Forbidden Thoughts and Sacred Obligations

January 12, 2015 § 31 Comments

When I was a younger man, I very much wanted to be taken seriously. To be taken seriously was to be asked your opinion. It was to be allowed a seat at the grown-up’s table in politics, economy, and all other matters that intelligent individuals busied themselves with. I wanted to be considered smart by other people who were considered smart. This meant that I had to be skeptical of any claims not supported by the dominant culture, shucking anything deemed mystical or superstitious. To be considered smart meant carrying an attitude of superiority, even open hostility towards anyone who claimed any truth not stamped with approval by the science of the dominant culture. Now I talk to trees.

My younger self would ridicule my present self, haughtily proclaiming the superiority of his well founded, reasonable ideologies. My present self would pity my younger self, and exit the conversation, too tired to expend what little communicative energy I have on someone so seemingly bereft of the ability to even momentarily entertain an idea that ran contrary to their set of inherited cultural dogma.

It is easy now to see that I was in a trap back then. As most young people are, I was attempting to make my way in a culture of accumulation, and thus I had to look and sound the part if I wanted to be accepted into the fold of “productive society.” Since abandoning any ambitions for career I have taken on various forms of employment to get by, and this has meant a lot of work in bars and restaurants. Briefly, I worked in a breakfast cafe in a college town that was home to a popular business school. Working there I would see students, mostly young white men, sitting at tables wearing ties and speaking in the language they were being conditioned to speak. It was strange to witness. I would wonder exactly where the break happened when these young men decided that they wanted to be just like their fathers. They probably wanted to be called “successful” by other people. They probably wanted to be considered smart. This would mean dressing, speaking, acting, thinking and even at their very core believing as their predecessors had initiated them to. They wanted to be taken seriously.

The year two thousand and fourteen was the hottest year ever recorded on planet Earth. Over the course of the year we were bombarded with statistics highlighting the peril of our time: Fifty percent of animal life has been killed over the last forty years, the Antarctic ice sheet melt has passed the point of no return, and coal use is still on the rise globally. Even the timid, watered down, almost entirely feckless mainstream US environmental movement is starting to make a tiny bit of sense, in noting that capitalism has got to go if we are to survive. Of course, much of what these liberal environmentalists are seeking is capitalist reform, but I digress.

The truth of the matter is that of course capitalism has to go in order to preserve the habitability of the planet. That’s just the beginning. All of industrial civilization must go, but because this is a forbidden concept amongst the serious folk who attend conferences, do media junkets, or – I don’t know – hold a senate seat, it will never even reach the table to be laughed at. The maintenance of the dominant culture requires that certain ideas are forbidden. Such restriction of thought is achieved in a myriad of ways, including by what Noam Chomsky termed, the “manufacturing of consent.” By and large, forbidden ideas are boxed out of public discourse by professionals who frame debate very narrowly, permitting only officially acceptable viewpoints, which then filter down to the masses.

We saw this recently with the uprisings in Ferguson, Missouri. The people of that city fought the police, and many of them had no problem declaring complete and utter disdain for the police as an institution. Despite the nearly five hundred Americans killed by police every year, and the untold number of assaults, robberies, frame ups, false arrests, and rapes committed by uniformed police officers, the dialog of so-called serious people is forbidden to ever move to a discussion of self defense against these villains, let alone abolishing them from civic life. Peter Gelderloos mentions this in his quinessential three part essay, Learning from Ferguson.

To allow people to fight back against the police, or to allow discussion of eliminating the police is forbidden because the police are a necessary component of a society of haves and have nots. In fact, I would be willing to bet there is a strong correlation between people who adamantly and unquestioningly support the police, and personal wealth, for the obvious reason that the more you have the more you have to lose. That means being happy that the taxpayers subsidize the jackboots who prevent even a public forum that might hint at discussing a redistribution of wealth.

