ignores who these folks really are and what they are up to only enables them to wreak their depredations.
Knowing Wilber’s ideas will be of little use in direct confrontation with these types. To wait for them to evolve to a higher state of consciousness would truly be waiting for Godot.
Thanks for your input, but I do respectfully differ on this one.
Mike k –
I am assuming by your remarks that: 1) you are not one of those scum; 2) you have not risen to the top; 3) you are sitting in the back benches throwing handgrenades because of 1) and 2). Therefore, anyone can ignore your categorizations as the rantings of a malcontent. Am I missing something here?
I heartily agreee with your distinction: “between mean spirited name calling, and careful realistic diagnosis.” It’s just that there is so much of the former and so little of the later as characterized in many of these posts. And we are all plagued by a certain “malin genie” whether it be psychopathy or some other
Derrick hit the nail right on the head, once again. Couldn’t agree more.
Excellent post as usual Antonio, and much needed in this discussion. Let me add a couple of comments:
“One hint taken from â€œrecoveryâ€ is that some form of reaching the bottom is a healthy stage on the way to overcoming the tyranny of abuse. In this view, hope and optimism are ties that hold us to the abusive pattern, to the â€œvaluesâ€ of the abuser.”
Often we cannot control what form our descent to our bottom takes, or what awaits there when we arrive. Often the bottom proves to be our final resting place. For those who are more fortunate, some lifeline, such as AA appears, and only through that grace, and our willingness to use it, are we salvaged.
The other point is, that like so many things, hope has two faces. One face is the false hopes of victims of abuse, but the other face is the realistic, healthy hope that there exist ways to actually break the hold of abuse and move decisively out of its sphere altogether. Even Jensen has that kind of hope, although I disagree with some of his ideas of how to deal with our abusive culture.
Lastly, most people are unconscious and in denial of the pervasive abuse that our whole civilized culture embodies. The amount of feverish criticism and abuse heaped on Alice Miller for uncovering this reality was testimony to the lengths people will go to to avoid facing this frightening reality. We are born into a world saturated with abusive structures and their agents. Tough pill to swallow, but it is an essential ingredient of the Red Pill. Cheers!
Therese D’s comment posted earlier exemplifies the point an article in the previous issue of Orion made on eugenics and conservation. She states as a bad thing the fact that:
“[Science] has developed vaccines and cures for that which would otherwise keep the human population (naturally) in check.”
She may want to ban all manner of vaccines (some are controversial), anti-rabies shots, insulin, etc. but I personally believe population can be held in check by other more humane means. I refuse to go down the eugenics road with her. I discourage such thinking in the strongest possible terms. The Orion article rightly warns us against going down that road and points out how we are vulnerable to and tempted to make that kind of argument.
An earlier post also referred to Paul Shepard who sees civilization, especially contemporary civilization as leaving humans in a state of arrested development, in a kind of permanent adolescence that is, if I read him correctly in “Nature and Madness.” Alienation from nature may indeed be a consequence of this arrested development, since humans no longer make a study of nature, are no longer initiated into the ways of the world by being placed in a true interdependent relationship with nature that adult maturity requires of us. We really have very few mature adults in today’s society at least by Shepard’s definition of mature adult–after all, one of our highest paid professions is football (and I’m a football fan which says quite a bit about my own state of arrested development). We cannot go back to being primitive societies but we can go forward to being like them even in a technologically-advanced, psychologically regressed society like ours (although the model Shepard proposes would thankfully mean the end of civilization as we know it). I do not think technology is neutral. It can do good only to the extent of the uses we put it to and the restraints we are willing to place on it and only truly mature adults are capable of this kind of restraint. Modern humans are in such a state of infantile regression that we are largely incapable of restraining ourselves.
I am fascinated with human civilization and it has some major accomplishments (it is not all bad), but as I said earlier this 6,000-year history is nearing its end, either in collapse or a new form of organization for human society resembling more the arrangements of primitive society, but quite different at the same time since modern technological innovations will come into play. I do know one thing: we can no longer go on like we have.
