“A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don’t know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn’t be worth reading.” ~ Yevgeny Zamyatin, We.
Everything is going to go.
Let’s look back, where it started.
The Sumerians, formerly hunters and gatherers, began settling in villages in the fertile valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in the period from 8000 to 7500 B.C.
According to the theory of Denise Schmandt-Besserat, this is how writing began:
Archaeological studies of the period show evidence of grain cultivation in fields surrounding villages, the construction of communal silos for storing grain, and a rapid increase in population. In such a setting, individual farmers needed a reliable way to keep track of their goods, especially the amount of grain stored in shared facilities.
It seems they did it by maintaining stocks of baked-clay tokens—one token for each item, different shapes for different types of items. A marble-sized clay sphere stood for a bushel of grain, a cylinder for an animal, an egg-shaped token for a jar of oil. There were as many tokens, or counters, of a certain shape as there were of that item in the farmer’s store.
Thus, tokens could be lined up in front of accountants, who doubtless organized them according to types of goods and transactions. They could even be arranged in visual patterns to make estimation and counting easier.
This simple system of data storage persisted practically unchanged for almost 4,000 years, spreading over a large geographic area. Eventually, the growth of villages into cities and the increasing complexity of human activities, especially in southern Mesopotamia, forced a shift to a more versatile means of record keeping. This shift was marked by the appearance of elaborate tokens alongside the well-established system of simple counters. Though similar in size, material, and color and fabricated in much the same way as their plainer cousins, the new tokens bore surface markings and showed a greater variety of shapes.
The elaborate tokens were apparently used for manufactured products—the output of Sumerian workshops. Incised cones and rhomboids probably represented loaves of bread and vessels of beer. Disks and parabolic tokens marked with lines signified different types of fibers, cloths, and finished garments. Incised cylinders and rectangles stood for ropes and mats. Other tokens seem to have represented luxury goods, including perfumes and various kinds of metalwork.
The advent of complex tokens coincided with the emergence of powerful central governments and the construction of monuments and great temples, beginning around 3350 B.C. Art from that period shows the rise of a governing elite and the pooling of community resources for celebrating large festivals. The token system, extended to cover goods and services, played a key role in managing massive building projects and orchestrating large public events.
Temple excavations reveal that the Sumerians often kept sets of tokens in clay globes, or envelopes. Temple clerks marked the envelopes by pressing tokens into the soft clay before sealing and baking them, making visible the number and shape of tokens enclosed. Excavated specimens show circular imprints left by spheres and wedge-shaped imprints left by cones.
Once sealed in their clay cocoons, the tokens were hidden from view. It didn’t take long for busy bureaucrats to realize that once the clay envelopes were marked, it was no longer necessary to keep the tokens. In fact, the marks by themselves, impressed on a clay tablet, were sufficient.
Complex tokens couldn’t be stored in clay envelopes as conveniently as simple counters because they often left indecipherable impressions. Instead, perforations allowed such tokens to be strung together, with special clay tags apparently identifying the accounts. In this case, the shortcut that the bureaucrats discovered was to inscribe the incised pattern found on the surface of a complex token directly onto a clay tablet. For example, they could replace an incised ovoid token with a neatly drawn oval with a slash across it.
The result was a practical, convenient data storage system. A small set of clay tablets with neatly aligned signs was much easier to handle than an equivalent collection of loose tokens, and using a stylus for marking clay tablets was a lot faster than making an impression of every token.
Around 3100 B.C., someone had the bright idea that instead of representing, say, 33 jars of oil by repeating the symbol for one jar 33 times, it would be simpler to precede the symbol for a jar of oil by numerals—special signs expressing numbers. Moreover, the same signs could be used to represent the same quantity of any item.
The signs chosen for this new role were the symbols for the two basic measures of grain. The impressed wedge (cone) came to stand for 1 and the impressed circle (sphere) for 10.
