There Will Be Blood

February 11, 2015 § 32 Comments

“He said that men believe the blood of the slain to be of no consequence but that the wolf knows better. He said that the wolf is a being of great order and that it knows what men do not: that there is no order in this world save that which death has put there.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

In Theodore Kacynski’s manifesto, “Industrial Society and Its Future,” he lays out many premises concerning the existence of man in relation to technology and technological societies. One of these premises is that modern people in technological societies are afraid of death because they have never lived. They have not used their bodies, minds, and souls to their full potential, and thus even in old age, feel like they are yet to begin. Kacynski writes about the primitive man who in his sixties, having seen the successful life of his child and feeling the weariness in his muscles and bones, does not fear, but welcomes his turn to sleep. Where these intuitions were passed on, cultures of indigenous peoples were able to form warrior societies whose success rested on the fact that individual braves had no fear of death. They viewed themselves as one with their people and their land, both of which were timeless, granting them strength of conviction when the situation called for it.

When we hear of people dying in our culture, such news is often quickly followed with statements about the unfairness of one dying so young. Even a fifty-year-old heart attack victim will generally be granted laments and declarations that their passing was too early. While of course the loss of a loved one is saddening, there does appear to be a trend throughout this culture that seems to speak of death as if it is not the ultimate outcome of every life. Death, like the environment, is but another inconvenience to be conquered by our cleverness.

In this culture, there is language of “rights” concerning life. It is said that individuals have a “right” to life, meaning then that death is some violation against the individual. There are even those who would like to extend such rights to animals. No one, according to modern people enculturated by the dominant dogmas, is supposed to die. Ever.

Of course, every living being is only so for a limited time. Death and birth are two phases in the same biological process, and where there is the latter, inevitably we will come to the former. What I find so maddening, is that this culture, so lacking in its ability to confront death, let alone to create and support the psychological and emotional infrastructure to deal with death, is such an efficient bringer of death. How a people so vocally dedicated to peace and the preservation of life can then unflinchingly create nuclear and biological weapons, institute economic castes which immiserate the majority to establish the privilege of the minority, and daily exterminate upwards of two hundred species is possibly the grand irony of our time.

The mind reels.

When just last month, the study “Planetary Boundaries: Guiding Human Development on a Changing Planet,” was released, it got a lot of traction across the internet. The study, prepared by eighteen scientists from various international universities, grabbed headlines by claiming that human civilization had crossed four of nine environmental boundaries.

Of course such studies digitally shared from hard drive, to hard drive, to hard drive have never served to accomplish much in the way of real world action towards deindustrialization, and likely this one was and will remain no different. The trend seems to be that alarming data confirming that human industrial civilization is driving the global ecology to ruin, likely even to the near term detriment of this very civilization, only ends up spurring on those who believe that human industrial civilization can be done in a less harmful way, perhaps with the addition of more solar panels or the subtraction of capitalist motives.

Those who dare argue that civilization, and industrial civilization in particular, is the root cause of the destructive habits which are bringing all living beings to a point of potential collapse or extinction, are routinely dismissed as extreme. Such critics, before dismissal, are reminded of the dominant culture’s primary directive; “We cannot go backwards.” Suggestions that we must, in order to maintain a survivable habitat, drastically reduce reliance on industrial methods, products, and infrastructure are waved off as impossible, insane, or even genocidal. Defenders of the dominant culture and systems of industrial civilization claim that such reductions in technological application will axiomatically mean reductions in human population, and thus are off the table. These claimants are either oblivious to the fact that “going forward” with the methods and practices of the dominant culture would be at least equally genocidal, if not more so, or they harbor a quasi religious belief that human invention will save us from every single problem caused by previous scores of human invention. Always ignored is the clear fact that so called “going forward” will mean an increase in human population before the ecosystems which support them collapse, meaning there will be more humans to die when drought, famine, sea level rise, resource scarcity, and every other calamity currently rising to crescendo ultimately manifest in a symphony of systemic failures that existing political, technological, and economic structures are incapable of mitigating

And then there are the non-human genotypes that most defenders of the dominant culture refuse to ever enter into their calculations.