I am amused that Wikipedia refers to Derrick Jensen as an anarcho-primitivist. Might not be such a bad idea. Decentralized societies organized around democratic communities and watersheds, with no standing armies, no more nation-state, no capitalism or macro-economies aside from perhaps loosely organized trade federations since some trade will be required. Other than that, economies will be strictly localized. This society could have computers and advanced technological medicine but also more hand tools, more reliance on naturepathy, midwives, and most certainly utilize sustainable practices however these come to be defined and take shape. And no more “wilderness areas”–we will like or primitive ancestors walk through a wilderness without boundaries. Wildness will be the standard for human society (still think Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild has some real good things to say on this score). My vision of alternative society is very crude at best, I admit it, but we need much more discussion of what post-civilization will look like. I am not talking about eco-topias or utopias–away with them! I am talking about what an alternative way of life would look like in practical, concrete down to earth terms. Where’s the discussion of this? Especially with the 6,000-year civilization coming to its inevitable end, a fascinating but seriously flawed model. We better get on with the business of replacing it–now!
Griz — I think I am agreeing with you (?) when I say that DJ is a good diagnostician, but a poor prescriber. Nevertheless, a clear and deep idea of what the disease is helps greatly in finding a cure.
#44 Vera — Not either or, both. Head for the hills (from whence cometh my strength) and try to heal society.
Admit defeat? You? Out of the question!
Reflecting more on Nature and Madness and culturally-determined psycho-pathological behavior, I would like to point out that in one of the last intact primitive tribal societies left in the world in New Guinea, depression is almost non-existent whereas in the U.S. the rate of depression is something on the order of 40 percent. I knew a book author who suffered from severe clinical depression who spent extended periods in the wilds whereupon his symptoms disappeared only to re-emerge upon return to society. Eventually he committed suicide. Doug Peacock author of Grizzly Years and a traumatized war veteran found equilibrium and a similar peace in grizzly country, but continued to find modern U.S. society difficult to tolerate. All these examples suggest that modern civilization leads to a kind of disintegration of psyche or personality and that extended time spent in the wilds produces a re-integration of personality. The destruction of nature only leads to more pathology as human alienation from nature deepens–the pathology is self-perpetuating in other words.
One last observation: Wendell Berry is one example of a mature adult in Paul Sheaprd’s sense, one who is integrated, rather than stuck in a state of arrested adolescent development so prevalent among adults in the U.S. what Shepard calls child adults.
we can all pontificate till the cows come home (except for the fact that most cows are kept in feed lots, eating unnatural grains chock-full-o-chemicals) and it will accomplish little to nothing.
by the end of this month?
and then let us know what you did (so we can pat you on the back) (and maybe motivate others in the process)
Viva! La Fox!
I like where this is all going. The question is developing into “how do we heal and mature” ourselves and neighbors? We know people are messing/messed up… the scientific proof of anthropomorphic global change is irrefutable… the consequences of our actions laid before us. (See video: girl who made the world silent for five minutes.) But, it is not just elites, we are all part of this system, like Germans in Nazi times… there is a banality.. a simpleness.. a passive acceptance and self-preserving denial…. we go on our way.. “putting food on our families”… I can’t help but come to the conclusion that Love is the only answer. If even possible, murdering the controls/ers is not the answer. We the healthy have to lead by example, take their blows in defiant dignity, and reach out our hands to them, to all, to the better way. and I think that may work the best with art and music?.. with community. we have to show people how great a humble, examined, thoughtful and connected life is.
Possibly the best discussion on the future: Two Dialogues with Dr David Bohm at Brockwood Park, 1983.
In these two dialogues Krishnamurti and physicist David Bohm explore the prospects for the future of human beings, given our immense capacity for self-destruction. They note that we are still pursuing the age-old patterns of thinking which create humanity’s suffering, and discuss the possibility of a change in our conditioning. As there is no psychological evolution and becoming is an illusion, Krishnamurti suggests, change may require a mutation in the very cells of the brain. Exploring this, they touch on consciousness, brain, mind and intelligence.
Subtitles: English, French, Thai, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Finnish, Vietnamese
Audio: English , Eng-French, Eng-Russian
Content: 1 DVD with 2 dialogues, total time: 2 hours and 25 minutes
Video format: NTSC, colour â€“ Region Code: All regions
Sorry, I left the title out:
Future of Humanity
Griz — Amen to the nature cure. Two weeks alone deep in unspoiled Nature does wonders on the muddled psyche.
