When logic doesn’t apply

The interviewer asks what she is supposed to do about the climate crisis, and Roger holds that it’s obvious. As it isn’t to the interviewer he gives a simple analogy. Go to 15:25 and watch for two minutes only, to see what happens when we don’t allow ourselves to question our lifestyles and assumptions.

Roger misinterprets Ms Ahituv’s not getting the analogy as playing games. I believe she actually *is* incapable of following him. She really cannot spell out the obvious, even though a three-year old could have done the mechanical repetition of what has been said in the analogous example. Because that would have meant to overthrow everything she lives by, for, and from. Confronted with preferences, logic does not apply.

And this inability to simply go through an hypothetical exercise has nothing to do with the correctness of the assumptions around anthropogenic CO2 emissions as the main driver of global temperature increase. (I no longer believe in those, either.) We find the same deficiency in everyday life whenever it’s about inquiring root causes and putting into practice what we find out, be it about environmental destruction, the wealth gap, the Corona regime, patriarchy, corruption, or genocide. We know what to do about them: So far as we are concerned, to simply to stop doing them, participating in them, staying quiet about them, endorsing them. What’s complicated about changing our own behaviour (rather than waiting for society to change) are our thoughts on how this would rock our boat and make us uncomfortable at first. We don’t know what to do without our comforts, and we wouldn’t dare to think how life could be arranged in different ways. Our unwillingness to question our preferences, assumptions and the stuff we deem “obviously real” kills not only our culture of reasonable discussion, it kills life on this planet in wholesale.

The reason why I hold that civilized culture and a good measure of its members are completely insane is this pathological inability to shed the distorted, delusional, dysfunctional sense of self which guides our thoughts and actions.

“Are you happy now?”

Frankly, no matter the consequences, the end of the uglification of the planet will be a great relief as such. Which doesn’t mean we are looking forward to the suffering that collapse brings with it.
It wasn’t primitivists, anyway, who asked for densely populated places.
It wasn’t anarchists who instigated globalization.
It wasn’t tribalists who industrialized the world.
It wasn’t animists who created the conditions for generally decreased healthiness of the human population. We had no say in it. We have been ridiculed, brushed aside, conquered, censored, silenced, threatened, killed when we warned of the outcome we have been expecting since a long time.

It was civilization itself that has brought about the situation we are in, and the situation we are in is only the logical consequence of what civilization is standing for since its very beginning: the idea of separation, materialism, utilitarianism, perpetual growth, governance, coercion, patriarchy, competition, selfishness and all the rest of it.

So are YOU happy, you folks who still think that this kind of society was a good idea?

Both questions are meaningless, the one you asked me, and the one I could ask you in return. We each had our preferences, but we both had no power over which path the world would take. When civilization collapses we each do have the choice whether we want to extend and whip up the suffering by resisting the decay, or we face it calmly, keeping an eye on lowering the burden on everyone around us, including the non-human world.

Who killed the Egyptian pyramids?

Tesla is the name of a band whose music tens of thousands of hardrock fans love to dance to since the eighties… Really? Well, it’s true, but I’m joking of course. The Californian band is just one out of many groups of people, most of them companies, which adopted the name of the famous engineer who, among other things, invented the Tesla coil, the Tesla turbine, the remote control and an AC induction motor. Nikola Tesla (1856-1843) supposedly built some kind of electrical car which could have revolutionized transportation from the early 1930s on had it been produced at industrial scale. But it hasn’t, since the concept was stolen and hidden by one or the other powerful corporation, various conspiracy theories purport.
Two years before Musk’s introduction of today’s most famous electric car brand in 2008 – guess what, it’s named after the engineer – Chris Paine directed the sensationalist flick “Who Killed the Electric Car?”This might have been a sneaky marketing trick, or there might be some truth to Nikola Tesla’s ingenuity – after all he was an engineer,a word derived from genius– which supposedly produced wireless energy transmission, zero-point modules, and in 1931 an electric car which ran without batteries. Whether it is true or not is beside the point for our discussion here. The fact is that he might as well have, and another fact is that we just don’t know.
Through the death of an inventive person we lose all of his or her knowledge that has not been expressed in text, formulae, or artifacts, as well as all of his or her potential for further inventions. Whether destroyed by powerful interests or lost through biological termination, the year 1943 effectively saw the disappearance of a number of technologies. 
Who killed the pyramids? (pic by Gregory Rogers, Pexels)
In the same way, we may assume, the death of a civilization brings about the loss of much of its practical techniques and technological knowledge. Not only may we assume it, we know it for a fact. History is indeed replete with examples thereof, some of which I will mention a few paragraphs on. Most of the times it happened unintentionally. Some of the times people chose to ‘forget’ the kind of knowledge they would rather not apply. As much as the latter concept seems foreign to the members of our culture it is a sane reaction to thoughts that may easily disrupt a community or a society. The Pirahã, a tribe of the Amazon basin, have been taught a number of concepts over the centuries, yet they keep forgetting the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion or European ways of building a boat, for instance. The Inquisition, as an example from our own culture, put millions of alleged heretics to trial, killing tens of thousands of herbwives as witches in the process. Both the spiritual understanding of druids and mystics and the intuitive and practical knowledge of healers were threatening the Christian order of the time; thus they have been extinguished where they were found. The eradication of knowledge was thorough and would have led to the complete loss of techniques, had they been of the engineered kind. To our great advantage mysticism and intuition are kinds of ingenuity which, given a chance, return again and again as they are immutably part of our humanity.
Much of our technological knowledge today, though, is of a completely different kind – the kind I would call inhumane, alienating, and destructive. Sitting at a laptop right now, on the one hand I almost break my fingers over typing the things I’m going to tell you now; on the other hand I need to work with what I have, and I am not someone who believes that the master’s house cannot be dismantled using the master’s tools. The core idea I would transmit by way of this article is that both our survival and the wish for a humans-appropriate life requires us to throw away – forget – most of the scientific knowledge, professional techniques and engineered technologies in use today. Civilization critic Jerry Mander, for example, makes the case against computers, saying,

Most people, even those who see the relationship between computers and increased destructive potential, consider the computers themselves to be harmless. Value free. Neutral. “People invent the machines,” is the common wisdom. “People program them, people push the buttons.”

