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Culture Change

Civilizations do end
Party on, Babylon

by Jan Lundberg

Are you having fun in Babylon?  I try, although somewhat half-heartedly due to commitments.  The concept of having fun in Babylon may encompass half of what life is about for civilized folk in these strange times.  For many, pleasure and diversion are almost the reason for being.  However, with overwork, widespread poverty, and having almost nowhere to go as we see nature on the run along with our freedoms, it is easier to cope when we have more community around us.  Solidarity gets the goods, as we can help each other survive and overcome struggles that may touch us all.

Modern living's drudgery and despair increase with crowding, but the young and young-at-heart try to have a good time.  Sometimes it's just to unwind by getting drunk and seek sexual release.  It also includes artistic projects and the satisfaction of growing a beautiful garden.  The advantaged of society have a better time more easily, depending on their value system.

Babylon, one of the key cities of Mesopotamia and of the eastern hemisphere, was laid to waste along with all of Sumeria due primarily to salinization.  Irrigation in the dry warmth of that time resulted in evaporation that left salts in the soil, rendering it unable to grow wheat.  Soon it could not even grow barley.  In a brilliant column dealing with President Bush's anti-environmental agenda, Paul Krugman of the New York Times gave us this history refresher:

"Modern civilization's impact on the environment is, of course, far greater than anything the ancients could manage. We can do more damage in a decade than our ancestors could inflict in centuries. Salinization remains a big problem in today's world, but it is overshadowed by even more serious environmental threats." – "Salt of the Earth," August 8, 2003 column

Iraq, Jack
Global warming and ozone layer depletion are wreaking damage that has barely begun to show up.  Yet, as Bush & Co. ranted about nukes and other alleged threats in Iraq, they are just fine with maximizing global warming and adding more ozone-layer-depleting methyl bromide.  People take this lying down so meekly, when we consider that Iraqis put up with Saddam Hussein because he was extremely dangerous.  What the Iraqis and the rest of the world now see is that Iraq became a lot worse off due to the unprovoked, rushed and cooked campaign of invasion and occupation.  

There is no sea-change in DC on the horizon, so we may see more Arabs and others striking out at U.S. citizens simply because US. citizens allow their leaders to keep up that occupation of Iraq, and of Palestine as well.  The damage and pain have been terroristic all around.  

The cradle of dominant civilization has been blown to smithereens.  Not many people seem to have really dwelled on this.  One of the grandest ancient zigurats in Sumer was recently defaced by U.S. troops who have a huge base next to it.  No end of destruction has resulted from the two wars on Iraq and from the effect of Saddam Hussein.  The museums have been looted, with much ancient information lost, but this has become an old story to the general public.  A suppressed story is the depleted uranium spread around Iraq, causing massive birth defects there and amongst returned U.S. troops (Gulf War Syndrome).

Having a good time.  Awareness.  Cultural diversity.
Letting the present leaders persist in all their policies is to maintain a failing order - until what, complete catastrophe?  A new "civilization" is called for and in the making, and at that point, having a party will be worth calling it a party!  Joy and Peace.

Babylon is often referred to by Rastafarians generally as modern society, typified by the U.S. or unjust, regimented society.  The reggae-music loving public, embracing the Rastas' music and often the ganja, was moved by their Bob Marley who sang of oppression, liberation, police brutality, and love.  As a result, Babylon is so well circulated as a concept that I overheard a father telling his young son in a public toilet to not touch the room's fixtures and surfaces because "Babylon is filthy."

Back to having fun in Babylon: Party on, Fossil Fools!  Or, Save the World, boys and girls!  That would mean, like, not taking a joy ride or driving a short distance needlessly, in a carmageddon machine.  A recent song I wrote: 

Party on, fossil fools
Party on, fossil fools
It ain't cool but I think I love em' too
I'm another fossil dude

Global Warmin' comin' on
Babble on Babylon
We're so hot we can shop and shop and shop
Missiles ships and tanks and bombs

I've got my stash: car, house and cash
I've won the game
My neighbors are the same
What's their name by the way

Police control on the streets
Cops are keepin' steady beat
In our trees they will show you what they mean
Let's assume that they are sweet

(guitar solo a la Steve Miller)

Pickin' berries by the stream
Many years ago we dreamed
What a place out here was like
When the car gave way to bikes
Population had to peak

This Ecotopian column I've put out for the last fifteen months, first monthly, now weekly, has become another one of my ways of having fun in Babylon.  I hope it does something for you, too, as we cope with the challenges of living in the modern, unsustainable Babylon.  Let me close by recommending a good read: A Green History of the World, by Clive Ponting.  He recounts the pattern of civilizations' deforestation and desertification.  Paul Krugman would love it if he hasn't read it.