In this way, the token system evolved into a kind of shorthand in which signs representing standard measures of grain, impressed on a clay tablet, came to represent not grain or any other specific commodity, but the concept of pure quantity. It was a revolution in both accounting and human communication. For the first time, there was a reckoning system applicable to any and every item under the sun.
Thus, “writing resulted not only from new bureaucratic demands but from the invention of abstract counting,” argued Schmandt-Besserat in How Writing Came About. “The most important evidence uncovered is that counting was not, as formerly assumed, subservient to writing; on the contrary, writing emerged from counting.”
Clay tokens became obsolete by 3000 B.C., replaced by pictographic tablets that could represent not only “how many” but also “what, where, when, and how.” With the introduction of a new type of stylus, pictographic writing developed into cuneiform notation. The resulting record-keeping system proved so efficient and convenient that it was used in the Near East for the next 3,000 years.
“The tokens were mundane counters dealing with foods and other basic commodities of everyday life, but they played a major role in the societies that adopted them,” concluded Schmandt-Besserat. “They were used to manage goods, and they affected the economy; they were an instrument of power, and they created new social patterns; they were employed for data manipulation, and they changed a mode of thought.
So once there was writing, there could be written stories, and one of the earliest we have is the glorious Epic of Gilgamesh. My favourite part is where Enkidu – who I see as representing the wild hunter gatherers and pastoralists who remain connected to wildlife and nature – is tempted by a prostitute to go to the bright neon lights of the city – the ‘lure of civilisation’ so to speak - the streets paved with gold, sex and drugs and rock & roll, something which must have happened to uncountable numbers of people over the millennia and which continues to this day as rural folk move into urban life in search of money and the buzz of ‘modern life’…
So then we have all of the world’s literature, one of the wonders of our species, the legacy of millions of minds and imaginations.
What would we be without that?
Fast forward several thousand years, of stories and cities and risings and vanishings of entire civilisations, to circa 1920 when we get a clear glimpse of something that joins the first city states of Sumeria to our own time today, using writing and the newly invented format of the dystopian novel.
‘’In a country constructed of glass, under complete surveillance…’’
Here we can already see the outlines of the NSA and Edward Snowden, as we look back past 9/11, past the Stazi, through 1984 and Brave New World, through the flames of the burning Reichstag the Sonderkommando arranging the corpses into neat piles to make smoke signals warning the coming generations – “Die now or, in four months time, you will know what makes time so precious.”
Nobody paid attention to Zamyatin; nobody paid attention to the smoke signals.
Enkidu always falls for temptation because he does not know any better, until it is too late…
The streets are never paved with gold, only blood, bones, tears and torment.
In a country constructed of glass, under complete surveillance and devoid of individuality, D-503 discovers he has a soul and is now in danger.
First there were a few hundred on the internet who discussed this and what to do.
It has grown to a few thousands, and now it grows faster and faster and soon, I suppose, millions.
And nobody knows what to do.
I was one of the first to face this matter head on without flinching.
This is the most amazing time in all of human history.
We have evolved since about a million or 2 million years or a couple of hundred thousand years depending upon how you define a human being exactly. And then we made the first cities about 6000 years ago and agriculture and civilisation and technology and writing and now we reach our peak, and destroy everything and become extinct and cause a mass extinction event of most of life on Earth.
That’s how I see it.
And just for a brief moment, we have all these things, computers, etc, and access to all this information. And we peer out into the Universe and try to understand why we are here and what’s going on…
And then we all vanish.
Every day I review this picture because every day people are questioning, and I am trying to reply.
Most people are unable to comprehend that this civilisation will collapse, with billions of people condemned to die prematurely, because it is too horrible to face. But it is absolutely inevitable, only a question of when, and exactly how it takes place.
It might be any time in the next 100 years which seems long and vague for humans, but is an instant in geological time, a millisecond, a nanosecond.
And then I think, going by previous mass extinction events, it takes about 10 million years for life to recover. But whatever it is, it will be nothing like us.
So the problem is, how does one live when one has this knowledge?
