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Culture Change

The opposite of tribal fineness
Tyranny of mediocrity

by Jan Lundberg

When the rule of the day is destruction, lack of caring, and ignorance, a society cannot last long.  The USA that stands tall in the mind of the flag-decaled SUV owner is ushering itself out of existence just as fast as the last of the abundant oil is all burned and spilled.

Today's rapid decay and the process of succession will culminate in either our extinction or a new culture that respects the Earth.  This has been explored in numerous articles in Culture Change magazine and this e-letter series.  This essay attempts to reveal the searing, unsustainable negativity of mainstream culture while contrasting it with the new alternative culture’s values of sustainability and Earth-centered traditional practices.  Also, as examples of today's negative reality, focus is put on the scandalous Bush family and on Mr. Bigman, fictional model megaconsumer.

The swing of the pendulum against the overpopulated society’s frenzied manufacture, construction and other waste may sweep away even history books.  As nine-year-old Bronwyn said, having absorbed the concept of entropy as this society’s main force, “Everything made gets destroyed.”  We do not know exactly what will happen in detail, nor the date.  But running very short of resources and seeing the breakdown of distributive systems that temporarily keep the populace calm will in the next few years cause the complete collapse of the delusion known as U.S. civilization.

Some concerned folk are delighted at the prospect of total collapse, as they resent being worked and oppressed while seeing others faring much worse.  But the often naïve enthusiasts of socioeconomic collapse are even more emotionally imbued with sadness and alarm over ecological damage.  The outlook for nature as we have known it is depressing, to put it mildly.  We put nuclear holocaust out of our minds, thereby assuring that we let the official power boys perpetrate it. Despite the gravity of these burning issues, mediocrity rules.  It says we must just keep working and consuming while having faith in progress and the United States of America.  This drives someone such as a treesitter in an ancient redwood to the very top of the tree where poetry may be produced, hopelessly beyond acceptability for corporate mass readership.

Mediocrity: Finery amidst deadly pollution

Mediocrity is the acceptance of our trend toward extinction.  Mediocrity is also the worship of material things that are not art but are destined for the land fill.  Window dressing for a society drowning unconsciously in mediocrity serves to fool us into accepting conditions such as massive roads that choke us and threaten our lives if we venture onto them.  A pretty paint job and beautiful rose bushes next to that road, and fine art inside the house, cannot compensate for the mediocrity and sham of ruined nature and inhumane, corrupt transportation policies.  

To place value on maintaining the status quo — as a means of fitting in and assuring comfort through conformity — may work smoothly a little while.  It is also easy to avoid doing the right thing in a situation if the honest and ethical course is difficult.  Supposedly, U.S. culture encourages active goodness and bravery, but the real institutional message and training at school and work is to not question how things are done by authority.  Mediocrity means keeping your head down and not looking for a liberating solution.  Hypocrisy as a fixture of a society that's going down the tubes requires a mindset of mediocrity for an intelligent person to acquiesce.  Avoidance of reality can be pursued by practicing "excellence:" getting good grades and making lots of money.  It is easy to succumb to the fearful route of being a virtual slave in order to obtain material wealth that can satisfy meeting basic needs and indulging in consumerism.  Whistle blowers are often persecuted.  Fighting for rights —  housing, land, food, and a clean environment — is usually sloughed off as the unpaid work of kooks who refuse to see today's rampant oppression and mediocrity as freedom.

Mediocrity is enforced in part through corporate advertising and its manipulation of the news media and mass entertainment. A soothing anecdote or image is almost always thrown in to give the illusion of niceness and sweetness. Or the psychological button catered to is aggression, as in obtaining "raw (sexual) power" through driving one's very own fancy new pickup truck.

Bush mediocrity

Acceptance of a dangerous, outrageous state of affairs can be attributed not only to mediocrity but many other attributes plaguing society: apathy, repressed will, and ill health resulting in poor brain performance and lack of personal energy.  Yet, it has been proven that "ignorance conquered by truth and education" is not a sufficient formula for change, when the brainwashed, oil-addicted majority doesn't want to seek the facts or act on them. 