And yet, it is a simple fact that if there were no computers, the process of engaging in war would be much more drawn out, with a lot more time for human beings to change their minds or seek alternatives. It is only because computers do exist that a virtually automatic, instant worldwide war, involving total annihilation, even enters the realm of possibility. So, can we say that computers are to blame?

It is also a fact that if computers somehow totally disappeared, the world would be instantly safer. Even if atom bombs continued to exist, they would no longer have effective delivery systems. Pakistan could still drop an atomic bomb on India, but the presently envisioned, all-out nuclear war, which quite possibly could extinguish the human species, would be impossible.

I know that this is a difficult position to accept. Critics call it throwing the baby out with the bath water. Just because computers are integral to modern systems of nuclear annihilation, does that mean we must rid ourselves of computers? I am not sure, but I think so. This society upholds a fierce technological idealism. We believe we can get the best from a given technology without falling into worst-case scenarios of the sort described above. We maintain this idealism despite the fact that we have no evidence of technology ever being used at an optimal level, or even being sensibly controlled. – Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred, (Sierra pbk ed. 1992) p.73f

Considering that computerized data processing and electronic memory storage has become so cheap and ubiquitous, is the forgetting of computer technology even possible? It sounds paradoxical somehow, yet all it takes is a collapse of the global trade network, and all thattakes might be a major currency crisis, a spike in oil prices, economic upheaval in Western countries, or widespread revolts of the Arab Spring or the Yellow-Vestskind shutting down neuralgic points of the world economy. Global industrial civilization is an intricate system the complexity of which makes it prone to collapse from any of the numerous possible impulses. It’s not like this was outside near-term probability, as anyone who has followed world news recently must acknowledge. It is also not like this had never happened before.
Think of tribal medicine, or indigenous survival skills, or shamanic ways of knowing the future, all of which have been completely forgotten once civilizations had killed those tribes off or absorbed them. The same happened to Celtic druids in the early Middle ages, and yet again to the herb-wives a.k.a. witches of the late Middle ages and the Renaissance. It happened to the astrological, construction and transportation knowledge of the architects of Stonehenge, and again, thousands of years later, to similar knowledge on Rapa Nui with its Moai. What of the forgotten knowledge of Inka airtight stone setting, or, as one of the most famous mysteries of all times, how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids of Giza? We don’t know for sure how old those are and what they were originally for. One man’s grave, that’s laughable. We are not quite sure what the Greeks built the Antiklythera machine for; astronomy? Possible, but the know-how definitely got lost for the next couple of millennia shortly thereafter. With the collapse of the Roman empire its knowledge of road construction, aqueducts, high-rises, war machines and other items got lost during the so-called ‘Dark Ages,’ to be rediscovered only one thousand years later. Many skills known from the Middle ages till the 19thcentury, ranging from the area of raftsmanship to tawery to rope making to vessel mending to hand-weaving are unknown to similar professions today. Heck, we’re about to forget how the steam engine and the Stirling motor are working. 280 years after Stradivari’s death (1737) there is still research and experimentation going on, in an attempt to reproduce the unique sound of his violins, and technologies the Apollo program was running on have been lost due to negligent handling of data.
Who killed the Antikythera mechanism? (pic wikimedia user Juanxi, cc by-sa 3.0)
Who killed the pyramids? Who killed the Antiklythera mechanism? Who killed the Apollo program, the aqueduct, grandma’s cookery, or Megalithic construction techniques? The answer in most cases is “nobodyin particular;” It was merely the death of a person or a culture. In some cases, though, like with the witches’ herbal medicine, the knowledge in question was simply too inconvenient, its ramifications too disturbing to allow its continued existence, and it was often our own culture which chose to make it forgotten. The oft-heard sayings that the march of progress couldn’t be stopped and that the genie cannot be stuffed back into the bottle once it’s out – they are lame excuses for a mental laziness and, worse than that, a lack of willingness to take responsibility for one’s actions. The obvious and appropriate conclusion from researching into atomic energy would have been to abandon this direction of research altogether. As members of our culture have chosen – fully in compliance with its overall notion – to continue on their path to complete annihilation of all human cultures, extinct theywill go. Given business-as-usual, and given our unwillingness to change we are doomed to fail. You can read the signs of disaster written all over our geo-biological, social, scientific, or economic systems already. Technology will eat itself, and society as well.

