Civilization Will Eat Itself

part 3

by Ran Prieur

Creative Commons License
civilization will eat itself part 2
That seems to be the end of my argument. Happily, it is rich with anomalies, missed points, and huge gaps, so we can still have a lot more fun.

I disagree with all my slips into utopian thinking. On the last page I felt regret before I was even half way through the words "end up." We will not find or create a final, perfect, or changeless society. The natural state idealized by simple neo-indigenous thinkers, and the "state of nature" condemned by Thomas Hobbes, are both as absurd as the idea of a basic, natural state for the weather. It's always in flux. Every world is full of flaws and cracks. In a healthy society, these cracks gently unfold into doorways to new worlds; in an unhealthy society, they are covered and sealed, which only makes the coming of the new world sudden and violent.

Also I disagree with my frequent implication that the history of civilization is a mistake, that we should never have done it. That's no way to think about the past. The "we can't go back" people are right in the sense that we can't just magically reverse history and do it differently, like you would turn your car around and go back and take a different road. But that's the way we're thinking when we try to disown or throw away what we've been through.

We need to claim the past as our own, to admit that in some sense it was us who built the empires and the death camps and the corporations, who massacred ourselves and captured ourselves into slavery and buried our minds in the mechanistic paradigm. And we need to find some understanding of what we thought we were doing.

Back on page 29 I blamed plagues on travel and cities. But I think it's worth it. Better for half of us to die in plagues than for all of us to spend our whole lives in the same few square miles, or to never experience the different social world of the city.

So maybe we'll come to a perspective from which everything we've put ourselves through was worth it, for some reason we have not yet imagined. Either that, or we'll come to a perspective from which it was not worth it, and if we can understand how we made the mistake, then we'll never make it again.

That's why I wouldn't want to go "back" to any world in our history, even if we could -- because those worlds were not steady states, but part of a process that led us to this nightmare world we're in now, and would do so again, if we did not integrate this world and its meaning fully into our consciousness.

So as much as I glorify the fall of Rome, it didn't work, did it? Europe just went back to the same thing only worse. And as much as I romanticize a simple collapse of our society into something closer to the earth, it sure looks like the same thing would happen, like the Beast would just get back up and build the pavement stronger next time. I want to find a path out of Pavement World that doesn't just loop back around to it. What that path is, I'm still trying to work out.

The scale of this exploration is getting big enough that it becomes important what stories we tell about the history of life on this planet. Back on page 30 I told the story of stone age people exterminating woolly mammoths. It turns out that's racist pseudoscience. Honest investigation shows that mammoths were killed by a global catastrophe, and that blaming their extinction on another culture is motivated by this culture's need to make other cultures look bad.

I'm reading Vine Deloria's book Red Earth, White Lies, and I plan to read it all before I go much farther in here. I plan to alienate most of my contemporary audience by rejecting Darwinism, by taking seriously Immanuel Velikovsky's catastrophic history book Worlds In Collision, and by taking the ancient information of cultures all over the world not as strict fantasy but as potential history.

Reading about conquered cultures from a perspective other than that of their conquerors, I discover that all my thinking up to this point has been imprisoned inside a myth invented by my enemies.

That myth goes like this: All human societies are to be arranged in a single unbranching straight line. Also this line has direction, such that motion one way is good and inevitable, and motion the other way is bad and impossible. I'll call this the Arrow Of History myth. And whatever culture buys this myth gets to put itself near the "top" or "end" of "progress," and at the very top goes whatever direction the intellectual elite want to go next.

The Arrow Of History is myth because it is not based on experience or observation, but the other way around: Cultural politics makes the myth, and then the myth is the framework that fixes the angles and styles of observation, and dictates which communications of experience are suppressed or excluded or accepted or canonized. It's because of the Arrow Of History myth that scientists are violently suppressing finds of 8-foot human skeletons with two rows of teeth, that my contemporaries scoff at evidence of atomic warfare in ancient times, that thousands of archaeologists are looking for skeletons through which humans seem to have descended from apes, while not one scientist is following up on an old article with evidence that apes descended from humans.

