A Manifesto: An argument for culture shock-treatment
by Jan Lundberg
Fossil fuels and general consumption of resources has a
grip on us that has us gasping our last breaths. There is still a choice.
The brewing nightmare will end, but our critique of the
dominant cultureís unsustainable and destructive ways includes the hope
that beauty will win out, like the dandelion pushing through a widening
crack in the pavement. Humans can be a part of the future long- term, if
there is a change in direction in time.
We live in a false world within our natural planetís
true sphere. The huge population of humans using up the biosphere is such
that our numbersí pursuits amount to a deafening buzz or roar. Some
trends seem more out of control than others, such as the measures of
family togetherness in the "Number One" nation as tracked by its
Census. Any issue or crisis seizes our attention and drowns out or shuts
down our sensitivity and ability to counter it.
Therefore, it is the purpose of a relevant and vital
movement (trying to significantly alter the whole culture) to keep in
focus the big picture. To devote oneself to one issue can be laudable, but
if it is not part of a deeper culture-changing effort, then our overall
direction will not veer us off from the iceberg ahead that weíre
steaming into. For example, anti-war activity that seeks to employ
ex-combatants or victimized civilians in global capitalist schemes may
hasten the collapse of the Earthís climate, if the jobs and products
involve polluting and shipping with oil fuels.
Another form of false peace is for industrialized
powers, especially the U.S. superpower, to consume and consume onward.
What the masses of people donít know of its destructiveness is surpassed
by their lack of awareness that this consuming is not going to last much
"What will replace it" is another gray area
in most peopleís minds who do ponder the future. One reason for
confusion is the utter lack of understanding or preparedness for the
upcoming petroleum supply crunch and accompanying economic collapse. To
this energy analyst, there will be a process of adjustment after the
rubble and dust settle: subsistence living off of devastated, overpaved
landscapes ravaged first by drought and or torrential precipitation, and
then by desperate citizens picking the environment clean. Cannibalism on
an unprecedented scale should be anticipated.
Outlook for a
Due to this cultureís war on nature and the
destruction added by wholesale collapse, the new culture that will survive
post-petroleum dependent living will be an emaciated and warped version of
former tribal cultures living off their land. On the other hand, the human
experiment can be beautiful and many will shine in the time of need.
Hunter gatherers normally sapend only a few hours a day
obtaining food and "working," and not every day. Paradise has
definitely been lost and the puzzle has been messed up with parts missing
forever. Regenerating it may only come in long phases that will make the
last few decadesí rapid "development" seem like a brief
experience like a sparkler lit on a long night.
Nevertheless, we carry on with love and solidarity
while we promote environmentally friendly living and we seek to help one
another in community. Itís the only way that got us through hundreds of
thousands of years of unknown history up to the point of this civilized
cultureís failed experiment starting around 10,000 years ago.
Given the stakes in this dire global situation, as this
culture drives (literally) extinct countless species in the web of life,
losing human knowledge and languages just as fast, we must act now. But,
some of us refuse to budge. Senator of Utah Orin Hatch spoke for many
consumers as he vowed to keep driving his SUV as an Americanís right.
Most citizens keep their heads and voices down and get through each day,
low in the pyramid-shaped social structure of material "wealth."
For those who act, time seems to be running out. It is
well to create models of sustainability in economics, land use and human
networks, for long-term application through to the post-civilized era (or
post-crash society). Some of these models have immediate, constructive
benefits for the revolutionary people involved and to the global
Our extra push includes
Culture shock treatment is called for as well. To
simply read a book, albeit an essential one for understanding the dominant
culture, is not activism enough. I donít have The Answer or know Whatís
Going To Happen. But some actions are promising for consciousness raising
or even dismantling the destructive, toxic juggernaut consuming our
natural home we hold in common. Shutting down the Seattle WTO meeting,
peacefully, in 1999 was an example.
Jerry Rubinís book Do It had many provocative,
positive and convivial actions for liberation. The philosophy of shaking
things up to get people to think had merit then as now. It is hard to get
a majority of people in a room to get behind many actions if the people
are there exclusively for one purpose. Nevertheless, people kissing in a
university lecture hall during a class, or burning a dollar bill, worked
for Rubin as culture shock treatment. It brought theater to the streets or
called to the inner priorities of people caught up in the "upward
mobility" culture of trying to get ahead. Stepping on othersí heads
and relying on money, instead of human cooperation, are consequences of
this economy and academiaís role in it.