Future forgetting due to societal collapse would encompass the loss of industrial extraction and production methods, mass communication, nuclear power, high speed transportation, deep sea diving, space travel, plastics production, genetic engineering, bio-weaponry, micro and nano tech, computers and other electronic devices. As these technologies require resources from around the world, and as the global transportation system requires some of these high technologies for functioning, the industrial economy is unlikely to ever reboot once it got cracked. Its digital data storages will be lost, its analogous (paper) storages – the few libraries which may survive the immediate collapse – would soon disintegrate from the onslaught of water, mold, fire, theft, and vandalism. The biggest, most valuable book magazines would become least useful while most prone to destruction because its contents have been shelved in mechanical ways, accession by accession. With their electronic catalogues out of order they are, practically spoken, monstrous piles of millions of books in no accessible order whatsoever. As professionals die, professors forget, gears break, and spare parts rot or get lost our whole culture eventually goes to hell in a festival of human suffering. Does it have to end this way? Yes, perhaps.
Who killed grandma’s recipes? (pic public domain)
Historically seen, technologies and techniques die outsome of the times; some of the times they are getting killed before they can cause damage. We did it before; we could do it again. In principle we have that choice, yet systemic obstacles built into the worldview upon which our machine culture rests make it seem unlikely that we actually will. Jerry Mander points out that we ought to have a closer look at our technical systems anyway, to re-evaluate them from a holistic perspective, and that we ought to chuck out those which are found incompatible with Earth’s sustainability and diversity. He goes on to say that

“There is no denying that all of this amounts to considerable adjustment, but it’s not as if there were much choice. Truly, such change is inevitable if sanity and sustainability are to prevail. To call this adjustment “going back” is to conceive of it in fearful, negative terms, when the changes are actually desirable and good. In fact, it is not really going back; it is merely getting back on track, as it were, after a short unhappy diversion into fantasy. It is going forward to a renewed relationship with timeless values and principles that have been kept alive for Western society by the very people we have tried to destroy.

As for whether it is “romantic” to make such a case, I can only say that the charge is putting the case backwards. What is romantic is to believe that technological evolution will ever live up to its own advertising, or that technology itself can liberate us from the problems it has created. So far, the only people who, as a group, are clear-minded on this point are the native peoples, simply because they have kept alive their roots in an older, alternative, nature-based philosophy that has proven effective for tens of thousands of years, and that has nurtured dimensions of knowledge and perception that have become opaque to us. It is the native societies, not our own, that hold the key to future survival.” – Mander, p.384

Interview: NTHE is, you die from a thought. Essayist

Euroville. A recent essay in the blog “Mach Was!?”caused some disappointment among social media consumers. Under the headline Damn the god-given right to electricity the author, Pax, railed against the assumption that our global industrial civilization could continue to function for an extended amount of time. On Facebook he predicted that there would be “no information-based economy, no further growth, no future tech, no welfare state” unless the survival of other species was secured, and that this required a radical reduction of our lifestyles to become “as simple as to be unimaginable by your average Westerner”.
In an interview he gave ME on Thursday, Pax put more fuel on the fire. During preliminary talks he said, “Near-term human extinction [NTHE] is the outcome of a virus, a parasitic culture called civilization. Just like with any potentially fatal sickness, you can choose to ignore or deny it, yet that doesn’t make it go away. You die. And what’s worse: you die from a thought.”

