Anarchism, Anti-civ, Collapse, Global Warming, Inca, Industrial Civilization, Paris Terrorist Attacks, Revolution, Time
She was a yearling. Not very large, maybe one hundred pounds I would guess, as I was able to easily hoist her body into the back of my Jeep. Gauging by the blood leaking from her ears and mouth and lack of any other visible wounds, I assumed the car that killed her struck her in the head, possibly breaking her neck. What I could not gauge was how long she had been lying dead on the side of the highway. Her eyes were open and not yet eaten by birds, and her anus was also free of any infestation. I chuckle to myself when I imagine the reaction more domesticated individuals might have if they knew that there are people like myself who assess the edibility of roadkill by the presence of uncorrupted eyes and assholes. To be fair, I also took stock of the stiffness of her body and the lack of any immediately offensive odors emanating from it. She was worth taking home for a greater look, anyway.
From a cross beam of the carport I anchored a carabiner, and I fastened another to the yearling’s hind legs so I could create a “z-rig” pulley system, effectively halving her weight so that I could hoist her body into the air and tie of the cordage without help from a second person. My partner was going to come outside and watch the dressing so she could have a greater understanding of the process, and she bundled up our daughter too, who showed no fear or anxiety concerning the large animal hanging dead before her. Gently, I explained that the deer had died, and I was going to harvest its meat for us to eat. Not yet two, she stood looking at the yearling and said, “Deer, off.”
“Yes honey, the deer is off.”
“She can’t be turned back on. Once something dies, it cannot come back to life. But her spirit and her flesh return to the Earth.”
The year is closing as we approach the winter solstice. From the corners we inhabit, we watch the fallout from terrorist attacks in Paris and the downing of a Russian war plan by the Turkish military. Those who tally the climate statistics are telling us that 2015 is set to be the warmest year on record, globally. South Africa grapples with drought, the rainforests of the Amazon are burning, and world leaders sent to negotiate climate deals are converging on a Paris conveniently locked down by security forces preventing mass demonstrations under emergency restrictions imposed due to the aforementioned terrorist attacks. Not that it matters. Floats and puppets are fun to look at, but only a complete restructuring of society could address the challenge of climate change, and that restructuring begins with erasing existing borders and property lines, canceling existing debts, dismantling industrial infrastructure, and of course, toppling the standing systems of power. The puppets and street theater capable of such feats, I would love to see. As I have previously stated (and my blog name continually hints at) I do not believe humans capable of achieving such goals, at least, not without a little help from our friends calamity and chaos. The gatekeepers are just too well equipped to stave off conscious revolution. If you want to get into the citadel, you will just have to wait until a tornado throws a bulldozer through the wall, or a plague kills most of the guards.
Until then we watch, we wait, and we endure. We keep repeating the conventional wisdom of collapse; that which cannot be sustained, will not sustain. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it didn’t collapse in a day, either. The collapse of a civilization is not one event, but the consummation of many events that eventually birth a catastrophe that overwhelms the ability of that civilization’s people to rebuild what has been destroyed, whether material or social.
Fast collapse and slow collapse are really the same thing, looked at from different vantage points. What is built over centuries can end in seconds.
November 16, 1532. Francisco Pizarro has one hundred and sixty eight men laying an ambush in the Inca city of Cajamarca. Atahualpa, the emperor of the Inca empire, arrives for a meeting with the Spanish backed by an unarmed cadre of six thousand. A friar and barely competent translator tell Atahualpa they are there, in essence, to bring the Inca into the fold of the Catholic church and the Spanish empire, and they offer him a bible as a seal of their truth. As was to be expected, and likely, the intention of the Spanish, Atahualpa rejects what he is being offered. This rejection of the bible and the truth of the Catholic church gave the Spaniards what they considered to be legal grounds to attack the Inca who had amassed there. A century of empire with its conquest, expansion, and grandeur, could be said, to have ended in the following seconds.