For example, George H. W. Bush was shown to be involved in Iran-Contra and the build-up of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, as well as other scandals.  Bush and his family have or have had ties to criminal elements of the intelligence community and arms and drug traffickers.  Harken Energy, infamous for the involvement of current President George W. Bush, has had questionable doings dating back to his father's presidency.   According to Immaculate Deception, a 1992 book by former brigadier general Russell Bowen about George H. W. Bush and his family, the Harken board had a link to former Nugan-Hand Bank participants. (That bank was involved in drug running and fraud before being closed down by Australia.)  As for Jeb Bush, governor of Florida, his past connections include anti-Castro, Iran-Contra players who broke numerous laws, according to Immaculate Deception.  G. H. W. Bush was not reelected, but his legacy was allowed to take power in 2000 — thanks to mediocrity expressed in terms of almost 50% of the voting population opting for Tweedle Dubya instead of Tweedle Gore.  Now that the Nazi connections of the present President Bush's paternal grandfather have surfaced in the mainstream press, will Americans start to shake off their mediocrity and demand some change in the rulers that people allow?  Or is self-dealing so expected of our "leaders" that no alternative can be imagined?

An example of mediocrity is the apparent intelligence of the current President of the United States. (He once intoned, "We ought to make the pie higher.")  But more important, it is his culture which is arguably mediocre:  His father proudly owned and used a "cigarette" speedboat as the first Gulf War got into gear, and it may have gotten one mile to the gallon of petroleum.  The White House admitted in 1990 that "our" life-style, e.g., drive-thru fast food and all manner of wasting nonrenewable energy, was not negotiable.  Acceptance of this attitude gave us another decade of deliberately warming the globe and eventually brought on the current Iraq War.  Now the U.S. troops in Iraq are wising up fast to the questionable basis and effectiveness for attacking and occupying Iraq.  But they are trained to follow orders and in effect be mediocre.  What does it take to seize the moment and save oneself?

Whether it is elections that seldom offer a real choice, or questionable development schemes openly rammed through local government while the sheeple barely bleat, we experience tyranny of the (mediocre) majority:  This is democracy.  Not democracy at its best, but if democracy is whatever most people allow, we have to question not just democracy but whatever line of thinking and set of assumptions that gave rise to something that is faulty and perhaps hopeless.  The U.S. is actually a "republic," not a "democracy" in its original, official structure.  Perhaps the "founding fathers" were trying to counter the masses' mediocrity, but many of these rulers' true motives were base and backward as they maintained their own privileges at everyone else's expense.

Imagine a sustainable culture

Today it is not so popular to dream aloud of a just world in peace that honors undisturbed nature, although John Lennon's "Imagine" did spark the imagination of millions with his radically progressive musings with the aid of a powerful melody.  Regardless of the public's readiness to advance to a culture of sustainability via Earth-centered traditional practices, we must present anew an alternative vision to the mediocrity and propaganda of the established lie masquerading as Dominant $ociety.  Being forced to overwork and be a distant member of one's own family while having little choice in decisions made that affect one's life and survival is lately accepted as normal and even desirable.  Who benefits from this?  It is only the super rich and well-connected, who keep all existing advantages securely intact.  Wannabes in the middle class and even working class are dumb enough to defend vigorously the rich elite's right to soak up 99% of the wealth that everyone generates from the Earth.

An alternative society, then, means:
(1) less work and more time for rest and family.  It is clear that if the work week were changed to a twenty- or thirty-hour week from the one that's 40 or more hours, it would allow less-employed people to take up the slack and keep up the same aggregate productivity.  (However, we must question the equitability and pollution of "productivity.")  Surely devising such a labor arrangement is possible for a nation that put people on the moon and brought no end of rock 'n roll to the universe.

(2) For a cleaner environment, there is great job potential in the urgent task of restoring land to its biologically diverse health.  If direct cash compensation for such restoration workers would be in short supply, then a community can reward these workers with kind support such as meals, babysitting, and other favors.  This gets us into bartering, the nemesis of the taxman.  Yet, paying taxes can be a waste when we consider many government programs, such as the bloated military, are better unfunded or much less funded.

(3) We don't need to obtain our food from great distances when it can and should be grown locally.  In the final analysis it is less expensive and more secure to rely on local foods produced without massive petroleum inputs as is the norm today.  When local and state government plant trees in public areas, no fruit or nut trees are used or allowed.  This heartless and inefficient policy could be easily changed, but we must understand the origins of the resistance to "free food" and what is implied by radically altering such an inhumane system of denying the basic right to eat.

