Another Nuremberg

I haven’t been shopping since March 15, 2020, the first day of curfew in India. Lockdown is the neologism for this – for once an apt expression, because it is a technical term originally used by prison administrations. I haven’t been to the doctor for a year, until last week not even to the dentist, although there was every reason to do so. I don’t go to the movies anymore, I don’t enter an office of the administration anymore, I don’t enter a cashier’s office of a bank anymore. I no longer travel, neither short nor long, neither by cab nor by train or even by airplane, the latter of which has become completely impossible. A book manuscript lies unprinted on my hard drive, gathering digital dust because the mere thought of crowded shops and city streets already feels suffocating. Invited by friends I went to lunch at a tiny cookshop that didn’t require specific clothing; I couldn’t enjoy it, though. I did resume work at the library, mainly at the insistence of the manager, who assured me I didn’t have to follow any rules, even if everyone else did. In the office, to myself, I have time to catch my breath again. But the way there, a few kilometers by bicycle is an ordeal. Not that anyone would talk to me about the missing mask, no. I wouldn’t like that. I wouldn’t like that at all; I can’t stand the sight of people anymore and avoid being seen on my part. Me and people, we are a divorced couple.

There is a long history of early traumatization; life since hasn’t been too kind either. Of course, I could try to see the positive sides of life. Why don’t I try to see it more positively? Why don’t I start anew somewhere else? Why don’t I… ? – I guess because by now I lack the necessary faith that the grass is greener elsewhere. As I said, there is a long history, but it does not matter for what I have to say: That all of us individual cases with our human problems, our likes and dislikes, our opinions, insights and realizations, we don’t count any longer. Beyond our function as consumers, employees, taxpayers, cannon fodder, we have long since ceased to play any role in the way matters get handled. We are merely the objects of observation and control, generic members of statistically ascertainable norm groups. Gendered, risk-evaluated, labeled, sorted, directed, manipulated, exploited, eventually dumped.

The raised index finger for all those without a mask.
We comply with the Corona rules.

[Billboard by the City of Berlin, paid from taxpayer money]

New Barbarism

Corona just caps it all off. Hardly any intellectual fails to mention that the Corona State finally flushes to the surface what had been pushed underwater for so long: all kinds of toxic garbage, looted goods, gasping victims of terror, gnawed-up floaters, fears and traumas, screwed-up biographies, stolen dreams, lost raison d’être, abdicated freedom. Add to all that the codified injustice, the structural violence, and a mountain of epistemic baggage that keep our polities stuck in unreformable rigidity. In the face of nightmare societies competing for the worst way , one can hardly tell the difference whether I am writing about Germany, India, or say, Mexico.

A lot of words that, in short, are supposed to explain why, these days, my trust in the human capacity to bond, in the manifest social structure and – yes, also – in the specific individuals that surround me, has slipped away. I have lost the desire to see anyone anymore, lost the joy of hearing what is going on with this or that person. In the same way, when I think of the big names of our time – people from music, philosophy, politics, science, etc. – I’d rather they kept their mouths shut, because what comes out of there usually offends the mind. If the verbal garbage remained just words – ok. But unfortunately the call for ostracizing the dissenters and the demands for harder punishment of “deniers”, along with all the other fantasies of social barbarism get implemented without big scruples only too soon after… and the whole pack of established media provide a platform for the hysteria. The state’s regulations regime has overtaken many a satirical exaggeration within a few weeks by issuing ever more repressive orders. And then there are the non-state ‘measures’. A friend from Berlin writes:

“The day before yesterday I was actually physically attacked for the first time in my adult life in the park by an aggressive but at the same time somehow calculating man. Afterwards I did some asking around and in fact it happened to my roommate in a very similar way. The girlfriend of another acquaintance was slapped in the subway; another one was yelled at in the supermarket because of the distance rules. People here are starting to go crazy.”

