Finding True North

December 22, 2014 § 26 Comments

One of the great dangers of the life indoors, is the anesthetizing effect it has on a person. When we aren’t out in the world, we aren’t present to watch the dying. Attempting to talk about this via an electronic medium, even via the written word at all, is near futile because it requires the symbolic recreation of the tragedy unfolding around us, and the recreation will never carry the weight or the pain of the real thing.

So it comes down to data points. In essays past and in daily editorials available across the electronic press, we are fed the data points. Topsoil loss, species die off, the toxicity of the oceans, the acceleration of climate change; I can rattle off the data, but who cares?  We are inside.  Climate controlled.  Masters of hundreds of energy slaves all whipped up to provide us with on demand entertainment, comfort, and snack food.  We think we are safe inside our house, but the house is an illusion.  There is no indoor, outdoor dichotomy.  There is a temporary delusion blinding us to the reality of the storm bearing down.

In my previous essay I wrote that we must burn down the collective house that is civilization. We must demolish it thoroughly before the floors buckle and the roof caves in, despite the very real dependence we have developed upon this edifice.  A conundrum indeed, but this conundrum is itself the question of our time, and it calls to all of us whether we are ready to square off with its implications or not.

Industrial civilization is destroying the living skin of the planet. Industrial civilization is rendering life on Earth impossible.  This is inarguable.  The only question then, is what to do.  Where do our responsibilities lie, and how can we meet them with dignity, grace, and courage?

What do you value?  What do you value the most in this world as you experience it?  I think it is imperative that we start with this question because the answer will determine how we perceive our responsibilities as living beings.  I refer to this as finding one’s polestar; their true north. Finding our pole star is essential because it is very easy to get entangled in the complexity of our culture, our socialization, our class status, and all of the other baggage we carry from lifetime after lifetime of trauma inflicted by the dominant culture.  When we need reorientation, we come about to our true north, and keep from running wayward into the noise and distraction intentionally laid to ensnare the passionate.

My pole star is the healthy, fecund forest. I live in a wooded region, and when I look out my front door I see tree covered ravines.  Beech, hickory, oak, maple, all stand stoically about me, their leaves blanketing and feeding the soil.  I never feel so honest, so at home, so centered as when I stand in the deep blue dark of night, jacketed in the electric stillness of winter, staring up to the stars that peek through the tangled black fingers of the naked tree boughs.  In those moments I feel whole, because I feel like part of a whole.  My ancestors call to me from the past as they most certainly stood in the same pose of supplication, lost in wonder, and gratitude, and mystery.

This is where I go when I seek an ethical thread to follow through the spiritual and psychological quagmire of modern industrial civilization.   When I look at the activities of humans, I ask what they mean for the forests.  Not just my forest home, but for the forest homes of people and beings across the Earth. I ask if new technologies, or policies, or commercial activities will benefit these havens of life and solitude, or if they threaten them.  I imagine the creeks and rivers that run through this region like blood in my veins, and usually the answer comes back to me that, no, the grand schemes of civilized man offer nothing good. They seek only to take, never to give back.  They promise to dominate and ruin, and that is what they do.

When concrete is laid over what was once a field so that suburbanites can park their vehicles at a new strip of retail stores, the deep roots of plants do not surrender.  Look to any patch of asphalt and you will find the rebellion under way.  Grass, dock, wild onion, dandelion; they slowly crack and push through the rubble and road surface above them until they find their place in the sunlight once again.  When under attack, these plants merely do what they must do to go about the business of living.

What fascinates me is that when hundreds or thousands of enraged people burn down the corporate chain stores that encircle them like army wagons on the frontier, these rioters are condemned. Spokespeople for the status quo feign innocent stupidity and ask, “Why are they burning down their own communities?” as if the concrete that is laid over the poor and working class is somehow their kin. Setting police cruisers and corporate chain stores alight is merely what these people must do to go about the business of living, whether this is consciously perceived or not.

The hierarchy of power that exists in this social paradigm attempts to mystify the public with language of togetherness when it suits them. They speak down to the lower orders as if we are one unit, one family, one tribe, each of us working together for the equal betterment of all. The actions of the powerful betray the truth, that those lower on the social hierarchy will labor, toil, suffer, and die for the comfort, power, and privilege of those at the top.