artist: Banksy, source: Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

ME: Jürgen, tell us a bit about your motives for writing that essay.
Pax: During the last decade, in my search for viable paths into the future, it became more and more clear that certain roads are not an option. Following the Club of Rome, the IPCC, or any number of environmental and scientific research papers, business-as-usual, for example, leads us straight to hell, and any prediction based on this model can realistically not contain imagery of thriving cities, space colonies, mass transportation and all the rest of it. Yet open any major newspaper or read any economist’s predictions and you’ll get exactly that. Even critical magazines like Down to Earth, feature stories which would have been good science fiction tales in the sixties; nowadays, though, it’s just bad journalism, or elitist propaganda even. You get all that “green” gibberish about growing industries under a “renewable energy” paradigm; climate change – a thing of the past, and life can go on as it did before, with a new cell phone generation, the next CPU generation, another vehicle generation. It is time to contradict – loudly! – the idea that this could be an actual option. We try anything like that, the planet will be toast. Or we take another route, and then it’s obvious why this future will never come to pass.
Tangible change, in other words, means a profound reduction of most everything people of the civilized culture believe, do, and produce. Simply put, we are talking about a much simpler lifestyle on the physical level, and nothing less than a revolution on the mental level.
ME: How did people react?
Pax: I was sort of amazed that I received an immediate supportive comment and that the Facebook announcement of my essay has been shared, even, because I already expected that the actual number of hits would be the lowest in two years of writing about collapse of civilization and near-term human extinction as a result of anthropogenic climate change.
ME: Do you have any idea as to why there was so little interest in your essay?
Pax: You can attack civilization, its institutions, the government, people’s meat consumption or their travelling habits, and it’s all fine and well. You can even suggest we are in for near-term human extinction, and they will read it for fun. When you demand the abolishment of money they may already think that you’re a little bit crazy; but hey, it’s a free country. Yet when you tell them that their god-given right to electricity, as I put it provokingly as a headline, is void you have reached the limit of what is acceptable even to those who believe in NTHE. In other words, they would gladly go to hell in a handbasket wittingly (the NTHE believers) or unwittingly (the NTHE deniers); yet the one thing that must not happen before everything collapses on us is the reduction of our lifestyle to anything less than what it is today. It seems ridiculous to them, repulsive even, I guess. The title worked like a photograph of a pile of poop on a book cover, I suppose.
ME: Don’t you think it likely that we simply have arrived at a cyclical low, or that it’s sort of a hickup we’re going through, and that it could be all well and fine someday soon?
Pax: Not with all the crises converging on us at the same time, each of which could spell the end of the global industrial system by itself: from multiple major currencies (Dollar, Euro, Rupee) threatened by collapse, to the decline of cheap fossil energy, to diminishing energy returns on input, to the overheating of the planet, to ocean acidification, to the steep decline in insects, vertebrates, and marine populations – more to the point: the collapse of the biosphere, – chemical poisoning of our food, the loss of arable soil and of forests, the disappearance of potable water, the steep rise in social disparity, dwindling resources like copper, aluminum, wood, sand,… the list goes on and on. As if this wasn’t terrifying enough, it seems that the West is hell bent on kicking off a major war, and we all know where this is likely to end.
The global industrial civilization of our days, in an unbroken line, goes back to the Frankish, the Roman, the Greek, and the Mesopotamian empires. There is an ever clearer signature of violence that accompanies each stage of development, and it all goes back to a core understanding, you could say, a certain thought that is fundamental to our culture. It is the idea of our being separate from the rest of the World, and from each other. First we are looking for differences, then we divide the world along those differences, then we devalue one part as “bad”, and finally we try to control or destroy that part. Apply it to “Human/Non-human”, “Culture/Nature”, “Noble/Common”, “Sick/Healthy”, “Pure/Dirty”, “Civilized/Barbarian”, “Advanced/Primitive”, “Christian/Heathen” – you get the point. As long as there is an “Other” to separate from and fight against we could turn our aggression against that “outside” threat. But what do you do once you have conquered the whole planet? This is the moment where it necessarily breaks down, as we either need to stop the behaviour that our civilization requires for keeping itself propped up, or we turn against ourselves and commit collective suicide. In essence, this culture – and everyone it takes down with it – dies of a wrong assumption: our separation from an “objective” world “out there.” Death by imagination – it’s tragicomical, if you think of it.
ME: So you don’t believe in human ingenuity.
Pax: If I believed in human ingenuity I’d have to blame it for bringing about the predicament we’re currently in. Intelligence and ingenuity, in fact, have nothing to do with it, no matter whether you look at it from a high vantage point, or whether you inspect the situation up close, eg. with regard to how decisions are made on an everyday basis: Some think there is no need to act because they don’t see the urgency of the situation, or they don’t see any situation at all; others think there is no use for action as they believe we’ve passed various tipping points beyond which it’s already too late. Thus, NTHE is more or less a done deal, proven by unwillingness to open our eyes to the reality within and without us. Where are intelligence and ingenuity in there? There is no such thing as human ingenuity, superiority, or intelligence; The brain is an organ with which we think that we think, as the saying goes. We have maneuvered ourselves into a corner from which it will be hard to escape, especially as we either cannot or want not see, in the first place, that we are cornered.
ME: How long will it take to recover from this collapse?
Pax: As opposed to previous collapses, today’s civilization cannot be resurrected once it has fallen. Historic calamities have been regional; civilized life went on elsewhere and the extent of the fall, ie. the loss of organization, knowledge and technology, has been relatively small. The huge majority of people still knew how to plant or gather or hunt food and how to create necessary things manually. Today, we have less than 2% of the population in industrialized areas working in agriculture, and they don’t know what to do without heavy petroleum-fired machinery and chemical applications. The loss of biodiversity, groundwater, and top soil, together with much higher average temperatures and the resulting bad weather, will lead to very bad conditions for food production. This will be a main contributor to population losses in the billions.
As you cannot run a global economy in a depopulated world, no one will be able to ship oil from Arabia to where it’s needed; all the easily-available resources have been mined already, so you cannot create new machinery based on the kind of technology we are used to, and you are not able to maintain the nuclear power plants. It takes twenty to sixty years to decommission any one of those, provided you have sufficient fresh water, electricity, and trained personnel available during that time frame, and we have more than 400 reactors which will go Fukushima if you neglect your duty for one day. Some scientists find it not unlikely that ionizing radiation would strip away Earth’s atmosphere.