Doublethink

There is an archaic conception of man at work, incompatible with my worldview: it’s not autonomous individuals endowed with dignity, embedded in loving communities, who shape their lives in a self-responsible manner, but fear-driven government subjects incapable of making rational decisions, who must be kept on a leash for their own good and who — as self-appointed guardians of the status quo – habitually obey pre-emptively. Real dangers have given way to obscure statistical risk potentials, your neighbor is always a danger to your life, denunciation is a civic duty, children’s birthday parties get broken up as criminal gatherings. How quickly the turnaround has happened is frightening in itself already, because as far as typical features of Nazi Germany were concerned, the rule went, NEVER AGAIN! But already in early May, six weeks into the curfew, my mother wrote from rural Black Forest:

“My physiotherapist, who is friends with a policeman, told me that in [the county seat] 1000 people call every day to report friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances to the police – for Corona misconduct!”

In the eyes of a not insignificant part of the population, freedom and human dignity are no longer inalienable rights, but privileges that have to be earned by conformity – and thus are reduced to absurdity. Civil and human rights dwell in best company with other terms that have been usurped into Newspeak: Attitudinal journalism operates as “reporting”, Nazis masquerade as “Antifa”, “solidarity” is understood as forced conformity, “development aid” drives whole continents into poverty, “humanitarian intervention” stands for genocide, “vaccination” has become another word for genetic manipulation, forcing women about to give birth to wearing masks is part of “health care”, the authoritarian regime pretends to be a “democracy”, mob rule prides itself on “civil courage”, the middle finger replaces the “index finger”… I could go on like this for hours and literally fill a whole dictionary – the neo-liberal dictionary of falsehoods, which I already mentioned in earlier articles.

Those who feel reminded of George Orwell have long since no need to fear overstretching the comparison. Dystopia can hardly be manifested more clearly and obviously. In the novel “1984” Orwell writes:

“[‘blackwhite’] means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.”

Introduced later, the technical term for “doublethink” is “cognitive dissonance.”

De-Coronification

Here the question arises how after Corona — assuming the nightmare has a happy ending — a new togetherness can come about at all, given that such a massive slide into barbarism was supported by virtually all governmental, social, scientific and economic institutions, but especially by so many fellow human beings. How can one restore that trust to one’s arbitrary neighbor that is needed to build a relationship, how can one again look into the eyes of the perpetrators, of whom one knows that in their world one exists merely as an object?

I have my doubts that a simple “No hard feelings” approach is enough, because I cannot dismiss Schopenhauer’s remark that “to forgive and forget is to throw precious experience out of the window”. Prior to forgiveness, there must be recognition of one’s own transgressions and subsequent repentance. It involves the willingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions, to accept punishment, to repent, to make amends or at least to mitigate the damage. Then, and only then, may one forgive, but rather not forget. We must not allow ourselves to wrap the cloak of silence around the people’s role in the oppressing, torturing and murdering of millions, as we did after the disaster of the Third Reich, because at that time the historical traumas of hundreds of millions of people in dozens of nations remained buried deep in the individual and collective psyche. Uncured they continued to smolder within the closets of apparently purified hearts and minds, affected the world view of three or four subsequent generations, and found expression during the so-called pandemic in a mass hysteria unlike any other in history. The failed Denazification of post-WW2 – failed because it got stuck with mere criminalization of identified perpetrators — must be made up for in our present.

Denazification today means de-coronification. Without another trial based on the Nuremberg model – because of the symbolism (tribunal and codex) it should indeed take place in Nuremberg – a credible and trustworthy restoration of social cohesion is simply impossible. The enormity of what has happened demands a complete reappraisal, while those responsible for the worst mass suffering in human history must be held accountable. The thirst for revenge, the cry for crucifixion of exposed representatives of the Corona regime, however, must under no circumstances guide the trial. As now impressively demonstrated, with the death of the Nazi grandees, self-afflicted or on the gallows, the phantom of fascism was by no means banished, but could return in full glory as self-declared anti-fascism, as totalitarianism in democratic guise. The goal of a tribunal should be to educate the population about its own role in the emergence of tyranny. Of course, it is also urgent to ensure that the main characters in the Corona scam are permanently prevented from further agitation. Immediately thereafter, however, the real clean-up work begins: our language, our institutions, our laws and regulations, our economy and currency, our international as well as our personal relationships, our relationship to technology and food, and our use of art, medicine, science – basically, simply all elements of existence – must be examined. A complete revolution of our way of life becomes due, the core of which must be the confrontation of our traumas: a personal Nuremberg for each and every one of us.

