Seeker, I'd like to take a shot at some of our points
<<I've been lurking here for quite a while now, after I found out about Peak Oil back in March. In my frustration with the school system, the media systems, the huge government bureaucracy, oppressive global economic schemes, the class structure of the world (2 billion chronically malnourished people, approximately two-thirds of the world living on less than $1000 a year, rich First World governments and corporations actively promoting this poverty under the guise of "humanitarian aid", etc.), global environmental disaster 15 out of 24 ecosystems in serious danger of collapse), tremendous overpopulation and now Peak Oil... I began to look for the root cause of all of these problems. As someone who has continually sought fundamental solutions rather than patchwork ones (most, if not all, political movements are pathetically ineffective), I began to look for some patterns throughout history. >>
Patterns are a good place to start.
<<Unfortunately, history never seemed to show what the problem was, and so in my examination of the world throughout history I never seemed to quite get at the source. All of it had been staring me in the face the whole time -- imperialism, the conquering of the native populations, the constant expansion of nations over time, industrialization, and so on and so forth. But where was the common link? What was the common thread? I couldn't seem to put my finger on it, and in the meantime, all of the problems were simply growing worse. >>
Problems tend to do that.
<<As some of the most difficult things to see are, the answer I have found after extensive reading was pretty much plain to see -- the conditioning of our culture is so strong that "the truth" doesn't even need to be hidden. It's just one of those things that people are taught not to be able to see. The answer, the cause of all of these problems was something that couldn't be fixed, was something that was necessarily unquestioned, and so we simply couldn't see it for what it was: civilization. >>
So, you think civilization is the cause of all ills. Who knew. Civilized behaviour and such. Please and thank you. Good manners. I know, it's deeper ...
<<Give me a break, right? Civilization is not the cause of our problems, civilization is Man's Greatest Accomplishment! It saves us from toil, it protects the Good from the Evil, the Civil from the Savages, the Tame from the Wild Beast of Nature. The Wonders of the World are plain to see, in all of our human accomplishments! Technology, Huge Cities full of lights, fast cars, and now even the Internet! Questioning something so Wondrous and Dreamy and Fantastic couldn't possibly be accurate... could it? I mean, you can't be serious, right? ... Right?? >>
Civilization isn't the cause, it's the symptoms that are out of control. Symptoms like conspictuous consumption and the like (which encompass huge cities, fast cars and the internet).
<<It's overwhelmingly clear to anyone who has ever been a part of this culture that one of the constant messages blared at us is that WE are at the Pinnacle of Human Progress. Glory to God, Glory to Our Country, Glory to Progress. But here is where it all starts to fall apart. >>
Blind adulation to false prophets...
<<What is progress? Does it include war, and poverty, and the overwhelming destruction of our ecosystems? Those arguing for civilization become somewhat uneasy, here. "Well, um, these things are necessary for Progress! Just look at where we've gone in the past 100 years!" Quietly I remind them that wars have killed more people in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined, and that the number of poor, the number of the starving, and the number of the oppressed has risen along with our ballooning population levels. "Well, all of that stuff is terrible, it really is. But it's unavoidable if our wonderful way of life is to continue." If the conversation is not over by now, I quietly remind people that most people aren't really happy in this world... that most people are completely unsatisfied with their lives, and that we spend our lives escaping our problems -- through addictions to TV, technology, money, material wealth (consumerism), drugs, alcohol, crime, work, pornography, sports, political power, books, religion, and so on and so forth. Are these things progress? Is "progress" truly going to be defined as the development of ever better ways to waste our lives? >>
Here's where your pov crumbles.
War, poverty and progress will always exist in various forms. You seem to be focused on *western* progress as opposed to others lack of progress. Fundamentally, it isn't the western world's fault that others are poor, much as you would like it to be. But rather the fault of each country it's ownself. It is not the fault of prosperous countries that others live in abject poverty but rather the fault of their own corrupt, self interested governments. Let's call a spade a spade shall we, rather than call it a *garden tool*.
