Where Do We Go From Here?

Sepia

In a world evaporating before our eyes, what have we left to concern ourselves with?  This might be the most demanding question of the past century. 

It’s strange how all indicators looked so good to Americans back in the fifties.  The halcyon years. There was no such thing as hope back then… it was all promise.  And promised.  That was the narrative shared by all and believed in, and we executed against that narrative, and fulfilled that promise without compromise.  We grew commercial enterprises, expanded the empire, put new cars and new homes all over this land, and a pot roast in every pot.  Built suburbs, highways, televisions, and computers, cell phones and GPS systems.

We blinded ourselves to what price the rest of the planet was paying for our self-indulgence, the apparent freedom of the self-made man.  We hid the American Indian away on his reservation; we traveled only to the most exclusive resort destinations that already catered to the needs of the Western temperament.  And, with the exception of an occasional public service cry on the airwaves, asking us to just send a dollar to feed a starving child in Africa, all seemed perfect with the world; everyday was Pleasant Valley Sunday, they were the good old Stepford years, walking through our days like robots.

We ravaged the forests, sucked oxygen from our atmosphere, polluted the waters, heated the earth, decimated countless species, and too many cultures to count.  We raped and pillaged the earth and its inhabitants.  And when we struggled to reclaim that narrative in the early waning days of empire, as it was slipping from our soon to be cold and dying hands, they announced the Project for a New American Century.  The presupposition being that we had lived the first American Century and so we would double-down on our winnings and have it anew, now without the specter of Marx or Stalin sitting on our necks.  The new Golden Age… like the first; it was all propaganda, smoke and mirrors created on the ashes of yet countless more species, peoples, and places.

And we invented a new enemy, built upon the ashes of the World Trade Center and its dead… themselves victims of the first American Century.  We victimized the world and so we became victims ourselves, of our own making; and the NAC would accomplish the same in spades.  More victims, more victimization.  We created a robust and militarized Security State, a new FBI, NSA, CIA, DHS, FEMA, Drones, Blackwater, and countless other groups of guys outfitted in camouflage, tanks and other assorted military hardware, as well as flack jackets, riot helmets and facemasks.

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And we created espionage like no one else in history, spying upon our friends and ourselves.  All the while claiming that those who reveal such stealth activities are themselves the spies.  We have become the victims of our own new American Century – exceptionalism writ large – the EGO of egos.

So, the question still stands; what do we do about it?  And while it appears to be a political question, it is not.  Politics, and the institutions of the State that it creates and relies upon, are part and parcel of the problem.  Unraveling the State and its institutions is the only solution; but that is not so easy, it is not a matter of replacing one regime with another.  It is a matter of breaking up the whole thing into bite-size pieces; doing away with the idea of a head (arche) and letting the body dance.  It requires a turn away from kingship and a return to kinship; it demands the re-village-ization of the planet; a reconstitution of truly human (i.e., Pleistocene) scale.  It requires less focus on energy and technology, and more focus on relationships.  Less on the nuclear family, and more on the tribe, the clan, the village.  The trouble is, few of us would be comfortable in that place… I know it would be extremely difficult for me.

Of course, I have already made some relatively insignificant material concessions in life.  I no longer own a car, I live most of the year in my wife’s apartment in Siberia (it’s not San Diego), I have a very small home in a small village in upstate NY, I plant and pick and hunt and forage, and buy most of my other fruits and vegetables from old ladies on street corners or by the side of the road near the forest’s edge. I do not frequent bars, but do most of my socializing with friends at banya, home, or maybe at a café or by the forest.  But, I still depend on air travel, high speed Internet, my MacBook Air (god damn Jobs), and my cell phone.  I try to help those people I meet, and I also ask for favors all the time.

So maybe I am not the one to ask for advice on what to do now.  But, I do think one should find a way to get food without money, develop friendships based upon reciprocal sharing and volunteering, learn how to make and enjoy homemade hooch (Samagon), and how to go to the toilet in the forest.  I still have not mastered the skill of the Swedish Firestick, but I highly recommend everyone learn how to start a fire without a match but with a spark (The Boss).

But, by far, the most significant loss over these many years was our estrangement from the world that lives and breathes around us, that which is the inline to my outline and caresses me as I venture forth within it.  We have become strangers to that world and thus strangers to ourselves.  We have replaced our run from a predator in the forest, with a run on the treadmill in the health club.  We have become accustomed to scented and soft toilet paper, and forgotten the freedom of going naturally in the woods. We have achieved this separation in stages, beginning with the emergence of surplus food supplies and the development of writing, with the loss of nomadic lifestyles on foot, and the birth of the city as dwelling place, with the domestication of cattle and horses and sheep, and ultimately the domestication of ourselves.