Forest planet

Millions of trees, billions of trees, trillions of trees to be planted. This is what recent headlines ask of governments. After nuke plants built to replace coal power, after desert ecologies falling victim to solar panels, river valleys drowning in catchment lakes and hill tops getting plastered with windmills, now it’s savannas becoming destroyed by artificial forests – all in the name of the CO2 narrative.
What’s wrong with renewables and carbon sequestration? Nothing with those things as such. The problem lies with the notion of man-the-engineer, man-the-saviour, man-molding-the-future-of-planet-Earth. Man who is God; an idiot god which is afraid to die, that is. We’re obsessed with numbers, with mass, and we tend to forget the space inbetween, the relationships, the immaterial matters; such as the longing of living beings to build their own community.
Not lonely, autonomous, sovereign beings populate the world. Rather, it consists of a constantly oscillating web of dynamic interactions in which one is transformed by the other. The relationship counts, not the substance.

[Andreas Weber: Matter and Desire. An Erotic Ecology]
Every ecosystem has its own value. Rather than a system it is a community of beings organizing themselves in a way that works for them and for the world. So even when we attempt restoration of wetlands or forests we need to honour these beings’ better knowledge in bringing their place back to life. Even with the best of intentions behind our attempts to help, we think too often in economic terms. The lumber friendly arboricultures of central Europe, for example, are not forests; they are impoverished monocultural deserts ridden with bark beetles and troubled by Waldsterben 2.0 . In Lusatia, on the other hand, a region in Germany heavily reshaped by lignite strip mining, nature is quickly and steadily recovering all on its own. A succession of plants and animals reconquers the moonscape shaped by giant excavators. We’ve also heard of Pripyat’s growing forest ecologies, wild boars conquering Fukushima, or the revival of coastal waters after the trawlers have left the scene.
Photo by Lou Levit on Unsplash
Humankind has got a role in restoring a balance that resembles the Holocene, preventing the planet from slipping into a new hothouse Earth. We better not try to decide what is best for the planet, though. We got enough to do with removing dams and fences and heavy weaponry and chemical factories and nuclear power plants, with turning industrial agriculture into permaculture gardens, with breaking down our lifeless societies into living communities, and – first and foremost – with challenging and changing our unquestioned assumptions on how the world works and what our role in the Universe is.
Some of us may plant trees in places where there once have been forests. Some of us may plant sea grass where there have been meadows before. Some of us may reintroduce locally extinct species or restore swamps and wetlands and savannas. But in my humble opinion, all of this would happen in homoeopathic doses, guided by local savants of ecology, and in an unobtrusive manner.

Fingerprints on water

Being asked the question, What do you do to make the world a better place?, or, What do you do to live up to your highest understanding of what is good and real?, the answer is… less.

I live in a small space without walls. There is neither clock nor calendar in there, no TV, no radio receiver, no washing machine, no stove; I own five electrical items only – a solar candle, a light bulb, a camera, a laptop, a tablet – and I am committed to not replace the latter three once they come beyond repair. I’m slowing down, inwardly and outwardly. I don’t own a motorized vehicle; I arranged my life in such a way as to be able to rely on my bicycle or walk for 99 out of 100 days. I stopped traveling for pleasure. I use a dry compost toilet. I wash myself and my laundry in a bucket; my daily water usage is around 30-40 liters max. I don’t eat meat. I don’t smoke, drink, or dope. I don’t phone. I reduced the consumption of music and movies and books and sweets and clothes. I wear my stuff for years and years, first for “proper” dressing, then for casual home use, after for gardening, and finally for rags with which to clean floors and vegetables. I live on little more than one Euro per day. I stopped buying stuff, with the exception of bread and some fruits which are not available from the farm, a toothbrush once in a while, some soap.

drawing by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

The list of material items I have removed from my life goes on for much longer. I don’t want to bore you with it. I also think that this is not the most important part of my story of doing less. Sure, the less I consume the less I pollute. But then again, I’m aware that I’m just one man among billions of others – many of whom consume more than their purse allows them to. I also know Jevons’ Paradox, according to which saving resources only results in an overcompensation; somebody else will consume what I left untouched, and perhaps more than that. I am also aware that, compared to a tribal human, I own more things than I probably need. I certainly cannot carry everything at once. I still take flights twice a year, to visit my aging mother. I don’t believe in offsetting. I’ll just quit it once she’s gone. Let’s stay positive saying, there is room for future reduction, to a life like fingerprints on water.

