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Village Community and Nature: "It's no good" - Civilization PDF Print E-mail
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by Jan Lundberg   
27 November 2010
Instead of extended family, human warmth, village society and closeness to nature, we lucky moderns have gone down a path strewn with material things increasingly designed for the junk heap. What is dawning on climate scientists, biologists and many more of us is that we as a species are headed for our own junk heap.

While I'm painfully aware of sea level rise, our bodies' contamination with plastic, falling sperm counts and profusion of cancers, I reject that our present path is our fate. Is it time to say "Screw civilization"? This wouldn't mean we don't appreciate nice people in towns living decent lives, nor do we sneer at the accomplishments of Mozart and outer space flight. Bravo Amadeus and NASA. Now it's time to redefine civilization and prepare to pick up the pieces.

If the modern era's wars, ecocide and every-man-for-himself socioeconomic institutions must continue to corrupt and kill, all in the name of civilization's triumph over nature and "primitive" people, is "No thanks" response enough? We can do more than decry civilization, refuse to buy cars, wear a radical button on our lapel, and plant an organic food garden. For we need to sing the Earth into harmony.

Given the almost unspeakable ecological crisis and the failure of growth economics, more and more of us see that we must move on constructively with imagination and heart. Hating the greedy thieves at the top -- the 1% increasingly benefiting from a rigged system -- has its place, now that "Yes we can!" came to mean nothing.

With an "Obomba" leading a shrinking choir of Hope-filled victims of his bankster buddies, what are we to do -- vote again?

Chris Hedges
As author Chris Hedges told a standing-room-only crowd on Dec. 1st at Portland, Oregon's Powell's Books, "To place faith in electoral politics is extremely naīve." If you don't quite agree, see the new documentary Inside Job, narrated by Matt Damon. It will disabuse you of any remaining respect you might have for Wall Street, the Federal Reserve Bank and top academics getting their juicy cuts from mega-financial interests.

However, if people get smart enough and real mad, will populism be the successor to the corporate state?

art by David Dees,
Much more than we need to see a revitalized liberal class and the protection of U.S. jobs -- with free speech for the glamorized automobile workers and the rest of us -- we need an alternative that breaks with past allegiance to friendly American fascism. Even if social movements were to improve the institutional climate for our record population size, the end of cheap oil has guaranteed collapse.

Yes, we can -- move on. We are moving on, to save ourselves. All together is best, for leaving folks behind is but the disgrace of civilized society and its avaricious rulers. Solidarity is the only way. How can we do it right when we each have our struggles, such as to pay bills or get through one more night without proper shelter or warmth?

For me to have to post another plea for post-industrial, eco-egalitarian culture, when I have long been an optimistic networker and activist for community causes, is strange. I try to understand it, but I'm still marginalized, as you may be, for having logical feelings and cares. Most people want to avoid the heavy issues or even act in their own interests. They are content to earn some money, try to relax, keep their heads down, take drugs, and avoid dealing with issues of vital importance. Their survival is on the line right now, but to bring it up and point toward more conscious living is like farting in church.

Now here's my plan: get up the nerve to get rid of this computer and live without one. I have felt pretty smug for not having a car for the past 21 years. But a friend of mine, an old misfit who used to be a car-free activist and now puts his health first (although he drives), pointed out that I can be car-free because I have a computer that I make a living off of. I couldn't argue with him. It's not that getting rid of my computer is so vital; the greater truth is that I am dependent on technology instead of relying on interacting directly with people for my work.

I would be nowhere without the people with whom I share a commitment to the cause, basic obligations, and mutual support. But I am far from self-sufficient or self-reliant with my community. (Community is weaker in the U.S than anywhere, but we have to get it together here and now, regardless of the banksters and the war machine.) I am more off the grid than most people, and I'm not dependent on having a lot of money. It's nice not to have any addictions, I say, but it's a lie when the computer is a major addiction. Where would people be if the computer network went down and didn't come back up? Folks would be scrambling like crazy, for the whole modern infrastructure such as petroleum fuels and chemicals would fall through as well.

I dreamed that I got out of a train and noticed I had left my laptop on a seat in the train. The train started to move along, and I had no chance to retrieve the computer. I was surprised at myself in the dream how little it bothered me to lose it. That was that, I was rid of it. When I woke up and relived the dream, my calm and almost happy reaction and feeling were hard to believe. This is why the dream is so vivid today.

Should we listen to our dreams and act on them? I'm a believer in that. Disturbed people who have violent or sick dreams should not act on such dreams; such people need help such as therapy. But as a clinical psychologist once told me after we became close friends, "I think that people just need more love." Nothing she or anyone else has said made greater sense to me. She is Lorin Lindner, now an animal sanctuary activist.

