Killing Sophie Again

Sophie Scholl

haGalil, a German webzine on Jewish life, announced a demonstrative performance “under strictest observance of the mandatory Corona protective measures, including the testing of the participants” and “in close consultation with the appropriate authorities.” And thus, three days later, a spooky scene presented itself on May 9th 2021, the 100th anniversary of Sophie Scholl’s birthday, to onlookers at Munich’s Königsplatz (The King’s Square) as well as the viewers of a live video stream.

A definition of cognitive dissonance

At a distance of about twenty meters from the visitors, Dr. Hildegard Kronawitter, the managing director of the Weiße Rose Stiftung (White Rose Foundation Germany), was giving her emotionless opening speech by reading from her notes. She explains that she wishes the actors much joy at the performance and that Sophie Scholl may accompany them in their everyday lives. She thanks “the audience which has shown up in exactly the numbers permitted” by the authorities. Then she proceeds with reading a short welcoming speech from Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter who couldn’t participate personally “because the conditions to be observed under Corona made that impossible for him.” His text honoured the theatrical artists’ upcoming performance as “a living monument” for Sophie Scholl whose actions “have broken the Nazis’ claim for monopoly over public opinion.” He proclaims that “Remembrance today means that we stay vigilant and do not remain silent when people get affronted, ostracized or attacked on confronting cheap propaganda” and closes his address by emphasizing how “fundamentally important it is to stand up for freedom, peace and justice – every day, and in every situation.” So far, so good. But then…

What follows would have been a bizarre sight even before 2020. One hundred young people come walking through the side gates of the Propylaea, a monumental arch in Greek classicist style. They are dressed in black pants, bright red shirts and … dark FFP masks. A few years ago one would have correctly guessed that those masks were symbols for abolished freedom of speech; today you’ll be cut short by the managing director of the White Rose Foundation if you assert as much. The youth march to their positions in front of the gate, exactly two meters apart from each neighbour, where, for about forty minutes, to the sound of Scholl quotes, they go through their theatrical motions without moving much from their places.

It is not up to me to judge the performance which has surely been given with the best intentions and in a spirit of devotion by the students, but as I said already, the scene felt utterly spooky and bizarre when seen in the light of the occasion, the celebration of a young woman who has been killed for committing simple acts of non-conformity to government orders. Set to the recitation of her demand for freedom a group of one hundred students – “under strictest observance of the mandatory Corona protective measures” and “in close consultation with the appropriate authorities” – through their large-scale demonstration of obedience make a nonsense of the very matter to be celebrated: an individual’s decision to follow her conscience even under the threat of death. If you need a definition of cognitive dissonance, here it is. And if you ask me whether it is justified to quote the words of Sophie Scholl, Anne Frank, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer in defiance of their second slaughtering by contemporary bureaucrats, be blessed.

Atrium of the University in Munich where the Scholl’s were caught dropping leaflets. (wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Civilization and violence

In a certain way each era has us living in unprecedented times – times which have never before unfolded like these. It lies in the nature of our linear view of history, but more so it lies in the nature of the subject of history, civilization, a culture in eternal making-over. As civilization amasses lands, people, stuff, knowledge, it grows constantly bigger until it eventually reaches its peak, the maximally achievable size and power, before it collapses into a heap – the end of history. Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian and social critic, in a typical misconception of the civilized philosopher stated that,

“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,” [Niebuhr, Beyond Tragedy, 1937, p39]

The thing that Niebuhr almost touched without noticing is that the apparent peak of civilization is not only a turning point but the most intense illusion of grandeur. What he, like most everyone I know, overlooks is the fact that the great architecture, the nicely chiseled rhetoric, the elaborate theories, the astounding technologies, the dolce vita and the fantastic wealth of civilized culture have at their basis the rape of peoples and lands. Violence, in other words, is not the exception to the supposedly lawful order of civilized culture – it makes up its very foundation. So we lie to ourselves when we think that violence is uncivilized, a typical characteristic of “primitive underdeveloped” people(s). We lie to ourselves when we think that we could keep violence in check. We lie to ourselves when we think that “best practices”, “progress”, and well-chosen leaders were able to overcome the predicament. At the apex of civilization, violence immerses everything, penetrates all places, and is baked into the morals, the knowledge, the technology, the law, the religion, the arts, and even the most ordinary rituals of everyday life. To say that violence got institutionally established – which it is – does not sufficiently describe its seat, its role, and its effect within our societies.

Directed switching-over

This becomes increasingly highlighted by the tyranny whose grip for power, for the first time in all history, does not radiate from one centre. It does not rally around one leader. Those who seem to take decisions are so obviously puppets that we cannot attribute full responsibility to them. Though they are guilty as shame for issuing inhumane unconstitutional orders they cannot be mistaken for the source of the global all-pervasive violence which is wrecking the illusion of the supposedly benevolent culture. No longer may we point to a Führer who verbatim took all responsibility on his shoulders. Violence has become a background radiation emanating from countless sources.

As I pointed out repeated times, and as it should be quite obvious prima facie, every single state, national and public institution or organization in India and most of Europe – the regions I have an overview on — has been turned into a zombie of the new régime. Among the most efficient of the numerous techniques applied to this effect are 1, the appointment of outsiders into leading positions – a non-police as head of police, a non-journalist as editor or publisher, a non-politician as minister, a non-physician as chairman of the board of the medical association etc –, 2, a strictly hierarchical culture of obedience, 3, the induction of fear of an elusive source of danger, 4, financial incentives, 5, misinformation, secrecy and censorship, and 6, social control and mass-psychological manipulation.

The technical term for this process in the German language is Gleichschaltung. Introduced by the Nazis in 1933, The technical term for this process of zombification is Gleichschaltung. Introduced by Germany’s National Socialists in 1933,its literal meaning is the simultaneous directed switching-over, the result of which is social synchronization among all public, economic and private entities within a country, to achieve a declared purpose. Neither the origin nor the intent of Gleichschaltung – whether you call it by that name or not – have anything to do with democracy, even as the parliaments castrate themselves and many of the institutions and organizations seem to spontaneously fall into lockstep all by themselves.

Volksgerichtshof, Freisler
Roland Freisler (centre) at the Volksgerichtshof (Bundesarchiv, Bild 151-39-23 /CC-BY-SA-3.0 Germany)

The moral collapse of respectable society

Some people object to the use of such terms (or any statements at all from that time, for that matter) in today’s context because these supposedly refer to specific events in the thirties and forties of the last century, while today’s societies – on the level of declarations – seem to differ tremendously from back then. Let’s take Frau Kronawitter, the above-mentioned managing director of the Weiße Rose Stiftung, as an example again. In November 2020 she said that her institute “disfavours” the use of Sophie Scholl quotes by the “Corona opposers”. The White Rose members had rebelled against a dictatorship which oppressed opinions and persecuted dissenters brutally whereas today, she said, the rule of law guaranteed free speech and the right to demonstrate.

You have to be quite blind – or biased – to not see the brutal physical and verbal violence against the peacefully acting dissenters of today, dissenters against an already established authoritarian régime under which oppositional views no longer reach the general public through ordinary, established channels. Being ignorant of the atrocities committed by the system, said Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge, is no excuse, though, for there are always means to acquire knowledge through means outside the official framework. Sophie Scholl who has been beheaded around the time Traudl Junge joined Hitler as a secretary, might have agreed, I guess. At her trial before the Volksgerichtshof (the NS supreme court) she said to Roland Freisler, “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.” In another quote attributed to her she stated,

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature.