Derrickâ€™s essays are like those psychological tests designed to draw out peopleâ€™s stuff. A lot of defensive reactions to the awful truth can come out. To look at the reality of our world directly, without flinching, or looking away, or changing the subject, or trashing the messenger, or denying the problem, or blaming some handy scapegoatâ€¦â€¦the list goes onâ€¦.itâ€™s not easy to just swallow the pill, and let it work.
Just watched a good TED episode w Daniel Pink on motivation and 21st century tasks… carrots and sticks do not work on complex tasks… money as motivation cannot compete with autonomy and sense of purpose as far as productivity is concerned…. Hope for the coming work of rehabilitating/renewing the world.
â€œHistory is not a chronicle but a Hebrew invention about the way the cosmos worksâ€¦â€
These are the opening words of Paul Shepard in his book, Coming Home to the Pleistocene.
Griz, Antonio, et al
Obviously there is general agreement that the crisis we face began with our emergence from the early Neolithic, with the advent of big agriculture and the birth of cities. And certainly there is general agreement that we can never simply return to the Pleistocene. But, what Shepard is clear about is that we are already OF the Pleistocene, it is in our genetic heritage. His Coming Home is simply coming back to what we are by nature. It does not require some cellular transformation in the brain, as the reference to Krishnamurti suggests. We donâ€™t need to transcend, overcome, rise above, or improve ourselvesâ€¦ we need to recover what we are ontologically, and what has been lost sight of, that still lies dormant within us as a species.
Shepardâ€™s reference to history above is a key to our recovery. Clearly, our commitment to clock time has itself been forged by some well-embedded cultural habits, the Curriculum of the West. But this relatively modern convention does not quite square with our pre-reflective experience of being-in-the-world. And the forgery committed by unilinear time has a shared heritage with various other cultural systems â€“ literacy, science, and history â€“ effectively concealing/disguising our connection with the world-as-lived by our bodies. In order to recover and reclaim this primal bond, we must allow the natural rhythms inscribed in and articulated through our sentient bodies â€“ and not the linear time of our socialized, civilized egos â€“ to express themselves.
Part of the problem, I suspect, goes back to the organization of our senses. Modern civilization is primarily a visual world spread our in front of us; a Pleistocene world is more fundamentally aural, it surrounds one with sound. This provides a fuller experience of the environment than a predominantly visual map. In fact, as J.Z. Smith wrote years ago: Map is not the Territory. The territory is encompassing, a map provides only a visual field spread out before one. We must recognize how deprived and empty life in this modern world has become; emptiness due largely to the eclipsing of the sensorium by the demands of civilized existence under the watchful eye of Father Time.
And this gets us to the heart of the challenge, as Shepardâ€™s opening remarks raises. Perhaps we can emerge as a new society along the lines that Alpha Griz laid out. But can we overcome our unflinching epistemological commitment to the specter of unilinear time and its existential implications â€“ history, planning, progress, technological advancement, production, consumption, growth, domination.
Can we step back enough to reclaim a more natural place within the animal kingdom, and recover from our early civilized need to dominate nature, and the substantial hangover that really came into its own with Francis Bacon and the scientific method, and our transition into the modern era of infinite progress.
This pathology, this disease, if you will, is a feeling of dis-ease with our own feral core, a cloak foisted upon us through 6,000 years of indoctrination to the Curriculum. But, modern Homo sapiens appeared almost 200,000 years ago, and the earliest species of our genus, Homo habilis, two million years back; they lived in relative harmony with nature and with one another; and they lived without history or the terror of historical consciousness until its eruption with the birth of civilization. What the scholars will not tell us is that there was something substantial lost with the emergence of this new consciousness and the subsequent construction of historical thought approximately 5,500 years ago. Recovering this buried genetic memory trace must begin with a recapitulation to subjectivity of our bodies and a complete re-association with our sentient selves.
It is not a matter of moral terpretude that drives us madâ€¦ it is madness that drives us to apparent moral terpretude. Changing the perspective and agenda of modern society and the masters of the universe is thus not an ethical or religious matter; it is an epistemological, even an ontological matter; it cannot be achieved by imploring, cajoling, threatening or harming. It may not be do-able at all on a broad scale. It may just require that those who have rediscovered that inner feral core do what they can to prepare themselves for ultimate collapse and try to enjoy the Spectacle.
Thanks for your clear presentation of your ideas, Sandy.