If people spend their time addicted to various substances or trying to escape preconcieved, media suggested problems that is their own problem. Certainly none of these things are progress unless we buy into them based on what the advertisers tell us is progress. Sadly, most people really do buy into it.
<<Many people will splutter at this, and just end the conversation. The thoughts of our unhappiness are simply too threatening to our comfortably addicted minds and bodies. I often don't even get this far with people. But if you're able to stay with me, here, rather than dismissing me offhand, you'll see that I'm on to something. Perhaps we really HAVE been lied to all of our lives? Perhaps these things we have in our lives, now, aren't exactly making us happy? What, then, truly, is happiness? What do you, personally, WANT in life? Most people have a really difficult time answering these questions, and they often resort to an answer of self-defense: "Well, I am happy with what I have." >>
Well, perhaps only if they are truly unhappy. Lots of us are happy and don't really appreciated being told we shouldn't be, that in fact we should be profoundly unhappy. Some of us will take that to heart and become addicted, don'tchaknow.
I absolutely have stayed with you and think you have some good thoughts. I don't agree with most of what you said (and rebutted best as I could given the family interruptions here).
<<Maybe you are happy. Maybe you're one of the rarest minorities on the planet, someone who is actually, truly, completely satisfied and fulfilled by the workings of our industrial civilization. If you are one out of millions that is perfectly adapted to the life of constant distraction and destruction, and is completely fulfilled and content during news of war, genocide, poverty, oppression, then I really am completely okay with that. If you are one out of the millions that is okay with wage slavery, the funneling of wealth toward the super-rich elite, then I'm okay with that too. There is no one right way, after all, and so I wish you well in life. But I submit that the rest of us, the overwhelming majority of us humans -- perhaps those billions who are caught in the horrific cycle of it even as I write this, perhaps those without another choice, who have no other option to live within civilization's boundaries or else die of starvation -- I don't think we're very happy. >>
I have happy on balance. And am happy to say so. I know others aren't as fortunate as me and mine. Doesn't take away from my happiness.
T<<his, of course, is only one angle of it all -- the happiness angle. I could come from a personal freedom angle, or the angle of community, or the angle of sustainability, or the angle of history, or the angle of my personal experience of building houses for the middle-class in Honduras. (We don't build houses for the poorest ones, they're already dead.) I can talk about Peak Oil, and I can talk about war, and genocide, and slavery, and capitalism. The fact of the matter is, civilization is an absolute tragedy, and we've all been trapped in it. Every single one of us here, typing on the internet, we have "benefitted" from the tragically oppressive systems civilization uses to sustain itself. >>
THere are certainly aspect of civilization that are abhorrent, others aren't. Humans have over the years picked and chosen. What we have now is what we ended up with based on trial and error by former people. We can change it perhaps or not depending on what the majority wants. THe majority really does always prevail, like it or not. Civilization is what it is now but has been many other things over the years, not always bad. Civilized nowadays means courteous, respectful and responsible. The terms has evolved it appears and for the good imo.
S<<o what exactly IS civilization? Civilization is one of those ambiguously defined terms, and so I've provided a link for the working definition I use. Obviously I do not accept civilization in the traditional frame it is viewed in, that of an accomplishment. Primarily, I see civilization as a feedback loop of multiple other feedback loops -- centralization, hierarchy, agriculture, division of labor, and complexity, all leading to civilization's insipid constant expansion. As isolated terms, these things do not appear particularly evil or negative. But we have seen the devastating effects of these too many times throughout history. There is quite the laundry list of horrors that "civilized" people have created and continue to create. We've questioned the "progress" of civilization, and now we must look at the suffering this supposed progress has created. Starting from the beginning -- disease, a shorter lifespan for all but the elite, ecological destruction, slavery, wars, religious persecution, genocide, systematic cultural extermination, the Crusades, the Inquisition, gender inequities, rigid class systems, more wars (but with better technology and more people, so there is even MORE devastation!), child labor, sweatshops, pollution, MASS extinction of nonhuman species, poverty, poverty beyond imagination... the list is tremendously long, and the horrors are real. And all for the comfort of the elite, all for the expansion of a way of life, most of it in the name of God. >>
One of the benefits of modern western civilization has been the curtailment of many of the ills you speak of. Organized labor, laws, legizlation and the like have rendered many of the issues you speak of mute in the (legal) western world. It is only in the uncivilized parts of the world the issues you speak of run rampant.