Frau Kronawitter is not one of “those with no sides and no causes.” Even as she disagrees with the critics of the corona measures, her position – as a guardian of the memory of historical resistors to tyranny – might rather have obliged her to give those who quote from Scholl’s legacy at least the benefit of the doubt. ‘I understand the outrage,’ she could have told the journalists, ‘but I believe that we are far from the kind of situation the members of the White Rose found themselves in.’ Instead, in denial of the writings on the wall, she uttered the words abuse and absurd to denounce the protesters’ concerns. To my ears, it’s her own words that sound grotesque, not only in the face of the current situation but also with relation to the declared goal of the Weiße Rose Stiftung: At the end of the closing credits to the film Sophie Scholl, The Final Days (2005) it says that the foundation “informs relentlessly … on civil courage and resistance – even today.” In other words, keeping the memory of historical lessons alive is an ongoing task that requires vigilance with regards to wolves in sheep’s clothing. Early warnings need to be taken seriously, and active resistance should set in before it becomes a suicide mission. Yet obviously, like so many other leading figures in the memorial business, in music, literature, politics, science, medicine, philosophy and leftist circles, Kronawitter fell for (or instrumentalizes) literalism which means she cannot concede that under the shallow surface of differing phenomena the same old patterns drive the same old game for power toward the same old goal. But their literal understanding of what the assertions of the oppressors and the statements of their adversaries mean from a broader perspective is outdated since at least the 1960s.

Hannah Arendt

Lessons from history

Ever since people wondered what had befallen humankind during Europe’s totalitarian period, historians, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists have been using the actual terminology of that time in a more general sense to describe the phenomenology and mechanisms among groups of people and whole societies sliding into barbarism – or hyper-civilization, I should say. History does not repeat itself; it does rhyme quite regularly though. In other words, the lessons of history speak of active patterns, not of identical actors or events. Hannah Arendt as one of the better-known, well-received socio-historical analysts, dedicated her life’s work to finding the patterns underlying the fascist state. In her speech on Personal Responsibility Under a Dictatorship (1964), she made the conditions we live under remarkably well discernible:

“Totalitarian society, as distinguished from totalitarian government, is indeed monolithic; all public manifestations, cultural, artistic, or learned, and all organizations, welfare and social services, even sports and entertainment, are “coordinated.” There is no office and indeed no job of any public significance, from advertising agencies to the judiciary, from play-acting to sports journalism, from primary and secondary schooling to the universities and learned societies, in which an unequivocal acceptance of the ruling principles is not demanded.”

Most of today’s governments work in open breach of their democratic constitutions; yet so far they act merely authoritarian, not totalitarian. It is society itself – following impulses from its executive branch – that has slipped into totalitarianism, with all its elements “coordinated”, streamlined, lockstepped, gleichgeschaltet. If you don’t wear a mask you cannot enter the shop. If you don’t test negative you cannot enter the classroom. If you don’t vaccinate you cannot go to work, or to concert, and you cannot cross the border. If you kiss your friend or have a birthday party or publicly read from the constitution you get arrested. If you outspokenly disagree with the official health paradigm your publisher rejects your book or record, your chief editor refuses to print your article, your bank cancels your account, your internet provider drops you, your boss fires you, your landlord boots you out, your social-media hangouts silence or de-platform you, and your friends stop speaking to you. Hannah Arendt, in her effort to understand what had happened eighty-five years earlier to herself, described the same “incredible ease with which lifelong friendships were broken and discarded.” At the root of the phenomenon there was “fear-inspired hypocrisy”, she explained, but also an “early eagerness not to miss the train of history … among a great majority of public figures in all walks of life and all ramifications of culture” (ibid.), just as we can observe today. And there was a righteousness in them that defied all reason, all empathy, and persisted beyond the collapse of the violence-enforced lies as became overt in the post-war trials.

But even those who drifted along for fear of sanctions or who thought they were somehow choosing the lesser evil washed their hands of all responsibility. They felt that, as cogs in a machine, as functionaries of a system, they had no power over its atrocious deeds whatsoever. Nevertheless – according to Arendt – they have been and remained human beings which could and should be held accountable for their participation in the events, because they always had a choice. “All governments rest on consent,” she quotes US founding father Madison, and added that the fallacy rested in mistaking consent for obedience. Therefore the correct question to be put before the followers in a tyranny was not, ‘Why did you obey?’ but ‘Why did you support?’ (This is also part of the spiritual practice of taking responsibility for one’s life; instead of telling oneself, ‘I have to go to work’ one concedes ‘I choose to go to work.’) “Monsters exist,” says Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, “but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” [The New Republic, Feb 17, 1986]

Lessons from history: Rabbi Chananya Weissman testifies before the Berlin Corona Inquiry Committee, April 9th 2021

Making a difference

Hannah Arendt tried to find an answer to the most fundamental question in which way the system’s supporters and the non-collaborators differed. She concluded that the non-collaborators, “called irresponsible by the majority, were the only ones who dared judge by themselves.” They carefully decided on the limits of how far they could go and still look in the mirror, and even under force would prefer to die rather than step beyond those limits. The others, though, the system’s supporters would cling to established rules which were hijacked by those in power:

“The total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable … Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves,”

writes Arendt (ibid.), whereby she points to a generalization to be derived from the experience collected under the Nazi régime. As unique as the extent and the particular forms of evil under that specific tyranny may seem, underneath lay psychological and behavioral patterns which can be traced across all of civilization throughout all of world history, and they came to the foreground, again, in March 2020, clearly visible to anyone with open eyes or sensitive guts. If the Holocaust memorials, the war tribunals and the public commemoration days ought to have any meaning in today’s world beyond simple sorriness for irrecoverable losses, if the legacy of the Scholl siblings tells us anything at all, it is this one word: Beware!

For the time to stand up and disobey has arrived.

State-Approved Comparisons: On the Cult of the Expert (2)

(read part 1, Jesus was no D.Theol.)

These are not the 30s

Western democracies, from their very beginnings hollow shells masking the rule of plutocratic elitists, are now teetering on the brink of declared tyranny. That‘s not exaclty news. Modernity has been at this point a few times before. It‘s the result of the civilized way of life, with its hierarchies and its job specialization, its hyper-abstract thinking and emphathophobic rule-centered acting. What‘s to blame for such developments are neither capitalism nor stupid politicians nor uneducated plebeians nor greedy elites in the first place. In my book Mach was!? [see blog article „Dritte Auflage] I worte that capitlaism „is actually only the latest offspring of a ten-thousand-year-old dynasty of stupid, ugly, hunchbacked, short-sighted types of society.“ If you are not familiar with my line of argument here, read any of Derrick Jensen‘s works, preferrably Endgame, or Eisenstein‘s repeatedly-mentioned The Ascent of Humanity, or check out some of my previous writings on civilization, By understanding the mechanics of civilization – it is a machine – , or, at least, by comparing historical precedence one can discover tendencies in the succession of moments that make up our present age. And the impression of many, today, is that there emerges a likeness to one of the more recent cataclysms in history. But on trying to communicate that concern we usually run into a number of obstacles.

First of all, the comparison to the 1930s and 40s has been applied so often already that many don‘t take it for serious any longer. Whenever you observed a heated discussion, how long did it take, usually, for Nazi atrocities to getting thrown in? How many ‚new Hitlers‘ have we seen on Time magazine‘s cover, from Milosevic to Saddam Hussein? Cry wolf every time there is a puppy around and see the real beast marching in in broad daylight without anybody noticing it.

Secondly, there is a lack of experience among most people alive in today‘s West: they have never been to war, never lived in an in-your-face tyranny. The 3rd Reich and its war ended 76 years ago. East Germans, on the other hand, more often recognize the signs of rising authoritarianism and totalitarianism because the fall of the Wall happened only 31 years ago. Lack of experience leaves people unsuspecting of the workings of power and of the abuse of technology in the hands of a clique of psychopaths. They take those phony phrases about freedom and democracy at face value, never believing that „it“ can happen again – anytime, anywhere.

Thirdly, the anti-fascist indoctrination was especially successful in Germany and Austria with making people look out for national-socialist type fascism, swastikas, and anti-semitism. Every serious warning of a revival of totalitarianism receives the reply, „It‘s ridiculous, You cannot compare nowadays to back then! These are not the 30s!“

Permissible comparisons

Of course they are not. And of course we must compare – compare even apples and oranges, to find out that in some ways they differ, in others they compare. What looks like an orange at first glance might also well be another kind of apple. How would we know without comparison? So may we compare present-day democracy to fascism? Same story as with oranges and apples: we need to know how democratic our societes truely are respectively to what degree we are just falling for fraudulent labeling. What we are looking for when watching out for tendencies toward a new tyranny are not toothbrush moustaches, SS runes, or Swastika-Armlets, though. Comparisons to back then must look beyond literalisms, and for clarity‘s sake, I‘d rather avoid the term fascism. For fascism came in fashions as diverse as in Italy, Spain, Germany, or the US. But there are similarities in the various ways autocratic, tyrannical, or totalitarian régimes rose to power, and we better be alert to how that usually happens.

