What I wish to challenge here is a rarely examined prejudice that sees population aggregation at the apex of state centers as triumphs of civilization on the one hand, and decentralization into smaller political units on the other, as a breakdown or failure of political order. We should, I believe, aim to “normalize” collapse and see it rather as often inaugurating a periodic and possibly even salutary reformulation of political order.
— James C. Scott: Against the Grain
Plants are so unlike people that it’s very difficult for us to appreciate fully their complexity and sophistication. Yet plants have been evolving much, much longer than we have, have been inventing new strategies for survival and perfecting their designs for so long that to say that one of us is the more “advanced” really depends on how you define that term, on what “advances” you value. Naturally we value abilities such as consciousness, toolmaking, and language, if only because these have been the destinations of our own evolutionary journey thus far. Plants have traveled all that distance and then some—they’ve just traveled in a different direction.
— Michael Pollan, The botany of desire. Random House 2001
The psychology of the Underminer is something different from the way the “experts” tell us human beings should behave. The conventional models of human response are based on the civilized world and, yes, there are common strands in all cultures but, for instance, when a death occurs in a tribal culture that has, like all animals, accepted death as part of life then denial is not part of the equation. Neither is bargaining – for how can you bargain with the inevitable? When Elisabeth Kübler-Ross posited her model for bereavement, it was always going to a be a model for how the civilized human deals with death; it took no account of the way all humans deal with death, for not only are we all slightly different in our approach to everything – not just bereavement – we, as de facto civilized humans, are freaks. Homo sapiens civilis never evolved. Civilized humans have been created in the image of the machine: we don’t behave as normal human beings any more.
— Keith Farnish: Underminers
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?
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.
— Jürgen Hornschuh
For anybody who studies history seriously, it is a major puzzle how we, today, can live with what, to the people of all previous times and places, would have been considered unfeeling brutality and absolute nonsense.
— Ivan Illich in David Cayley, The Rivers North of the Future
Having good intentions and obeying all applicable moral laws is not sufficient to avoid inflicting harm if one’s worldview is based on the illusion of separateness
— Joyce Huesemann Michael Huesemann: Techno-Fix. Why Technology Won’t Save Us Or the Environment
Most people don’t realize what these [tribal] peoples have — don’t realize why they’d rather die than give it up… In any case, what humanity came up with during these first three million years was a way of life that works well for people and that is sustainable — that could have promised life for humankind for millions of years more — an accomplishment greater than any of ours, though of course less flashy.
— Daniel Quinn: If they give you lined paper write sidways
if Palaeolithic lifestyles were so basic and primitive, how did humans evolve with trillions of potential neural connections in the brain, of which we now only use a small fraction? What kinds of sophisticated lifestyles would be needed to evolve such a massive brain over hundreds of thousands of years? What kind of nutritional abundance would be needed to develop such an organ, made mostly out of fat? How does the narrative of harsh survival in a hostile landscape align with this fact? If our prehistoric lives were so violent, hard and savage, how could we have evolved to have such soft skin, limited strength and delicate parts?
— Tyson Yunkaporta: Sand Talk