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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.

False Peace

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 longer.

"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 sustainable society

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 ecosystem.

Our extra push includes culture shocks

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.

We may be commencing "a second sixties revolution" so we ask you for your ideas and reportage: a future column or department, Culture Shock Treatment, can serve as a kind of legal "Eco-Defense" or "Dear Ned Ludd" forum for actions that include civil disobedience and other nonviolence.

Heart failures are sometimes ameliorated immediately with shocks. If we keep our hearts in our actions and thoughts, the left-brain rationalizations for maintaining todayís culture of terror and exploitation will make less and less sense. We may overcome our brainwashing and conditioning even before the petroleum runs short. Those who get through the urban upheaval down the way will get pretty savvy in a hurry, as they survive the main crunch. From these survivors looking to workable models, many of which are thousands of years old, a new day in human and all speciesí history dawns.

Culture Change mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit organization.