My own suspicion grew when curfews („Lockdowns“), muzzle orders („Everyday masks“) and assembly prohibitions („social distancing“) were imposed. As a trained nurse I am familiar with their uselessness and their adverse effects. The non-appearance of such ordinary medical knowledge in the mainstream media along with the concealment of alternative paths to healing, and the defamation of critics as „tin foil hats“, „right-wingers“, „covidiots“ etc. made it unmistakably clear within weeks that the so-called pandemic was not a matter of health. The wrongness of the „measures“ led me to another main reason I deeply distrust the official Corona narrative: It is their structurally, physically and psychologically violent nature. Where there is violence there are justifying lies to cover them up, and where there are lies there is violence to impose false truths. Once you understand the interdependence between lies and violence, on encountering one of them you don’t have to dig for long to expose the other part of the couple. In this case, both were obvious to me at an early stage.

As I am writing these lines, Vera Sharav, medical activist and holocaust survivor, testified before the German Corona Inquiry Committee, comparing the Corona régime to the times of the 3rd Reich. The list of similarities is horrifying:

  • people had / have to wear marks by which they can be discerned (armlet / facemask and health pass)
  • according to these marks people were / are segregated and barred from ordinary life
  • there were / are special laws governing the lives of the „diseased“
  • gatherings forbidden
  • travel forbidden for „dangerous“ persons; no escape
  • medical dictatorship under the pretense of „race hygiene“ / „virus containment“
  • moral norms obliterated
  • the medical, sciences, industrial, political, and military institutions were / are closely interwoven
  • destruction of social conscience in the name of public health
  • violations against individuals and classes institutionalized
  • medical profession incl. all its institutions was / is getting totally perverted
  • eugenics-driven policies displace(d) physicians‘ focus on the good of the individual
  • coercive public-health policies violate(d) individual civil and human rights
  • criminal methods used to enforce policies
  • use of fear of infectious epidemics to demonize „spreaders of disease“ as menace to public health
  • fear and propaganda, to impose a genocidal régime
  • government dictate and medical interventions undermine(d) dignity and freedom
  • „treatment“ and extermination according to protocols, meticulously, methodically
  • experiments with poisonous and lethal pharmaceuticals on unsuspecting or non-agreeing persons
  • all-out surveillance for the sake of „health“
  • crimes hidden behind special jargon

These are just a few parallels (those mentioned by Sharav); others like the scrapping of the constitution, the rule by government decree, the dissolution of the division of power, the lack of opposition, the fracturing of society and loss of social coherence, mass hysteria, deplatforming, the militarization of society, unwarranted police brutality, the lockstepping of institutions, censorship of free press – and so on and so on and so on – could be added.

The Germans are back!

Another great comparison has been delivered in satirical form by American wirter CJ Hopkins. In a widespread and really noteworthy article he wrote in November 2020. He is writing about his adopted country, but make no mistake: What he observes is a – nationally coloured, and in this case historically spicy – concerted attack on human rights, civil liberties and, last not least, human dignity on a global scale.

Break out the Wagner, folks… the Germans are back! No, not the warm, fuzzy, pussified, peace-loving, post-war Germans … the Germans! You know the ones I mean. The “I didn’t know where the trains were going” Germans. The “I was just following orders” Germans. The other Germans. […]

Given their not-too-distant history, it is rather depressing, and more than a little frightening, to watch as Germany is once again transformed into a totalitarian state, where the police are hunting down the mask-less on the streets, raiding restaurants, bars, and people’s homes, where goose-stepping little Good German citizens are peering into the windows of Yoga studios to see if they are violating “social distancing rules,” where I can’t take a walk or shop for groceries without being surrounded by hostile, glaring, sometimes verbally-abusive Germans, who are infuriated that I’m not wearing a mask, and otherwise mindlessly following orders, and who robotically remind me, “Es ist Pflicht! Es ist Pflicht!”

Hopkins concludes:

Unfortunately, once this kind of thing gets started, and reaches the stage we are currently experiencing, more often than not, it does not stop, not until cities lie in ruins or fields are littered with human skulls. It might take us ten or twelve years to get there, but, make no mistake, that’s where we’re headed, where totalitarianism is always headed … if you don’t believe me, just ask the Germans.

— CJ Hopkins, The Germans are Back! In: Off-Guardian 23 Nov 2020

With all those remarkable parallels in mind – and what of plain sight? – why is all this happening? In whose interest is the turmoil? What is all this suffering supposed to achieve? Right now we can only speculate. If you have watched Sharavs testimony beyond minute 20, you have heard her implying that the similarities to the 1930s and 40s are not exactly coincidental. Her research led her to the understanding that the Corona régime stands in a continuum with earlier attempts, by the same group of people, to establish global power, reduce the human population, follow eugenicist programs and finish the job Hitler failed to achieve: the creation of a superhuman race. I don‘t find this unlikely; when it looks like a fish, moves like a fish, and smells like a fish, what could it possibly be? I‘d lie if I pretended to not consider what seems apparent, but frankly, I don‘t know. Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes it isn‘t. These are questions to be solved at a later point in time, as the focus of Another Nuremberg.

I‘ll stick with the facts here, and I concur with a former German judge who said that, on witnessing a crime, when he calls the police he expects them to hurry to the scene without much ado. They should not make their appearance depend on whether the witness can provide the reasons or motivations of the perpetrators. In a health emergency, an ambulance will show up without asking you to give a detailed diagnosis of the underlying physiological issue; you just tell them the symptoms. And when your house is burning the fire fighters will come quickly without you giving notarized proof of the existence of the fire or a forensic analysis of the cause of its ignition.

The criminals are at the helm. Our societies are terminally sick. Our common house is on fire. Figuring this out doesn‘t require a rocket scientist. And I expect those who still have the courage and strength for decisive response to get into their boots and join the fight against whatever it is that has befallen us. I am not going to wait until vast numbers of people disappearing in death camps make it permissible to compare a Fourth Reich to the Third. It is too late for comparisons after the globalist „elites“ have unleashed nuclear war on the Near East, China, or Russia. A warning is a warning because it comes before the fact, not after it. On the slight chance that I might be wrong I ask all of you who have a funny gut feeling about these times, Take it seriously!

What is civilization?

With states closing their borders left and right, shutting down services and institutions for obsessive fear of spreading disease, the damage inflicted on the globalized economy has already reached epic proportions. The costs of one single month of partial shutdown, with no end in sight, is predicted to result in national GDP losses of min 3.5 to 4 percentage points, driving states into negative growth across the board. Stock market bubbles are ready to burst, currencies like the Euro and the Dollar teeter at the edge of major devaluation anyway, and the reduction of the aerosol masking effect, better known as global dimming, following the closing of numerous factories and reduced traffic, may increase global average atmospheric temperature by 1°C or more within weeks. Among the many pressing issues that our culture has brought about and is troubled by, these are but a few hopefuls (sic!) pointing at a near-term demise of the system of the locust, global industrial civilization. Don’t hold your breath, though; evil rarely dies that fast, but there is a slight chance that this might be my last blog posting before the lights go out.
Since civilization has become the central topic to this blog so many years ago, have we ever defined what we mean by it? The description of its origins, its workings, and its implications for the future might have done the job thoroughly already, but it may help if I summarize the essence of it all in a few sentences.
 