Those seconds, however, were the ripe culmination of years of internal strife concerning who the rightful heir to the imperial throne was, a waning ability of the empire to effectively control far flung principalities, and a plague of smallpox brought to Mesoamerica by Europeans that advanced faster than conquistadors on horseback. Political turmoil and disease were eating away at the Inca empire, and the Spanish arrived just in time to add the critical pressure necessary to break it. And they had guns.
History, of course, is complex, and the fall of the Inca empire extended beyond the massacre at Cajamarca, as Pizarro played disaffected Inca regions against the center, installed puppet emperors, and fought rebellions. As the colonization of the Inca proceeded, European diseases continued to decimate the indigenous population as well. The Inca actually learned how to effectively defeat the advantage of firearms, but the viruses ravaging their insides were too much.
Depending on where we stand, we can focus on the centuries or the seconds.
If tomorrow the Dow Jones Industrial plummeted by seventy percentage points or NATO declared war on Russia, we would likely see those seconds as the critical break between the past and the future, the old world and the new. But of course, years of maneuvering by humans and the consequences of those movements all came together to generate just the specific combination of factors required to outflank the established firewalls civilization has established to protect itself, and to outpace the efforts at rebuilding that are guaranteed in the aftermath of catastrophe. Resource scarcity primarily in the sphere of fossil fuel energy, the manipulation of capital to the point of diminishing returns by the global ultra-wealthy, the decimation of ecosystems around the world; all have played their part in dressing the set for those critical seconds that seem to hang over us like a sword.
How does an organism die? If you magnify the death of any given being, presumably you can find one second, one still frame in time that separates living from dying. When we die of old age in the most quintessential of circumstances – our heads atop a fluffed down pillow as we lie repose in a king-sized bed replete with Egyptian cotton sheets and a mahogany headboard, family and adorers walling in our bedside and wishing us fair travels as we draw a final breath, smile, and say something childishly simple yet agonizingly profound – a critical second passes when our heart ceases to beat, electrical impulses in our brain fade, and we’re gone. The room exhales.
But we were dying for so long. How many years had it been since our body’s ability to repair cellular breakdown was outpaced by the aging process? We had peaked decades before. From that point forward, despite every adventure, every new idea, every material acquisition, we were hurtling ever forward toward our imminent demise. Our vision blurred, so a doctor prescribed us glasses. Our heart stuttered, so we began taking pills. Our mobility waned so we got a Hov-R-Round from the Scooter Store thanks to the endless advertisements targeted towards we septuagenarians aired on day time TV. We pressed on.
Our bodies contain countless living beings and units; cells, tissues, and bacteria that all comprise the whole of what we perceive as our self. A veritable civilization that is born and advances through stages of growth and maturation until the energy necessary to maintain integrity is outpaced by diminishing returns. We insert techno-fixes of every imaginable stripe to stem the twin tides of time and entropy, buying what time we can until the inevitable enters stage left to take us by the hand and demurley return us to the soil.
Civilizations are no different. Shaped in centuries, defined in seconds, feeding the fertile soils of time. Billions of human hands and minds carving, digging, screaming, warring, building, repairing, maintaining until it just isn’t enough and the center can no longer hold. Hydraulic fracturing, negative interest rates, solar arrays and soyburgers all applied to patch the holes and to bail the bilge water. Industrial civilization passed its peak decades ago, sometime around the time when women in skirts freely attended University in Kabul and the United States didn’t need to stand guard over Wahhabist Monarchs in the House of Saud in order to keep the game of growth afloat. Selfie sticks and social media stock options are your glasses and nitroglycerin. The internet is your Hov-R-Round. Do not kid yourself into thinking this is a civilization still in the wild throws of maturation and bloom. The billions of organisms that make this civilization possible are under threat, from phytoplankton to pollinating insects and carbon sequestering trees, all of whom feed the the billions of humans who swing hammers and pour concrete and fit pipes and string lines and who somehow, by some curse of the lottery of birth, drag themselves to the factories and cubicle farms day in and day out, all to keep this storm born Galleon afloat. Shaped in so many of our precious seconds, defined in the roil of faceless centuries, feeding the fertile soils of time.