So the designers command a single, straight, one-way line, not only like an arrow but also like a freeway, and a status-climbing labor-career, and the barrel of a gun, and a smokestack. And the builders give shape to it with materials carefully crafted from pieces carefully selected and broken off, here and there, from the world that's available. And given this world, we end up with the following "truth," programmed into all of us in a linear one-direction education system:

The whole meaning of the Universe is that everything in it gets better and better at exploiting the whole for its own benefit. And we civilized humans are the best ever. We were single-celled organisms and later fish and later apes and then a series of ape-human intermediaries and then humans using better and better stone tools and then bronze and iron and money and the wheel and written language and guns and radiation and antidepressants. It just gets better and better! And fish and Indians and poorer people simply represent ourselves at a now obsolete stage of development, something we tried and finished and transcended, which gives us the right and obligation to master them through force, the same as it gives any more evolved person on the street the right to kill you and take all your money. Wait! That can't be right. Better just not think about it. And that's why civilized humans are so fearful and numb.

But don't worry. No one's going to kill you now, because civilized humans have now reached such a pinnacle of evolution that we behave in a new way in which nothing has ever behaved before. Yes, we are now the first beings in the entire history of the universe who do not just stupidly consume and destroy everything we can. This can be clearly seen by looking at... um... OK, this can be clearly seen by simply declaring, contrary to the evidence, that the Indians exterminated a lot of large mammals, and then by comparing that to, for example, Al Gore's book Earth In The Balance, without looking at the actual behavior enabled by the corporate rule agreements that Al Gore enthusiastically pushed as Vice President.

And this brand new consciousness, called "liberalism," or "sustainability," is simply the wise and enlightened realization that slaves are more valuable alive than dead. We don't kill indigenous people anymore -- we civilize them. Only if they spiritedly resist being civilized do we kill them. And we don't exhaust all the Earth's "resources," because then our civilization, which depends on exploiting those features of the Earth, will die. Instead we exploit the Earth at exactly the rate that the Earth heals itself, so we can prolong our exploitation for all eternity. Also, we don't say "exploiting," but "managing," or, in my worst nightmare, "facilitating."

Of course the purpose of this consciousness is to hold off the obvious next step in our "evolution," from manipulating the wider Life for our own "success" to helping the wider Life on its own terms. But it's strange to call this evolution, since it appears that the world's "primitive" human cultures were already living this way, before our "civilized" culture violently conquered them as part of its holy progress.

I'm going to use the word Indians to mean all the world's recent and surviving noncivilized peoples. I accept that the word comes from the Spanish "Indios," which comes from Spanish words meaning "with God," because even the evil conquistadors admitted that the Indians were with the Great Spirit and they themselves were against it. And the word "conquistador" shows that they knew they were nothing more noble than violent conquerors. It was only later that cowardly intellectuals, cringing timid people who could never hack up a family with a sword, invented the disgusting idea that the conquerors were doing the Indians a favor.

Because the key to the Arrow Of History myth, the secret heart of it, the idea around which all the other ideas are arranged like a protecting army, is the story that we civilized people "evolved" from the Indians, that we used to be like them and happily moved on to be like us, that we've been there and done that and got tired of it and changed to something better, that they are just a little stage in our past, that we are their inevitable future.

Again, this is myth, not the result of inquiry but a basic assumption that defines our inquiry and so seems to prove itself. We're not supposed to question it, to hold it up from the outside to be proven or disproven. And when we do, we find that we can tear it apart like paper.

Suppose that our cultural ancestors were living like Indians and then they all freely chose to develop Western civilization as a natural step "up." Why, then, when the Europeans landed in the "Americas," all they had to do was build an example of their superior European civilization, with its shit-stinking cities, and its bloody religious wars, and its ruthless repression of the body and young people, and its really cool cathedrals and paintings, and the Indians would have come running to evolve.

Instead, the opposite happened. Whole communities of "settlers" ran off to join the Indians. Indian children kidnapped by the Europeans, when they became adults, generally went back to live with the Indians; European children kidnapped by the Indians, when they became adults, generally stayed with the Indians.