What is civilization characterized by?
The illusion of separation (in general), especially into Me vs. Other, and culture vs. nature, creates fear of Other which results in the Program of Control: the projectto measure, name, appropriate, domesticate, manipulate, coerce, commodify and consume the natural world, and to defend it against all that is not (yet) under control.
This, in turn, leads to accumulationof all kinds, individually of e.g. stuff, power, or money, collectively to societies characterized by growth, with expanding populations, cities, economies, knowledge, regulationsetc.
Civilization (consequently) manifests inthe growth of settlements too large to sustain themselves (cities); this is where the word derives from, etymologically, in the first place.The dependence on a huge hinterland supplying indispensable goods to the cities creates the peculiar relationship between center and periphery, of structural violence, most obviously social hierarchies in which permanent institutions are formed, with a tendency towards ossification. Structural violence, of course, works only so long as it is backed by physical violence. Hence the permanent threat and fear of harm ordeath, resulting in the absence of freedom, equality, brotherhood. As these are the indispensable birth rightsand everlasting conditions of the existence of all living beings (to the point where wild humans have no name for thosebecause they are, to them, like water to fish), we elevate them to the status of divine values, but we are unable to achieve them through the system which causes their absence. Historically, mass war, mass oppression, mass famine, mass slavery, mass poverty, patriarchy, and large-scale habitat degradation, among many other issues, have been constant companions to civilization from its very beginnings.
Why have we never been able to solve those problems? From the analysis of civilizations’ origin, history, and current manifestation, regarding the logic within its workings, I cannot help but disagree with the notion that we were “not civilized yet,” because as far as the above mentioned definitions matter we have reached the ultimate apex of our culture, the maximization of separation (social distancing, anybody?), knowledge acquirement (science our religion, surveillance state), population size (8bn), energy consumption, and territorial expansion. The wild, the divine,and the mysterious havebeen diminished to negligible size, tomarginal existence. Not much more seems possible in terms of civilizing the world – and we are suspended over a cliff. From here on, downwards.
 

[public domain]

This is true even for Auroville, a township developed to manifest the Divine within physical civilized existence. The relentless forces built into our culture’s mechanism are dragging the community-at-large along without mercy. It shows that the basic condition for joining Auroville, “to be of good will,”does suffice neither to halt nor to reverse the accelerated transformation of the world into goods and services, the spiritual impoverishment, or the psychological sliding into insanity. Attempting to swim against that powerful current, on the individual level, comes at the expense of one’s standing, livelihood, and eventually membership in this club.
So to say that all the damage done was avoidable – could be avoided in the future – means that one overlooks the nature of the project called civilization. It’s not despite our best efforts that we have reached a breaking point, but becauseof them. All of this does nothappen because of ill-informed decisions, bad luck, or evil intentions on the side ofthe ruling elites but because of regularities baked into the cake. Every civilization has developed a bit differently, but every single one of them which has not been swallowed by the Western model has collapsed as a result of the same shortcomings that our culture possesses. Don’t blame it on the wild, the untamed, the un-civilized which seeks to liberate itself from the shackles of our culture; blame it on this culture which has oppressed freedom, equality and brotherhood for ten millennia in a row.
Wild peoples have always been aware of the problem with our ways; they rarely gave up their ways for city living voluntarily. Early states, as we know today, had to forcefully conscript their population into staying put, and they habitually disappeared from the map as a result of people defecting in avoidance of slavery, drudgery, repetitive work, sickness, malnourishment, famine, and oppression. Contemporary neighbouring tribals, archaeological evidence shows, fared much better; they grew stronger and larger, lived longer, had less skeletal deformations, less signs of sickness and hunger and seemed to suffer lower mortality rates at a young age. 
 
The other day I had a few conversations which indicated to me that the word civilization, despite the all-encompassing harm it does to the conditions of existence both of humans and their habitat still, in the mind of most people, is connected to positive views, values, and hopes: civilization, the guarantor of life, liberty, and harmony, as well as arts, rational science, and a thriving economy.
From the times when the term has been coined as a descriptor for our “ascending”culture – as opposed to the “primitive tribals” ithas colonized– which informs today’s (mis-) understanding of what life is about within or outside of civilization, it is understandable that people feel concerned when thinking about the end of the world they have grown up with. Youmay regard it as a fallback into inferior ways of living, or youmay look sorrowfully to the turmoil that the transition to another way of living almost certainly brings about. I do understand those concerns, yet it must also be clear that civilization is inherently unsustainable; it will collapse anyway. So what do you mean when you say we must build a better civilization? It is basically the same question as, What is it that youwant to sustain when youare talking of sustainable living?
The answer might be that it is not civilization which is worth saving, but some of the above-mentioned values, and those are, as indicated, the birth right of every man, animal and plant. Not only do they notrequire civilization, they require its absence. In the absence of civilization, life – nature – thrives.
While every major change does indeed feel uncomfortable and bears the risk of violent outbreaks the one to blame, in this case, is civilization itself. No matter the good that you may attribute to civilization, ask yourself whether that justifies the quadrillion-fold suffering imposed on man, plant, animal, land, and sea, constantly, like that Orwellian boot in the face – forever.
 
I liken this to what my grandparents have related from their youth under the Nazi regime. Stating that not everything about Hitler had been bad they may simply have tried to convey the feeling that pervaded society at the time. It left me with the impression, though, that somehow they wanted to justify their silence in the face of surveillance, injustice, tyranny, eugenics, political murder, genocide, and war, as if economic success, autobahns, boy scout expeditions or the restoration of national pride had been worth all of that.
Seeing the world of today as it presents itself to me I cannot avoid noticing how much toward worse than back in the mid-20th century the situation has evolved. Considering the price this world pays for our food preferences, egocentric attitudes, computer obsession, mobility addiction etc., where am I standing in the overall picture? Personally, as much as I like to read a good book in my bed after dark, I would gladly give away scriptures, mattresses, pillows, electricity, lightbulbs and all the rest of civilized technology as the price for the restoration of humanity’s nature and place in the Universe. But that’s just me, one man wielding power over his own life alone.

Telling numbers, missing stories

Almost half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s raging wildfires with fears entire species may have been wiped out. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been lost since September with the figure likely to continue to soar. Devastating fires have ripped through the states of Victoria and New South Wales in the past couple of days alone,“

Zoe Drewitt wrote on Jan 2nd 2020 in an articleon Metro online.

pic: Pexels, free to use
They are estimting the vertebrates only, I guess. The staggering numbers don’t mean much, though, in the face of each and every death being a tragedy of its own. Imagine your pet and multiply the heartache half a billion times, coming from the Australia wildfires alone.
Add to this, among others 300 million cattle, 440 million goats, 540 million sheep, 1500 million pigs, and 45000 million chickens slaughtered every year for human consumption, which does neither include the wholesale destruction of wildlife in the name of progress, nor the victims of global warming all over the globe.
The body count you never hear about might be in the -trillions- per year.
Again, each and every one a tragedy both for the victims and for those left behind.
As we the civilized begin to understand that plants, forests, rivers and soils, as well, are conscious sentient intelligent beings we become hard-pressed to rethink our attitude towards our own place in the Universe and towards non-human life on Earth.
I’m not saying that death as such or feeding on another being were in themselves somehow inacceptable. My point here is the industrial scale on which it’s happening, the exploitative manner, the huge collateral suffering and killing (such as these wildfires, or the slashing of the Amazon forests), and, worst of all, our complete indifference towards it all.
If this is the price of civilization – and indeed it is – then it needs to be taken down and abolished forever.

Pulling the plug (Yurugu series #9)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration. This is the last blog herein.

pic: Bijay Chaurasia (cc 3.0 by-sa)

[previous article]
Adyashanti, a teacher with Christian and Zen Buddhist roots, once described awakening as a process of chipping away everything that is not true or real. The many concepts, beliefs and material things our culture has accumulated over thousands of years require a lot of chipping before glimpses at its underlying drives and axioms become possible. Still far from having reached ultimate reality the work for us, then, becomes the disempowerment of the power-seeking asili, first and foremost the meme of separation. We’ll see in a moment why that is so.
Members of Western civilization perceive themselves to be fundamentally separate and alone and therefore constantly under threat; they – we – lack balance and completeness. Consequently,

Material accumulation becomes the tool of an assurance against the hostilities and attacks of others. The individual becomes obsessed with the negative and threatening possibilities of the future – with accident and with death. He lives in a culture diseased with thanatophobia and one that provides him with insurances “against” every kind of physical or material possibility imaginable, yet knowing that no amount of financial gain can redeem his soul. He is truly Faustian man – but he did not choose to be so. The “choice” is already implicit in the asiliof the culture: the bio-cultural, ideological core.