Rather than asking, how much time does the recovery from collapse take, the question is, how much time does our species have before it goes extinct from heavy irradiation, chemical pollution, and starvation.
ME: What is your verdict then? How much time do we have?
Pax: Sorry, this is the domain of the gods. Expect lightning to strike any second from now. The 1% are playing war games, and it doesn’t take much for it to become nuclear. It could happen already as we speak. Regarding the other factors playing out my personal guess is somewhen between 2020 and 2023. I’d be surprised if we made it to 2030. Nobody can say for sure, though, be it priest, scientist, or fortune teller.
ME: Is there really nothing that can be done?
Pax: Options are abound. The crux, though, lies in our ability and/or willingness to awaken to the real situation, which means to allow ourselves to feel the pain and the grief for what we have done – still do, – then to let go of everything that promised comfort and familiarity, and to get into action. Yet that is exactly the kind of thing that the thrust of our civilization renders increasingly hard to achieve with every passing minute.
Charles Eisenstein, in his latest book “Climate: A New Perspective,” made some viable proposals for a profound healing of most of our ailments. Or look at Buddhist, Mystic, Non-dualist, or Modern spiritual practices for getting into harmony with the world; or take the lifestyle of so-called primitive tribes whose whole existence is based on being embedded into, rather than separated from and controlling, the world of non-humans. Check the Internet for “Rewilding”. Or look at our predicament from Jungian psychoanalysis, or read what Paul Levy has written in“Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil”.
From understanding what the mentioned groups and persons say, it becomes crystal clear what needs to be done when we are concerned with the state of the world: It requires “a radical revolution of the mind,” as Jiddu Krishnamurti put it, which will result in an equally radical departure from what we call “civilization”.
The drastic reduction of our activities and energy turnover is an absolute must for the survival of our species – and most other species as well, – and time is running out, if it hasn’t done so already. We cannot know for sure. The critical factor here is that it’s not just a matter of action or abstention thereof; this change has to come from deep within, and it must necessarily result in the utter abandonment of our culture’s core, or we’ll achieve exactly nothing.
ME: How do you respond to your critics who say that back-to-the-trees was neither possible nor desirable? Isn’t a simple life, or primitivism, as they hold, a return to barbarianism?
Pax: First of all, I’m not talking about a backward movement, because then I would buy into the civilized rhetoric of progress and ascent. Civilization has not moved the human race forward or upward. It was not an evolutionary logical progress; we have simply stepped out of the large consent of primary peoples who see the Universe as an indivisible living whole, and themselves an integral part of it. So if we choose to apply the word “back,” it would be in the sense of backing out of a dead-end road. Civilization has taught us a lot of things which cannot work; that’s something we might be grateful for – provided we leave enough of our habitat intact to be able to make use of it.
Secondly, equating the culture of non-civilized peoples with barbarianism is based on a false image of those peoples. In fact it is them who, to an overwhelming degree, live by ideals that European moral philosophy only rhetorically adheres to – unity, brotherhood, freedom, equality – and it have been civilized people who consistently acted in barbaric ways towards others. From the tribals’ perspective, we carry a sickness or a demon, as you can read from Professor Jack D. Forbes’ description of the native Americans’ view, “Columbus and Other Cannibals”, for example.
No culture anywhere in the world was hell bent on joining Western civilization. The question why many of them fought to death, to maintain their “primitive” lifestyle, is answered eg. by Professor Marimba Ani’s exhaustive analysis “Yurugu: An African-centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior”. Her work makes unmistakably clear how European civilization – which has developed into today’s dominant global culture – is not an improvement on, but a profound deviation from, the ways of every other culture in the world. It is impoverishing both materially and spiritually, it reigns by delusions, lies, greed and violence, and it denudes life of everything worth living for. Unless you fall for its rhetorical ethics, its attractiveness is zilch.
Thirdly, unless we choose to undergo a voluntary downsizing while following a planned exit strategy a period of barbarianism is very likely to accompany the breakdown of our societies. Clearly, the resulting cruelties would be an outgrowth of the ways civilization works and how civilized people think. As it is not sustainable the remnants of our society would go extinct very quickly.
ME: How do you feel about all that?
Pax: I feel sad about the loss of so much beauty, especially considering that it could have been avoided. Sometimes I carry a sentiment of rage over the utter stupidity of it all, but basically I have accepted the fact that people cannot be spoon-fed with insight, understanding, or empathy, which are requirements for the profound change needed here. My way of dealing with emotions is to study them closely, and to write essays and books about collapse-related issues. Those writings also serve to strengthen the backs of those who have awakened from the civilized delusion, and to inspire them to stand up for their convictions instead of remaining in the culture. That’s what I meant by writing, those who wish to pursue the destructive path of civilization may continue to do so, but they have no right to do so undisturbedly.
ME: Do you have second thoughts sometimes?
Pax: Sure, all the time. What if we did this, what if we tried that, what if we got it all wrong… yet no matter how often I turn the matter left or right, up or down, I end up with the same results. I don’t hear others express similar doubts very often, be it deniers or doomers. Belonging to the fringes of society, being the weird guy is a thing I have become accustomed to early on; so I am very aware of how each person shapes his or her reality according to individual perspective. I might be wrong, and I certainly hope so. Because I know there are dimensions of truth beyond the reality I just described…
ME: …or final thoughts?
Pax: In the essay it says, “those who…” a lot, and one could come to the idea that I was pointing fingers at others while seeing myself as innocent victim of evil forces. That’s not what I am about, though. I am not throwing stones at others to hurt them; I throw stones into the ponds of people’s souls, I beat at the bush of their over-confident mind, to stir up something that lies dormant there. “Saving the World” cannot be my responsibility, though, nor anybody else’s. Points made in terms of, “if everybody understood,” “if enough people followed,” “if things were different” – they don’t get us anywhere. We cannot force any of those “if’s” into existence. People are what they are, the world is what it is, so activists have to work with what-is, not with imaginations of should-be. In the end, we’re thrown back on ourselves, and this is a great starting point; especially when you understand how closely Self and Reality are intertwined. In this sense: yes, we’re fucked – impregnated with something yet unseen.