When someone refuses to acknowledge a solution to a problem because it will indirectly involve death – even when the solution in question is attempting to select fewer deaths sooner as opposed to a great many more deaths later – this person is inserting hidden premises into the discussion, the most obvious of which is that people alive now have the right to exhaust the health of the land which people not yet born will need to rely on in the future. If upon the suggestion that we must globally act to deindustrialize in order to prevent overwhelming climate catastrophe, a person floats the counter argument that such deindustrialization will result in a reduction of currently available medical technologies, and is therefore an unacceptable proposition, this person is inserting into the discussion a premise that the lives of those who would no longer have access to the medical technologies they require are more valuable – this is to say, they have more of a right to survival – than the lives that will be lost – human and non – when industrial civilization fails and brings down with it the functioning ecology of the planet.

Such premises, to me, seem insane. A patent refusal to acknowledge the bare reality that all life, including human life, requires as a foundation a healthy and viable habitat is either obstinacy or a shameful level of ignorance. Claiming that one group of humans has more of a right to survival than others, or that humans have more of a right to survival than the rest of the web of life, is doubly insane.

At the end of it all, defenders of the status quo are not defending life, they are defending lifestyle. Proponents of the dominant culture and its myths of progress are really arguing for their own comfort, of both body and mind. Changing nothing presents no difficult ethical questions or messy physical conflicts. Going forward is the easy choice. This fact alone should ring alarm bells.

Why is death so unacceptable? If we cannot come to grips with death, then we will find ourselves collectively at an impasse where no necessary action will be taken, and industrial civilization will continue unimpeded on its course devouring forests, wiping out species after species, washing away topsoil, and rendering the oceans a lifeless acidic soup of plastics in various stages of photo decay. Somewhere buried in all of this is yet another premise; that to elect the death of even one is unacceptable, but to remain passive while existing systems dole out death to many is forgivable. Human agency seems to be the determining factor. The people who own and operate chemical plants that cause regional cancer clusters in children are forgiven. A death by one million pinpricks is too diffuse to assign blame. On the other hand, to intentionally kill the CEO of such a chemical company would be an outrage. It would be a tragedy. People on TV would say he died too young.

The dominant culture not only protects those high on its hierarchy, blurring lines of responsibility for the actions they take in the name of progress, but it also blinds every day people from the realities of just how it is they come to have the things that they do. Major systems of production and distribution that segregate individuals from the sources of their food, their clothing, the materials that built their homes, the fuels that power their cars and gadgets, create an illusory sense of existence. If a person perceives that food comes from a grocery store, gasoline from a pump, shoes from an online retailer, it is reasonable to believe then that this person’s perceptions have been skewed into believing that nothing must ever die for us to consume whatever we want in whatever quantities we desire. As long as the blood is on someone else’s hands in some other land far from sight, then there is no blood at all. It is this willful blindness to the day to day functioning of industrial civilization on the part of the world’s wealthier populations that allows a people draped in slave made textiles who are kept fed by the mechanistic rape of stolen land powered by stolen oil to stare up with their doe eyes and without a hint of irony ask, “But why do they hate us?”

So it is that so often we hear the claims of “green” capitalists who declare we can have our planet and kill it too. We are to shut our eyes and believe that solar panels, electric cars, fair trade mocha lattes, soy burgers, iPads, internet service, and all of the pills and processes in a modern hospital all just manifest from the ether. The rainforests clear cut, the oceanic dead zones caused by agricultural run off, the open pit mines, the oil spills, the nitro-tri-fluoride and other greenhouse gasses, and all of the whips and prods physical and not that herd about the masses of humans who do all the lifting, stitching, assembling, dismembering, and dying to bring such wonders to our shopping carts just don’t add up to dry shit.

That is how the dominant culture deals with death. It hides it. And when it can’t hide it any longer, it calls it “business.”

