I. Industrial civilization is on a collision course with life itself. Facilitating its collapse is a deserved and welcomed correction, long overdue. Collapse is inevitable whether we seek to facilitate it or not.
Nonetheless, whatever we do, industrial civilization, based as it is on mining and burning finite and polluting fossil fuels, cannot last because it is destroying the ecosystem and the basis of local, cooperative life itself. It knows no limits in a physically finite world and thus is unsustainable. And the numbers of our human species on earth, which have proliferated from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today, is the consequence of mindlessly eating oil – tractors, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides – while destroying human culture in the process. Our food system itself is not sustainable. Dramatic die-off is part of the inevitable correction in the very near future, whether we like it or not. Human and political culture has become totally subservient to a near religion of economics and market forces.
Technologies are never neutral, with some being seriously detrimental. Technologies come with an intrinsic character representing the purposes and values of the prevailing political economy that births it. The Industrialism process itself is traumatic. It is likely that only when we experience an apprenticeship in nature can we be trusted with machines, especially when they capital intensive & complicated.
The nation-state, intertwined more than ever with corporate industrialism, will always come to its aid and rescue. Withdrawal of popular support enables new imagination and energy for re-creating local human food sufficient communities conforming with bioregional limits.
II. The United States of America is irredeemable and unreformable, a Pretend Society.
The USA as a nation state, as a recent culture, is irredeemable, unreformable, an anti-democratic, vertical, over-sized imperial unmanageable monster, sustained by the obedience and cooperation, even if reluctant, of the vast majority of its non-autonomous population. Virtually all of us are complicit in this imperial plunder even as many of us are increasingly repulsed by it and speak out against it.
Lofty rhetoric has conditioned us to believe in our national exceptionalism, despite it being dramatically at odds with the empirically revealed pattern of our plundering cultural behavior totally dependent upon outsourcing the pain and suffering elsewhere. We cling to living a life based on the social myth of US America being committed to justice for all, even as we increasingly know this has always served as a cover for the social secret that the US is committed to prosperity for a minority thru expansion at ANY cost. Our Eurocentric origins have been built on an extraordinary and forceful but rationalized dispossession of hundreds of Indigenous nations (a genocide) assuring acquisition of free land, murdering millions with total impunity. This still unaddressed crime against humanity assured that our eyes themselves are the wool.
Our addiction to the comfort and convenience brought to us by centuries of forceful theft of land, labor, and resources is very difficult to break, as with any addiction. However, our survival, and healing, requires a commitment to recovery of our humanity, ceasing our obedience to the national state. This is the (r)evolution begging us.
Original wool is in our eyes: Eurocentric values were established with the invasion by Columbus: Cruelty never before seen, nor heard of, nor read of – Bartolome de las Casas describing the behavior of the Spaniards inflicted on the Indigenous of the West Indies in the 1500s. In fact the Indigenous had no vocabulary words to describe the behavior inflicted on them (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, 1552). Eurocentric racism (hatred driven by fear) and arrogant religious ethnocentrism (self-righteous superiority) have never been honestly addressed or overcome. Thus, our foundational values and behaviors, if not radically transformed from arrogance to caring, will prove fatal to our modern species.
Wool has remained uncleansed from our eyes: I personally discovered the continued vigorous U.S. application of the “Columbus Enterprise” in Viet Nam, discovering that Viet Nam was no aberration after learning of more than 500 previous US military interventions beginning in the late 1790s. Our business is killing, and business is good was a slogan painted on the front of a 9th Infantry Division helicopter in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta in 1969. We, not the Indigenous, were and remain the savages.
The US has been built on three genocides: violent and arrogant dispossession of hundreds of Indigenous nations in North America (Genocide #1), and in Africa (Genocide #2), stealing land and labor, respectively, with total impunity, murdering and maiming millions, amounting to genocide. It is morally unsustainable, now ecologically, politically, economically, and socially unsustainable as well. Further, in the 20th Century, the Republic of the US intervened several hundred times in well over a hundred nations stealing resources and labor, while imposing US-friendly markets, killing millions, impoverishing perhaps billions (Genocide #3).
Since 1798, the US military forces have militarily intervened over 560 times in dozens of nations, nearly 400 of which have occurred since World War II. And since WWII, the US has bombed 28 countries, while covertly intervening thousands of times in the majority of nations on the earth.
It is not helpful to continue believing in the social myth that the USA is a society committed to justice for all , in fact a convenient mask (since our origins) of our social secret being a society committed to prosperity for a few through expansion at ANY cost. (See William Appleman Williams). Always possessing oligarchic tendencies, it is now an outright corrupt corporatocracy owned lock stock and barrel by big money made obscenely rich from war making with our consent, even if reluctant.
The Cold War and its nuclear and conventional arms race with the exaggerated “red menace”, was an insidious cover for a war preserving the Haves from the Have-Nots, in effect, ironically preserving a western, consumptive way of life that itself is killing us. Pretty amazing! Our way of life has produced so much carbon in the water, soil, and atmosphere, that it may in the end be equivalent to having caused nuclear winter. The war OF wholesale terror on retail terror has replaced the “red menace” as the rhetorical justification for the continued imperial plunder of the earth and the riches it brings to the military-industrial-intelligence-congressional-executive-information complex. Our cooperation with and addiction to the American Way Of Life provides the political energy that guarantees continuation of U.S. polices of imperial plunder.