Damn the god-given right to electricity

Emissions in 2060, consumption in 2050, share of renewable energy in 2040, standard of living in 2030 — predictions of the future of industrial capitalist societies that make me want to throw up.
Where do people take their entitlement from, to a certain standard of living, to electricity and internet and free mobility and well-paid jobs, when billions of others never had that and never will? When, instead, they don’t have food security or are starving and thirsting even, and when dozens of millions have to leave their homes due to climate change, 1st world resources grabbing, pollution or free trade treaties?

Pietro da Cortona (photo cc by 3.0, wikimedia user Sailko)

Does it occur to anyone of those who talk about “less damage” and “green tech” that they advocate the continuation of everything that they find morally repulsive, like bringing about million-fold misery and death and environmental destruction?
Has it ever occurred to them that you cannot have that kind of lifestyle, green, brown, blue, or otherwise, without creating waste energy (heat), waste products (garbage), waste lands (…), and waste people (the deluded, the poor, the mentally disturbed, the sick, and the dying)?
Has anyone of those who use the term “backwards”, or “middle ages”, or “stone age”, or “back to the tree tops” in the attempt to ridicule people with an healthy attitude to the living world ever met such folks, or inquired into the origins of these false images, or attempted to rid themselves of their addiction to the omnicidal “system” (regardless of what you understand by that)?
Has it occurred to anyone of those who think lowly of human nature, of using our hands to create the items for everyday life, of small numbers, or of caring, loving, sharing folks, that they have been taken for a ride by the very authorities they put their trust into?
Those who wish to pursue the most destructive lifestyle ever invented may continue to do so. It is neither in my power nor in my interest to turn them around. But the time for pampering their sensitivities, for soothing the fears of people who in their ignorance and mental laziness are unwilling to let go of killing the planet by proxy, is over. They have no right whatsoever to being spared any longer the words, the images, the emotions which are relating the true state of our planet.
People who disagree with business as usual may end their silence now, may speak up and may act as if their lives were at stake – because it’s true, and it has been from the very beginning, 10,000 years ago.
Put your picket pin now, or leave it to the planet to drive in hers.

The rebellion against extinction

We had an extraordinary amount of papers and articles coming out within the last twelve months, addressing the severity of the existential threat to the biosphere and humanity as a whole. Think of the Second Warning of Scientists that has been signed by more than 20,000 academics so far, think of Jem Bendell’s work on Deep Adaptation, or David Lauterwasser’s excellent summary titled, The Collapse of Global Civilization Has Begun. Even Germany’s two nationwide public TV channels, ARD and ZDF, for the first time ever, took climate change into account from early August on, when trying to explain the severe drought and other abnormal meteorological events on the evening news.
And let’s not forget that the IPCC’s special report of October eventually began to rattle a larger amount of people, with its dire warning to politicians – though the numbers presented therein haven’t changed much and the window dressing continued to cover the real extent of the climate crisis. That this politico-scientific body spoke up as it did was sort of miraculous in itself, but the public reaction to it begins to amaze me.
Pic by Edward Kimmel, (cc-by-sa-2.0)
Having heard so far only a few lonely voices (which by their conservative provenience felt exciting enough, like Willy Wimmer, vice prez OSCE in the 90s, or Professor Rainer Mausfeld) who considered a public uprising a due and ethical response to politicians’ potentially lethal play with fire, I noticed that the scene has gone haywire just within the last few weeks. In Britain, a new movement called Extinction Rebellionhas emerged which announces massive non-violent resistance to the kind of politics that ignore climate change and continue to foster business as usual.
Already they have been running a few minor actions like occupying Greenpeace headquarters. As one of the first major undertakings they plan the disruption of London city, to create political pressure that would lead to a WWII-style mobilization in order to deal with existential threat. The demands include reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2025, reducing consumption, making investments to taking carbon out of the atmosphere, changing transport and introducing regenerative agriculture, restoring ecosystems etc.
These goals are technically feasable and socially achievable. As historical precedence shows, well-targeted civil disobedience performed by a few hundred individuals can quickly escalate into a wide-spread rebellion supported by millions of people. The Extinction Rebellion movement plans to expand to other countries in Spring 2019. Ideally, by then, people in France, Russia, the US, India, Brazil, Australia, China, Korea, and elsewhere would have already found their own courage and started to disrupt the business-as-usual trajectory of governments and corporations like they did in Hambach forest, Germany, or in Standing Rock.
Let’s tell the governments of the world that the time has come for them to act as human beings instead of occupying the planet like aliens from outer space. And let’s advise the same to our neigbours, friends and families, for each of us is contributing immensely to extraction, exploitation, transportation, consumption, and pollution – in other words, to the mass suffering and killing of fellow men and creatures.
People who have followed my blog in the last couple of years know that I do not entertain the hope that we will actually make it through the catastrophic changes awaiting us. However, after having read and co-translated into German Charles Eisenstein’s new book Climate – a new perspective (which is another excellent 2018 publication I’d recommend studying) I actually see a realistic chance that some of the worst consequences of civilization’s joyride can be prevented and the runaway development can be stopped. We also need to shut down those nuclear power plants, stash all radiating material in the Earth’s core or in space, and close all chemically hazardous factories before … well, you know. The time window – if there is one – seems extremely small.
Extinction Rebellion logo
But first of all, the power structures which are in the way of doing so have to be overcome.
While I, personally, see this matter as a no-brainer I do understand that most folks have reservations against stepping out of under the umbrella against bad weather governments are regarded as. Yet, no matter where you politically stand, rebellion is justified when government fails to fulfill its self-acclaimed role as protector of the people. In some countries this is a constitutional right even.
The time has come to do what needs to be done. Today we declare rebellion against extinction.

Underminers in German

The other day, John Michael Greer wrote,

“If your lifestyle supports a system, and depends on that system, any efforts you may think you’re making to force significant change on that system will be wasted breath.”

This is how the Machine keeps each and every one of us in addiction to civilization.
But wait, there’s more! There are the Tools of Disconnectionand the Veil of Ignorance which bind us mentally, physically, and psychologically to the set of living arrangements which is eating the world alive. With the exception of very few people, none of us is lifting one finger – because we literally can’t.
Keith Farnish, in his seminal book Underminers – a practical guide for radical change“,delivers a well-written, both comprehensible and comprehensive analysis of the situation, and then goes beyond it, by explaining step by step what each and every one of us can do, with their specific gifts, in their specific environment.
Yet this book is not just about destroying that which is destroying us; it offers an outlook on the kind of society we could have if we wanted to. To some extent, it has always been there, as the operating system of 99% of all human groups that have ever existed, and it can be practiced right away. As a matter of fact, it’s theantidote to the madness most of our contemporaries are suffering from.
Underminers” is now available in German language, updated and equipped with Central European examples. Get your free download of Radikaler Wandel: Anleitung zur praktischen Untergrabung der Maschine, quote from it, build your own work on it, and pass it on to all your German-speaking friends.