Various indigenous tribes have been able to maintain steady populations. In fact, for millennia, a handful of commonplace practices aided in keeping a tribe or band’s numbers in check. Breastfeeding infants until they were four years old helped prevent mother’s menstrual cycles from resurging, thereby keeping birth numbers down. The use of abortifactant herbs also helped women in the event of untimely pregnancies. When a group’s population was at a point where another child would bring great hardship, some tribal people would turn to infanticide. Picture the heartbreaking scene, as a mother lays a newborn infant on a cold hillside to freeze as the sun sets on a winter day. On the other end, tribes would at times decide not to work to heal ailing elderly members, and instead would begin ceremonial death rites when an older person fell ill.

This is the cultural imperative I am interested in. The ability of a people to confront the hard reality of their lives, and to make the soul wrenching choices that they must make in order to survive is not present in the civilized paradigm, not when it comes to allowing death. This is a delicate topic, to be sure, but one of necessary import as the world now hosts almost eight billion people, while conversely non-renewable resources are consumed at increasing rates, and the ecology is pushed beyond the breaking point.

Cultures that accept the inevitability of death create ceremonies and social forms for processing death. This is not to suggest that these people do not feel the pain of loss when a loved one passes, but rather to highlight that they develop a maturity surrounding death. They can talk about it. They can incorporate it into their survival strategies. They do not treat it as a cosmic betrayal of the individual’s right to exist for seventy-five years before a midnight expiration in a beach condo in Florida. Most importantly, cultures that make room for death do not become locked into a suicidal social paradigm, refusing to veer in their direction because doing so would result in the death of some, even when going forward would result in the death of all.

In my last essay I spoke of needing a new cultural ethos in order to prevent the wanton annihilation of the Earth’s life giving systems. This psychological and spiritual evolution must include maturity in the matters of death. Culturally, we must not shun death from our view, for when we do, we push his presence beyond sight, but not beyond efficiency. Beyond the hedge where death lurks ignored by modern man, he does his work still, and he plots against those who believe they have banished him with their cleverness. He plans a great party indeed.

My daughter is nearly a year old. She is my connection to the future, as my parents and ancestors are my connection to the past. I love her to my core, each cell in my body resonating with an urge to guard her, protect her, and to see to her survival. I think about the emptiness that would devour me if she were to die, so I do have a sense of the gravity concerning that which I have written. I look at my little girl, and the truth of life comes to me plain as the new day: we cannot banish sorrow. Heartache is the handmaiden of joy. The history of our species is the history of finding the strength to endure when it seems that all is lost, and when we see no reason to go on, feeling that the ground holds us still.

The complex problems we face require sober, adult analysis, but here and now we lack the methods and ceremonies necessary to act as a mature culture. Our unwillingness at all levels to confront uncomfortable realities has made dangerous adolescents of us, as our orgy of consumption and self aggrandizement has pushed the planet to the brink. There are tasks which demand our collective attention, and undertaking them, while necessary, will not be without consequence. There are few good options on the table before us. Meeting such difficult questions head on, with humility and grace, is the mark of greatness.

It is time to ask, “who are we?” and “who do we want to be?” As we stand right now, we are a belligerent cult of ego, drunk on the self, screaming our greatness as we charge forth trampling everything underfoot. We have a lot of work to do, and not nearly enough time to do it. Death rides whether we call to him or not.

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§ 32 Responses to There Will Be Blood

  • […] TDoS Cross posted from Prayforcalamity.com […]

  • “The complex problems we face require sober, adult analysis, but here and now we lack the methods and ceremonies necessary to act as a mature culture.”

    You have everything you need to do the right thing. You end like the people you are criticizing – the ones who say they cannot change.

  • Reblogged this on Joseph Ratliff's Notepad and commented:
    Especially the last two paragraphs.

  • brendoncrook says:

    Reblogged this on Pantheist Heritage.

  • Johnny says:

    Yeah, I don’t buy the original premise. Folks are always afraid of death, recognizing early in life that we really aren’t indestructible, even if we pretend to be.

    And warrior cultures didn’t work out so well when faced with the likes of a modern army, bravery is nice, but a Marine with his rifle, afraid or not, isn’t just going to stand there and let someone “warrior” all over them without getting in their own licks. And with what we know about history, the Marines are still here, and those warrior cultures make good topics for ivory tower academic to teach college students about, but not much else.