The car struck her head, I had guessed. Her life probably ended quickly in a split second of sound and light. Without any abrasions on the body, I assumed the meat would be well preserved by the cold evening air. With only a beam of light to guide my hands under the dark of night, I gently separated her hide from her flesh, using light strokes of my knife to cut away at the membrane that held her skin to her flesh. Something was wrong. Her skin had a green tone in places around her ribs. I cut away more, examining the muscle as I worked. The green hue, almost an electric blue really, blotted here and there on her leg muscles, like watercolor oceans on an aging map. Hoping the backstrap was untainted I continued to skin the deer, but it was hopeless. On her left hind leg a subcutaneous tear in the protective membrane had likely allowed the passage of bacteria. She must have been spun or thrown by the vehicle in some fashion that impacted her rear leg with a substantial force.
The meat was inedible. I sighed in the night. Fog from my mouth drifted upwards as I set my knife down, and lowered her body. Walking beneath the stars I carried the yearling downhill, briars grabbing at my boots, twigs snapping underfoot. I thanked her and apologized while burying her under a light blanket of leaves. Coyotes, buzzards, someone would eat her. Someone with an enviable array of gut flora. I plodded and crunched my way home to wash the blood from my hands and wrists. The smell would last for days.
mike k said:
Everything dies. But life continues to emerge in spite of that. In the ultimately lethal inferno of an exploding star the seeds of new life are born. The intimate dance of life and death is what is eternal, inextinguishable. Everything is changing – being born and dying in that same instant, only to be reborn and die in the next instant. Permanence of temporary forms and appearances is illusory and bound to dissolve, but the river of change itself flows on forever.
“You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay’d: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”
“One can never step in the same river a second time.”
“This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:
Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.”
And yet we love this world and these friends, and wish we could hold them close forever.
the virgin terry said:
i haven’t checked this blog for a few months, knowing that nothing new had been posted after july, wondering like others what if anything had happened to xray mike. still wondering about that. anyone know? at any rate, i’m glad to see it goes on, if only to post the work of another blogger, the excellent writer td0s. his writing’s so good, maybe he could make some money off of it someday, if collapse doesn’t intervene first. thanks for sharing this, and i hope all is well with xray.
it’s that time of year again:
Thanks for the compliment. With my talents, I am more than happy to just share them. Riches will always allude me. Thats fine. Im happy just to make others happy.
terry, mike is alive and well on reddit
jerry dragon said:
I have been aware of the impending collapse since I was about 12 years old and am now 63. I did what I could to try and warn anyone I could but now I have just given up. I see it as inevitable and there is nothing I or anyone can do. It is like a runaway train.
mike k said:
There are always things people can do if there is a train wreck. Even if the train is a whole civilization.
mike k said:
You are a loving person and wish to help someone who is in danger of being killed by a tornado. There are definite things that need to be done to avoid this outcome. However when you inform them of what you know, they tell you and their children who are listening, “There is no tornado approaching, and besides you are just scaring the children. Why don’t you tell us a story instead about love and safety and invulnerability?”
Sometimes Love requires us to face folks with some very unpleasant truths that they really need to look at. To do otherwise is not loving, but deluding them and oneself. We are in a very real and deadly serious worldwide emergency. To pretend otherwise is dishonest and unloving. People’s unwillingness to face this is a major factor in guaranteeing that the storm which is raging even now will continue to worsen until billions become it’s victims. That people will not thank you for this information, and indeed may turn on you for trying to impart it, is not a valid reason for failing to do your best to wake them up before it is too late. The house is already burning – it is no time to be asleep!