We have lost our sense of wonder, and the feel of ecstasy, of being-beside-oneself, and being-the-other; the power of the totem and the power of nature; we have lost a sense of our own pouvoir – our capacity to just be; we have lost the sense of our motility, our capacity for spontaneous movement, for reaching out and touching the world, and the proprioceptive sense of being touched by it, of where our body is and where the world reaches me.  Being able to lose ourselves, to lose the grip of the ego and its sense of being-inside oneself, divorced from the world it inhabits; this is our real challenge.  Overcoming our own sense of Otherness from the world is a necessary condition for overcoming fear of the Other, and fear of losing ourselves in the other.  But, first we must relearn how we are connected to the earth, to that which supports us and gives us life.  And that may be the toughest challenge of all for children of a Curriculum that has done all it can for 6,000 years to eradicate recognition of that reliance, and to rid ourselves of the memory of our simple place in nature.

We are all trapped in front of the Spectacle, a flattened worldview dominated by vision, by sight, following the map and forgetting the territory.  Like the route maps in the back of the airline magazines, or the 24/7 TV news flashing before our eyes.  Everywhere across the globe, sight has taken control, while our other senses have been cut off from life. The Curriculum is driven by sight, by the linear flow from cause to effect, from past to future. Our overdependence upon sight is one of the reasons for our loss of a sense of belonging to the world, of our original wholeness.  It drives us toward the future, as we forget about the present; it drives us to achieve, to look forward, rather than living daily.  Reawakning our other senses may be part of the challenge in re-claiming our sense of a primal belonging, our situatedness in the world, our facticity.

Every political solution is directed at maintaining the structures that bind us, separate us, delude us.  The solution must be apolitical, no more an insurrection of the body politic, than it is a resurrection of the body-subject. Let us just call it – surrection – a rising up (emergence) of our feral core, what was lost ‘sight’ of in the Curricular constitution of the ego, the head, the king, and his vision for the future, for progress and conquest.  Exceptionalism of every kind must die!  Exceptionalism is the logical conclusion of a life dedicated to establishment and maintenance of the isolated ego, the hero, the judge, the warrior, the chosen ones.  (And while my comments should not be construed as anti-Semitic – after all I was born and raised a Jew – it is still worth noting that it was the house of Abraham that gave birth and miraculous impetus to the threads that have produced the trajectory of this history.)

Finally, we must remember that our sense, and our senses, are sustained by the earth, not by some heavenly father whose son died for our sins.  Our only sin is not remembering; what Dan Quinn has called the Great Forgetting.  Let us remember before it is too late.  The planet may heat, and species go extinct, but the cities and their ‘burbs’ must not stand.  They must crumble if we are to continue to inhabit a habitable planet earth.  Or do you have other ideas?

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40 Responses to Where Do We Go From Here?

  1. Malthus says:

    The answer is simple. We don’t so anything, nothing. Just stop what we have been doing. Easy to say and impossible to accomplish in a world that always thinks it needs a plan. Do nothing. Simple.Just become part of nature that is always there.

  2. Malthus says:

    I just read your question to JHK and his answer about the medieval age. In my thinking the middle age is what set us up for our predicament now. No, I myself think we need to consider the as you say the Pleistocene, or I would call in the the upper Paleolithic age. Of course the question is with the population numbers could this be accomplished? And I still say the best trail is the trail of doing nothing and it will work out. Besides we don’t have any viking raiders to stir things up.

  3. Paul Chefuka says to pull off the Paleolithic we would have to shrink to about 35 million people, none of whom, of course will be you or me.

  4. john patrick says:

    I tend to agree with Malthus. Though, doing nothing after awhile is boring. With no growth in talent, deed, or discovery. I liken the whole situation to ten angels sitting under the tree of life. One gets a “good” idea. Another chips in. And here we are. I think all one can do is learn from the situation, to tread gently going forward with one’s own lamebrain ideas, and try not to reach the precipice blindly. I’d like to think it is all about learning. To create, to share, and do again. And is much more enjoyable in the company of friends. But learning is hard. Cannot be accomplished with a Vulcan mind-meld. And mistakes are a given. It is in the mistakes that we find ourself. And not while lounging around in a perfect world.

    In the meantime, a good amber beer helps calm the soul. Which is closer to what Malthus suggested. Except one has to apply some effort getting the cap off.