    • td0s says:

      Thats not the thesis, that people didnt fear death, the thesis is that people had cultures that accepted death as a reality, built emotional archetecture to handle it, and that in turn lead some of them to reach a point where they did not fear death.

      But fearing it or not is pnt the point, accepting its inevitability, is.

      And warrior societies worked very well, it was disease that ravaged north american natives. No warrior society can fight off an unceasing wave of more and more soldiers after their own numbers had been so thinned by plague.

      • Johnny says:

        Doesn’t help that the opponent has a better system for fighting a war either.

      • td0s says:

        Of course it doesnt help, but it really has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

      • Idiocracy says:

        Don’t give western colonialists too much credit now Johnny… they had a geographical advantage after all! Read Jared Diamond’s “Gun’s, Germ’s and Steel” to understand why they came to conquer and dominate indigenous peoples right across the world.

        Hint: it has little to nothing to do with superiority of combat strategies/tactics.

  • Reblogged this on Deep Green Resistance New York and commented:
    “If a person perceives that food comes from a grocery store, gasoline from a pump, shoes from an online retailer, it is reasonable to believe then that this person’s perceptions have been skewed into believing that nothing must ever die for us to consume whatever we want in whatever quantities we desire. As long as the blood is on someone else’s hands in some other land far from sight, then there is no blood at all. It is this willful blindness to the day to day functioning of industrial civilization on the part of the world’s wealthier populations that allows a people draped in slave made textiles who are kept fed by the mechanistic rape of stolen land powered by stolen oil to stare up with their doe eyes and without a hint of irony ask, “But why do they hate us?”

  • Richard says:

    It is time to ask, “who are we?” and “who do we want to be?” As we stand right now, we are a belligerent cult of ego, drunk on the self, screaming our greatness as we charge forth trampling everything underfoot. We have a lot of work to do, and not nearly enough time to do it. Death rides whether we call to him or not.

    Somewhere, sometime, during the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic, the Wétiko found the way to gain enough personal power to overwhelm the social power of the forager culture that had kept the human species alive and evolving up to that point; five or six million years if you care to consider our most ancient known ancestors.

    When psychopaths rule, the people are told who they are and what they want to be by the Pathocracy. The “cult of ego“, the anthropocentric hubris are not the natural state of Homo sapiens.

    When a society is forced to adapt to psychopathic domination, most people, blinded by indoctrination, normalcy bias, denial and willful ignorance, will accept the pathological nature of the system as “normal” and make every effort to conform to it. Screaming greatness, trampling everything become normalised. The inevitable outcome, the destruction, the extinguishing of Life, all the hallmarks of “civilisation” are externalised allowing them to be ignored, taken for granted.

    Humanity has struggled in the grip of this disease for at least ten thousand years. Until this sickness is extirpated, until the Wétiko is eliminated or neutralised, the needed work will never be done.

    Therefore, if anything is wrong, take it out of its place and put it in the vessel that is between your neighbor and yourself… For love of mankind, create a vessel into which you can catch all that damned poison. For it must be somewhere – it is always somewhere – and not to catch it, to say it doesn’t exist, gives the best chance to any germ.
    Jack D. Forbes

  • […] posted from Prayforcalamity.com […]

  • Dredd says:

    The complex problems we face require sober, adult analysis, but here and now we lack the methods and ceremonies necessary to act as a mature culture.”

    Well said.

  • Suzanne says:

    Td0s This is an excellent article. Thank you. You have connected the dots that many don’t see, imo. If we can’t face our own deaths, and the meaning of death in the context of life, we live a fantasy. Fantasies can be dangerous if one thinks they are reality. We lack meaningful ritual and social structures that encompass deep realities of life. We are children, and reckless ones at that.

  • Lidia17 says:

    The “complex problems we face” require vasectomies, to begin with.