Also visit the Downloads section (link on the right side of the blog) for further free publications.

The Empire Express, 11 December 2017

Editorial

As I withdraw more and more into a direct, localized, simple, hands-on kind of lifestyle, the things happening elsewhere and getting mediated through the web become increasingly surreal to me. I haven’t collected any news for this digest in months. Unless another bout of research mania befalls me, this current edition may very well be the last you’ll ever read.
I wish to add a few words of concern about the state of the activist movement. What I’ve seen recently really only allows one conclusion:
We’re SO fucked.
Damn, what should one humble guy think when a major scientist cannot recognize the very thing he coined a phrase for, or when an eco-spiritual writer and teacher is threatening to sue against the translation and republication of her collaborative work with someone who has fallen into public disgrace, based on allegations that are so obviously fabricated by the powers that be that it’s a shame to even consider their factuality when, at the same time, the whole planet is literally burning. Sad to notice also that a whole bunch of previously seemingly sane activists are jumping on the case as if there was no tomorrow (oh, wait, there actually isn’t!) and turn the scene with all its great information it has compiled into an infight club. Various activist publishing houses have been quitting business due to not enough income, but at least the websites of the combattants generate surplus traffic (i.e. income) with their pointless bickering. One person saying that, in the face of impending doom, he is planting trees, hoping to mitigate the impact on humanity, is getting banned from a facebook climate group for this very idea, while, in another formerly radical activist group, a guardian of the status quo may promote carbon taxes and advertise electric cars (“Plant trees, drive free!”) not only unhinderedly but is receiving likes for it. Shall I say it again?
We’re SO fucked.
And it’s sort of ok. I mean, I’m not putting out this rant to tell anyone what they should  or should not be doing in order to “save the World”. Just go ahead churning out hot air about whatever it is you are trying to cook up, and then act in the exact opposite way. We are past numerous tipping points, so it doesn’t play much of a role anyway. Be happy raising awareness, same like I still do, though half-heartedly. I especially like the 99% meme because it is almost true — except for the missing point-nine-repeating: almost all of mankind is stuck in virtual existence with absolutely no willingness to contribute anything substantial to the continued survival and wellbeing of their species, other than words. 
Awareness, my arse.
I confess having been — and partly still being — complicit in both wrecking the biosphere and then letting it go to waste. What can I say that makes any difference at all? None. It’s likely to be not a matter of words or deeds, rather a matter of silence and stillness and non-compliance that healing could occur. I don’t know for sure, so who am I to rail against others who say they do.

Live fully for as long as it lasts, and blessed be!

Ongoing Assault

Invisibles: The plastic inside us – Chris Tyree & Dan Morrison, Orb, 201709
In the end, they will tell you all kind of crap about how to avoid plastics in a civilized manner without having to reduce your consumption. But the documentation of the plastic tsunami is graphic.
The whispering leaves of the Hiroshima Ginkgo trees – Ariel Dorfman, New York Times, 20170804
The Hiroshima ginkgos, the tenacious older siblings of the tender green trees in front of our North Carolina house, were able to resist the most devastating outcome of science and technology, the splitting of the atom, a destructive power that could turn the whole planet into rubble. Those trees’ survival was a message of hope in the midst of the black rain of despair: that we could nurture life and conserve it, that we must be wary of the forces we unleash.”
An Atlas for the end of the World – Richard Weller et al., Scientific American, 20170629

The Atlas for the End of the World chronicles the archipelago of protected areas into which the world’s genetic biodiversity is now huddled. It is not about the end of the world per se; but the end of the world as a God-given and unlimited resource for human exploitation and its concomitant myths of progress.”

The SMS & Twitter culture doesn’t rock me at all. It’s leaving out more context than permissible, but hey – such are our times. For those who’d like to have a short introduction, though, into how to see the world differently, get a taste with this nutshell article. Five (not 5, and not at all brutal) insights (not truths) about life which can help with understanding your mind (not making you a better person or making you feel better) are given. There are many more (and they are not only rooted in Buddhism but in mystic traditions around the world) but this is as good a start as any. Try implementing one of those insights, you’ll be busy beyond imagination. And don’t worry, you won’t have to give up science or subscribe to religion. “In Buddha’s opinion, … to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs is the best use of our human lives” [quote from article].

Pearls Before Swine

How the world falls apart – Paul & Stan Cox, Motherboard, 20160802
Not all at once but in millions of cataclysms small and large that strike somewhere everyday. And those fractures may well be what allow the whole global system to keep grinding along, sustaining a collective fantasy that the end is always near but never here.
If everyone lived in an ecovillage, the Earth would still be in trouble– Samuel Alexander, The Conversation, 20150626
“I share this in the hope of shaking the environmental movement, and the broader public, awake. With our eyes open, let us begin by acknowledging that tinkering around the edges of consumer capitalism is utterly inadequate.”
What’s worse, ecovillages would have been a great idea fourty years ago. We are too late to save our species, let alone our pathetic society. “The problem of civilization” is our “endgame”, as Derrick Jensen put it so brilliantly in his book’s title. Still, building alternative social and material structures is the right thing to do; it lessens the burden on the community of life and allows for a more decent, humane existence.

 

Cartoon

The train of civilization & the ascent accident of humanity

Famous Last Words

Me first.

[previous issue / later issue]

To heaven with hell!

