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Starting Over

“The longer and harder we promote civilization, the worse will be the collapse — more people and other animals will die horrible deaths. So, we need to bring down civilization, now.”

Seems I’ve been calling for termination of civilization for quite a while. So what’s the big surprise, dear readers? Why bother throwing your fits, removing your essays, and calling the authorities at this late date? You could have saved us all a lot of huffing, puffing, and distracting bother if you had paid the slightest bit of attention before you contacted me, unsolicited, to write an essay in this space, or even before it appeared in print pixels. You could have alerted the unnamed authorities back when the police departments had money to track me down and arrest me, instead of waiting until all the relevant municipalities were flat broke.

While we’re all gathered here, let’s take a step back for some definitional clarification. I have adopted and used the definition of civilization provided by Derrick Jensen:

“I would define a civilization much more precisely [relative to standard dictionary definitions], and I believe more usefully, as a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts— that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latincivitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined–so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on–as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life.”

Returning to a theme I last considered many years ago, again I ask each of you to read, and then re-read, each of the 20 premises underlying Jensen’s 2006 book, Endgame. Premise 4 seems particularly noteworthy in light of recent discussions here:

“Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.”

And let’s not start with that tired line about the hypocrisy of using contemporary technology while promoting an anti-civ message. If I believed my forgoing this laptop in this off-the-grid house would move us one iota further along the path toward a durable set of living arrangements, I would gladly pull the plug. Indeed, as I’ve indicated countless times, I would gladly give my life, immediately, to terminate the industrial economy. Alas, as my mother-in-law used to say when she was alive, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Even in a nation based on militaristic force and filled with wishful thinking and dreams of propping up a dying empire, not all our wishes come true.

Can you say the same about your commitment to propping up civilization? Are you willing to die right now to keep the industrial economy cranking along? Or, are you merely willing to keep killing humans and other animals in support of an industrial economy that is making us crazy and killing us while also taking down dozens of species every day? Bear in mind Premise 3 from Endgame:

“Our way of living — industrial civilization — is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.”

If you’re propping up civilization, even if you claim to believe in non-violence and even if you claim to support non-aggression, your actions are louder than your words.

And, too, let’s not go down the misguided path of referring to my actions as rooted in financial gain or seeking attention. My goals are completely contrary to both notions. I eagerly anticipate the day money no longer matters. Ditto for ego-centrism.

I don’t discuss merely civilization in this space. In the words of the great American poet Walt Whitman, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Thus, whereas I could easily restrict my writing to the horrors of civilization, occasionally I take a turn toward the pragmatic. I consider, for example, topics as varied as philosophy, war, education, anthropogenic climate change, chickens, ducks, goats, greenhouses, and gardening.

Greenhouses and gardening are evident in the tag cloud because they are among the pragmatic issues worthy of our attention. These and other essays describe how we can muddle through, and even thrive, during and after economic collapse. These essays thus provide an example of my efforts to help humanity while also acting as if the remainder of the world matters. Which, of course, it does.

Ultimately, as should be obvious to even the most obtuse reader, I do what writers do: I experience the world, and I describe my experiences. These experiences include the mundane as well as the horrifying, the boring and the riveting (if only to me). And my writing is, by necessity, a reflection of the way I view the world, as a rationalist, a scientist, a conservation biologist, a social critic, a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle, a teacher, a student, a mentor, a colleague, a friend, and an imperialist who grew up during an era when resistance against the dominant paradigm mattered.

It certainly could be true, as I’m often told, that my efforts are wasteful and even counter-productive. But I am certain my efforts take us in the correct direction, away from civilization and toward a durable and better way of living. Continuing the current murderous path, or even supporting that path, is an activity in which I can no longer participate because I care about non-industrial cultures, non-human species, and future generations of humanity.

What about you? Where do you draw a line in the sand? Where do you say, “enough is enough”? At what point do you stop signing petitions and start fighting back against a culture that is killing us all? Are you so comfortable with your role in the dominant paradigm you are unable to see it for what it is, and then act accordingly? Are you willing to sit back and watch — or stand up and cheer — as the doublespeak continues from the fascists running the show, and destroying our future? As the industrial economy continues to destroy every aspect of the living planet on which we and future generations of humans need to survive, are you working to preserve habitat for humanity, or are you merely preparing an apologetic letter to them?

Guy Mcpherson


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  • Lately (I mean few years ago) I begun to realize that this is true. That we no longer live like humans, but like robots. That we do not care anymore about the future of our children, whether they would have a place to call “home” anymore- our Planet! This “civilized” way of living has alienated us so much from living the eal life, that the majority does not realize anymore where is the truth and beyond which line lies the fantasy.
    I long to live in nature. I hate to stay between walls. I hate to buy vegetables treated with so much chemicals and meat from animals feed unproperly with unnatural food.

    I hate this civilized way of live which has stolen from us our identity, our imagination and creativity. We no longer built the way people used to built things that would last for thousands of years, we no longer develop our creative skills, we no longer exist (it feels like). We have but small purposes (like to buy this and that), we hate each other and envy for reasons of money (good picture by the way)!

    Still it would take a great shaking to put us again on the right path. Because old generations are gone, and the new ones are so “limp” (the majority I mean)