<<As with Peak Oil, the majority of people who this (short and general) critique phases ask the question: so what can we do? Looking at what existed before civilization, egalitarian societies that lived in ecological balance with the Earth, can give us some ideas. But it's not a practical solution for most of us, requiring a population density of several hundred times less than what we currently "sustain" on this planet. Interestingly, Peak Oil could return us rather quickly to our carrying capacity, as an overwhelming percentage of our food production and distribution is derived either directly from oil or the economy based on oil.>>
Here you could be right. Who can say? All theories are up in the air at this point.
<<But a crash doesn't ensure happiness, or the development of hunter-gatherer tribes. The suggestion is laughable -- who among us has the knowledge, skill, land area, and supportive community for such an endeavor? So what can we do to build another way of life, and preferably one that combats the issues briefly described above? Numerous authors have written extensive critiques of civilization (even Heinberg wrote one, who some of you will know from The Community Solution), but very few have offered up any kind of solution for what we can DO. (Heinberg is a refreshing exception to this.) >>
THe genie can't be put back in the bottle. Technology has given us abilities we will be loathe to give up and we (as humans) will find ways to adapt. I have a hard time envisioning human beings just laying down and giving up. We will find new ways to do things.
<<I'm also somewhat guilty of my exploration of the problem, rather than the solution. But from my understanding of authors such as Daniel Quinn, and a selection of the various authors on the Primitivism website the tribal model (that of sustainable egalitarian community) seems to offer up a significant improvement over the toil, unhappiness, unsustainability, and oppression of industrial civilization. This does not mean a return to hunter-gatherers, we've already seen that this is geographically (and culturally -- we'd die in two weeks or less) impossible. And still the question remains -- sure, sure, we can see that egalitarian communities offer a tremendous improvement to our society, but what can we do to create them? >>
I'm not sure true egalitarian communities can exist because they would be taken over by more aggressive type tribes. Simple survival of the fittest theory.
<<Obviously, decentralization of basic resources comes first. Quinn refers to this as "unlocking the food" -- basically, ensuring that civilization does not have control over your food and water supply. There are several models for doing this... hunting and gathering one of them... but the most practical ideas (Permaculture, the natural methods of Fukuoka) have already been discussed at length on the Planning for the Future subforum.>>
Well, I think the plain english version of this is that people will backyard garden more and start sharing and bartering and working with their neighbors more. But you already knew that
<<But beyond this, the social structure of our alternative systems is of crucial importance. It's quite obvious that people are not able to survive without some system of interdependency. But what is that going to look like? Here is where the usefulness of the model of egalitarian community REALLY comes into the picture. Not wanting to recreate the problems the social structure of civilization has created, we can look to the other models as shown us through anthropology -- i.e. hunter-gatherer tribes of the past. >>
But there will still be leaders and followers. That's just human nature. Sure, the followers will provide something of value but they will still be followers. And there will still be other, more aggressive groups that will want to take what the more passive groups have.
<<There is also another, more tangible alternative, thousands of which are already built, around the world -- ecovillages. These communities and villages are remarkably diverse (and importantly, all over the globe) and provide anyone who is trying to build an alternative to civilization with many examples for exploration and study. Of particular interest to me is the egalitarian and anarchic structure, the commitment to community, the ecological sustainability, and the spiritual interconnectedness these ecovillages foster. They are a place to "ride out" Peak Oil, to cultivate a sense of self and belonging, to overcome our "civilized" neuroses, and to work on building our visions for sustainability. A network of these (described as Rhizome in A Theory of Power) would be able to provide for the needs and desires of all those within. >>
Ecovillages. How nice and pc that sounds. And, how utterly impactical given today's social and economic climate and just plain human nature. Nice try, though if you're looking for venture capital.