    • Malthus says:

      I recommend the book “Ancient Wisdom” by Wolf. It seems modern hunter gathers are quite joyful in doing nothing and being just apart of nature. Boring would be subjective in that case.

      • Malthus says:

        Sorry it’s “Original Wisdom” and it’s Wolff.

        • john patrick says:

          Good point, and suggestion. Though, I would wonder with all the free time available what one does with it in a modern world? Especially if one has no feral tendencies or inclinations, as Sandy has written about.

          @board, for general discussion…

          The ancients had plenty to think about besides shopping and TV serials. And without insurance and gov’t largesse to cover the downside, starvation was a reality if one used their time unwisely. Am tempted to say they understood the seasons/Earth a bit better. But really? With regard to disease, infection. stone-axe hits foot, child breaks tooth, tree limb pokes eye, etc.. It may be that the goof-offs survived because many others died, freeing up more resources.

          For the sake of discussion, let’s say they had it much easier on a day-to-day routine. Even so, would this guarantee they could last a hundred years as a community? Am thinking of the tribes in the SW U.S. that eventually disappeared or dispersed. Or even modern day communes.

          I think the ancients were a different breed of humans.

          As such, I don’t think we can scale back to what they were anymore than Windows Vista can scale back to Win95. Synergy levels based on complex agreements/arrangements are unable to work at lower synergy levels. It is a different “type” of energy. Is why nature uses extinction to deal with this issue. Because you can’t downsize a dinosaur/shark. Or systems that have become so efficient they have no resiliency or excess capacity that can be re-directed toward a more successful path. Some might be capable of downward scaling, but can’t do it quick enough to meet the challenges. Is not just willful adaptation, but speed as well. Kinda’ like being able to run faster than the slowest camper when a bear shows up.

          • Disaffected says:

            Agreed. Scaling back to local will be the only realistic option, even as it definitely won’t be a practical “solution” for most – the solution being that many must die to free up resources for those who remain behind. The ancients understood this concept quite well and death was not the existential bugaboo it has since become. Our familiarity with and embracement of our own mortality is one of the greatest things we’ve lost in all this industrial madness. We’re NOT meant to live forever! I have a feeling we’re about to rediscover that fact on a massive scale. Something the AMC series Breaking Bad explored at some length recently:

            Ozymandias
            I met a traveller from an antique land
            Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
            Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
            Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
            And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
            Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
            Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
            The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
            And on the pedestal these words appear:
            “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
            Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
            Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
            Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
            The lone and level sands stretch far away.[1]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozymandias

            By the way, the themes Breaking Bad explored could fill a book by themselves.

            • Malthus says:

              “The ancients understood this concept quite well and death was not the existential bugaboo it has since become. Our familiarity with and embracement of our own mortality is one of the greatest things we’ve lost in all this industrial madness”. That DA is it in a nutshell.our fanatical search to keep living forever with total denial of death has in my opinion driven us insane. Now we could discuss just what the definition of insane is and as we look out and observe what is going on we all have that knowing what it is without words that are not necessary to say. Mentally we have gone over the cliff a long time ago and are just waiting for our creations and modern myths to follow.

              • Disaffected says:

                Yep. I’ve long harped on this theme right here on these boards Among other things, our now firmly institutionalized denial of death has resulted in our current out of control “health care” fiasco, where those who are both poor, and thus unable to pay, and sick are deemed as unworthy of basic healthcare, while the rich and well to do seek extraordinary care to extend their pitiful lives beyond all reasonable expectations. Contrast that with our maniacal embrace of the “Defense” Department death culture, and yes, I think any rational person would have to conclude that we have indeed, as a society, gone completely fucking insane. All of which has been explored on this blog some time back. Societies, just like individuals, don’t react rationally when they sense their time is up before they thought it “should be.” I think the comparison was to individuals freezing, starving, and/or dying of thirst. All of which will actually be on the rise again in the coming years.

  5. Matt Holbert says:

    I’ve grew up on the farm with limited financial resources available. I also have inhabited — very briefly — the world of Gulfstream private jets and the best of restaurants. For me, the best environment — and one that is sustainable — is one or more campuses in places that can be self-sufficient. It would be backed by capital that is patient — a store of wealth only (one can’t eat gold) — and operated by people who are interested in life-long learning. Scale is important. Mobility via bicycle and by foot is important.

  6. johnberk says:

    I’m for the first time on your blog, and I immediatelly liked it. You are speaking my mind. First of all, the political regime in the US is approaching Ray Bradbury’s Starship Troopers. Military and secret police strategies are now, thanks to Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Bradley Manning uncovered. All of those three guys are now directly threatened by the US government – Bradley Manning being in the worst position.