Greed and stupidity have always been one and the same. I’d go even further — no one can be as stupid as to ignore the facts for decades, no one can be as clumsy as to create all this mess consistently without sometimes making a better move. Wouldn’t the world make more sense if all this happens not accidentally but intentionally?
Words cannot reach these people. Their minds are focused on self-interest alone. The damage resulting from their actions is neither accidental nor collateral, it’s what it takes to make money and to grab power; they are neither blind nor ignorant nor stupid. From their perspective nothing is wrong with millions of war victims, environmental destruction, social deterioration and the likes. They are textbook sociopaths trapped in the institutional constructs they have co-created in order to feed their self-interest. Nothing we could do or say will change their minds, nothing will change those equally sociopathic institutions from without, and much less from within. They are attempting to twist the world into giving them what they desire, but this is eventually futile and has only led mankind on the road to all-out destruction. You can argue with them, you can plead, you can curse them, you can sue and fine them, you can imprison them, you can boycott or sabotage them, you can kill them – to no avail. It is equally futile and contributes equally to the all-out destruction.
by Flickr user grahamc99 under  cc-by-2.0
One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” 
-Reinhold Niebuhr
The first step in our effort to end Empire’s reign of terror is to awaken to the cage we are living in. The documentation of the tyrants’ lies and deeds becomes important so that we can understand what’s happening and to take decisive moves towards starting the liberation. But let us not get stunned with bygone horrors, let’s not get stuck with pointing fingers at those who offer themselves as targets for our hate. Break the hypnotizing stare; switch off the hellish mass medial noise that keeps you from listening to what’s within you. The lesson to be learned from the disaster is how to do it better. As a matter of fact, our bodies know already from three million years of evolution of our genus how life works for human beings.
No need for anybody’s permission, no need for anybody to join us, no need for changing what-is, no need waiting for better conditions; we just set out on a different path, one by one, clan by clan, tribe by tribe. The way to overcoming the omnicidal system they are deliberately perpetuating is to concede our complicity in the crime and to take a different road from today on. The way to overcoming the life-grinding machine leads to alternative structures based on alternative values emerging from another worldview. Where they are greedy we are giving. Where they are hating we are loving. Where they see one way only we walk an infinite number of paths. Where they are trapped in cold logic we are free to see for ourselves. Where they are divisive we are one, and that includes ‘them’, for ‘they’ are not separate from ‘us’ even if that is what they believe themselves to be and what they would like us to believe too.

Underminers: Subverting the Machine

In the last Empire Express I already recommended this book for reading. Today I would like to re-emphasize its meaning as a useful tool in an age of industrialized omnicide. Those regularly following my blog posts might be aware of the concept of “distributed denial of servitude“, which is the idea that every person who is aware of the problem of civilization can do something to reduce its destructive impacts on humans and non-humans alike, by withdrawing their time, mind, and energy from the machine in order to direct them at alternate ways of being.
Keith Farnish’s book ‘Underminers: a practical guide for radical change’ describes ways and methods how to succeed with this.
The book consists of three main parts:
The first part uncovers the “tools of disconnection”, the many ways by which Mother Culture lures, fools, coaxes, pushes, and forces her children into submission. She makes sure that spite is not turned against her, that all fighting remains infighting among citizens, and that those attempting to leave the herd are getting crushed. Knowledge about her ways is not supposed to rise to awareness because as soon as the illusion of her benevolence falls away people start to turn their backs on her. So becoming aware is already an act of undermining the machine.
With the knowledge of the tools of disconnection in mind the second part describes where and how “the culture of maximum harm” can be undermined actively. The goal is to uncover the illusory nature, pointlessness, and destructiveness of the dominant set of living arrangements to individuals or the general public. There are various options like creating ridiculous situations in which the system’s ability to serve its declared goals fails so obviously that people begin to awaken and start to question established thought patterns and institutions. This awakening from illusions is an absolute prerequisite for their being able to reconnect to the real world.
As this activism of a million pin pricks aims at disrupting the machine to the point of its breaking down one could call that — in the widest sense — sabotage. Yet in a legal sense, and certainly in moral terms, there is nothing wrong with most of what underminers are doing. The author stresses, though, that the underminer has to take full responsibility for his/her actions and therefore needs to plan carefully to avoid physical harm to living beings.
At one point the system comes crashing down. Whether it is the outcome of undermining, or whether it is the result in of the system’s inbuilt weaknesses, or whether it dies from exhaustion of resources is only relevant in terms of what will be left of the world for life to go on. Crashing down it will, and rather sooner than later. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down, not knowing what to do. People need a safety net to fall back into. In part three, Keith explains how to extract yourself from the machine’s grip so you may live not only more appropriately as a human being, but you also establish a parallel society that today practices the skills needed in the future. John Michael Greer once published a book whose title perfectly carries the sentiment: “Collapse now, avoid the rush.”
Community building will be a major undertaking here and, as a side effect of undermining, it becomes easier, through realizing how we got disconnected from each other in the first place.
So, altogether, the book is full of great ideas of where to start — right now — with your post-civilized life, and how to help bringing the machine to a halt. Underminers is available from your local or online bookshop, you may read it for free on a webpage, or you can download a free pdf from the same page.

“Cast off our watches (and phones), like my wife has, and it takes very little time to “tune in” to how far along its diurnal path the Earth has rotated, and what point in our wakefulness cycle we are currently at. I can’t see such principles being readily accepted in the world of commerce where time is money and money is the meaning of life, but that’s just one more reason why the commercial world is completely incompatible with human beings. We only have a finite time to spend on this world, with the people we love, doing the things that are truly important. Who the fuck gave anyone the right to steal that time away from us?” — Underminers, p345