The Dull Static
April 28, 2014 § 16 Comments
The flowering dogwoods are in bloom. Along the country lanes, the pink petals have already exploded into ephemeral radiance and begun to wither and fall from the branches of the Jane Magnolia trees. For me this means no longer having the agonizing luxury of hours to sit and write. After six months of bi-weekly essays, I feel I have expressed much of what had become balled up and cluttered in my mind, and now it is time to ruminate in the garden once again.
I named this blog, “Pray for Calamity,” because there are several major crises converging which threaten human civilization, and there are no existing structures capable of mitigating them. Democracy, capitalism, neo-liberal globalization; they are all incapable of undertaking the work necessary to avert cataclysm. The paradigms of thought and approach which are almost hardwired into the modern mind at this point, need to be scrubbed. Of the remaining, solvable ecological crises, which may not include climate change, there is no tool available to attend to them that comes from the conventional tool box of legal, lawful pursuit. These ecological crises, which range from topsoil depletion to tree extinctions to massive die off of oceanic life, cannot be remedied without a fundamental shift in the thinking of the people in the civilized world. If people do not begin to perceive the world as a living entity, interconnected, conscious, and with intrinsic value beyond how it can be carved up and sold, then it is only a matter of time until the human race begins to suffer on a massive scale due to their callous disregard for the other beings with whom they share this planet.
And then there are the political and economic and resource depletion crises as well.
Changing our minds, changing how we think, is physically speaking one of the easiest things we can do. However, when our egos and our identities are wholly interwoven with an idea or an ideology, changing our way of thinking and discarding the old ideas, can be the hardest thing we are asked to undertake. If our physical reality changes, this can create a rip in the threads that stitch our view of ourselves with a dogma or a paradigm. So I await calamity because the egos of the civilized have hardened their hearts and deafened their ears, and until those in the first world middle class feel the gnawing pain of persistent hunger and the fear of deafening uncertainty, they will refuse to consider that maybe everything they have been taught to believe about themselves and their collective destiny, is abjectly wrong.
“We’re many generations overdue for a revolution, in our thinking. I’m not talking about blood and violence although I’m afraid thats already happened. I’m talking about a revolution that’s probably the hardest kind, the kind that takes place within the human soul and the human mind. To be able to tear everything down, throw everything out, and start with a completely fresh piece of paper and say, ‘OK, how do we solve this problem?’”
Mike Ruppert said that in the documentary “Collapse.” While by no means a perfect man, Mike was a good person, and did his best to tell the truth as he knew it. He shot himself two weeks ago. He left many insights like this one as gifts for us.
People who become aware of the depth of the problems facing humanity at this juncture in time, often seek answers. They want to know what we need to do. Some suggest we need a revolution. Some suggest we need to take to the hills and hide on personal homesteads, to perhaps form communities of these homesteads and just hold on white knuckled through the bottle neck of collapse. Then there is Paul Kingsworth of the Dark Mountain Project, who speaks of the difference between problems which are to be solved, and predicaments which are to be endured.
“What do you do,” he asked, “when you accept that all of these changes are coming, things that you value are going to be lost, things that make you unhappy are going to happen, things that you wanted to achieve you can’t achieve, but you still have to live with it, and there’s still beauty, and there’s still meaning, and there are still things you can do to make the world less bad? And that’s not a series of questions that have any answers other than people’s personal answers to them. Selfishly it’s just a process I’m going through.” He laughed. “It’s extremely narcissistic of me. Rather than just having a personal crisis, I’ve said: ‘Hey! Come share my crisis with me!’
Kingsworth was recently interviewed by the New York Times. As a long time environmental activist who years ago lost faith that there is much we can do to “save the planet,” he decries the false hope sold by mainstream environmentalist groups. With friend Dougald Hine, Kingsworth wrote the “Uncivilization” manifesto, on which The New York Times writes:
“Uncivilization” was firm in its conviction that climate change and other ecological crises are predicaments, and it called for a cadre of like-minded writers to “challenge the stories which underpin our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality and the myth of separation from ‘nature.’ ”
On this matter I think Kingsworth and Hine are right on the mark. We will never weather the predicaments before us, let alone solve what problems remain solvable, if we refuse to take an honest look at who we are, where we are, and just what the hell we are doing. I think this is a meditation that would benefit revolutionaries and those hiding in the hills alike. We must ask if civilization is something we are even interested in continuing. We must ask what it is we value most and whether or not the lifestyles we are cordoned into are even in line with those values. We must ask what it means to be human. And if we are to trust any of our conclusions, we must first find a way to step outside of everything our culture has programmed us to believe.