This terrible, TERRIBLE knowledge. Hahahaha, enough to make a strong man weep. Seriously. It is such a difficult matter each person has to solve for themselves and, if they have children, their predicament is made much worse.
But I think, live in the moment, striving to be as happy as you are able to be, because each moment is very precious and never returns.
And now, I think we come to write our last stories as our era draws to a close.
The Epic of Human Demise…
Everything is going to go.
So, if I did have children, anyone under thirty, say.
What could I possibly advise? This is very hard because I don’t want the responsibility and I don’t know what will happen, but I get a lot of emails from people who feel bad, and I feel obliged to reply and I feel obliged to say SOMETHING, and I can’t be dishonest or evasive…
You don’t need much of anything.
Cut possessions and consumption to essentials.
Stay fit and healthy, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
Get a network of others who share same views. Be loyal and supportive.
Everyone is monitored, so develop in-group language, opaque to outsiders.
You know what I mean. Do as much off-line as possible.
Share what needs to be shared, need to know, otherwise keep stuff to yourself, especially stuff that matters. One good person you can trust is the most valuable asset you can have, the more the better.
Most people can’t keep secrets. The more they want to, the more they feel compelled to tell someone.
Regard all MSM info with suspicion, as propaganda; nowadays it’s often downright lies.
Distribute important and interesting information as widely as possible.
Don’t be naive. Don’t be anybody’s fool; be your own best friend who you can trust.
It’s going to get much, much worse, so expect that you’ll be shocked. Don’t get knocked off-balance; roll with the punches, bounce back.
Learn stuff all the time, something new every day. There’s a technique to this, make it fun. Go over what you learned yesterday. Get a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Build self-esteem. Learn about ecology, nature, wildlife, the land, the past, what happened. Learn critical thinking. Don’t let anything slide by unnoticed…
Permaculture is good to learn, so is Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Aikido, even basic gardening, cooking, food preservation. One of the saddest thing with so many old people, like me, haha, who have skills – I have knowledge of hand tools used in woodwork and chairmaking with a direct line going back to their invention in Egypt 6000 years ago – is that all this is lost as we die off with no young people who are interested to hand it on to. It’s not just one generation’s knowledge. It’s taken centuries to learn this stuff… Nobody wants to know. Sigh.
Know your enemy.
Who are they?
Well, as far as I am concerned, they are these people. Not necessarily the individual names with the faces and addresses attached, but the whole idea that is acceptable and alright to behave in this way. The whole idea that it is acceptable and alright to live and conduct yourself and your affairs in this way:
WikiLeaks released 249 documents from 92 global intelligence contractors.
TIL the wealthiest 20% of the world’s population receives 76.6% of the world’s income, the poorest 20% of the world’s population receives just 1.5% of the world’s income.
We look back a couple of hundred years at the way certain people were behaving and we are shocked and disgusted, and yet we have the same kinds of people behaving in the same kinds of ways, in fact even WORSE, if you check out the actual damage they do.
These people are insane. They have always been with us, since the first cities of Sumeria, these accumulators of wealth and power, whose lust for money is never sated.
But what good will it do them when they inhabit a dead planet? Because that is what is happening and they are to blame, their greed, ignorance and stupidity is the direct cause of this oncoming catastrophe. Everything has to be turned into money, and what good will money be, when Earth is like Mars? Because that’s what is happening….
You’re going to have to mix with the enemy, to survive, but you don’t have to become them, or support them, or fraternise with them. Just disguise yourself and shapeshift your way through to get whatever you need. Ostracise anyone who is supporting The Machine.
Some people think that what matters is people and social reform and justice and that sort of thing. I’m not against those things, just that I don’t think they matter anymore, at least not to me personally. I think the only thing that matters is saving the other species for as long as possible and stopping the killing Machine as much as possible. Pretty much the Deep Green Resistance agenda.
But if you disagree, who cares? I don’t have time to debate and argue over crap. I’d rather see some action, someone fighting to save some fucking butterflies or something, than complaining about the bankers. Sooner or later, all those bankers, anyone who even looks like a banker, are going to be ripped limb from limb by hordes of enraged starving folk with machetes. They’ll deserve it. But that’s not my agenda.