I suggest that in an imaginary alternate history, where all the world's societies met and merged without anyone using force, we would now all be sleeping in cozy little handmade buildings, and spending our days eating wild fruit and chasing game on horseback and telling stories and watching the clouds, and generally being relaxed and playful and aware. I'm sorry if this sounds too utopian, but it's better than the other extreme, which is professed by almost everyone in the world I actually live in, that stress and drudgery and numbness are the permanent human condition, so why even try?

Maybe, in my alternate history, the elders would tell us that thousands of years ago, we evolved through being machine-using death-worshipping barbarians, just like the recently assimilated European peoples.

So there's a different myth for you: that the natural and inevitable evolution of the human species is through one or more Dark Ages of technology and exploitation, and then into low-tech subsistence in service to the Earth.

This myth is strong even from the outside, and beats the techno-supremacy myth in fair competition, with the declaration that an exploiting detached consciousness beats a giving participating consciousness only through the unsustainable use of overwhelming force, which brings the detached consciousness more and more out of balance and makes its, um, participants more and more alienated and neurotic.

This declaration is confirmed by looking at the actual record of the conversion of human consciousness to the detached exploiter paradigm. Whether it's Christians converting pagans, colonial powers converting historical Indians, industrial capitalism converting contemporary Indians, or Western culture "socializing" its own young people, overwhelming force is always eventually used. Where it is not used, there is seldom, if ever, conversion. (Now, with the taboo against physical violence, violence against young people is taking the form of drugs.)

We all have many, many ancestors who lived like Indians. And now here we are living in civilization. The suggestion that this constitutes "evolution" is exactly the same as the suggestion that indigenous Africans were "evolving" by being captured by slavers.

I suggest that your ancestors who actually made the shift out of Earth-loving subsistence did not do so because they felt good about it, or because they were bored with the old ways, or because they admired the trappings of civilization, but because they were captured as slaves, or because they were taken by force from their families and sent to oppressive schools, or because they were forced off the land they knew, and could survive only by selling themselves as laborers -- the same situation we remain in to this day.

Just because the members of one society are descended from the members of another, does not mean that the one society is descended from the other. Earlier in this text, and in other writings, I have speculated about how this society may have emerged from that one in a way that was more like sliding into addiction than "evolution." I am not withdrawing that story, but reaching farther with the speculation that this society did not emerge from that one at all, that Western Civilization violently overcame all human societies without ever passing through, or rising out of, a culture that respected other life, or an economy that could sustain itself without ever-increasing consumption.

Or, if this world is a forest, then this "civilization" is not a superior new species of tree -- it is a fire. And a forest doesn't burn because the trees evolve into flames. It burns because...

So what is the origin of civilization, if it's not that hunter-gatherers got bored with their meaningful three hour work days and all their fun free time and started inventing alienating labor-creating devices? What is the larger meaning, if not that the collective human consciousness thought it would be worth ten billion lifetimes of horror and emotional deadness to get the symphonies of Beethoven?

What we need here are more myths. We should consider the possibility that civilization has no meaning. Not surprisingly, the people who insist that the Milky Way and the Grand Canyon and the millions of insect species in the Amazon jungle are the random accidents of dead particles, are often the very same people who attach some transcendent meaning to accounting firms and oil refineries and the hundreds of varieties of dish soap. What if it's the other way around? What if this civilization is a little patch of absence of wider meaning? What if it's a blockage...?

Here's another one. And we're still compatible with Darwinism. Suppose, at one time, our ancestors were all mindless consumers, like deer on an island who might overgraze and ruin everything. Suppose they had only the crudest tools, or no tools. And suppose, at this stage, they split: One branch remained small-minded, and developed tools and culture of escalating exploitation. The other branch expanded their consciousness and developed tools and culture of cooperation with wider Life.

In the context of this myth, I do not match these two branches straight to "civilization" and "Indians." It seems likely the exploitative branch would include some people who weren't as lucky or aggressive, and remained primitive. Of course, people with an emotional investment in exploitative civilization want to put all non-civilized people in this category, and deny the myth's second branch.