Material insecurity and greed appear to flow from one's deprivation of love, trusting companionship and support. In an historic time of breakdown of social cohesion -- evidenced by high divorce rates, people living alone, insanity and violence -- the absence of proactive concern for our common home the Earth is inevitable and inescapable. Being a selfish individual, whether one goes to church and greets people, or whether one flies the nation's flag, goes with gouging other people for material gain, and it goes with harming the Earth for same.

Is there a cure for this behavior and ecocide? Activism is not working, although a small movement exists to practice such things as consume more organic food than before, buy local goods rather than products shipped in at great distance, and reduce energy consumption. Since 2010 is the hottest year on record, with greenhouse gas emissions rising even faster than before, we clearly have a dilemma. And it appears that the more people hear about the climate's deterioration and rising uncertainty from extreme weather, the less people want to know. Some believe a violent reaction to identifiable threats is a viable course. Whereas self-defense is always valid, and civil disobedience is necessary to save habitats when government is in the pocket of corporations, a campaign of violence is a misguided delusion. Likewise, putting up no resistance to exploitation and oppression is uncalled for and insane.

As I reflect on two decades of activism and an ongoing education combined with disillusionment, I seem to return again and again to an idea: reaching people's hearts and their subconscious is the only way to bring about the deep change needed to save life on this beleaguered planet. If reached before the inevitable collapse of the consumer economy (based on dwindling oil), there might be more of a transition of culture rather than a wrenching transformation that might leave the human species behind.

I prefer healing myself and the planet, and not waiting for someone else to heal me or do the right thing for Earth. Combining dreaming and healing makes the most sense to me, and music does it. It worked for millions of people in the 1960s. I have been sharing the lyrics of a song from a dream that renewed my fondest hopes for humanity and the Earth. I sing it while playing acoustic guitar that is heavy on bar chords. The dream that the song came to me in had a woman singing about the certainty of the Earth's healing from climate destabilization and toxic pollution -- through the whole population singing together.

A normal left-brain response to such a notion is that it's crazy and can't happen. But what of the proven physics of our common, linked, intrinsic vibration and molecular oneness that we share with each other and all the universe? I woke up from the dream happier than ever that there was hope. As my morning began and I left behind my right-brain state, I remembered some of the music and what the singer had to say. I no doubt made the music and style of performance more rock 'n roll than my dream singer did, but hey... Please enjoy this message from my heart and subconscious, and I thank you for reading. - Depaver Jan

Singing the Earth into Harmony

photo by Shirin Wertime

(November 20, 2007)

Her voice was most reassuring now
With warmth and harmony
I had a dream and a woman sang
The sound was sweet and complete
I think it meant that humankind
Can help the Earth to heal

It takes one voice of all the people
Singing the Earth into harmony
Can you hear and feel
Guns will be laid down on the ground
After we learn
As forests burn

There may not be a grocery store
With neon lights in your eyes
We're going back to Nature's Way
Before the ice all melts

- Click here to play a low fidelity recording of the song, sung as a voice-mail.

......_\ \>,

For hard-hitting political art see David Dees' work

Comments (8)Add Comment
It is not so much losing the computer as losing access to the information you can get from the whole world - and, more significantly, all the other minds you can share the world with, insights and arguments with. The possibility of retaining at least some sort of a world communications network is the big difference between the coming world and every one that has come before.

We will only be aware of our common humanity and our WHOLE planet as a united ecological entity as long as we can receive evidence of this fairly frequently; information coded as speech and photos will probably be enough to keep us and our descendants grounded in a larger reality than humanity ever had before. I don't want to lose that!

On the other hand, there is the problem of disinformation -- but it was ever thus. Helga
Helga Vierich-Drever
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Dear Jan,

Thank you for sharing your dreams with us. They are powerful. I appreciate all your reflections and insights in this article. But I also agree with John Michael Greer in "In The Wake Of Victory" - regarding "dissensus" and the need for many approaches. After all, Nature loves diversity. As we individuate (which doesn't mean hyper-individualism and 'me-first', but does mean leaving the herd), it becomes harder to think in terms of 'all-together-now,' let's save everybody. It's going to be very hard, if not impossible, to 'save everybody,' if we mean all humans, when there are clearly too many humans on the planet. How about saving ourselves and joining the other humans who are sane enough to survive the approaching chaos?

However, I love the idea of a song to teach everybody to sing together to heal the Earth.

I also sympathize with Helga's wish to keep the internet up as civilization disintegrates. However, I'm afraid that is quite unlikely, given the technical realities we'll face with the decline of oil. Electronic information is far more vulnerable and fragile than non-digital forms, including tape and books. I don't think it's going to be that easy to keep the digital highway open.

Best, Suzanne
Suzanne Duarte
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Jan, I've pondered being disconnected (although I haven't taken the step) ever since I read Cliff Stoll's book, Silicon Snake Oil, way back in 1996 or 1997 when it came out. As he suggested, is it so much the dependence on computers per se or that of using and depending on the internet? I suspect the latter, as the uses for computers are limited once you disconnect from the web, except for the more practical word processing, etc. By agree, modern society will be toast, and very quickly so, when the internet becomes unreliable or gone completely.