In dealing with the value of human adaptations of the distant past, maybe Ken Wilberâ€™s concept of â€œtranscend and includeâ€ would be helpful. As consciousness evolves, changes, grows, unfolds to more complex levels and deeper understandings there is both a need to transcend or go beyond previous limitations, and a corresponding need to carry forward and include the useful capacities and values of previous levels. This involves sorting out what was truly useful from things that are better left behind.
As much as we might like the closeness to nature indigenous cultures had, we probably would not wish to bring into our present time human sacrifice or cannibalism. A romantic idealism about ancient lifeways would be as big a mistake as denigrating them as brutish or violent. The reality, as modern archaeology is revealing, is not a simple monotone, but a richly varied tapestry of possibilities.
The hope that peoples of a former age had found the ideal way of being humans on earth is a perennial feature in the thinking of those who are aware of the many shortcomings of our present culture. Shangrila, Eden, the Golden Age, are symbols of this archetype. However consoling, these dreams are more revealing of our deep need for a better world than a realistic appraisal of the difficult journey we have traversed on this terrible and beautiful planet. And we are not done in our journeyingâ€¦
I think it would be helpful for you to read some real anthropological, ethnographic, and history of religions studies on pre-civilized, preliterate and contemporary indigenous tribes. You might find it enlightening. The brush strokes you are using here to paint a straw man view of indigenous cultures are based on vastly antiquated and chauvanistic views
Sandy (see post #71), I don’t know if you intended disagreement with my position (really doesn’t matter if you did for that’s the stuff of dialogue) or not, but I am in fundamental agreement with yours. At any rate you brought some further clarity to where I am trying to go although we may come at it a little differently.
A couple of things: First, I agree that, assuming we are at the end of civilization, we are at the end of history (or his-story, since it has been a male-dominant perspective–the only honest organization of society is matri-lineal), that story is primary. Story is the way, as Barry Lopez suggests, we read the landscape and navigate the cyclical rhythms of life, for linear time as you point out is a fiction. I also agree that moral turpitude is a product of our madness, for example, the flagrantly bogus morality play that informs jihad the Crusades or any other number of ideological and religious wars.) Ideology and authoritarian religion are basically instances of arrested development, the permanently adolescent state that modern humans find themselves in and this idealism plays itself out in what are supposed to be mature adults with incredible violence. However, if humans answer to the primal heritage (Pleistocene) that is part of our DNA a different organization of society will emerge bearing fundamental similarities to those of our distant ancestors even though on the surface it may have a different look because of the technological innovations that have occurred in the meantime. But things are bad now. Groups like al-Qaida and the tea party are examples of infantile temper tantrums thrown by adult humans in a state of arrested adolescence. Modern civilization carries within it the seeds of its own destruction (the seeds being capitalism, industrialism, capitalism, individualism in some cases, and fundamentalist religion). We cannot destroy it. It can only destroy itself. That’s why I say we must get out of the way and answer to the beating of our own wild hearts, the yearning for connection, for community, the complete integration of domesticity and wildness, to our own love of story and the natural rhythms of cyclical time. But in answering to this, we must have some intentionality, some practical discussions of what this new society may look like. I enjoy literacy and I do not see computers as necessarily bad things, but I think we will know what technologies are useful and what are not if humans can survive post-civilization without major trauma or even extinction. If we see time as cyclical rather than linear, we may not be at the end of anything but rather emerging out of the winter of our discontent to find a return of spring. Kinda trite way of putting it, but I believe human epochs are similar in this regard to seasons. Winter is not the end of things, but only a pre-emergent time. We may find ourselves in this pre-emergent time. Those of us trying to recover our sanity need to be telling our story of disintegration and re-integration, of connection, of community, or living within nature’s arrangements even if we do not do so skillfully.
No, I agree with your assessment of what needs to emerge…
“decentralized societies organized around democratic communities and watersheds, with no standing armies, no more nation-state, no capitalism or macro-economies aside from perhaps loosely organized trade federations since some trade will be required.”
I just am at a loss of how that will really happen in a sustainable way that is truly non-authoritarian, non-coercive and meaningful for the participants without fundamentally overturning the hegemony of unilinear time as I indicated.
You, as well have stated so much…
“if humans answer to the primal heritage (Pleistocene) that is part of our DNA a different organization of society will emerge bearing fundamental similarities to those of our distant ancestors even though on the surface it may have a different look because of the technological innovations that have occurred in the meantime.”