A tribe takes care of its members.  Modern society does not have that feature today.  We are instead expected to purchase what we need, yet always place a high value on our families and friends — in theory.  But if there is no mutual survival-strategy in place that is well honed by practical experience, society has merely a façade of care, love and community.  Some fight for an amorphous equitable society or tribal structure by attacking, at least verbally, the dominant paradigm.  Others establish communes, urban or rural.  If a tribe has a clear purpose — such as supporting its members during the anticipated oil crash — then details can be worked out now to produce benefits even before the crash.  This would serve to provide models for the transition to sustainability.  Tribal fineness historically offers love and solidarity while rejecting the negative and false precepts of competition and privately held land that deprives others of the right to live freely.

What’s considered pretty in materialism

The epitome of success today is for an individual to have powerful machines (such as a truck) and a large private place to enjoy security (such as “owning” land).  Introducing Mr. Bigman.

This evening outside my window, I saw a new, four-door truck attached to a camper-horse trailer.  This rig had lights galore, a dog in the back of the pickup truck, and a horse or two visible through the metal slats of the building on wheels.  One could make a meal and sleep in the front of the horse section.  The paint was new and the fuel economy was probably even lower than a large SUV such as the Lincoln Exterminator.

Mr. Bigman, as we may call our fancy horse and trailer owner, could very well be a kind chap who practices some family responsibility.  He may or may not believe that other species should go extinct for his profit or convenience.  Either way, he is destroying the planet and most likely does not share his toys with the community (if we can call his area a community rather than a precinct).

What has to go with such ostentatious flexing of fossil-fueled muscle is a ranch where other costs no doubt reflect similar levels of material expenditure.  If there’s a security system, he’ll have that there.  Guns?  Sure.  And a big American flag.  If some stranger wandering by wants to drink from Mr. Bigman’s stream, the result could be getting shot — acceptable by dominant standards.  If some stranger actually asked to go to the stream and drink or bathe, the expression on Mr. Bigman’s face could be perplexity and fear.

So-called communities where people like Mr. Bigman do their thing, enforcing their (property) “rights,” are actually associations of thieves: thieves of the land who don’t think of the original people who were displaced.  Nor do the Bigmen and Bigwomen of material culture think one second about their ecological footprint, assuming they knew what that meant.  The idea of Mr. Bigman’s using well over 25 acres of resources (per person U.S. average is 25) — just so he can sit in peace in front of his big-screen satellite TV system — is likely to elicit his confusion and anger should he be apprised.  He has to believe he has earned what he’s got.  Other people don’t have the same privileges, he might say, probably because they are lazy or their culture is inferior.

Mr. Bigman may enjoy Mozart.  To Bigman, fine arts and his whole civilization would justify a host of what should be called injustices and offenses against Nature.  Euro-centricity and “our” finer accomplishments — including Greco-Roman art, buildings and empire — don’t define our civilization if it’s exploding in our face.  Albert Einstein, who is commonly posited as proof of our culture’s superiority, could see the explosion as a consequence of the culture’s mode of thinking, but he was not respected for his wisdom.  The priorities of profit-taking through world domination brushed Einstein and his world views aside.  He was a city man anyway, who, like almost all of us, could not live by collecting his own food with his family.  His tribe was conquered and dispersed several hundred years ago.

When the simple is beautiful

When the press of humanity in need of food, water and land overthrows Mr. Bigman and eventually reverts to tribal cooperation as a way of life, the handmade basket for collecting edible roots will again be something appreciated as truly beautiful.  Time will slow down as the cycles of nature are observed and revered as they were time immemorial.

As strange as such a scenario would sound to today’s Mr. Bigmen and his masses of aspirants, the likelihood of these changes is entirely supported by history.  Civilizations collapse when the soil has been stripped of its richness.  For much longer people have been living in their present physical form, for almost a million years, and during this time they lived as a part of nature — not as a separate kind of superior creature.  Cooperation, not annihilation, ruled the day.  All life was respected as necessary to the tribe’s survival.  Some mega fauna were driven extinct several thousand years ago possibly due to human hunting combined with climate change.  But even the alleged hunting-to-extinction of huge beasts did not upset the ecosystem or threaten the climate as we have been doing so rapidly since the industrial age.

Now is the time to learn from all our mistakes and see the big picture.  Mr. Bigman, you’re blocking the view, dude!


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