But for you in particular, you have to ask the same question that all the other soothsayers have asked - are you more effective if you remain connected (or travel) to spread your word? Who will hear you, the important messages you have to say, if you are not connected? Will you affect enough people by face-to-face presentation only? I don't doubt that we all need to reduce our dependence on technology, and the time waste it can be, but I am willing to tolerate inconsistencies on the part of people like you for the greater good you do in the meantime.

Cheers, Kevin Anderson
Kevin Anderson
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"...Another industrial ugly morning
The factory belches filth into the sky
He walks unhindered through the picket-lines today
He doesn't think to wonder why...

...And every single meeting with his so-called superior
Is a humiliating kick in the crotch...

Many miles away
Something crawls to the surface
Of a dark Scottish loch...

Another working day has ended
Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race

Daddy grips the wheel and stares alone into the distance
He knows that something somewhere has to break...

Many miles away
There's a shadow on the door
Of a cottage on the shore
Of a dark
Scottish lake...

Many miles away..."

~ Synchronicity 2, The Police

"...[Chris] Hedges draws on classical literature and his experiences as a war correspondent to argue that war seduces entire societies, creating fictions that the public believes and relies on to continue to support conflicts... The Hurt Locker, an Academy Award-winning film, opens with a quotation from the book: 'The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.' "

"To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated over, regulated, docketed, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, weighed, censored, ordered about, by men who have neither right, nor knowledge, nor virtue."
~ Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

"Although I admit that the outcome in a stateless society will be bad, because not only are people not angels, but many of them are irredeemably vicious in the extreme, I conjecture that the outcome in a society under a state will be worse, indeed much worse, because, first, the most vicious people in society will tend to gain control of the state (Hayek 1944, 134-52; Bailey 1988; Higgs 2004, 33-56) and, second, by virtue of this control over the state’s powerful engines of death and destruction, they will wreak vastly more harm than they ever could have caused outside the state (Higgs 2004, 101-05). It is unfortunate that some individuals commit crimes, but it is stunningly worse when such criminally inclined individuals wield state powers.
~ Robert Higgs

~ Cælan (stranded in Ottawa, Canada)
Cælan MacIntyre
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Cute little tune there, Jan, and I enjoyed your performance on Peak Moments on You Tube as well.
Cool artwork at Dees too (scary too sometimes)... Ya, trying to put the fire out with money-- good one!

I'm hoping that computers will likely be recycled more and more and we'll keep our older ones longer.
Also, there are far better frequencies/bands (guerrilla broadcasting) to communicate wirelessly (and using meshed roving laptops) to the point where we may not need corporate ISP's, and can probably leverage last mile hops somehow with them too, such as with crows' nest amplifiers aboard the Sail Network's vessels. ;)
Have you ever heard of the OLPC project? (One Laptop Per Child)
If any place would know about that, it would be they.

I wonder if satellites start "falling from the sky" as peak really kicks in (ostensibly it's already come and gone).
Maybe John Michael Greer has something to say about that too. ;)

As for activism, Jan, well, this really seems to be a bit of a soapbox here, which is fine, but of course as we all know, there's much more ideas, critical reflection/re-evaluation, and legwork needed too...

~ Cælan
Cælan MacIntyre
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i was at a party in the country, dancing happily to a rock n'roll band that was, in the dream "playing my favorite song." In the dream, the song was clearly addressed to me, and I felt better and better about it the longer it went on--and it went on for quite a while--a Grateful Dead-type song!) I woke up and wrote it's the last verse: "We don't rise up and smash the system/It's how we live and see our friends/We pledge allegiance to the Dark Lord/With every dollar that we spend/So round and round the spiral rumbles/Down and down until the end/The civilization situation/Based on games of domination/Cannot function honestly/The wheel turns 'round/A number crunches/Who makes the change?/It's you and me!"

The song, called "you and me" can be heard and downloaded at

may our dreams come true!
martin holsinger
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Good article Jan , I also believe we as a race have to change either voluntarily or we will be changed by the very changes happening , I also believe we have to rethink what society is and how we interact with it , we have to determine what our real needs are and how we can implement them along with our wants , the old system is overused and corrupted to the point of being nonfunctional
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What part of Civilization are you willing to give up? Medicine, Communication, Transportation? As far a the internet goes, its ironic that the thing you seem to be bashing is the medium that you are writing and spreading you message with. Where I liver we are having a major blizzard. I was able to go to a website and get an up to the hour forecast of my local zip-code with a corresponding satellite image. Pre- modern civilization this was impossible and bad weather was a lot more deadly. As for me I'll stick with modern civilization.
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