European culture, then, fails in the primary function of a cultural construct, i.e., to provide the human being with the emotional security brought by spiritual communion. This sense of security, which the European fails to achieve, in majority cultures [“non-European” peoples] is created out of the spirituality of human interrelatedness and a concept of shared human value; an arena that transcends the material. (Yurugu, p380)

What is true for the culture as a whole does not fail to affect its members. The lack of true community goes hand in hand with a lack of deeply-felt love:

While the conception of love as the desire and ability to merge or unite with “other” may be accurate, “expansion” of the self is not the same as unification of self and other. And this is crucial to understanding the problems that beset, not “humankind,” but the European specifically. If the ability to love is predicated on the capacity of identifying “self” with “other,” then it is clear from this discussion that European culture does not provide a basis for the love-experience; instead it imposes an utamawazo[culturally structured thought, philosophy] that inhibits (devalues) identification and emotional participation and an ethic that complements and is consistent with this cognitive structure. We have come full circle to Plato. For him “knowing” was more important than “loving,” and “to know” meant knowing as “object,” something separate and distinct from self. Europeans, perhaps, do not love themselves and have no basis from which to love “others,” Norman Brown says. (Yurugu, p394)

Marimba Ani 2008

In other words, within European culture as expressed by its cultural core, it is impossible to create healthy relationships to the world in general, other living beings, other countries, other members of our culture, to our “loved” ones, or even – and especially – to ourselves (our Selves). If we are ever to overcome the many difficulties and life-threatening crises we are faced with, this is where the root causes lie, and this is where we need to work for change. Yet,

Intra-culturally, there is no basis for morality. Instead, there is merely a competitive ethic. The well-being and “success” of each disparate “self” (or ego) is threatened by that of others. Instead of being dependent on their well-being, European social structures depend, for their proper, efficient functioning, on mutual aggression, distrust, and competitiveness; i.e., fundamentally hostile relationships. If love were to enter into these micro-systems they would break down. But they are ensured against this occurrence, since they breed for cold calculation and reward competitiveness and aggression. (p 559)

This is what “love is the answer” means. While some may understand it in a fluffy sense, a woo-woo notion of irrational elevation from physical reality, love’s power to soften the stranglehold of civilized life from the inside is truly immense. It is both the force that weakens our culture’s foundations, and the result of its progressive inability to exert power over us. In the case of citizens of civilization, to love means to revolutionize what-is.

The only way of negating (short of destroying the culture from without) the inherently paternalistic nature of European interaction with other peoples would be to alter the European self-image, and that would mean changing the character of the utamaroho [collective personality] and the values dictated by the ideology: The ideology is, of course, embedded in the nature of the asili. That is a frightening truth for the European “humanist”; it’s neither pleasurable nor rewarding in any immediate sense. Moreover, it is the most morally difficult task Europeans could undertake. The call for a world culture is an escape from such an unpleasant prospect. It has been, in the main, a way of procrastinating – of putting off a painful, but necessary, ordeal – much as one puts off tooth extraction, knowing full well that the tooth will eventually have to come out. The issues are how long it will take the decay to cause untenable pain and how extensively it will be allowed to spread. There can be no viable process of European self-criticism, because this goes against the nature of their utamaroho. The decay will spread until the infection is expunged by the world’s majority (those external to the culture), otherwise the culture will simply rot. (Yurugu, p539f)

As a human of German descent I shouldn’t begin to criticize my culture, some may think. But what Marimba Ani is talking about in her eye-opening book Yurugu is not the eternal condemnation, or the eradication, of the Caucasian race. While the lack of melanin, as some authors speculate, may have played a role in developing our obsession with power, the psychological condition can be healed fully after it becomes conscious and the person – or culture – is sincerely willing to overcome her condition. My own awakening has been triggered, and my awareness has been sharpened by Buddhism and other wisdom traditions whose roots are based in non-European soil. I can see the culture I have grown up with from a different perspective today. The words of a Native American like Jack D. Forbes, or of an ethnic African like Marimba Ani, do make sense in a very deep way. How deep I have reached in my search for truth is, of course, unfathomable to myself; but I can sincerely say that I have been chipping away quite a lot of substance from the asilii’s manifestation within me; which means to say, change is possible.

The measure cannot be words alone; talk is cheap. We need to understand the workings of our culture on such a level that we cannot help but to translate our understandings into consequent tangible actions and coherent behaviour. There are things we would, and some we wouldn’t do from then on. As the place which those actions get motivation from is just as important, a to-do list – starting with, 1.) change lightbulbs – cannot be the answer to the question of what is required from an aspiring revolutionary. We need to work this out with our local community. It is in the process of reconnecting with others and with our true Self that we mustdiscover what our new culture will look like. One cannot know its specifics from before the paradigm shift. It would likely not resemble any of the habits currently lived by any of the world’s cultures; but it would, for the first time in ten thousand years, be compatible with the continuation of life on Earth.

The World as a stage (Yurugu series #8)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,”is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article]

In my book, Mach was!?,i.e., Do Something!?, I entered a chapter by the headline “Empire of Loneliness.” This refers to the enormity of the edifice erected by civilized philosophy; an edifice according to which you are a flesh-encapsulated separate mind in a world of meaningless material objects, of Otherness. There is no beingness and subjectivity other than human beingness and subjectivity, no intelligence but human intelligence, no meaning but human meaning, no purpose other than human purpose, no art and beauty other than human art and beauty, no importance other than self-importance. Others, be it other (especially non-civilized) humans, be it animals, plants, or the “inanimate” world, become hindering or even threatening objects at worst; at best resources valuable only for their usefulness to ourselves.

What’s more, no matter which philosophical direction you choose, its teachings are completely hollow and devoid of meaning. You may pick any phrase you like, and what you find is shallow conceptsand lip service. “Freedom” is indeed a kind of slavery, the war abroad guarantees“peace” in our homeland, and ignorance of the illusory nature of civilized life means “strength” in our efforts to survive as Yurugu souls. There is no spirit within our religions – be it Judaism, Christianity, Islam, or Scientism – and our “social networks” are the opposite of what community once meant. Marimba Ani writes,

The symptomatic and severe loneliness characteristic of Europeans is an effect of the lack of communal function of their culture. Europeans are bound to each other by virtue of a shared utamaroho[collective personality] of power, domination, world supremacy, and expansion. The inner cultural dynamics of aggressiveness, competition, and mutual distrust are all separating, not binding. The outer-directed drives bind them into a tremendously efficient machine of aggression. The culture is supremely successful in this regard. European culture is not based on a vision of the essentially human. It does not serve human needs because it is not “designed” to do so. (Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior, 1994, p390)

It is really important to understand that the culture is not meant to benefit its people. When institutions do us wrong, when taxes are unjustly waived or imposed, when our friends let us down for profit, when laws impair our wiggle room, when weapons are delivered to those who wage war – all that is not happening incidentally, out of sheer incompetence or ignorance or without relation to all the other instances of wrongness.

European culture is an arena in which separate selves agree to compete without destroying the system and agree to cooperate in the destruction and consumption of other systems (e.g. cultures). One of the signs of the breakdown of the European system is that more and more Europeans begin to treat each other as they have heretofore only “ethically” treated the “cultural other.” (Yurugu, p400)

Ariadne’s thread leads straight into the heart of the matter, which is the asili, the cultural core of globalized European civilization. What makes this culture different from every other culture on Earth is its uniquely single-minded strife for power. It is Marimba Ani’s merit that she developed the concept of asili and applied it to European cultural thought and behaviour. Others before her did point out significant features, such as the meme of separation and its workings which modern Spirituality inspired by Asian religions clearly described, but none managed to explain why Christian values, or Humanism, never stopped structural and physical violence. Yurugu, the book, enables us to understand the power drive behind seemingly benign movements. The values purported serve to deceive Europe’s victims. “To bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan / El Salvador / Guatemala / Haiti / Iran/ Iraq/ Libya / Mali / Nicaragua / North Korea / Somalia / Sudan / Syria / Venezuela / Vietnam / Yemen” etc pp, ad infinitum,belongs into the realm of “Rhetorical ethics.” At a closer look we discover geopolitical considerations and greed behind amoral hypocrisy:

When the World is portrayed as a “stage,” it’s not just meant as a metaphor. One only has to watch or read the news, to see how empty words define the relationship between governments and populations, and between nation and nation. Joel Kovel writes,

We have noted that power has accrued to the West through the yoking of energy and reason within one cultural ego. Other cultures had the energy, still others had the control, and some even combined the two; but no culture carried the combination to such extremes. The very passion expressed by the western drive to power is representative, on a cultural level, of the tapping of deep infantile desires. This culture, at once the most advanced, is also the most infantile… The deeper one returns into infancy, the more profound and limitless becomes desire. (Joel Kovel: White Racism. A psychohistory, 1971, p130)

No surprise, then, that the drive to power is present in interpersonal relationships even, right down to the level of families. Rhetorical ethics lead to insincere expressions of emotions, thoughts, or solidarity, in which a sentence like “I love animals” is enough to mark a person as an animal lover, despite the fact that she is eating meat from industrial production. This magical relationship to words corresponds to the immature stage European culture is stuck in.