But, is the trap already laid by the technologies that consume us as we long to consume them? Are we capable of living a life with a fully activated sensorium, viscerally feeling ourselves part of the world we inhabit, even through the distractions of our modern scientific-technological protheses?
As well, I more or less agree with your assessment of religious zealotry; but, I would also argue that those terrorist voices in the Middle East may be a visceral reaction to the forced installment of our fully advanced Western hegemony on a somewhat more traditional culture.
Sandy–This reply will be somewhat short. I believe al-Qaida as well as Western hegemony have roots in the first civilization that clear-cut the cedars of Lebanon and depleted the Fertile Crescent. The real tribal cultures in the region, including Islamic, are peaceable and generally hospitable to their guests as Greg Mortenson has reported. Remember, Osama bin Laden is the member of a wealthy family in Saudi Arabia with connections to the Bush family. He is just a spoiled rich kid with too much time on his hands. He is a religious fanatic with little feel for the true values of these societies. I can understand anger at the imposition of Western hegemony–after all it has been imposed upon me as well–but al-Qaida does not have an ounce of my sympathy. I think they are simply another manifestation of the problem. One last note: I certainly do a lot of reading but my critique of civilization is instinctual, intuitive. I am learning more to trust my instincts (as Terry Tempest Williams has urged) based on m actual experiences of industrialism, authoritarian religion, ideologues, careerism, consumerism and the general rat race as opposed to experiences in the wilds, or out in the garden. It’s those moments where I see clearly what is sick. Others, too, relied on an instinctual critique of civilization–Thoreau, Abbey, and likely Mr. Jensen.
your intiutive sense is brilliant; as is your assessment of al Qaida. You are right, Osama was a spoilled rich kid with nothing to do; but you Have to admit he had a pretty big target to hit when he decided to turn on us (which after all is common among thieves). Our culture in the West was a direct descendent of his which clear-cut the Cedars or Lebanon and depleted the Fertile Crescent, as laid out in the wonderfully told EPIC of G!
By the way Griz: I wrote this over a year ago, you might find it relevant to our current discussion.
I was watching a “NOVA” special the other day–“Becoming Human”–and was struck by the fact that chimps were repeatedly called “beasts” with “snouts” and were pictured swinging gamely but clumsily on their banty legs, scratching their private parts. “Humans” were shown bathed in holy light, shining like a Greek Statue.
I was next struck by the fact that the show advocated “climate change” as “good for you–makes a man out of you!” and was funded by David H. Kock and exxon mobil.
Koch is a billionaire who believes that the plane wreck he was in, which killed everyone on board but himself, was God’s little way of pointing out to Koch that he was Chosen for something special.
As if the lives of the Others were only a backdrop.
The philosopher David Hume postulated that it was almost impossible to feel empathy for a creature not your kin. Hence, in wars and genocides, the victim/enemy is named an “animal.”
As the Dali Lama says, “all sentient beings are our brothers, similarly on a path to enlightenment.” Until we internalize that truth, any gestures “we” make toward saving “the Other” will be just that, gestures that show our magnanimity. When the shit hits the fan it will be “every man for himself and God against all.”
As for the earth and sacred Life itself, we have been through worse than this present psychopathic sickness of mankind (for example, being struck by and asteroid). Life will go on–but will you or your children? Self-preservation is another characteristic lost by the psychopathic culture.
Wow. Great discussion while I wuz away. The only thing that pops into my brain right now, addled as it is, is… willow, why are you still watching the psychopathic spectacle? After all, I know why “them” are dishing it out… what I don’t get is “us” willingly turning it on. 🙁
Ms. Vera: I bear witness to the effect money has on our discourse and opinions, no matter how painful the experience.
If I had not watched this NOVA, I would not have learned of the Koch brothers, and their fascist dreamtime.
I listen to the choir on sunday; the rest of the week, I keep my finger on the patient’s pulse.
I am not fishing for titles, willow. But I do have another question. Haven’t you watched enough of the spectacle to last you a lifetime?! In what way do you profit knowing about yet another creep? In what way is it helpful for the “patient” for you to be supporting the spectacle with your money and attention?
Loved this article by Bill McKibben that I saw today on Huffington Post.