People who have been successfully socialized by this civilization have badly dislocated consciousness and thus a strong sense of "self" and "other"; they live in terror of negative comparisons by which the self is "inferior" to the other; and they have no personal power or inner sense of value, only the illusion of power and value that they get from channeling the dead force of the authority structures to which they belong. And these people, again, have an emotional investment in this civilization, which makes them want to believe that all other societies and realities are behind this one on the same path, and thus undeniably inferior. Or, that no one else is on a different path, far advanced in a direction this civilization has never gone. And that no one has taken our path before us, and come to a dead end, or circled back around. This is the secret subtext behind the argument that Indians exterminated species, behind the denial of shamanic and "paranormal" realities, behind the suppression of evidence of extreme advancement of ancient people, whether such advancement was different from ours or similar.

We have gone as far as we can without abandoning Darwinism. Our vain little blip of a civilization seems to stand alone in all history in crediting human origins to incremental transformation from other animal species through mindless random mutations and natural selection. In the face of this opposition, the priesthood simply decrees that all competing stories of human origin are mythical fabrications. Remember that the people who sustain oral histories are fully human, the best minds in their group, as smart as you or I would be if we had not spent thousands of hours watching television. And their stories are at least potentially grounded in honest experience, while Darwinism, even by our own records, is a mythical fabrication, pure speculation hungrily accepted as science by scientists desperate for cultural myths that owed nothing to the Church. Darwin himself wrote, in 1863, "When we descend to details, we can prove that no one species has changed; nor can we prove that the supposed changes are beneficial, which is the groundwork of the theory. Nor can we explain why some species have changed and others have not."

138 years later and this is still true. Nor can we explain who the first mutant member of a new species breeds with, since, by the definition of "species," it cannot produce fertile offspring with a different species.

The one and only justification for Darwinism remains what it always was: that it is supposedly the only alternative to a non-negotiable doctrine of creation by a sky father deity.

Sometimes nobody sees a lie because it is so big. Any creative person over five years old can think of one human origin story after another that does not involve accidental DNA mutations or Jehovah. Of course most of these will be silly, but the point is, if you don't have a satisfactory answer, you don't cling greedily onto one bad answer out of fear of another. You keep looking. And in the meantime, you do what will get you thrown straight out of the control structure of this society, and admit ignorance.

In Plato's famous Allegory of the Cave, people live their whole lives with their sense experience limited to shadows projected on a wall. How can they understand the origin of this or that kind of shadow, when they don't know that the shapes are being created by people behind them, when they don't even understand "behind," when they've never seen in three dimensions, or seen a light, or felt a solid object? The closest they could come would be to say that the world they know is an illusion related to a bigger world that they don't understand.

This is pretty much what esoteric traditions from all over the world have been saying for thousands of years. These seem to merge into, or harden into, or be covered by religious traditions, which shift their focus from the mutability of this reality to distracting details about otherworldly entities -- their origins, their personalities, their names, and what they command us to do.

So I may be getting distracted myself when I repeat what some people have noticed: that a lot of ancient oral histories tell the same story of human origins: We are the product of something like crossbreeding, between people who came here from somewhere else, and people who were already here. One of these histories is very famous. Who were the wives of the sons of Adam and Eve? The Bible says "the daughters of men."

Now I could really get distracted in details, and say that an evil technological master race came here from another vibrational level of reality, and genetically engineered us from themselves and some now extinct hominid, to work as slaves in mines in Africa. And when the planet Venus passed close to the Earth on the way to its present orbit, it caused catastrophes that destroyed the delicate evil race and its civilization, but the tougher humans survived and spread over the Earth. And some of these humans evolved sustainable societies that respected all life, while some humans merely continued the exploitative ways of their creators, and manifested their built-in contradictions as the nightmare that now squats over the Earth.

My point is, if we let this kind of myth into our minds, it brings new ways of thinking about human "evolution," human potential, and especially human nature. If we are biologically tool users, then we can't abandon all physical tools, as I suggested earlier, unless we were to transform ourselves biologically. And if our cultural origin is in slavery and exploitation, then any culture where the people are self-regulating, and live in balance with other life, represents a transcendence of our original nature, and the present global civilization represents a continuing failure or repression of such transcendence.