Civilization is a power structure. It is a rejection of natural law in favor of the control of those high on social hierarchies. Civilization is the domestication of nature and people alike. It is the creation of a once regional, now global farm where the multitudes of humans are livestock, restricted by the borders of various owners, and subjugated and exploited for the extraction of the surplus values generated by their labor. Non human life forms and entire ecosystems are subjugated likewise, and as this control apparatus is now world wide and hell bent on growing in scale year over year, life itself is at risk. Simultaneously, this architecture of domestication and control has blunted the souls of the humans it dominates, and like house pets, the great many people have been declawed and broken. This is the existential portion of the crisis we face. The meaninglessness of life on the inside. The dull static of the best case scenario, where those in the first world yearn for the life of tepid, safe predictability offered by the owner class, should only one produce enough without question or complaint. We are a wretched bunch who fetishize our oppressors and spew vitriol at insurrectionaries who would in trying to shake us loose even for a moment, dare make us late for work.
Navigating circumstances beyond our control in which masters are hostile to us, constantly maneuvering to exert more control over our lives as well as to extract more value from us even in our imprisonment or death; most people are surviving, not thriving. Merely jockeying through a preset condition of work and fee schedules has muted the potential of our species. What has been throttled cannot be measured in discoveries or inventions, but in the satisfaction of individuals and communities to thrive on their own terms. To be fully actualized and autonomous creatures. To witness the assembly line life of modern man is to suffer a snuff film.
If we are to rescue our own hearts and our minds, if we are to save the last embers of burning wildness in our souls and to break the tethers that bind our thinking to suicidal paradigms, then we must uncivilize. Like Buck in “The Call of the Wild,” we must seek to undomesticate ourselves, no only to survive the realities of the world into which we are being thrust, but because to be a house mutt lying bored at master’s feet is to barely exist at all.
So what does any of this really mean? What are the steps, the actions to undertake which will align the force of our arms with the rhythms of our hearts? Do we fight or do we flee? Or do we stand upon the hill and bear witness until the fire consumes us? Or is there perhaps some combination of all; a time for rebellion, a time to tend our gardens, and a time to merely sit and say goodbye?
Certainly, if people seek a recipe for action that can maintain society in a form even remotely similar to its present incarnation, then I offer nothing. If what people desire is a map of the future from which plans can be derived and survival assured, I have none. I think maybe it is time to give up on maps. Maybe it is time to just be in the territory for a while. Maybe it is time to give up on human words and to leave the electronic buzz of the internet and to set foot on soil and rock. If domestication is the product of being in the domicile, in the house, then perhaps what we need is to step outside. If the stories we have been told for generations have poisoned us; if these myths about the greatness of the lines on maps and the men who ruled those patchwork lines have only served to make us slaves to abstractions, engendering in us a self righteousness and a malice towards all that isn’t of our hands and seeding in us a fear of what lies outside comfortable walls, then perhaps it is time to go and to hear some different voices. To hear some new stories. Maybe, lost in the ballad of crowing frogs and moaning trees we can crumple up what is written before us and find a blank piece of paper, and on it we will write of our sadness and our fear. We will admit our weakness in the face of all that we have made and we will scratch out our apologies and our gratitude.
Then we will collect up everything that we think the future needs to be given, and we will carry it within us to barricades and to garden gates, to jail cells and to barn bays and to graves. We will find the fire that will make tomorrow worth struggling towards, in that dark, when we are bent and cold heaps of hungry, smoke smelling bone and sinew beneath taught and blackened skin. The madness of the world will grow raw, and real. Privation and awfulness will bloom, and we will endure it.