How to deliver the tough message that is necessary with real Love, is the problem for those trying to help an addict, or a nation of addicts – who will do everything they can to tune out the message, and thunder on to their (and others) destruction. The koan is: How do you help those who refuse help? Finding an answer to this dilemma may be the last hope for our world….
mike k said:
This tornadic tsunami of extinctive events will wipe out humankind and many other life forms. There will be no refuge from it. It is either prevent it, or suffer extinction. Some say that now it is unstoppable, but no one really knows for certain. On the Path of those who choose to be more loving, there are many possibilities. To help a few, or even one, to have some kind of better life is always good. But some will choose to confront the enormous wave of our karma that is now rolling over us with increasing fury, and try to turn it or modify it’s destructive impact. If this were possible, many individuals could be saved, not just a handful.
There is no one best way to meet this vast historic challenge. Those who are a little awake to it should pray and meditate for guidance as to the best ways to express their love. Perhaps we need a great variety of folks working in different ways to find some solution to the impossible situation we find ourselves in. As the I Ching says in similar situations “everything furthers.” Pick the means you feel called to, and use your unique abilities for this ultimate cause of saving the bright possibilities of humankind.
A Koan is a seemingly impossible question which demands a leap into dimensions beyond the limits of the ordinary mind. The crisis we are facing is a product of the ordinary mind.
Private Heinrich said:
The military has the capacity to counter desertification and save the planet.
Collapse of civilization can be prevented, and it should be prevented.
mike k said:
Yeah, I went to the link. It sounds crazy, but after all we are in a crazy situation. I don’t think greening the world’s deserts will be an adequate solution to all our problems in any case. Our problems go a lot deeper than that.
Private Heinrich said:
Our problems can be summarized by an overdrive towards resource acquisition.
Resources can range from raw agricultural commodities to finished products.
All of which come from land, and mostly, from vegetative fertile land.
Greening the deserts is an ideological and utopian goal that is nice to have.
But what we must have is a sound policy to reverse desertification and mitigate climate change impact. The anticipated climate change induced rainfall increases on barren land will either evaporate into the atmosphere within hours, or if the land is duly prepared, water can be sequestered into deeper soil by providing a layer of animal excrements rich in microbes and additionally some plant based organic matter trampled to the ground by grazing animals, providing much needed shade and a living top layer enabling new plant growth. Eventually sequestration will fill the much depleted water aquifers.
Instead of lining up against each other from narrow ideological point of views, we as humans need to come up with a higher unifying ideology, a flawless one. If you saw the artistic pictures in the link, I’m sure most people would dream of having a green planet, but we are all helpless when trying to achieve that. That’s why I emphasize that this is a military job, and not some NGO’s running around in Africa without any enforcement capacities. Even the Middle East conflicts could be resolved when competition over land is eliminated by simply increasing the area of fertile land.
We live in crazy times, we should expect crazy solutions, this certainly is not the craziest idea floating around the web.
The crisis level is unprecedented in human history, certainly from the connectivity aspect….our problems are very interdependent.
Thanks for commenting!
mike k said:
Green the deserts fits in the category of magical one-shot solutions. It ignores the large number of lethal scenarios now in play, and suggests that one technology would solve everything. I also suggests that the solution to our problems is simply more of the resources we are currently depleting. Jevons paradox anyone? What we need is less of just about everything except perhaps love and sanity. We need industrial civilization to go on a diet – actually some severe fasting would be helpful. Your idea is like telling a 700 pound overweight person they just need to eat more so they won’t be hungry all the time.
Deserts are part of the world. There are beings who live in the deserts. Why would we want to decimate their habitat because we have decimated our own?
If we could stop razing prairies and forests, we could prevent the deserts from growing. Industrial civilization is a killing machine. Turning off the killing machine is the priority.
Sometimes when I see the destruction & the madness that the masses think is a normal part of life I feel alone, very alone……………….
There are rare souls out there such as you TdOs (among few others) that make me realize that what I feel & sense isn’t out of touch with reality.