Or, in a more life-seeing version of the evolution story, new species appear not as mechanical accidents but as part of some Mindfulness, and though the first birds die without offspring, birds keep coming, more and more of them hatching anomalously from the eggs of non-birds, until they are breeding with each other, because Mind wants to fly. And in the same way, "enlightened" humans appear, and are murdered, but keep coming; and in the same way, "enlightened" societies appear.

Or this is the story: We were animals. And then we got physical tools, but we were still animals, stupidly building and using every tool that gave us any cheap easy-to-see benefit. We thought they were serving us when we were serving them. We told ourselves they were meaningless, or "neutral," that their whole meanings were in the uses we gave them, and we didn't notice how many meanings and uses and intentions were built into their structures, how we bent to fit uses that belonged to them, how they were using us.

Our tools allied with our most selfish and short-sighted potentia1 to build a technology, a culture, a reality that locked us into that alliance. We became masters of the technique of holding and sustaining selfishness in the body, or Evil. We built Hell on Earth.

But in the next stage, we're going to know what we're doing. We will see the meanings and intentions of technologies, the social and emotional structures hidden in the physical structures of tools. And instead of trying to choose "how we use" technologies, we will choose which technologies to make alliances with, and it won't be many.

And, in some complex relation to that, we will have more empathy, so that we will live sustainably on the Earth without even trying. And we will build our societal structures without a single link of authority or force, so that violence and selfishness and lying blow over us like rare storms, instead of hanging over us like a dense and poisonous cover of clouds for so long that we think the sky is a fairy tale.

Societies have been exploring this new stage for thousands of years. But the old way is jealous, and knows that we will abandon it for the new way if we see clearly and are free to choose. So it uses force to hold back our evolution, crushing pagan and Indian societies, and then brutalizing its own children and crushing the life out of its own people, because the new way is rising up everywhere now. In the bowels of industrial civilization, people who know nothing about Indians feel the urge to live in the woods with their friends, to build a society without authority and to meet other Life without technology in the way.

They're trying to learn by themselves, in a few years, what others learned over many generations. And still they often halfway succeed, and every time someone learns something, the next person learns it easier. Here we are, at the peak of this civilization, looking at everywhere we've been, and transforming into...

The general form of the above story, that we're going to evolve into living like Indians, is not new or rare. It's popular enough that Ken Wilber has attacked it, calling it "the pre-trans fallacy." But just because "the wisest man in America" calls something a fallacy doesn't mean it's not a valuable idea, or that the concept of "fallacy" is wise, or that there's good evidence for that use of "pre-", for the story that western civilization ever passed through or emerged out of a society like the more enlightened Indians we've met.

I don't want to take on Ken Wilber. That would be like a swallow fighting a tank. Anyway we seem to be mostly on the same side. And actually I think his position, that we can do better than the Indians, is extremely valuable. After all we've been through, I'm skeptical of all Ancient Wisdom. I tend to think, after walking through this fire, we have an angle of consciousness that was never dreamed of by Socrates, by Buddha, by Jesus Christ. I'm not talking about the alleged Moon landing or Michel-fucking-angelo. I'm thinking, if those ancient Enlightened Ones were alive today, could they appreciate a good John Waters movie, or a good Alice Cooper show, or a good episode of South Park? No! And they would pray to be reincarnated right where we are, in the belly of the Beast, so they could learn to feel our bafflingly complex feelings.

My problem with Indians, at least as they're portrayed by sympathetic white people, is that they're always saying they "don't understand" the evils of civilization. "We don't understand why you kill millions of people, so we are wise, and you are stupid." Excuse me, but lack of understanding is not wiser than understanding. It's the other way around. And I do understand why civilized people build death camps, why we're obsessed with control and sterility and changelessness, why we hate life. I understand it in my bones, because I was born and raised in this reality and I paid attention. And if Indians really don't understand, then there's a place where we've gone past them, where they can learn from us.

The argument that we're just going to evolve into Indians is valuable, I think, because we need to learn to let go of our civilization. We need to be willing to admit that it was all for nothing, that our whole history was not a mountain peak, or a bridge to heaven, but just a pit we fell into, and are now climbing out of, and the only benefit is we'll be better at getting past pits in the future.