After the Vietnam War, the propaganda ministers in the state realized that showing dead bodies on TV and in magazines had a demoralizing effect on the general public. Apparently the American population had some level of functioning empathy for other human beings, so broadcasting the corpses of dead US servicemen and even half burnt Vietnamese children soured their taste for carnage. Since realizing this, the US has locked out media that isn’t “embedded” from war zones, and despite the over a million dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, ten years of war haven’t found themselves plastered on the nightly news in any unbecoming fashion, despite the plentiful material. The children born deformed due to depleted uranium poisoning caused by US munitions should have been enough to wrench even the blood thirstiest of hawk bellies in the US, but their visages were never given a chance.

Forbidding an image and forbidding an idea are both attempted for the same reason; control. If you control what people think, you can control how they act. Even the most ardent critics of US policy will proclaim up and down their patriotism, lest they be banished from serious forums. Sit and think for a few moments and I imagine you could come up with your own short list of forbidden ideas, never to be discussed, not by serious people. Civilization and its dominant culture have been practicing this tactic of control since inception, and there is an idea that has been so terrifying to the rulers of the civilized world that stamping it out has been an ongoing and bloody task for over ten thousand years. The most forbidden of ideas, is that the Earth is alive.

Serious people are concerned with objectivity. They perceive the universe to be a clockwork machine governed by laws and made of various inert bric-a-brac that can be manipulated to serve their purposes. Whether this manifests as a logging company cutting down a forest for timber, a meat packing concern quickening the rate at which they slaughter cows, or bulldozers scraping away layers of Earth in order to access the bitumen deposits beneath, the source of the thinking is the same.  The land is dead. It is raw material waiting to be put to purpose by human hands.  Further, knowledge and understanding of the universe and its lifeless bodies is to be achieved only through the application of western scientific principles. Anything that cannot be observed and quantified with the five human senses does not exist.

Even things that are alive, like trees and animals can be reduced with a trick of thinking into nothing but their component pieces. Trees don’t have brains, so they cannot think or feel or experience, so they are worthless except as corpses.  Animals may have brains, but those brains lack significant cortex or numbers of neurons, and so they cannot think or feel or experience, so they are worthless except as corpses.  Throughout the history of civilization this rationale has been applied to humans as well.  Whenever anyone is in the way of some expectation of power or wealth, they are reduced to nothingness, just a fleshy sum of their cells with a measly few watts of current surging through them.  Not sophisticated, not refined; much like animals really, and animals are worthless except as corpses, so let the homicide begin.  This mental twisting is the death rite of civilization.  It is the lullaby people in business suits sing so they can stay focused on the cash while they order another chimpanzee vivisected, purchase a new gas lease, or sign off on limited airstrikes over a civilian population.

In my life I have walked through forests clear cut for oil pipelines.  I have driven through the shale plays of West Texas.  I have seen copper mines, and coal mines, and all sorts of other massive holes blasted and scraped into the face of the planet.  Many people have seen these things.  Of course, many people work in these places and on these projects.  The difference is that upon the witnessing I feel something very somber that nags at me from the inside.  It is the feeling that gripped you as a child when you saw someone joyfully inflict pain upon someone helpless or weak while you were powerless to interfere. Because of this feeling I could never participate in ecologically destructive activities.  It would feel wrong, like treachery, like stabbing my mother in the gut for a paycheck.

And I think this feeling matters.  This feeling is part of the foundation of my personal ethos from which my principles blossom.  In short, my feelings of connectivity with the living world create in me a sense of responsibility to protect her, and a refusal to accept harming her for personal gain.  Often I wonder why so few people feel this particular empathy, but then I know the answer.  People have been trained by the dominant culture to think of all of these environmentally degrading activities as harmless.  They have been raised since childhood by people themselves raised since childhood to believe that the Earth is dead.  They have been told by respectable people to believe that forests are not alive and that plants do not feel and that at the end of the day, everything is arbitrary and meaningless.  There is an undercoat of nihilism which makes progress possible.