[next article in the series]

Everything

On leaving the village shop I pay my purchase with fiat currency. Fiat currency is the kind of money that comes into existence through debt, which means, an interest was attached to it that was owed to the central bank issuing the money. Someone had to work for it, to create a value that enabled them to pay this interest; it is the reason why civilized humans of this time and age pillage the planet. I don’t know what they did for the money I just spent. Perhaps they strip-mined the Deccan, or they razed some old-growth forest in Assam. I will never know. I understand, though, that the form in which the shop keeper receives my dough – as bits and bites via an online network connected to a bank – required massive infrastructure investments, from rare earths for computer parts, to copper in the wires, to cement for the buildings the bank and the network components are housed in – just to name a few of incredibly many raw materials needed to enable me to go shopping in this place or any other. One key component in our deal is electricity, the energy required to run the shop computer, the network hubs, and the bank computer; electricity is also needed for the transmission of the transaction signals. Think of nuclear reactors (uranium strip-mines, forever-radiating waste), coal-powered plants (more strip-mines, carbon dioxide), or “renewable” energy plants (yet more mines for silicates and rare earths, petroleum for the plastic parts, plastering of hillsides and plains with rotors and solar panels, ruining of river valleys with dams). And, on a side note, I know 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. [Jerry Mander: In the Absence of the Sacred]

Being constantly aware of details like these, I sigh as I walk out through the shop’s front door. I used to buy a lot of sweets and crunchy stuff before I decided to reduce my dependence on money and to prevent the production of plastic garbage. I buy only bread and spreads. The bread comes in a compostable paper wrapping, which is a rather revolutionary feat in a world gone crazy for petroleum-containing plastic packaging. But paper has issues of its own, from the consumption of forest ecologies to the poisonous chemicals needed to produce the stuff, and a lot of those chemicals end up in rivers and aquifers – or in your compost pile. Perhaps the paper is

made of 150-year-old Engelmann spruce and Cariboo fir from British Columbia. Cooked into pulp in a stew of sodium sulfide. Bleached with chlorine dioxides that exhale deadly dioxins. Printed with petroleum-based resins from California, carbon-black from oil drilled in the Gulf of Mexico, colored inks produced in the industrial suburbs of Seattle. Delivered in a van fueled by gasoline from Saudi Arabia. Bound by a petroleum-based rubber band made in Hong Kong. Sheathed in a polyethylene bag from New Jersey. [Chellis Glendinning: Off the Map]

by Maggie’s Camera on flickr.com (cc by-nd 2.0 generic)

The spreads – peanut butter, mixed fruits jam, and chocolate cream – come in glass jars. The glass itself is recyclable, but its production and recycling requires high amounts of fossil fuels. The lids are made of composite layers of rubber, tin, and paint; hard to separate, if at all possible. The peanuts have been harvested from a degraded landscape denuded from all kind of vegetation but hectares of monocrops. They are local, though, meaning, I save pollution from transportation, and receive only the poisonous industrial chemicals residing in soil, air, and water just about everywhere on the planet. Same goes for the jam and the chocolate spread. The latter is nagging my conscience a little more, since I don’t know what the fatty ingredients consist of, the chocolate comes from one or two far-away continents, and has likely been produced by grossly underpaid wage slaves and children. Let’s also not talk about the sugar in there, a legal drug that I have become addicted to already when drinking my first sweetened tea as a baby.

Anyway, one has to eat. When I was born I have been one of about 3.7 billion hungry mouths. Today I share the planet with more than double this amount, 99.99% of which belong to the same culture: global industrial civilization.

So I cycle home, carrying my purchase in a certified-organic cotton bag. That the shop doesn’t provide plastic carriers any longer helps them cater to the image of ‘green’ business. Yet, as a matter of fact, you cannot trust the certificate because the providing agency needs to create surplus which means, they need to satisfy their customers… and you can’t keep your customers happy when you ruin their businesses by attesting them bad practice. One lesson from AAA ratings for defaulting crap papers could have been, to take a closer look at all kinds of certificates, from safety guarantees for electric devices to organic labels for food. The more convenient path, though, is to confide in the neat-looking logo on the package, lest you would inspect the global supply chain leading from resources extraction through materials processing to assembly, packaging, transportation, and sales systems. I prefer to have a life. That means, I buy as little as possible, and when I do I don’t give a bleeding damn about what the label says; it’s a lie anyway. Which brings me back to the cotton bag I carried along: at least part of the cotton is genetically modified, Glyphosate-treated stuff, with a high likeliness of having been grown in a place where one or more farmers have killed themselves because they couldn’t repay their loans after the chemically annihilated fields refused to produce as much as the Frankenseed company promised. But at least I may reuse the bag a few more times before its weak seams sloppily tailored in a Bangladeshi sweatshop disintegrate and I have to buy a new one.

Once you start looking a little closer at how you live, what you use and who you interact with, you will notice without effort that exactly everything contributes to polluting the planet, to the destruction of habitat for all life forms including humans, and to causing the disintegration of communities, violence, death, extreme injustice, spiritual impoverishment, and decrease in human capacities. This is not because you were especially focusing on negative aspects, or that I was a defeatist, nihilistic, miserable-minded cynic. What you see is real. Do not, for one second, believe in human ingenuity being able to create a techno-fix for it. The “Digital age,” for instance, will not result in a well-informed unified activists front prevailing over the destructive power of the Megamachine. Jerry Mander writes,

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. This is certainly true of automobiles, which have virtually destroyed the natural world; and of television, which creates a common mental denominator; and of electrical energy generation, which is vastly overdeveloped to the detriment of the planet.

and:

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. [Jerry Mander: In the Absence of the Sacred]

I find both Mander’s and my own considerations echoed in another paragraph from Glendinning’s book “Off the Map” in which she reflects,

This white linen shirt. Constructed in a sweatshop in Indonesia. Or Lithuania. Or Saipan. Everything of this world. Shoes made of Brazilian cattle whose grazing lands were once rain forest. Eggs on the plate: they come courtesy of hens buckling in boxes not twice the size of their bodies, shot up with antibiotics and hormones. These petrochemical lawn chairs. Earl Grey tea. Everything. The raw materials of our lives mean one thing as we obtain them glistening at the mall, via the Internet, in mail-order catalogs, as gifts from friends. They mean something else in the naked sober world of their origin. They are literally made of the oppression, pain, grief, sacrifice imposed by the global economy.

Or I could have opened Derrick Jensen’s “The Myth of Human Supremacy” at pages 178/9 where I find a similar notion expressed by an author who is “just” sitting in a wooden house, on a winter day, with a computer on, snacking from a plastic bag of cashews. I trust you to play through the implications of that by yourself.

Often times when I talk to people, they use to respond, “O well, this means you cannot trust anybody, cannot believe anything written, cannot buy, eat, or touch anything.” And this is exactly my point. When it comes to our culture/ society/ economy, everything is tainted because everything has been created from matter violently ripped from the Earth, with no respect for ecosystems or living beings. Everything runs through a poisonous process of transportation, chemical treatment, packaging, insincere labeling, and finally trashing, all of which is performed by a planetary network of wage slaves who get alienated from the produce of their hands by division of labour, and who sell their lifetimes in exchange for fiat currency that creates more and more extreme social disparity. Everyone has become violently selfish from having to survive in a violent and greedy society, everyone’s traumatized, everyone has been turned into a zombie, or a jerk, or a victim.