  • […] Those planetary boundaries are no surprise to readers of this blog: climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, biogeochemical flows, land-system change, and freshwater use.  Cue the bleating from the denialists.  As well-intentioned as this report is, it is likely to reside in the same drawer, ignored, where similar reports reside.  Find an excellent essay on this theme here. […]

  • Tom M. says:

    I’m 55 and never considered bringing babies to this planet we’re destroying through overpopulation and consumerism. I read “The Limits to Growth” (which is now being proven incredibly accurate), looked at what was happening to the natural world, joined Zero Population Growth years ago (now VHEMT), and currently continue to support Planned Parenthood, etc. When I meet a self-designated environmentalist who has had children, I know immediately what I’m dealing with: a part-time hobbyist with shallow inclinations who wants to appear iconoclastic and hip or an ambitious careerist out for the money, such as Charles Eisenstein, born in 1967, who has bred 4 children thus far.

    There is no possible way that you were paying attention to the relevant issues if you decided that having a child was a good choice for the planet or for the child. Albert Bartlett’s exponential growth just ain’t that difficult to absorb. Most humans are ego-driven; unfortunately, that won’t change.

    • td0s says:

      I dint need to prove my chops to you. Come live a day where i live, off grid, cutting up roadkill deer for dinner, and tell me again how you are superior to me.

      You didnt breed, great. Thanks. I still think that people should, albeit at much lower rates than they have over the past century or two. Human extinction isnt my goal, so i would hope that there are still some children.

      This “Nobody should have children” meme is just as stupid, frankly, as half the other clap trap that comes out of the modern industrial environmental movement. Whats next, buy a prius? I take my cues from watching nature, and life continues itself. Decimating other life, to continue your own, is foul, and nature smacks you back for that. But to stop living, of which birth and death have a role, is not somehow getting more in tune with the natural world.

  • ecofascist says:

    Speaking off-hand, I would say that death, and nature, order reality through inequality.

    Wouldn’t the wholehearted embrace of perpetual inequality make you effectively ecofascist? A lot of leftist revolutionary ideas certainly die permanently once you embrace full primitivism, as Ted K pointed out. I think the core of fascism is embracing a sort of permanent natural order such as this.

    I think the definition of terms like ‘fascist’ and ‘anarchist’ are easily stretched to the point of meaninglessness in the average disingenuous online discussion, but I think a discussion among individuals with ecologically based politics is long overdue on the touchy topics which you are scratching the surface of with this blog. I look forward to reading the rest of your posts.

  • oldgrowthforest says:

    tdOs,

    Wonderful writing! Again.

    I very much agree with you regarding indigenous people and their views of death. Wasn’t it Seattle who said that there is no death, there is only a change of worlds?

    I read your comments at X-ray Mike’s, and noted your efforts to be reasonable and a decent human being in the face of some tough hostility. Did you ever watch the Sopranos? I didn’t until last year, and I loved it! I absolutely loved it. My degree is in psychology, and the portrayals of Tony the sociopath, and his mother the borderline personality disorder, were first rate. Nothing could ever make her happy. Nothing was ever good enough. She always had an answer. She was one of what I call the “impossible people.” They are not difficult, they are impossible.

    I have a daughter. It was selfish of me. It took me a long time to see it, and it wasn’t selfish because of the state of the world although that is part of it, too. Love really is like the Velveteen Rabbit. It breaks you down, and wears you out, makes you strangely fragile and vulnerable like nothing else ever will, and fearless and fearsome at the same time.

    Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Emptiness and unfulfilled longing are, hunger and rage are, the kind that drive cruelty and narcissistic selfishness. The kind that could never write like you do.

    ogf

  • Thank you. These words are a comfort to my soul.

  • Ziqian says:

    Phenomenal post. I was about to write my own post about how civilization robs us even of the ability to die properly, but it looks like I’ve sat on the premise too long. You’ve done a better job than I would have, anyway. I admire your sense of composition and lucid phrasing, which I found to be purposefully understated. The facts you allude to need no aggrandizement; the stark and sobering information should speak for itself, and if it doesn’t, then there is nothing more to do. The ones who can hear will hear it.

  • […] Those planetary boundaries are no surprise to readers of this blog: climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, biogeochemical flows, land-system change, and freshwater use. Cue the bleating from the denialists. As well-intentioned as this report is, it is likely to reside in the same drawer, ignored, where similar reports reside. Find an excellent essay on this theme here. […]

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