For generations people have been bullied into believing that the nagging in their conscience is an illusion caused by the brain.  When a forest makes you feel good, it is you fooling yourself. When you feel deep love for a place or for other living beings, it is an illusion, merely a sudden influx of serotonin in some receptor in your gray matter.  And who are you anyway?  Just some cells, some neurons, some electricity.  What is your love?  Your desire?  Your fear?  They are nothing.  Reflexes.  Chemicals.  The aimless, endless spinning of molecules through space and time.  Reduce it all down, break it into pieces.  Scatter them until you feel nothing at all. Now go make some money.  Be productive.  For Christ’s sake, be serious.

My friend is indigenous to the land now called Canada.  I ask him what it means to be a warrior, to have as a component of one’s culture a warrior society.  He points me to talks given by other first nations people which elucidate that in various indigenous languages the word “warrior” is understood differently than it is in English.  It isn’t aggressive, on the offense, macho, seeking to conquer.  To be a warrior is to be a shield bearer, a person who takes very seriously their sacred obligation to maintain the health of the land so that it can be passed on for many generations to come.  The ethos of such people forms their worldview, and this worldview informs their actions.  The end result is a relationship with one’s home that is not about domination and taking, but acting with reciprocity. Such a mindset is a barrier against excess and greed and wanton destruction of the land.

Under the dominant culture, there are no sacred obligations.  We are told from birth that work, production, and the pursuit of material wealth is the path taken by serious people.  Those who rebuff their instruction to accumulate for the sake of accumulation are losers and bums.  If one wants to defend their home, such intuitions are bent to the cause of imperial full spectrum dominance.  Home is converted to country, and the battlefield is determined by a board of directors.  This is not an ethos with a future.  It is a toxic set of ideas and myths that will guide human minds to the edge of the world and then over.  This idea is a parasite, and its hosts are pushing the ecosystems of the Earth to the brink.

My friend tells me about the deal the wolf made with mother Earth:

The wolf signed a contract with Mother Earth. The contract is this. The wolf may compete with all other life for survival. The wolf may not force other life into extinction for the purpose of eliminating competition. The wolf may not damage habitat to eliminate competition. The wolf may not wage war to prevent other life from feeding on the wolf. If the wolf abides by these laws and is able to compete, the wolf will survive in brotherhood with all other life. All life signs this contract, except for a group of humans. Until those people sign on the dotted line they will be doomed. They may already be doomed.

What strikes me about this is that to make a contract with another is to stand as equals.  Speaking of other beings or of the living planet herself as even able to enter into a contract is to grant to them the deference that they exist as you do; alive, dignified, valuable.

The dominant culture never seeks to stand equal with anything.  It seeks only to dominate.  It never presents obligations to its acolytes to defend other beings or the land.  It makes demands of the land.  The stark differences between these two perspectives is striking.  One asks you to be a warrior and to take up a shield in defense of your mother. The other commands you to take up a sword – or a plow, or an axe, or a bulldozer – and to plunge it into her breast.

I am not in any way suggesting that non-native people need to appropriate native culture.  What I am suggesting is that if the ethos of civilization goes unchallenged, then no matter how much awareness is raised and no matter how much people try to convert modern industrial society into a sustainable twin of itself, they will find only failure.  After all, as Terrence McKenna said and I have oft quoted, culture is our operating system, and the dominant culture has a starting point where the land is already dead, so how then can it take us anywhere but to a future where this founding principle is materialized?  Garbage in, garbage out.

How we go about changing the ethics, myths, and founding truths of people trapped in the cage of industrial civilization is not something I have a prescription for.  In “The Road” Cormac McCarthy wrote:

Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.