On the plane of the immaterial I am cutting down on many things as well. I don’t protest, campaign, petition. The hectic activity, the anxious frenzy, the omnipresent noise and light and technological stink and the constant advertising and information-pushing begin to cause me nausea. I have downscaled my knowing, reasoning, judging, arguing. That makes it harder to write and talk, but then again, what is there to say that hasn’t already been told by somebody else? And can I really claim I’m right with what I say? Who is that Mewhich tends to inflate to epic proportions? I haven’t found the needle in my haystack of yet-to-be-discarded items with which to collapse the balloon-like person I think I am, but I sure have fun releasing some of its air through the vent. The smaller it gets the less ugly it becomes. 
 
Am I leaving my mark in this world by not leaving a mark when I leave,as a Texan musician put it in the late nineties? I believe I have done too much already to achieve this, and I don’t even know whether it’s desirable. Our very existence changes the world, for better or worse. So why don’t we go for the better? My goal is not about reducing everything to zero. It’s rather about chipping away that which is destructive, disturbing, disruptive, delusive; to find the right balance between being and becoming. Like most people in industrial civilization I weigh too heavy on the planet’s capacity to sustain life. That’s why my path leads downward, away from the apex of our culture, towards the foundations of existence.

Owning less goes straight against the paradigm of separation; consuming less is incompatible with the locust culture currently ruling the whole planet; and doing less, to me, is the confession that the complexity of the world is way beyond my understanding. I just don’t know what is good for everybody. I hardly know what is good for me. I’ve got an intuition, and I follow it. I don’t know where this ends but it feels good to trust that feeling, and I do not suffer from less stuff. There is no sacrifice, no loss, no self-denial. It’s rather the opposite – every gadget, every insurance, every untruthful relationship, every idea, every activity that fell away provided space and time for something much more valuable: the essence of it all, the unadulterated sensation of living, the meaning of being alive. Not that I got that to the fullest; as already shared, I still own things, thoughts, personae. Life is becoming more and more interesting though.

Now if you ask me whether I recommend my way to everybody, I say, Of course – not! My pathworks for my feet. What I (do not) do is a manifestation of myunderstanding. You need to follow yours. In fact, you have no choice but to do so. If anything you can only choose what you wish to understand. Maybe that’s a suitable point for starting the revolution, and maybe it starts with understanding less.

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.

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.

In Churchill’s words

“No man is free if he fears death. But the minute you proffer the fear, at that momentyou are free.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

When people speak of Gandhi and Martin Luther King with great reverence, as role models for successful non-violent resistance, what is often being overlooked is the fact that not only did those resistance leaders apply counter-intuitive methods and not only did they speak with great charisma. What made those protests successful back then was the protesters’ complete determination to their goals, a determination so complete they would go to great length and would take all kinds of personal discomforts and disadvantages on themselves, willing even to go to death for their conviction. The symbols of freedom they created and held up have not just been mere declarations of preference, taste, ideas, or moral indignation. It was the protesters’ perseverance in complete determination to their goals that gave power to those symbols, and only through determination was it that they were able to touch the hearts and minds of their fellow men, and inspired them to support their plea.

The situation today is of similar urgency, yet we don’t see that kind of determination and perseverance much these days. Have we given up the struggle for social and environmental justice because we’re tired? Is it because we don’t believe in our cause any longer? Are we, as a society, as mankind, too fragmented, too deeply lost in identity politics, in selfish strive for personal happiness? Is it that we believe, instead, in a materialistic world view which has all but killed life’s spirit within us? It might be one of those, or, more likely, all of them together. The Gandhis and Luther-Kings of today run by the name of Vandana Shiva, or Arik Ascherman, or Ahed Tamimi, people who did not surrender to injustice, did not get scared into silence by threat of violence, will continue to speak up for what they know is right, and continuously take action in favour of their proclaimed goals. It’s not that their number was small – it isn’t. What is missing, though, is the support on the streets, with the determination to withstand anything it takes to end the evil system which is devouring the world.