Just look at us. Everything is backwards, everything is upside down. Doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, psychiatrists destroy minds, scientists destroy truth, major media destroys information, religions destroy spirituality and governments destroy freedom. [Michael Ellner]

“Don’t hate your oppressors;
they need liberation, just like you.”
 

In today’s world where every square inch of the Earth can feel the impact of our culture’s activity there is no escape from the Empire of Evil. There is no such thing as walking away, no such thing as dropping out. Our minds have been programmed for functioning in the context of this Empire. We are civilization, and civilization is who we are. You can’t walk away from yourself.

Does that mean we have to give up trying? I don’t believe so. Nature – and that includes humankind – possesses a tremendous capacity for self-healing. There is a real chance that once we brought down the physical manifestation of the system – or it collapsed on its own, which is more likely, given our current state of mind – the Planet, and humanity, will quickly bounce back to their former degree of aliveness. (Well, perhaps not.)
To unburden oneself from the acculturated need for things may not suffice to fully liberate the mind from its ties with our civilized upbringing. Independent of whether we’d be able to achieve anything tangible I see it as a morally necessary step, though, a step which also helps us reconnect with life how it truly was meant to be. We need to empathize with the sickness within ourselves, we also need to have patience with each other.

And maybe (just maybe) life still has a chance of blooming and spreading once again – after our sick culture has vanished from our minds and its practices are discontinued for good.

The arts are no exception (Yurugu series #7)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article]

As my readers, by now, may assume – and rightly so – that no part of European thought, life, and culture has escaped Yurugu’s influence, it is safe to say that the arts do have a role to play in exerting power over the “Other.” The forms of expression and the institutions of our civilization are thoroughly shaped in the image of Yurugu.

John Zerzan writes about the origins of art,

Art, like religion, arose from the original sense of disquiet, no doubt subtly but powerfully disturbing in its newness and its encroaching gradualness. In 1900 [Yrgo] Hirn wrote of an early dissatisfaction that motivated the artistic search for a “fuller and deeper expression” as “compensation for new deficiencies of life.” Cultural solutions, however, do not address the deeper dislocations that cultural “solutions” are themselves part of. Conversely, as commentators as diverse as Henry Miller and Theodor Adorno have concluded, there would be no need of art in a disalienated world. What art has ineffectively striven to capture and express would once again be a reality, the false antidote of culture forgotten. – Running on Emptiness: the Failure of Symbolic Thought

As art must reflect the nature of the asiliwe can expect a society deeply split into the haves and have-nots, to produce an equally split-up arts scene. Indeed, observing developmentsover the millennia, we can seea clear division between an elitist “sophisticated” conception of arts on the one hand, and the “kitsch” itemsthat ordinary folkscreate on the other. Of folk music, I once heard somebody say that, “Pigs can’t help oinking.”
While professional forms of art historically often served to establish a certain story of people’s nature and place in the (hostile) Universe, namely their position in a society’s hierarchy, today’s arts degrade the vast majority of people to consumers. The artist, though, cannot perceive herselfas a pure dominator. She, in turn, is subject to the overarching power of economy, and she is, thanks to the strong premise of separation, fundamentally alone with herself. When she expresses her visions in her art she will help to proliferate that premise. Her expression is perceived as uniquely hers. Whether she can reach anybody else, and whether anybody else is able to deeply relate to what she expresses, cannot be made sure. Following the fashion of the day is the only way how she hasa chance that she can make a living from her work. Marimba Ani writes,

European art becomes increasingly “a commodity manufactured for the market” tending toward the vulgar. We should point out that the interesting contradiction in European culture is that its art may be commercially inspired (“the artist must live, after all”), geared to consumption, inspired by the desire for recognition, and at the same time remain an elitist form, that is, essentially separated from the people, because the art, like culture, creates (controls) the people, rather than the reverse. According to Sorokin, in the artist’s tendency to disregard religious and moral values, the art itself

“comes to be more and more divorced from truly cultural values and turns into an empty art known euphemistically as ‘art for art’s sake,’ at once amoral, nonreligious, and nonsocial, and often antimoral, antireligious, and antisocial.” [Pitirim Sorokin, The Crisis of our Age, 1941, p56]

(Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,1994, p205)

Strolling through Indian villages, the only obvious kind of art we can see consists of expressions of the religious. The notion that people, nature, and gods are closely interrelated, is still very strong in rural areas. Yet in the cities – the gates through which the floodwaters of Western civilization press into the lives of average Indians – the scenery has become overgrown by a jungle of industrial design – advertisements, economic buildings of concrete, steel and glass, and political monuments – to which the spectator is no one but a subject to power: the power to dictate order, and the power to trigger desire. Bearing only few reminiscences to India’s pre-colonial culture, the form which art, music and design take are dictated by international standards nowadays.
It sometimes seems impossible to escape the omnipresent public cacophony of such products, and I wonder why all these people here simply accept the violation of their mind space. Perhaps they cannot stand the emptiness of a plain surface, or the loudness of silence any longer. Perhaps the lack of attention-grabbing artifacts would make them aware of that other gaping, hurtful void – the one inside. So, “It’s got to be Rock’n’Roll to fill the hole in your soul.” (ABBA). When the flooding of the senses ceases to work, when one day it “doesn’t bring the same reaction from inside your brain” (Savatage), it’s time to end that specific kind of division of labour which condemns the majority of people to stay passive consumers of the arts.
Let music, fine arts, sculpture, architecture, theatrical play, and storytelling come into existence by using your own imagination. What are the values of your community, what are the stories that connect and empower people in your place, and what is the fertile ground on which humanity’s purpose in the Universe can grow? Wouldn’t you like to express, for once, something that is truly important to you? What would art look like when it works towards the ending of the need for art?

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What is intelligence?