So I walk my land and I talk to the trees. Maybe they can hear me and maybe they can’t.  All of the serious people will laugh at my wasted breath.  Smart people will try to convince me that I am only talking to myself.  And maybe they are right.  Maybe I am a madman babbling over hill and holler.  But I can tell you this much for certain; I will never cut these trees down, and neither will my daughter.  So in the end, who gives a damn?

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§ 31 Responses to Forbidden Thoughts and Sacred Obligations

  • Autumn Leaves Cascade says:

    On the topic of talking to trees, here’s an excerpt from my writing on Animism:

    Many people nowadays will speak phrases like “this book really speaks to me”, but if we say this of a tree, that the tree “speaks to me”, we face derision for “superstition”, we face models of “rationality” and “sanity” enforced by a culture that removes life and wildness at maximum pace. But a tree is really alive, a book is not! A book is actually a dead tree, so the dominant culture can only hear the ghost. Ironic, eh? If I have a cut and find a pine tree for pine sap, which is antiseptic, the tree might even spare my life from fatal infection. The living tree can save my life as well as any written survival manual. Additionally, a tree can evoke thoughts and feelings no less valid than symbolic communication. The dominant culture over-values speaking and under-values listening and observing. With proper awareness we can very often learn valuable insights, even without the mediation of symbols. The mulberry tree in my front yard will evoke feelings and memories of childhood belonging and playfulness as long as it stands. It will “speak to me” as long as I listen.

    What does it mean to see a mountain as alive? Most people in industrial civilization scoff at notions like that, but when I see the mountain I see a habitat full of vitality, a habitat that often supports a plethora of lifeforms. I see minerals that become lifeforms that become minerals again. I see majesty. I see wildness. Even a mountain without much greenery I see as essentially dormant like the seed, just waiting for the right time to burst forth with life.

  • Griggsy (aka A.B.) says:

    Brilliant. The best you’ve written yet.

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

  • Richard W. Posner says:

    Reblogged this on The Rise and Fall of the Human Empire and commented:
    Now I almost feel I can stop writing new posts of my own. This says it all and more eloquently than I ever could.

  • johnnyonthefarm says:

    Ferguson strikes me as a bad example of anything. Anyone, regardless of color, who decides to beat up on a cop and give them an excuse to prove that unarmed folks usually lose in battles to armed folks is only proving that Darwin was right. I mean really, go jump off a bridge if you want to kill yourself, no point in getting whitey involved.

    Our mostly white country is now being run by the minorities, it becomes far more difficult to pretend that the color of ones skin is much of an issue anymore.

    As far as “in the end who gives a damn”, you are exactly right, expressing your, and the species, insignificance in this way. I mentioned this in past comments. At the end of the day, what people do really doesn’t matter. We are ephemeral, and the planet and biosphere less so. So once we off ourselves, in one way or another, or a decent gamma burst cleanses the surface, the planet and biosphere can get along with the next evolutionary experiment.

    • td0s says:

      I approved this comment because I approve all non-spam, however I find it to be full of ignorance. I wont bother unpacking it, as I trust my readers to be smart enough to do that for themselves.

  • Richard W. Posner says:

    The “smoking gun” that murdered the human species is:

    Inherited and acquired psychological disorders and ignorance of their existence and nature are the primal causes of evil. The magic number of 6% seems to represent the number of humans who either carry the genes responsible for biological evil or who acquire such disorders in the course of their lifetime. This small percent is responsible for the vast majority of human misery and crime, and for infecting others with their flawed view of the world.”

    And the trigger of that gun is population

    It seems that humans are best adapted to Life in small groups with a maximum of no more than 150 members. Personally I think even 150 is too many.

    For most of human evolution the laws of Nature set the limits to growth, as, inevitably, they always will. Humans did not – could not – push against those limits to any significant degree prior to the Neolithic “revolution” and the onset of the disease we have come to think of as civilisation.

  • Idiocracy says:

    Great post. As a fellow drop-out/fugitive from western civilisations consumer culture, your thoughts very much resonated with me.