This is the framework by which responsibility is discussed within our society.  If a man robs a store and is sent to prison for it, it is said that he is there to “pay his debt to society.”  There are several implications in this statement surrounding the notion that this man was ever part of society to begin with, or that he desires to remain so.  Of course, if he was robbing a store to pay his rent, keep the heat on, or feed his family, there will never be statements from the powerful to the effect that society failed this man, this valuable member of our collective, and forced him through circumstance to his act.  Society will never pay its debt to this man, or to any man of his social rank. The idea that we are all daily electing to be in one cooperative social structure together is a pure fabrication.

As so often happens, officers of the state apparatus commit egregious violence, whether as police or soldiers, and their personal responsibility is almost never called into question.  The only time an individual police officer or soldier is made to fall on their sword, is when their crime is so blatant, so heinous, and so public, that to not punish them would crack the façade of the entire control apparatus.  By and large, these officers of the state do violence as a mode of day to day operations, all for the acquisition and maintenance of wealth and power as it exists and is distributed.

However, any actions deemed antagonistic to the structure of power and wealth will be vociferously condemned, and the perpetrators will be held liable for all knock on effects of these actions.  For instance, if in an attempt to preserve the health and sanctity of one’s home, a person destroys the power sub station that operates the pumps for a tar sand pipeline that runs under their land, and this outage causes a cascade black out to follow suit, the state will likely hold responsible this person for any deaths or injuries that occur due to the lack of electricity that has resulted.  If an old woman on a hospital respirator dies, the person who knocked out the sub station will likely be charged with manslaughter, if not murder.  They will be called a terrorist. Anyone whose ideologies are even remotely similar to this person’s will also be labeled a terrorist, worthy of suspicion.

In short, this is the Law.  People speak of the Law in moralistic terms, as if the volumes of clumsy codes and commands cobbled together by and for the wealthy were gifted to us by a choir of angels designed on building for us a just and balanced world.  Of course, the Law is nothing of the sort.  The Law has nothing to do with morals or ethics, as the bulk of the weight of the laws as they exist purpose to extort and exploit the poor for the powerful.  Leaning on the law as an ethical or moral litmus is such a high form of laziness and ignorance as to be shameful.

This is the wall that encircles those of us who wish to see an end to the current order of power.  We will be held to the highest account for the slightest ill that comes from any of our deeds, and the Law will be invoked in punishing even the most tepid of social activists.  Meanwhile, an Airforce technician in a bunker will kill families thousands of miles away with hellfire missiles, and we will never know this person’s name. They will never be condemned for the deaths they directly and intentionally cause. In fact, they will be heralded and rewarded. Their efforts furthered the efforts of the machine of industrial civilization.  They are on the team.  Doctors designed torture programs for the CIA.  Scientists design weaponized viruses.  Capitalists pour heavy metals into rivers and continue cutting boreal forest to extract tar sand despite the globally acknowledged threat of climate catastrophe.

These people are all protected.  Even attempting to slow them down in their work is a crime. The truth laid bare is that they have a sanctioned right to bring death, and you have no right to try to prevent them, whether violently or not.

It’s not about who you kill, it’s about who you kill for.

The police are on standby in any event, ready to gleefully dole out violence to even the most passive demonstrator. Any flinch, parry, or brush of a hand that can be deemed an attack on the police, of course, will result in charges, possibly felonies. The guardians of power too, are a protected class, so much so that in some places even passively ignoring police is classed as a felony.

The message is clear.  This world doesn’t belong to us, but to them. We are a society in name only.  Language about unity and country are pap for the masses.  Those who don’t swallow it down get the club, or the bullet.  But don’t worry, the comments section is still open.  Feel free to air your frustrations beneath the article.  Hashtag, give-up-already.

In the cold night air my breath is visible.  Darkness comes early as we approach the solstice.  When I scan over the ridge, I feel a peace in the center of my being.  There are those who think this is all that is left. They say that we have already lost the big fights, and now all that remains is to hold close to those you love as the dying picks up speed, and the maniacs in power continue throttling forward.