Living tips for fun [Sidebar]
To feel better and make Babylon your party, there are some things that really deliver!

Be strong with yourself, such as not giving in to zoning out with TV.  There are musical instruments to play, books to read, letters to write, walks to go on, protests to attend or organize.  Go for conviviality rather than passivity and isolation.  Meditation or yoga also satisfy.  

Some things may not be fun, such as to a young North American, when having to interrupt school (!) to visit an elderly or possibly disabled relative.  That's where where tradition should trump "fun," but for most of humans' existence, just listening to the old ones' stories was fun.  It is for me, although I'm not young anymore.  Yet, I refuse to "grow up."

Cheat the corporations and government of extra money you might unwittingly generate for their coffers.  The government builds roads that cause destruction, and builds extra missiles originally for deterrent but are perhaps to be used in a Republican Biblical-derived show down.  A low-consumptive lifestyle almost automatically makes you a less "productive" citizen, gentler on the planet.  Buy used stuff, especially clothes; the pesticides and herbicides have been washed out along with much of the excess petroleum dyes.

Maintain and enjoy good health - or start soon - in all ways you can, because it is key to a well-balanced mind and feeling happy.  Taking toxic drugs to get high or to remain calm, or abusing milder drugs, defiles the "body temple," and that's not fun when you wake up the next day.  

A friend of low income observed, “How can you afford NOT to eat organic food?"  It’s not always possible, but often people don’t make the attempt.  A well-known writer for peace recently sent out an appeal for funding, saying he was deliberately eating the cheapest processed foods.  This does not pay in the long run, and in the short run you get more for your money by buying grains and beans in bulk.  Certain food banks and Food Not Bombs activists offer high quality food much of the time.  In case you're not doing so already, you can also do some work for trade at a small farm or garden, for your fresh produce.  Knowing who grew your food is a comfort.  Identify the wild plants growing near you and partake of the edible ones, for medicinal and nutritional supplement.

Some orderliness in your material space helps, because disorder of the spirit comes from a mess and filth.  Clutter is often mere materialism.  The real filth is not natural dirt or woody debris, for example, but is instead substances in your indoor environments having Du Pont corporation’s molecules inexorably getting into your nose and mouth, and on your skin.  Natural bedding is vastly preferable to polyester and the like.  Shake out your stuff so you don’t sleep in or wear artificial filth.  Who knows, you could avoid cancer this way.

If these ideas don’t sound like a blast so far, that’s because there’s not the space or time how to tell you how to live.  The point is to always follow your own self-liberation.  You get the idea: bike instead of driving a car.  You can actually meet people that way, and not feel as hopeless about global warming and war-for-oil, if you’re not contributing to such horrors.  And literally, party!  Take the time frequently to get together with friends, and maybe move in together to form a small collective.  Go off into nature by yourself if necessaryBurning out, because you feel guilty about not getting enough done, is counterproductive and repels people (I should know!).  Turn off your computer, and get a life, now please.  I don’t plan on doing this internet thing forever, I promise!

Peace! - Jan

PS: I'm glad to report that the federal pepper-spray trial will not be held in Humboldt County, and there will be a new judge (in San Francisco).  To read about this case and assist these activists who fought for the redwoods and paid a high price, see our update.


Jan Lundberg formerly ran Lundberg Survey Incorporated which once published "the bible of the oil industry."  He has run the Sustainable Energy Institute since 1988.  It can use your assistance and generous help.

- Feedback is wanted for our letters page.
- Check out Fall of Petroleum Civilization

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