It’s time to get apocalyptic, or get out-of-the-way.
I mean, we all know everything is going to shit. We all know that’s extremely depressing. We all know it makes you feel suicidal. Okay. That bits done. Sorted. Leave it behind.
Like an old jacket you used to wear. Familiar but worn out.
If you’re into suicide, do it. There’s too many of us. Otherwise, get a grip. Don’t go the way that they are currently on NBL, of endless ‘counselling’, because IMHO that’s another disaster. It’s for the people who enjoy self-indulgence and self-pity and the people who exploit them by selling their books. The only person who can sort yourself out is you, and you do it! Right here, right now.
The way I see it, the Roman Catholics had Confession, which was a means for their power pyramid to gather intelligence, much like the NSA and GCHQ are doing now.
People could ‘sin’ and then be absolved and go away and ‘sin’ again, and that became an habitual lifestyle. Remember, the Inquisition was the equivalent of the CIA and lasted for 400 years.
Then Freud and Jung came along and Heaven and Hell were replaced by The Unconscious. Instead of Confession, people lay on the couch and talked about their childhood and their dreams. Same deal really. The equivalent of the Inquisition was perhaps Bedlam, the lunatic asylum.
Basically, all the pyramid power structures that are not fighting to SAVE the biosphere – are there any that are ?? – are the enemy. That doesn’t leave many powerful allies.
It does leave billions of ordinary, rather powerless people who know they don’t like what’s happening. If I was Che Guevara, I’d say it was a perfect time for revolution. The only problem is that a social reform doesn’t fix an ecological crisis caused by exceeding the carrying capacity.
These people are plain evil. They have done nothing good for anybody ever, in their entire history. How does humanity rid itself of such a monstrosity that has caused death suffering and misery for millions and millions of innocent people ?
The problem is power. If the greatest power is corrupt and evil, then who or what will hold it to account for its actions? How can it be removed? How do you prevent it being replaced by something even worse? Only the mass of the people can do this, and they have to understand the problem. Usually they don’t, or they are betrayed by leaders. Any leader who cannot be corrupted will be assassinated.
And now we have the New Age, and all kinds of therapies and therapists and counsellors who’ll take your cash for a book and dvd and a private consultation if you can afford it. It’s just a new priesthood for a new religion, and NTE is a whole new business opportunity for a whole new industry to arise, and some people will spend the whole of the rest of their lives ‘coming to terms with’ whatever it is…
Well, I am a warrior, and that’s not my way of dealing with this. If you get damaged and hurt, you heal yourself as well and effectively and efficiently as you can. I know, because I’ve been through a lot of stuff and been battered all to hell. Be as kind and gentle to yourself as you can possibly be. But there’s no need to rely on someone who doesn’t know any better than you do. How can they, if they have not been through what you have been through, and are doing what they do to make money? There’s a danger in that.
People who are addicted to booze or video games or who are obese or who expect to be told what to do, whole sectors of society - well, what will happen to them? Zombie food?
The old, the children and babies, the pregnant mothers, the weak and disabled, people who rely upon medication for survival, the gentle and tender-hearted ones – what happens?
We know what happens, because it has happened before. We can look back at history and see what happened when societies collapsed. It’s not a new thing. Inform yourself.
Next comes next. We’re going to die anyway. So how are we going to live while we are alive? That’s the bit that matters.
I think Enkidu has to get out of the rotting poisonous city, escape, get back to what he was… find himself again… his soul, his power, his way of being.
Forgive the male tense. There must be a female version of Enkidu, but I have failed to find one. Suggestions in the comments, perhaps.
“It is said there are flowers that bloom only once in a hundred years. Why should there not be some that bloom once in a thousand, in ten thousand years? Perhaps we never know about them simply because this “once in a thousand years” has come today.”
~ Yevgeny Zamyatin.