I cannot help but feel that such placid thoughts, wherever they may be rooted, are an appeasement to the powerful.  My blog wouldn’t be named “Pray for Calamity” if I didn’t believe that things would get worse before they got better.  But I also know that without question I would die for my family and for our home, and thinking this opens me to the idea that there are so many great places and causes to die for on this planet at this time.  Perhaps its time to stop seeing this as an age of impending calamity, but instead to see it as an age of opportunity to banish our fears, cage our egos, and to remember that death comes for us all, and that the greatest shame would be to waste our flesh when there are so many perfect targets for our rage. Perhaps we should begin to recognize this as an age of awakening; a time to reignite an internal fire that an oppressive and abusive culture has devoted so much energy to snuffing out.

So I ask, what is your pole star?  What is your true north?  What do you know in the center of your being to be good, and right, and true?  The dominant culture attempts to bend the mind and break the heart, until all that is left is the fetishization of power.  Domesticated, isolated, institutionalized, traumatized people begin to believe that their responsibilities are to the dominant system of buying, selling, killing, producing, and ever increasing efficiency at all of them.

I submit that these are not my responsibilities, and they are not yours.  I submit that none of the language they weaponize and fire so readily at dissenting voices is applicable.  We are not malcontents, radicals, insurgents, or terrorists.  We are dandelions who do not wish to bend to the will of the concrete poured over us.

And when we are ready to remember all of this, we are warriors.

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§ 26 Responses to Finding True North

  • Johnny says:

    True North is not allowing someone to inflict their interpretation of good or bad on others. True North is to follow our human hopes and dreams, be it living in the cold utopia of the Alaskan wilderness or clear cutting a forest to build a McMansion. Regardless of the reason why, there is no more intrinsic good of one over another. Regardless of climate beliefs, religious beliefs, moral beliefs, people are fundamentally free and the restrictions placed on them from these cultural conventions are ridiculous. The moral high ground of a committed marriage and child raising in a McMansion can be viewed as far better than living in the woods hoping for a David Thoreau type moment with “my baby’s momma” based on nothing more than a choice we all have the power to make for ourselves.

    True North is understanding this kind of freedom, regardless of how it is expressed.

    • Miep says:

      You are arguing that valuing an intentionally destructive dead-end path is somehow acceptable or even sane.

      • Johnny says:

        Life is intentionally destructive, choosing to participate instantly signifies acceptance of those terms. Mankind has been on a dead end path for centuries now, and we are very good at it, and it certainly isn’t about to stop any time in the near term because some folks are hoping and praying for it to. Who themselves become breeders to continue to perpetuate the status quo.

  • Rowan WalkingWolf says:

    Brilliant. Love it. My true north is the damp, dark wilderness of Cascadia and the crisp, gorgeous oak savannahs of central-northern California. Outside of landbased true norths, there’s my own internal desires and animal self, perhaps more important to me and my anti-civ politics/ethics than any other force.

    • td0s says:

      Thanks for reading, rowan. I look forward to your thoughts in the future.

    • Miep says:

      Nice to see you here, Rowan. This blogger writes eloquently, never mind the obstacle producers.

    • Johnny says:

      Wonderful country. A little to close to population centers, but there are far worse places in the country to ride out the storm. Plus the amount of weed available in those areas make living there until the world ends a mellow experience.

      • Miep says:

        The PNW is expected to ride out climate change better for longer than much of the United States.

        I just finished a novel entitled “Station Eleven.” Like Oryx and Crake, it is predicated on over 99% of humans dying from an especially virulent airborne disease. It’s not as good as Oryx and Crake, but it’s very good.

        I suspect that is our best hope. Our cultural inertial mass is just so strong.

        I hope I’m wrong.

  • Richard W. Posner says:

    “…we must burn down the collective house that is civilization.

    Truer words were never written.

  • Richard W. Posner says:

    Reblogged this on The Rise and Fall of the Human Empire and commented:
    Eloquent, elegant, calmly and rationally passionate. The best thing I’ve read in a long time.

  • Richard W. Posner says:

    Reblogged @ The Rise and Fall of the Human Empire with the following comment:

    Eloquent, elegant, calmly and rationally passionate. The best thing I’ve read in a long time.

    Thank you for this testimony on behalf and in defense of Life.

  • […] by td0s at Pray for Calamity […]

  • Gerald Spezio says:

    Without some of IC’s advantages, like this electronic blog, I couldn’t read childish literary nonsense about how to love free under the stars without a care, a painful abscessed tooth, a roof, or some bread.
    You are a good typist, but also a type of breathairian moron, who probably lunches hamburgers on the sly.
    Nobody will ride out the approaching methane horror.
    Nobody goes too far w/o breakfast, either.