    The narrative of the dominant culture is indeed an insidious thing, indocrinating the young, generation after generation, for a lifetime of servitude/entrapment in it’s virtual cage.

    But to the point of your below conundrum, although admittedly difficult, it is possible to unlearn this narrative. I’ve long thought the best way for anybody to do this is to start by reading Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael series.

    If that doesn’t change your mind, then I’m sorrry to say, but there’s likely no hope for you… 🙂

    “How we go about changing the ethics, myths, and founding truths of people trapped in the cage of industrial civilization is not something I have a prescription for.”

    • td0s says:

      Thanks for the comments, glad you liked the read. I guess I meant that I dont have a solid solution for some sort of massive wave of awareness. One by one, some people can, if they themselves seek it, begin to decolonize their minds.

      • Idiocracy says:

        I’ve got you now, and I completely agree!

        Sad to say, but it will likely take some irreparable global calamity before “the masses” and our “leaders” are left with no option other than to change their ways…

      • td0s says:

        Whoever is left among them.

    • Johnny says:

      As someone born into life on a farm and scrabbling in the dirt, trapping and hunting for protein and doing those abominable chores, I would say that I found it far more satisfying to drop out of that lifestyle and into the modern world.

      Never did rising early in the morning mean so much as when it is done along the east coast of Maine near Bar Harbor, or sunset viewed along the coast near Big Sur. Dealing with feral dogs chasing the sheep never stacked up to camping on the Kenai and backing away from the occasional brown bear you might bump into. Skydiving, Richard Petty’s NASCAR school, watching a shuttle launch, dancing at a WV hoedown or in a Las Vegas dance club.

      I return to the land where I was raised once a year, and when I sit back down at the old dinner table, and enjoy conversations with my friends from as far back as elementary school, you can see their vitality drained away, each successive year being one less season of time for them to experience the full joy of what a human life can be. They enjoy the conversation because the plants don’t talk back, they live their lives in silence and boredom, until enough of their intellectual capabilities fade away and their life continues only though muscle memory and habit.

      There is just something that destroys the soul, day after day of repetitive labor, life and time draining away with each season of sweet corn and tomatoes, until there is nothing left but the shell of a human, with nothing to look back on or forward to except more of the same. Hoping for something better in the afterlife being the only optimism they can muster.

      Enjoy the farm. Being raised there was all the experience I needed to know that almost anything would be better…and it turns out…certainly has been.

      • Idiocracy says:

        Who said anything about farming?

        I’m not at all surprised about your experience as an agriculturalist… forming the veritable foundations of civilisation is undoubtedly tough work – mother nature is not an easy opponent (because thats what agriculture is… a system fighting against natural processes). Thats why I practice permaculture which works with and enhances natural processes to produce abundant sustinance for me, while still offering plenty of leisure time. And frankly if your friends are silently bored, thats their own problem, not the land’s.

        Now, living on the upper-rungs of civilisation is no doubt a very cumfortable ride, with ample worldly experienes and entertainment to behold. BUT (there’s always a but) your life of excess comes at the expense of many other human and non-human lives, indeed at the expense of the very planet itself (global warming, slave labour, toxic waste, deforestation, Middle Eastern resource wars, need I say more…)!

        How do you think your conscience will fare when explaining the state of the world to your future grandchildren? I can say mine is clearing now that I’m out of the rat race.

        So, by all means, enjoy suckling from the bountiful milky teat of western civilisation, while you still can! And I’ll continue living simply, so that future generations may simply live.

      • td0s says:

        Well put. Very well put.

      • Richard W. Posner says:

        Thank you. Very well said and spot on.

  • joannheydron says:

    I’m very grateful for this article. I want to add something about the police. Most TV dramas now work to endear the police to us, humanize them, separate the many good police from the few bad, insist that there ARE good police–officers who are right-minded, responsible people who attempt to evaluate the situations they find themselves in before acting. I once tried to count the number of police dramas on TV but lost interest at about #80. This is our entertainment–if we’re desperate enough (sometimes I am) to need it. It’s not just the ridiculous 24-7 news cycle with its skewed “objectivity.” It’s the rest of TV too. A small point, I guess, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it since Ferguson.