    Going local is something I consider as the only solution. I think that the modern technology you name is actualy doing a good job helpin people like you to start. Without it, we would have a lot of difficulty to meet similar people. As you said, and I coincide with that, nature is what gives (and takes) us power. And right now, our culture has become an open enemy of the nature.

  7. Disaffected says:

    If 9-11 was truly an inside job, as I believe it was, it marked the point of no return for American and world democracy. It’s a lie too big to be contained by our worldly philosophies and one which will never be admitted to by its perpetrators or their heirs. And it has driven all of the shock doctrine events we’ve been subjected to ever since.

    As to slowing down. We’re now driven by the faustian bargain we’ve made regarding population levels. Massive population growth was first enabled, then demanded by industrial capitalist growth strategies. Now, with 7B people and growing, that same malignant economic model is a prerequisite for survival for at least half of those people. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your POV, mother nature is now putting an end to that madness through the three apocalyptic horsemen of global warming, natural resource depletion, and greed-driven natural resource wars. Wanna know what rapid, unplanned for, and uncontrolled population contractions feel like under such circumstances, with the added fun of the rich and powerful being fully cognizant of the unfolding disaster and attempting to influence events in their favor at the expense of the poor and downtrodden? You’re in luck! For everyone alive now that will be the underlying theme for the rest of our lives. It’s gonna be an interesting ride from here on out!

    I’m not a Christian or even religious for that matter, but this must be what the prophets of old had in mind when they penned their apocalyptic visions of hell and/or the end times.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Great tone, DA!! And I agree with your intuitions

    • john patrick says:

      Hey DA. And, I think the ancient prophets had the same issue with “timing.” Though I think even a subsistence farmer knows that when dark clouds are on the horizon, it ain’t gonna’ be good. What we are experiencing now is the solution to the problem. And I’ve yet to fix a solution to the solution.

      • Disaffected says:

        I think most of the apocalyptic prophets were speaking in allegory about larger recurring historical themes. We won’t be the first civilization to collapse due to unbridled greed and stupidity, although we may be the last, and for those living through it at least, it will certainly seem like the worst one ever. But for the most part, that’s all just another sign of our current current nearly complete disconnect with our own mortality, both individually and as a civilization. We’ve drunk from the poison chalice of hubris, and it is proving to be our undoing. That’s another recurring theme throughout all of the great myths. Man fashioning himself as “god.”

  8. the heretick says:

    well hey, just log on to…………
    http://energytomorrow.org/
    you’ll see, it’s all gonna be hunky-dory
    lot’s of bright shining faces, and where did i get this hot tip?
    why, from the nightly news of course
    nice slim attractive lady told me so
    kind of had that almost husky voice
    sounds like bourbon and cigarettes
    mixed well with low lighting and soft music
    lights, camera, action!

    • Disaffected says:

      Always been into the whole Morrison vibe. Think we might be kindred spirits. Pink Floyd picked up his biting social commentary and ramped it up a bit in the 70s, and of course there have been numerous others on the fringes since. But that’s where biting social commentary always stays – on the fringes. Rock has morphed into mainstream pop, so much so that country is now more biting (albeit, often ironically) than anything out there. In the end, all popular music is corporate now, which is to say simply derivative and banal, including Miley Cyrus’s precious little ass.

      • the heretick says:

        ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind

        i have always been pretty leftish.
        here’s the latest from Hedges
        http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_radical_christian_right_and_the_war_on_government_20131006
        “We have abandoned our poor and working class. We have created a government monster that sucks the marrow out of our bones to enrich and empower the oligarchic and corporate elite. The protection of criminals, whether in war or on Wall Street, is part of our mirage of law and order. We have betrayed the vast and growing underclass. Most believers within the Christian right are struggling to survive in a hostile world. We have failed them.”

        now i have always been a fan of Chris, but this latest seems a bit unhinged, the radical right? please, i live among them, they no more want what he is talking about then the man in the moon. on the last post i tried to reach for it and explain why the supposed left fails, because they never change the equation. the workers pay for everything, i think Chris is scaring up a bogeyman because his critique of the failure of liberalism doesn’t go deep enough.

        all of which begs the point. the wish to find some sort of solution may itself be a fool’s errand, especially with the shallow sort of reforms envisioned by those who are considered forward thinkers. the war on poverty has definitely failed, we’ve been at it for 50 years. the Fed continues to bleed red ink, and corporations continue to call the shots, bright boys such as myself who point out the obvious such s corps. are not people and should have zero civil rights are generally ignored.

        which brings us again to the question of whether these inventions called national governments themselves can ever succeed. there is such a variation of the peoples of the planet, can any one idea unite us all? i highly doubt it, the UN has been pushing that project for over 50 years, things just seem to get worse.

        of course, as i have written before, now would be the time to begin to disperse the population, to begin the job of building low-tech sustainability, the kind that simply requires a knowledge of metallurgy in order to build tools, but even that would probably not satisfy the purists.

        i’ve got to go, the girls are home and our washer won’t work, have to go spend money.