    • td0s says:

      What is the point of comments like this? Do you or other, ahem, “critics” think that i am unaware that electronic blogs are a product of industrial civilization? Do you think that I would cling to industrial civilization, exert effort to prop it up, all to maintain a blog? Or even to write at all? I would trade all the writing in the world if it meant an end to industrial civilization.

      As to the breatharian nonsense, I wish people could attack me, or what I said, and not some shit they made up about me. But I guess straw men throw no punches, eh?

      Glad I struck a nerve.

  • Johnny says:

    It seems interesting that individual peace, finding true north, is generally equated with a Henry David Thoreau type scenario, as opposed to the thought of being with large families, in a crowd, watching a good movie, seeing the final concrete be poured into that skyscraper that you designed, soaking in every inch of the human experience. Making the world a better place by participating in the removal of Saddam, Osama, or various other public figures by pointing the rifle or helping those who do.

    Seems reasonable that for every person who wants to become some version of Amish, there is another who appreciates the rest of the species in its wild variety, outrageous accomplishments and horrifying contradictions. And yet for all of this, good or bad, Amish hopeful or master of the universe, our insignificance in this universe is near absolute. Even if humans were to destroy the planet, which we can’t, all those other billions of worlds would continue on their path without a care or concern in the known universe. Fight for good, fight for bad, sit around and do nothing, become a pothead, become a cop or hunt them, at the end of the day we all are rewarded in the same way.

  • […] could be a defining year for humanity and Finding True North at Pray for Calamity is a guide of sorts to what may be in store. The essay, by td0s, has been reproduced at Nature Bats […]

  • Present but Unaccounted For says:

    A very thoughtful and thought provoking essay. A few thoughts:

    1) If we accept that our modern consumerist society is insane, literally like a cancer upon the natural world, and that the natural man or woman is driven insane to the extent they live without rebellion inside of this society, then what sort of society would the natural man or women live within? Any? Does the evolution of a social mind and the social contract of living within a society inevitably end with exactly what we have, the Great Filter? Is our modern destruction of the planet the inevitable end of all complex civilizations across the galaxy?

    2) What is the natural state of humanity? Yes, we will cling close to family and to tribe but beyond that (and even often within that) it comes down to: Bellum omnium contra omens, the war of all against all. The midnight raids into the other tribes camps, the stealing of food and women, the tribal warfare, the reprisals, and on and on. Was Hobbes right, or not?

    • shad says:

      Hobbes, being a white leisure class layabout in 1600 does tend to give one credibility in the areas of indigenous world view.

  • shad says:

    adding to my above flippant comment – claims of human nature have always been a red flag for me. The idea that a wall street banker and a Kung bushman are so alike in their nature that no distinction need be make is problematic. We readily make a distinction when the wall street banker wants the bushman’s land. The doctrine of discovery is used which claims that the bushman is a savage beast. Is your use of the word tribe used to describe tribal peoples or the idea that those left alive after civ hits the ground will become tribal?

  • Johnny says:

    Why would it be unacceptable that some behavior, that we don’t like, is insane? Humans are certainly a cancer on the planet, generally speaking, and that is regardless of whether or not they are eco-friendly, or frackers.

    Certainly those wandering around spending time on esoteric exercises debating the human condition are missing the point…what they do, what they think, what they convince others to do, or others to think, is irrelevant. Humanity, within the greater scheme of even this single solar system, is irrelevant. We could incinerate this planet, and be irrelevant. We could pollute it and die in our filth, and it is irrelevant. We like to THINK we are relevant of course, and to ourselves plenty of things are relevant. Hungry, cold, happy, scared, whatever, our self centric universe view is amusing…but the entire species could vanish tomorrow and…it just wouldn’t matter.

  • Present but Unaccounted For says:

    “Hungry, cold, happy, scared, whatever, our self centric universe view is amusing…but the entire species could vanish tomorrow and…it just wouldn’t matter.”
    There is always “to whom” after “it just wouldn’t matter.” Why is there anything at all? For whatever’s reason, there is something, namely this universe experiencing itself. If it matters to you, it matters eternally.

  • Bill M says:

    Johnny –

    Find I resonate to your thoughts. Would be happy to read a blog, short though it might be.


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