    • Richard W. Posner says:

      Not a small point at all. There’ nothing insignificant about the indoctrination system that grinds away at us from cradle to grave, 24/7/365.

  • Luke Warm says:

    This essay reminds me of a song by ascetic Evangelical musician Rich Mullins.

    “INTRO ~ What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be human?
    I cannot help but suspect that at one time in the history of thinking
    that people believed that it meant that we were spiritual and that we
    could make choices and were capable of aspiring to higher ideals…
    like maybe loyalty or maybe faith… or maybe even love.
    But now we are told by people who think they know, that we vary from
    amoeba only in the complexity of our makeup and not in what we
    essentially are. They would have us think as Dysart said that we are
    forever bound up in certain genetic reins – that we are merely products
    of the way things are and not free – not free to be the people who make
    them that way. They would have us see ourselves as products so that
    we could believe that we were something to be made – something to
    be used and then something to be disposed of. Used in their wars –
    used for their gains and then set aside when we get in their way.
    Well, who are they? They are the few who sit at the top of the heap –
    dung heap though it is – and who say it is better to reign in Hell than
    to serve in Heaven. Well, I do not know that we can have a Heaven
    here on earth, but I am sure we need not have a Hell either.
    What does it mean to be human? I cannot help but believe that it means
    we are spiritual – that we are responsible and that we are free – that
    we are responsible to be free.”

    “When I was back in high school
    They said boy try and make some sense
    Grow up and be a consumer
    And not a dissident
    Don’t worry ’bout the system
    Just watch out for yourself
    It sounded just like the wisdom
    That comes straight out of Hell
    They said (shut up) don’t make no ripples
    (Shut up) don’t raise no stink
    I heard so much of their drivel
    It’s a wonder I can think”

    For a Christian like Mullins or myself, anything sacred cannot be disconnected from the overarching sacredness of God, and any sacred obligation essentially gets processed as an obligation to God. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I believe Christianity does include a sacred obligation to care for the planet; of course, this is subject to Christianity’s view of human “nature” as distorted and fallen from the original design. And dominant culture-“the world” in Evangelical lingo-has co-opted mainstream Christianity to such a degree that any idea of obligation to the Earth is perceived as a duty to “subdue”, i. e. crush, it rather than to “have dominion over”, a term which properly understood in a Christian context actually means to care for as a servant.

    I like the First Nations concept of the warrior as primarily defensive and reciprocal, rather than offensive and escalating as the Western ideal has become.

  • vinny says:

    I really enjoyed this article. Its nice when you find someone who thinks alone the same lines, especially when the entire dominant culture instills the opposite you can feel like a lonly road. But i would never change my love for the natural world..

  • Neo agrarian says:

    “We know enough of our own history by now to be aware that people exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love.”
    Wendell Berry / Life is a miracle: an essay against modern superstition

    • Richard W. Posner says:

      Problem is, very few people seem to really Love anything anymore.

      • Neo agrarian says:

        I’ve reluctantly conceded, over time, that it is likely true that people don’t much love anything that matters. I won’t argue with that generally. I’ve seen plenty of evidence for it. But where does that leave us? It seems that if we succumb to easy oversimplification, we group people into one of two categories: those who are clueless, blithely indifferent, inured to the effects of their participation in the ‘metastasis’, and those who do ‘get it’, and are cynically resigned. Surely, there has to be a middle. While I acknowledge that at the meta-scale the whole human project is likely to crash and burn, I don’t ‘get off’ marinating in the hopelessness of passive doomerism. If I did, I would not bother getting up in the morning. I would not do all the things I do – like plant garlic in the fall, grow my own food, raise my own meat, teach people how to save seeds etc. I would not do anything that implies anticipation of any sort of future. All you can really do is carve out a bit of sanity for yourself where it matters – in your own ‘habitat’. I’ve long since stopped listening to people who fly around the planet instructing us as to how we are going to “save the world”. If you need any elaboration on what I’ve tried to say (however unclearly!) I would be glad to oblige. Cheerio!