As a protest, Standing Rock has been standing out because there was an urgency to it, and an international solidarity rarely seen these days. Standing Rock has also been a complete disaster, not because they’ve been overrun, but because there has been no public outcry, no follow-up activities, no spreading of civil disobedience across the US and other industrialized countries.

In the same way, Occupy and its sympathizers have failed to continually block and boycott the powers they were up against. It’s like the late sixties all over again, like the stone-throwing student protester Joschka Fischer who, thirty years later, as Germany’s first Green Party foreign minister, in breach of international law, sent soldiers to Serbia, into the country’s first war after WW II. This transition from fringe opposition to conformity just happens so much faster now. All of us, we’re back to work; all of us, we’re populating shops and malls and sales, as if our indignation and our lust for something new had been just a passing phase and as if our continued functioning as cogwheels in the Machine didn’t contribute to the very injustices we’ve been pointing out. As if it weren’t our lives that are at stake now. Or aren’t they? Is this just me making up worst-case scenarios or is our planet actually getting dismantled right at this moment? And if this is so, would we let ourselves get shepherded to the butcher’s block, or would we rather stand up and shout at the top of our lungs, “I shall not surrender! We will never surrender!”, just like the people of Palestine do in their seventy-year struggle against Israeli occupation and apartheid policy?

I’m not saying that, “if everyone had joined the protests the problem would have been solved”, for the fact remains that this kind of logic doesn’t work, neither hypothetically nor actually. Still, there lingers the question why, at a time when our survival as individuals, as a community, and as a species stands under immediate threat, our eyes and ears stay closed, our minds stay numb, our mouths stay shut, our hands stay deeply stuffed within our pockets.

Is it because we’ve sold our bodies to the man for a little bit of dough, we’ve sold our minds to the establishment for a little bit of hope, and we’ve sold our spirit to the likes of Adam Smith and Richard Dawkins, for the promise that selfishness will continue to make the world go round?

If you plan on not letting yourself get silently led into the dark, bloody night of the slaughterhouse, your time for making a statement is exactly now, and you better make it a matter of life and death – because that’s what it actually is.

Repeat until liberated

Seeing the necessity to stop the runaway train to extinction, how can we accomplish the shift from materialistic to holistic worldview? The question is relevant because not only are people physically entangled in the traplines of civilized life, it makes them also think that ‘beauty’ and ‘sacred’ and ‘joy’ were merely empty words which cannot afford them a living. But this is just a matter of perception. The task, from my understanding, is to provide opportunity for seeing things differently, by getting in touch with that more beautiful life. This goes beyond convincing others that “I am right”. First of all, it is also about proving to ourselves that we can actually stop the destruction within our own sphere of influence. Secondly, I think, the most convincing point in a debate is an argument which relates to an actual experience, so this experience has to be facilitated if it doesn’t already exist.
Thirdly, with only a minimum of contemplation and inquiry, it becomes unquestionably clear that at the basis of our many problems lies money; at the basis of money lies civilization; and at the basis of civilization lies the mindset of separation, of division and control and manipulation and selfishness. By liberating ourselves from the grip of that mindset, and by cutting ties with its manifestations in society, we can literally end the nightmare, one person at a time. This is by no means theoretical gibberish. It has been done millions of times over the millennia, it’s being done by people right now.

My practical advice is a one-and-a-half steps program which I and others like me have gone through. I wasn’t conscious about it back then, but the urge to get out of the machine made me do what was necessary. It has been nicely explained by Keith Farnish in chapters 9 & 10 of his book “Underminers” which is freely available from the web. The advice runs something like this:

1. Reduce time on wage slavery by reducing the need for money,

a) by cutting the acquisition of goods and services we do not really need, eg arranging our housing and job such that we can reduce petrol or even sell the car, and
b) by reducing the spending on things we might do or create ourselves, eg gathering a group of friends and neighbours who are looking after children rather than paying for day care; growing food instead of buying it; observing plants and animals instead of watching TV or cinema.