But also, we need to be ready to let go of every other society and tradition. We must not be limited, either by the need to be different from other people, or by the need to be like other people. Then, the argument over whether someone has already been where we're going becomes meaningless. Or, if some people will only go if they think no one has been there before, and some people will only go if they think they're following others, then we'd best leave the question open.

So where are we going, anyway? First, before I start thinking about that, I want to finish my favorite story about where we've been and where we are. That's the story of the fire, that this civilization is to life on Earth as a fire is to a forest. A forest doesn't burn because the trees evolve into flames, but neither is the burning meaningless or tragic. A forest burns because it is too full of dead stuff that needs to be cleared out. When lightning strikes a forest where everything is alive, it does not burn. It burns only where too much is dead. The lightning is only the excuse for the fire -- the reason for the fire is the deadness, or the forest's need to be brought back into balance, or to start fresh, or to be transformed.

This is like a currently radical model for sickness: That the supposed causes of disease -- viruses and bacteria and cancer cells -- are just a deeper layer of symptoms; that, like all symptoms, they are Life trying to bring itself back into balance. So your body gets too full of junk and viruses come in like garbage men to clean it out; or cancer only takes over dead places that your body's life has abandoned.

This model is unacceptable to my contemporaries who are unable to think in terms other than personal "blame" and "punishment." And it seems to lack the range to explain gangrene, or the direct creation of cancer by industrial chemicals and radiation, or why smallpox killed the Indians. But I like it a lot.

People often describe this civilization as a disease infesting planet Earth, a virus that kills everything in its path to replicate itself. But maybe it's deeper than that. Maybe the Earth's grid-shaped sores, and the human society that makes them, are symptoms of an invisible larger dis-ease, agents in a balancing or a transformation that we could never guess.

But I'll still try: The least ambitious answer is that we Indians wanted to clean the slate of our reality creation. As my opponents have pointed out, many of the world's indigenous cultures had really narrow perspectives, or entrenched authority structures, or sustained exploitative societies. But a forest fire destroys all but the deepest roots and the toughest seeds. And look what industrial civilization destroyed: every indigenous tradition of elites, of ritual mutilation, of human sacrifice, of extreme restriction of consciousness, of simplified magical thinking, of experience-excluding belief. Of course, our civilization still does all these things, just not openly or playfully. These patterns have been destroyed only among Indians and other non-dominant societies. Or, the dominant society has got a monopoly on evil, which is why we see a moral difference between military and terrorist, between prison and slavery, between property and stealing.

Or, all emotionally contractive behaviors are being squeezed out of all other more or less sustainable societies, and held or consumed by our violently unsustainable techno-industrial civilization. This is good! A runaway suicidal evil society is comforting. What's really scary is a managed society that's sustainable, an airtight nightmare that could seal us inside for a thousand centuries.

This is exactly what most utopian thinkers are trying to create, and maybe, it's what a lot of tribal and ancient and eastern societies actually achieved. Maybe western civilization gets to be the hero after all, if the fire was already burning, and we are the explosion that blows the fire out. Or we are a great acceleration of the fire, so that it ends quicker and doesn't burn as deeply.

And look what survives, from the extra-industrial cultures, after the fire passes: shamanism, or skills to experience and cooperate with subtle energies and extra-human intelligence; and countless movements to help each other learn to live without being told what to do; and the idea that mind is more fundamental than matter, that it doesn't make sense to talk about "truth" independent of experience. This stuff not only survives but springs up by surprise from the heart of the machine.

So if Life is so omnipresent, then We can clean the slate on deeper levels than just destroying every human society and re-inventing Indians. We could destroy the human species and every advanced species on the planet. Scientists tell the story that billions of years ago some algae in the ocean got unbalanced, and grew so much that all the good-for-algae gas in the atmosphere was used up and replaced with an algae-toxic-waste gas that killed the algae and still fills the air. We call these two gases methane and oxygen.

So maybe the Earth will re-grow itself with creatures we can't imagine, who live on radioactivity and plastic compounds and all the metals we brought to the surface. Or maybe Life is not so omnipresent, and the Earth is in danger of dying like Mars, with nothing left but lichens and ghosts.