        • Disaffected says:

          Hedges, unfortunately, like most of us, has sunk to merely restating the obvious with regard to who’s to blame currently. True enough, but small comfort that. With regard to the root cause(s), he comes up wanting to my mind. Chris, unfortunately once again, is a true believer in the ultimate goodness of mankind, the very basis of his somewhat skewed hierarchical Christian worldview; one which I do not personally – needless to say – subscribe.

          In the end, hierarchy is as hierarchy does, which is to say, destructive. Hierarchical solutions ALWAYS lead to the same destination no matter how many times we play the tape. When will we learn? Not soon enough, apparently.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Don’t you just love Chris…”waiting for the barbarians.!” He should have been a preacher!! LOL

          • Disaffected says:

            Yep. I’ve come around. Was a time I thought Chris was a true visionary. He’s a smart enough guy alright, but I think he’s yet to make the intellectual leap that his conclusions should logically lead him too. I’ll honorifically term him “religiously stunted” for now and leave it at that.

            • the Heretick says:

              go forth therefore and preach to the entire world.
              it occurs to me that we practice a sort of messianic politics, the difference being in the brand.
              this is why no matter the cast of characters there is always the demonization.
              if you don’t give me the deed to your ranch, i’ll tie you to the railroad tracks.
              and the gunslinger is always lightning fast, like Zeus hurling thunderbolts.
              of course now we have the new way, the measured thoughtful response.
              no worries, it’s an enhanced interrogation.
              a targeted strike, such a merciful messiah.

              • Disaffected says:

                Or a budget hostage. Seems the ‘surgical strikes’ are no longer limited to ‘foreign enemies.’

                Some Yeats might be in order:

                THE SECOND COMING

                Turning and turning in the widening gyre
                The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
                Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
                Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
                The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
                The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
                The best lack all conviction, while the worst
                Are full of passionate intensity.

                Surely some revelation is at hand;
                Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
                The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
                When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
                Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
                A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
                A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
                Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
                Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

                The darkness drops again but now I know
                That twenty centuries of stony sleep
                Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
                And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
                Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  9. the Heretick says:

    lot’s of christian imagery there, for me it’s the curse of looking at things from a scientific perspective, another poor victim of the modern age, and there’s been plenty.
    so, we keep doing what we’ve always done, seeing the nature of your rough beast, and always hoping for a change that never comes; and probably won’t, as the planet crashes and burns.
    we can of course commit ourselves to as peaceful of a course thru life we can find, i figured that out a long time ago, that i didn’t want to be part of a war machine.
    guess i’m just not that type, no killer instinct, figures.
    the point here is that where we are as a species is no different than where i figured we would be 15-20 years ago before i’d ever heard of peak oil, the 73 oil shock was pretty much a wake up call.
    i’ve just felt for a long time that wars between nations are essentially indefensible, if only because of the class system, but now? with resource shortages mentioned in the Pentagons own reports?
    it’s just plain wasteful, all the energy consumed to constantly run the machines, we forget about that, we say “war machine” not thinking that’s it’s hundreds of thousands of machines, just in the military, add in all the countries, all the civilian machines, could be millions, billions…………
    there’s a question.
    if you counted every gadget, i-everything, cars, wristwatches, processors, how many machines are there? like a census. planes, trains……………..
    more machines than humans? who knows? you pays your money and you takes your chances.
    personally, i think the best i can do, anybody really, (but i don’t want to fight about it), is to be a sort of conscientious objector.
    just find as peaceful a path as we can, i believe in personal self defense, not like i’m Amish or something, gone on the Lord, nothing like that.
    might not be a bad idea to get a ways away from major population centers, from them English and their machines.

    • Disaffected says:

      Written in the aftermath of WWI (‘the BIG One”), the poem seems to apply more and more to everything afterward. Makes sense, as WWI was the first industrial war and everything after has merely perfected the techniques, aka gained efficiency. Our death machine is now so efficient it can annihilate by remote control with ruthless efficiency and accuracy.

      Another passage from The Terminator that sums up our current situation very well:

      Kyle Reese: Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

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