It’s those around me who wallow in civilizations depravity that are out of touch. They are for the most part mad & it shows with all the psychological problems running rampant throughout this culture.
Yes, turning off the killing machine IS the priority.
mike k said:
You are not alone. You are one of a small minority alive today who are grasping how profound our failure as humans really is, and how inadequate our feeble responses to this crisis are. My hope would be that you become part of an even smaller minority of those who fully understand and maintain awareness of our situation, and yet strive against all odds to live lives based on love for all Beings, and a search for whatever possible helps they can render in these rapidly darkening days. It is all to easy to fall into cynicism, anger, blaming and despair while contemplating our madness. I know from having spent too much time in those states myself. May you and others find ways to go on, and not be destroyed by the dark side of life that you have uncovered.
I believe your right Mike that it is easy to fall into the darkness of the situation & it takes a lot of self analysis to stop the slide. My own power comes from my love of the Universe & my connection to all Beings. I have even just written a book on such a thing.
I earnestly wish to withdraw from this culture altogether as its narcissistic chest beating holds no interest to me & I currently live my life on the fringes of it.
However, there are a lot of good people that are caught up in this maelstrom of insanity which I find sad as deep down they are good well meaning folk. If you dig beneath the surface you can sense the fear & anxiety in a lot of what they say but their trying to make sense of something they can’t understand, sense or feel deep down.
The mask of civilization is too tight………………………..The mask has dulled their hearing, their sight & their deep organic connection to the earth & even at this late stage of industrial demise they will defend it vehemently having no idea they are defending the death of the very connection that gives them life themselves………….Thank you for your words Mike. your one of those rare people who make sense in a world devoid of sense.
mike k said:
I would really like to read your book Brendon. I have had thoughts about writing a book myself, and would be fascinated to see how you tackle the problems we are both aware of. Let me know when I can get a copy please.
I’d be happy to send you a copy if you want to send your contact details to me.
It was published (by Xlibris) in late October & is called Voices from our Pantheist Heritage.
It’s a collection of short stories & poetry I’ve written over the past few years. All the stories have a central theme which is the sanctity of nature (the subtitle of the book is Stories of a Sacred Universe). Everything I write has that as a central theme as it’s the motivating force in my life.
The stories cover many aspects of civilizations failings & what they have caused the human & non human world. I care not if a single copy sells. As I’ve mentioned I gain no joy in this alienated culture & money means little to me except to pay the rates, some food & a beer or two. I can get all that without earning a great deal.
Anyway if you’d like a copy (I have 40 free copies coming to me as part of the publishing deal) I’d be happy to send you one. My contact email is email@example.com
mike k said:
Thanks for your kind offer to share your book Brendon. Every once in a while I meet someone on the web who resonates with my own journey, and makes up for the many posts that strike no fire and bring no response. I guess part of my web sharings is like fishing for partners in the great Work of finding a way beyond our failed culture on Earth. Your voice tells me that I am not alone in this quest….
mike k said:
So the problem is that those of us who are deeply concerned about our human planetary problems do not have any solutions available that can withstand the withering criticisms and skepticism of the doomers. The best we can say at this point is that we’re working on it, please join us. If your conviction that nothing can possibly save us from near term extinction affords you some sort of ultimate victim status that justifies your lack of positive efforts, then so be it. We will just have to soldier on in this frustrating work without your help, because in a world headed towards final disaster this is the only game really worth playing, whatever the odds against are.
One more thing. Whatever stage of understanding or lack of it you may be at, keep searching and sharing with others, because in a profound and complex problem like this we don’t really know where solutions my come from. Some of our most helpful insights and proposals may seem really weird and improbable. When you need a miracle, it doesn’t pay to reject things without checking them out. A helpful mantra is “you never know…”
Curt Kastens said:
Greening the deserts might not stop the ineviable (haha what a typo) but it might give enought time to read one more book by Harry Mulisch, and to do one more good deed.