I like humans a lot. I'm a friend of the billion kinds of creatures who are here beside us, who we try to trivialize and separate from ourselves with the word "nature." So I'm fighting to end this civilization before it finishes its jealous murder-suicide, or I'm fighting to save the hostages. And I'm going to focus on potential futures where people climb trees to pick cherries, and dig up carrots with bare hands, and swim naked in the ocean, where the world is "wild," and partly shaped with the participation of imaginative creatures, and only in rare aberrations is it engineered.

I plan to focus on these potential futures for many more pages in my next writings, because I've noticed a gap in contemporary futurism big enough to drive a career through. The word "futurist" doesn't even mean someone who thinks about the actual future. Right now it means a techno-fantasist, someone who thinks we can keep going deeper and deeper forever into our little machine-making obsession.

Closer than they think to the Techno-utopians are the Ecotopians. The main difference is there are a lot more plants. Nobody likes asphalt and smog. The difference is that the technos think they can undo the damage of the latest round of technology with the next round of technology, and finally settle into a clean, predictable world of synthetic surfaces and gadgets, while the ecos think they can undo the damage of the latest round of technology with a different kind of technology that uses plants and other living tools, and finally settle into a clean, predictable world of natural fibers and gardens.

Or the Techno-utopians are like heroin addicts who think they can take bigger and bigger doses and never come down and finally break away into an eternal heroin heaven that doesn't need the outside world, while the Ecotopians are like smarter but uninspired heroin addicts who want to switch to methadone and stay on it for life.

The drug is control, security, certainty, simplicity. I like it too, but I'm in the process of quitting. And like other recovering addicts, I can sense the disease in others. So I can see that all the big serious visions of the future are too tame, too mastered. The only untamed future that's taken seriously is living like Indians in the wilderness. But this is usually too vague, not getting specific in the huge range of recorded Indian societies, and also too narrow, not going outside to the infinitely vaster range of untamed futures that seem to have never been explored.

But that's where we're going, both with our actions and with some of our "fiction" writing. And that's where I'm going next with my own writing.

A Summary Of The Fall Of Civilization

Civilization was a 6000 year dark age of radically parasitic economies, violent exploitation of all life, active inhibition of empathy, and extreme deprivation of human power, which was perversely viewed as accumulation or "centralization" of power. Its last peak was in Europe in the Medieval stage of Western Civilization. Many of the great stone cathedrals from this period are still standing, and show a degree of craftsmanship and artistry that would never again be equalled. From that time forward, fewer and fewer buildings survive, except of course for the steel frame and concrete structures that were built everywhere during the final corporate stage.

Civilization might have endured much longer before burning itself out, had the process not been greatly accelerated, first by Western Civilization, and then by the adoption of Science, a mythic system developed by the philosophers Rene Descartes and Francis Bacon, and the experimental philosophers Galileo and Newton. Science was on one level a practice of applying force and extreme limits to experience to produce fixed ideas called "facts." On another level it was a style of thinking in which matter was thought to be more fundamental than mind, the Universe was modeled on engineered physical motion-tools, and potential experience, called "truth," was thought to be independent of the experiencing perspective, and ideally the same for all perspectives. As these habits of mind spread outward from the intellectual elite, so spread a fatal intensification of the uniformity of perspective and scarcity of power that were built into civilization from the beginning.

The philosopher Charles Darwin dealt the brilliant final blow with his doctrine that the driving force of all life is different biological forms competing to destroy each other and monopolize resources. By bringing civilization's implicit behavior into the open as a kind of official religion, Darwin sparked a 150 year reign of terror that hurried the age to a close. Careless exploitation became senseless killing, and people even turned Darwinism against each other: The elite began forced sterilization programs that might have ruined the human species if the German dictator Adolf Hitler had not pushed this trend too quickly and then lost a great war. The application of Darwinism to human biology acquired a stigma from which it never recovered.

By now Civilization was at its desperate end, surviving only by sucking the energy of the uncivilized world inside its own patterns, but quickly coming to the end of that world, fighting ever harder to take food and machine energy and human attention, to destroy balancing forces and to socialize its own children. And at all these boundaries, under this onslaught, grew a mastery of resisting Civilization's ways, of remembering or rediscovering or creating other ways, in which we see the foundation of the present age, whose stories are well known.

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