      • Richard W. Posner says:

        Very nicely put Neo. You’re very articulate and easily understood. Further “elaboration” might not be necessary but would also not be unwelcome.

        I hope you’re not thinking of sticking me into your second category, the ““cynically resigned“. If that’s indeed the case then I’ve been remiss in my attempts at expressing my thoughts and opinions.

        While I have come to the conclusion that the collapse of our “civilisation is inevitable, I do not advocate simply “throwing in the towel” and carrying on with business as usual. Some say “there’s nothing we can do so we might as well enjoy ourselves while we can“. I’m not a member of that club.

        My reasoning goes something like this: since we know what’s coming and we know it can’t be prevented [this dominator culture is unsustainable and irredeemable] the best thing we can do is prepare. What you’re doing – “like plant garlic in the fall, grow my own food, raise my own meat, teach people how to save seeds etc” – seems, at least to me, to fall into the category of preparation.

        In particular I think we should be teaching the young about what the future is likely to hold and how to best survive in it.

        In a best case scenario there might be some sort of global epiphany leading to a unified, world wide project to carefully and rationally deindustrialise and uncivilise, to take down civilisation intentionally with the goal of keeping the pain and suffering to a minimum. Chances of this happening – less than zero.

        The longer it takes for this civilisation to collapse or the longer we wait to bring it down ourselves, the worse it will be for anything that survives through and after the crash.

        I think there’s still an opportunity for us to soften the landing and plant the seeds for a future civilisation based upon a partnership culture, not one of domination and Pathocracy like today’s.

        Just my opinion

    • Neo agrarian says:

      Thanks for your considered reply. When I said “and those who do ‘get it’, and are cynically resigned” I was not referring to anyone in particular, least of all you. I could not possibly make the arrogant assumption that I have ‘sized you up’, or anyone else here. (This is merely the internet after all, and people are complex beings.) Rather, I was making a sweeping generalization (which is often dangerous, I know) based on what I see and come across, both in the ‘real world’ an online. But let’s face it, none of us immune from bouts of ‘cynical resignation’. How could one have an encompassing awareness of the situation and NOT be? What I want to get across though is not some kind of final value judgement (e.g. resignation is BAD!) but to spark a recognition and conversation about any merit or validity to this perception – i.e. the ‘sweeping generalization’.

      Let me be frank and sincere: in the orbit of my own lived, physical life – I don’t know of a singular human soul with whom I can have an informed, emotionally mature discussion about some of the realities that we are currently embedded within, and that surround us like a tightly wound armature. Why does this matter? Because we each live our lives in a particular physical and temporal realm – Here and Now – and our lives are not categories or abstractions. So, the possibility of uncensored and open discussion at that level, rather than in some no-place and no-time (i.e. the internet), at least stands some chance of reconciling at the level of experienced reality – where we actually live our lives. Cryptic enough?!?

      So let’s say I/we can have liberating and fulfilling discussions with other like-minded ‘collapsitarians’ and ‘doomers’ online and we all more or less agree & ‘get it’. Yes, Virginia, things are really fucked and it doesn’t look good! At the end of the day (or ‘End of Days’ – take your pick!) where does that leave us? We feel a little better? The inexorable incineration of life on earth (and our puny selves) is somehow a little more palatable, because we’ve at least ‘talked about it’?

      I sometimes wonder whether we were ‘meant’ to think or consider or declare on behalf of ‘the planet’ or ‘humanity’ or on any of the other gigantic scales that seem so normative these days. You don’t have to go far to find examples of this kind of ‘head-space’ or language. I’m guilty of it myself.

