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.
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?