This has already the effect of bringing us closer to understanding the foundation of our existence, and of building an alternate social structure we may fall back upon when the machine collapses. It’s the first step to reconnecting to the holistic worldview, it reduces our consumption (with all that this implies, eg. exploitation, pollution, sickness), it gives us more power over our lives, and it’s a self-reinforcing feedback loop: The money we save can be translated into time we reduce on wage slavery.

The following half step is using the time we saved on wage slavery, to better connect with people around us for further common projects, to help others who are in need, to ask the bigger questions in life (eg. what is important to me, and who is me anyway?) and to research how to do more things ourselves, like how to avoid or deal with health issues, how to repair the sink, how to accomplish tasks without using high tech, how to build simple structures, how to resolve conflict… None of this is rocket science. By applying the newly-gathered knowledge, we reduce the need for money even further.

Repeat until liberated.

To those who feel like jumping at me, replying, “All good and well, BUT…!” — just continue with your life as before. What you want is change happening without your having to change your life. We need to accept that good things don’t come ready-made, by pressing a button and ordering from a menu. Though a different feel to life will arise immediately, the process takes some time till we’re out of the worst, and there will be challenges. Only if we possess the urge to make a leap will we gain confidence in our abilities; only then will it become a self-perpetuating, empowering process instead of a drag.

Most fellow travellers say that their lives have simplified amazingly; they mention a deep sense of liberation as a result; it is often coming along with a feeling of sacredness within all of creation, a joy of being alive. One begins to feel at home in a caring world rather than being driven by having to compete for the last crumbs. We can then say, “I feel fine, I am satisfied, I don’t need anything.” Hence we will become free to act without expecting anything in return. We can spend time on urgent or beautiful or helpful things although there might be no money in it. And we won’t waste it any longer, on falling prey to battle cries, advertisement, xenophobia, blind belief in authorities, dreams of consumption, and delusions of grandeur.

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.

Tick-Tock in Zeitgeist land

Well, IF everybody just did as I say the world would be a better place. The issue with this is as much my delusion about my being right, and the fact that IF information counted for anything we WOULD not be in this situation in the first place. The word “collapse” has become a staple in the mainstream media, and it changed nothing. As opposed to Zeitgeist’s rationalistic vision, “informing people” is exactly NOT what is triggering change.
There is a lot to be said about dysfunctional open — and hidden — premises in Zeitgeist’s worldview. The most obvious thing about the movement, though, is that there are no recipes for bringing about the proposed change, no timelines, no triggerpoints for how or when to start, and, worst of all, no actual activity right now — other than symbolic “action” like leaflet distribution, meetings, protest marches. In ten years, Zeitgeist has achieved nothing but the promotion of its leader’s movies.

That the envisioned paradigm shift hasn’t happened yet, despite all the information available, is a clear sign to me that the core of what it means to be human has never been spoken to; and what is most important to people, us, has never been addressed. The Universe is not a clockwork, living beings are not machines. If the theory of evolution holds true emotions, affections, intuitions, and beliefs have developed for a good reason; it is emotions, relationships, and beliefs that have us engaged into actively shaping our lives. When it is millions of fish being poisoned by industrial civilization, I write a petition to the UN, period; when it is my lap dog, though, that is being poisoned by the same system, I am up on the barricades, stop my interaction with the perpetrators, and immediately start to find a way to create better food – because of my love for that animal.

Healthy people have emotions, psychopaths don’t. In other words, a world free of subjective decisionmaking is a psychopathic world, and the lack of activity towards stopping the destructiveness of our system is built into the notion that Zeitgeist propagates: that you shouldn’t take things personally, that you should wait with changing your life, that you should leave it to someone else to bring the system down, that personal action is too impotent to achieve anything anyway, and that the corporations are right with their idea that the world is nothing but a pile of spiritless resources, waiting to be put to use by people.
Go ahead, if you wish, dear Zeitgeisters. You got every right to do so. But the Z Paradigm doesn’t differ as much from what we already have as to be able to inspire change. It’s the technological Golden Age in updated fashion which, after ten thousand years of “progress”, is still lingering just around the corner.

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.

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