      I’ve thought long and hard about this, in my own limited way. “We” seem to be too easily given to a kind of ‘largesse’ of language that would have seemed entirely alien to even our relatively recent forebearers. Perhaps they were more attuned to limits than we are, or they just did not have the means and instruments at their disposal. Or, as JHK has said, they were possessed of an intuitive sense of the ‘tragedy’ of life. That is : behaviour has consequences and ramifications.

      I am uncomfortable with the by now common convention (and once again, I am not immune to it) of making vast, sweeping , declarative statements without qualification. Let’s get one thing straight : When “we” claim things like “we” need to cut greenhouse gases, “we” are fucked, “we” this and “we” that, “we” are in fact referring to those of us who are presently heir to a particular cultural/historical inheritance that seems to have had its roots in western European expansionism and extractivist cosmology, and likely further in the mists of time. “We – talk” (as I call it) does not seem to include those who are not part of the conversation – the innumerable cultures, traditions and lifeways that were just going about their business and staying out of trouble in the mere living of their lives. Nobody could make the argument that, for instance, the Inuit seal hunter would EVENTUALLY cause climate change.

      Most of them no longer exist – they have been bulldozed into oblivion, deprived of their habitats and freedoms, so that the likes of you and I can tap away on our devices while the grid is still up, the store shelves are stocked, and the gas is, of course, at the pumps. What a Faustian bargain the whole Control Imperative has been!

      What is language after all?…a series of scratches and chirps left behind by a lost longing to be heard and affirmed.

      I welcome your insights and criticisms.

      I’m off to feed the durned chickens!

      P.S. : I would not have parachuted in to this blog if I didn’t identify with the excellent writing in the posts and consequent stimulation of (mostly reasonable!) discussion.

  • Transplant says:

    Wow. So very well said. Forbidden thoughts sums up many attempts at conversations I’ve had on a number of topics for over a decade, since before discovering LATOC. It really is amazing to see someone almost panic when presented with a taboo idea, especially when it’s snuck up on them with a well reasoned, scientific argument that doesn’t leave much wiggle room (such as collapse). Thank you, and please keep it up!

  • […] a reasoned view of our shared situation read Forbidden Thoughts and Sacred Obligations by TDoS at Pray for Calamity or Nature Bats […]

  • I’m so moved to find your blog – and relieved to find this post, so eloquently put. Why? Because you are speaking plain truth in a world filled with denial and separation from Nature and the rest of the world beyond humanity, and especially humans still living close and in concert with the land. it’s easy to spout a bunch of nonsense with the luxuries “civilized” societies have (that cut us off from experiencing the rest of the world – and the dying.

    I can breathe when I read this – because you speak the truth that no one but a very few wants to hear or know, but it’s necessary to know it. I spend most of my days out in Nature; have for most of my life, so I know through my senses and years of observations over time. I walk around and talk to the trees, the rocks, all creatures. I am dying too – of a broken heart. People don’t want me to talk about all this “negative” stuff because it’s a “downer.” It’s like when you know you are dying and everyone says “get well soon” in their perkiest cheerful voices and pasted on smiles as they back away. And then you finally get the diagnosis – terminal – and you feel finally validated and less crazy. So yeah, this broken heartedness can be here with your words. Because I love the earth. And I despair of reaching anyone where it will motivate them to do something – they’re locked so deep in their fear. because it is huge and terrifying – that they all pretend the “patient” (earth) will be “fine” – and if it throws humanity off like the parasites we are, it just might survive and have enough life forms to start over. But truly most of us – including the “permaculturists” planting exotic invasives – have no clue about living in harmony with natural processes that have been here for millions of years. We FUCK with Nature, seemingly with whatever we do.

    I hope this makes sense. Thank you for your writings. Thanks for not cutting the trees.

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