Regarding the topic of abstraction which was of central importance in the last Yurugu essay I would like to point out today some of its greater ramifications. To be precise, this is about intelligence and the difference between humans and animals.
Discussing the latter – what it supposedly is that makes the human species so special among the world’s species – you will always hear someone say that, “(a) Humans got a bigger brain, (b) which makes them more intelligent, (c) and this is the reason why humans are more successful survivors than any other living being.”
None of these three assertions is true.
The human brain has a volume of 1050-1500 ccm and weighs ~1.3 kg, the sperm whale’s has a volume of up to 8000 ccm and weighs up to 9.5 kg.
The assertion that humans have the best relative brain size is also false; our brain-to-body mass ratio is 1:40; mice or songbirds have a much better ratio. Insects seem best equipped, with brain mass measuring up to one seventh of the total body mass.
Among humans, the Neanderthals had a 25-30% bigger brain than modern sapiens, so brain size doesn’t necessarily help with survival.
Whether humans possess the highest intelligence depends on how you define intelligence, and how you measure it. I would hold that we – ie. civilized man – are not performing well in this category either: From a look at the Wikipediawe learn that there are “many ways” how intelligence has been defined, namely “logic, understanding, self-awareness, learning, emotional knowledge, reasoning, planning, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving,” most of which belong into the realm of abstract thinking. We’ll come to that in a minute.
Emotional knowledge, also called emotional intelligence or EQ – “the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)” – belongs to a totally different category.
Working with domestic animals, but also through observation of wildlife in India, I perceive animals as being extremely aware of each other’s moods. And while civilized codes of conduct usually expect of us that we suppress the showing, expressing, or reacting to emotions, animals often perfectly mirror, or respond to what the human beings nearby are up to. This is not to be confused with techniques like “Non-violent communication” or “Neuro-Linguistic Programming” (how telling!), by which a person’s needs, or their conscious or subconscious thoughts and emotions may become accessible, and – by civilized mindsets – misused for personal gain.
Like with the loss of much of our potential for sensual perception – we see, hear, taste, smell, and feel way less than our tribal sisters/brothers and ancestors – the loss of EQ results in a reduced ability to react intelligently to challenges.
Regarding the ability to think (abstractly), I came to the following understanding.
  1. If the theory of evolution (or some similar process) holds true, the human capacity to think (abstractly) must be present in other living beings, and certainly among our mammalian ancestry as well. In fact, if you look out for it, you will find it most obviously among corvidae, canidae, felidae, elephantidae, cetaceae and many more.
  2. That animals (or plants) are able to think (abstractly), or to develop consciousness of self, cannot be disproven in general.
  3. So-called “primitive” tribal human cultures often do not apply time measuring, maths, arts, or rational logic, nor do they develop complex societies and languages. Most of the times you will find a lack of most abstract concepts with them, concepts that civilized people completely base their behaviour upon. This does not mean tribal humans were incapable of abstract thinking: Abducted tribal babies raised in civilized societies developed just like any of our children. Thanks to Thomas Wynn (The Evolution of Spatial Competence, 1989) we know that at least a million years ago, our ancestors had an intelligence equalling that of the adult human today.
  4. So (abstract) thinking is a faculty available to a large number of species, it seems, certainly vertebrate species, and the use of abstraction is culturally determined, which means it is a choice made by each creature or culture. Tribal cultures must have deliberately refused to apply most kinds of abstract thinking for two to three million years of the genus homo, and continue to do so – on purpose, according to anthropological records from all over the world.
  5. The use of abstract thinking on the scale that civilizations apply may not be found in non-human species and tribal human cultures because it is counterproductive to the survival of the species / culture… The omnicidal (implicitly suicidal) behaviour of civilized cultures – especially our own, I would say with a side glance to the convergence of existential crises we are witnessing today – is proving this point best. On “falling back into savagery,” as the figure of speech has it, civilized man defaults on his true modus operandi; it is himself who is a real savage, not the tribal humans he continues to dismiss as unintelligent brutes and who declare him a sick person, a madman, because he is destroying himself along with everyone else.
pic: Saksham Choudhary, / pexels
IQ tests check a person’s ability to juggle with symbols, ie. to think abstractly. Despite what the phrase suggests, they do not actually measure intelligence. And neither do book reading, chess playing,  academic careers, or working with computers indicate higher levels of intelligence. 
Intelligence, as Jiddu Krishnamurti, in a public discussion held in Ojai, CA, on April 14, 1977, said, “is the capacity to see the truth that thought is limited. It can only come into being when thought has its right place. When there is no ‘me’, attention is intelligence.” And it is this attention that improves a being’s ability to survive. According to Krishnamurti, it requires an integration of reason and love. Cultures based on love and empathy for other living beings, including “inanimate objects” such as the world as a whole, often times perfectly merge with what civilized people call “environment”. Egocentrism and perceived separation, on the other hand, reduce our perceptions, narrow their processing according to personal interest, twist our understanding through the application of dysfunctional illusory concepts, and thus diminish intelligence.
I don’t know whether you, my dear reader, possess the willingness to consider the nature of intelligence from such a point of view. We may not come to a common understanding of what that thing is, or whether it has any existence outside philosophical pondering at all; so the question which makes up the title of my essay may not have an answer to it. But perhaps we might agree on what intelligence is not. Considering where it has led us it cannot be the kind of abstract thinking which is tearing the world into separate, standardized, measurable, lifeless bits and pieces, reduces them to words and symbols, and assumes that these represent the truth accurately enough to derive predictability of the world’s phenomena.
I also don’t know why or how our ancestors began their path towards civilization – the social manifestation of abstract thinking – but I sure know that it helped us to learn a whole lot about self-deception, violence, disconnection, and virtual reality. If our culture were a book, it’s title might run something like, “Civilization, or, How to Wreck Your Habitat As Fast As Possible.” Mistakes, though, are among the most powerful teachers we have. The things which don’t work can give us valuable hints at what might. Let’s take those ten thousand years of misery as a warning. To end our experiment in abstract, platonic living in favour of the return to an empathic relationship with the world would be the most intelligent decision this culture has ever taken.

“…to predict and control human behavior” (Yurugu series #6)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

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With this series of articles on decolonizing the mind from European thought patterns we repeatedly bump into terms like “objectivity.” “rationality,” or “universalism,” all of which have close links with how Western civilization defines science. The question how science participated in yoking non-European peoples and helped with bringing about social disparity, spiritual impoverishment, and biological annihilation, can hardly be avoided. Yet the answer cannot stop with science being the innocent enabler of its own abuse. Science has no existence of its own. It comes into existence through the work of scientists alone. Scientists, though, are human beings who are inseparably embedded in the world by any number of factors – biologically, socially, mentally, economically, etc. So how can we talk of universal validity of research results and unbiased objectivity based on rational thinking, when (European) science so clearly is a product of, and entangled in, (European) culture?
Psychoanalyst and eco-socialist Joel Kovel, for instance, explains how the concept of abstraction influenced the development of European culture and thusly the course of history.

One overriding quality determines what is good and bad within the analyzed world: purity. And within the entire spectrum of reality, one aspect of knowledge fulfills this quality: abstraction. An abstract idea is a purified idea, freed from annoyingly concrete and sensuous particulars. Words themselves are abstractions. The non-sensuous senses, sight and hearing, are the mediators of abstract activity. Smell, taste and touch are concrete, syncretic, incapable of making the fine distinctions necessary to sort out what is abstract from what is sensuous. Abstraction means distance from immediate experience, the substitution of a relatively remote symbol for a given sensuous reality. Sight and hearing are thus those senses which best fulfill the possibility of a remote relationship to the world. Western civilization began its expansion with the discovery of perspective, and the perfection of remote, visually organized abstracted activities – whether in navigation or in the development of firearms that could kill from a distance. (Joel Kovel: White Racism. A psychohistory, 1971, p133, quoted after Marimba Ani)

Joel Kovel; by Thomas Good / NLN [CC BY-SA 4.0]
All this goes to show that philosophy, science, and technology are exactly not ethically neutral, but come with far-reaching implications.

In my blog I have discussed such topics a number of times already. There is no need to repeat all that; so please allow me to refer you to previous articles carrying the label Science & Scientism.
Today we’ll focus on an African-centered perspective on this most important tool of European civilization. Marimba Ani, in her seminal book, Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,obviously cannot avoid this topic. Reviewing European political and philosophical history, she traces some of the relevant values back to Plato, but she also points out that their roots originate much deeper in time than just 2500 years. From her understanding – which I wholeheartedly support – there is a fundamental difference between European and other worldviews:

The African metaphysic, the Native American and Oceanic “majority cultures” (it is safe to generalize here), all presuppose a fundamental unity of reality based on the organic interrelatedness of being; all refuse to objectify nature, and insist on the essential spirituality of a true cosmos. What became known as the “scientific” view was really the European view that assumed a reality precluding psychical or spiritual influences on physical, material being. This view also resulted in the elimination of a true “metaphysical” concept and of an authentic cosmology. (Yurugu, p82)

In other words, worldview translates into behaviour. Societies within the European paradigm fundamentally differ from every other culture, be it Chinese or Indian civilizations before European expansion, be it any of the so-called primitive cultures, most of which have been wiped off the face of the Earth by explorers, conquerors, missionaries, educators, and development aid workers. This historical process developed, naturally, understandably, a situation in which an objective ethnology or anthropology – even if we assume that they were basically possible – has become completely out of reach:

This study was not approached objectively. It is not possible to be objective towards Europe. Certainly the victims of its cultural, political, and economic imperialism are not objective, if they are sane. And Europeans cannot be “objective” about their own cultural history. The question then becomes: What could objectivity possibly mean in terms of human mental attitudes? (Yurugu, p23)

She answers that question comprehensively. Quoting anthropologist Ralph Beals, she points out that,

Ultimately it was hoped to establish a computer-based model that would permit the rapid prediction of various types of outcomes of social change and conflict situations and the assessment of the effectiveness of different action programs in resolving or averting conflicts. (Ralph Beals: The Politics of Social Research, 1969, p197)

concluding herself that,

This, indeed, is what the “advancement of science” means. Its significance is neither noble nor transcendent. Rather it is quite pragmatic, “profane,” and provincial – designed for the sake of prediction and control of revolutionary movements. (Yurugu, p545)

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