III. The American Way Of Life (AWOL), and the Western Way of Life in general, is the most dangerous force that exists on the earth. Our insatiable consumption patterns on a finite earth, enabled by but a one-century blip in burning energy efficient liquid fossil fuels, have made virtually all of us addicted to our way of life as we have been conditioned to be in denial about the egregious consequences outsourced outside our view or feeling fields. Of course, this trend began 2 centuries earlier with the advent of the industrial revolution. With 4.6% of the world’s population, we consume anywhere from 25% to nearly half the world’s resources. This kind of theft can only occur by force or its threat, justifying it with noble sounding rhetoric, over and over and over.
Our insatiable individual and collective human demands for energy inputs originating from outside our bioregions, furnish the political-economic profit motives for the energy extractors, which in turn own the political process obsessed with preserving “national (in)security”, e.g., maintaining a very class-based life of affluence and comfort for a minority of the world’s people. This, in turn, requires a huge military to assure control of resources for our use, protecting corporate plunder, and to eliminate perceived threats from competing political agendas. The U.S. War department’s policy of “full spectrum dominance” is intended to control the world’s seas, airspaces, land bases, outer spaces, our “inner” mental spaces, and cyberspaces.
Resources everywhere are constantly needed to supply our delusional modern life demands on a finite planet as the system seeks to dumb us down ever more. Thus, we are terribly complicit in the current severe dilemmas coming to a head due to (1) climate instability largely caused by mindless human activities; (2) from our dependence upon national currencies; and (3) dependence upon rapidly depleting finite resources. We have become addicts in a classical sense. Recovery requires a deep psychological, spiritual, and physical commitment to break our addiction to materialism, as we embark on a radical healing journey, individually and collectively, where less and local becomes a mantra, as does sharing and caring, I call it the Neolithic or Indigenous model. Sharing and caring replace individualism and competition.
Therefore, A Radical Prescription
Understanding these facts requires a radical paradigmatic shift in our thinking and behavior, equivalent to an evolutionary shift in our epistemology where our knowledge/thinking framework shifts: arrogant separateness from and domination over nature (ending a post-Ice Age 10,000 year cycle of thought structure among moderns) morphs to integration with nature, i.e., an eco-consciousness felt deeply in the viscera, more powerful than a cognitive idea. Thus, we re-discover ancient, archetypal Indigenous thought patterns. It requires creative disobedience to and strategic noncooperation with the prevailing political economy, while re-constructing locally reliant communities patterned on instructive models of historic Indigenous and Neolithic villages.
It is instructive to examine Gandhi’s evolution from believing in reform through petitioning the entrenched oligarchic governments of both India and England, bolstered by satyagraha actions, toward (1) more selective and strategic noncooperation while (2) systematically creating thousands of self-reliant communities, areas often roughly defined by bioregional watersheds.
Mahatma Gandhi’s two-prong strategy: (1) strategic noncooperation, and (2) systematic constructive, autonomy program
In the mid-1930s, Gandhi revealed a noticeable and significant shift in his emphasis and thinking. He had been significantly influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God Is Within You (1894) in which Tolstoy wrote of the power of disassociation from the state altogether while consciously moving toward creation of numerous self-reliant communities. In fact, Gandhi’s life and work became overwhelmingly dominated by his strategies of reconstruction from below, lessening emphasis on civil disobedience and noncooperation (satyagraha), though the latter was always to be entertained when deemed strategically important. The major thrust instead became withdrawing support for the political state while building economically self-reliant communities from below. The spinning wheel was a symbol for achieving autonomy and at the same time a practical appropriate technology, promising creation of local people’s industries and crafts everywhere enabling liberation from dependence upon British textiles and related pervasive policies and attitudes.
Today, the symbol for us westerners might be seeds, a hoe, or a bicycle.
To Gandhi, civil disobedience and noncooperation (satyagraha) was the nonviolent counterpart of guerrilla war, while the constructive program was the counterpart of a parallel society from below similar to the local community structures important in the Mexican, Chinese, and Viet Nam revolutions. Noncooperation and withdrawal of consent, taken by themselves, were woefully ineffective, since they do not feed the hungry or permanently relieve the oppressed. Affirmative action was imperative to actually enable social betterment and justice in every village offering the people authentic local alternatives.
Nonetheless, he believed that satyagraha was always available as deemed strategically necessary, stressing its goal of conversion and moral transformation, not retribution. He rejected western materialist values and industrialism. Achievement of political independence required a structural and moral reconstruction of society from below (decentralization) through swaraj (self-rule, self-organizing, local responsibility), centered on economic renewal of autonomous village life through swadeshi (self-making, local reliance, decentralization), guided by a sense of justice, or sardovaya (social uplift for everyone).
Historically withdrawal of support from vertical power was a major factor in the collapse of the Mayan civilization @ 900 AD. The massive class of workers simply walked away under their own steam, abandoning their increasingly enslaved conditions while the Mayan rulers became more greedy and demanding. They literally fled to the mountains where they lived on a mix of farming and foraging, and the Mayans alive today are a testament to their commitment to survive freed from slavery. [see Beyond Civilization: Humanities Next Great Adventure by Daniel Quinn (NY: Three Rivers Press, 1999), pp. 41, 82, 91, 95, 98, 99; and The World Without US by Alan Weisman (NY: St. Martins Press, 2007), pp. 227-229].
In 1933, Gandhi founded the weekly newspaper, Harijan, to concentrate on social and economic issues, directly addressing and empowering the impoverished (untouchables). Growing contempt for the pattern of tyrannical state power led to his resignation from the Indian Congress in September 1934, in effect retiring from active involvement in state electoral politics in order to serve better the poor, to transform society from below, and to develop village industries and crafts. In 1935 he inaugurated the All-India Village Industries Association. In 1936 he created the Sevagram Ashram as a model village of service. He increasingly talked about the “constructive program” in addition to satyagraha (noncooperation and civil disobedience to unjust laws).
His political struggle thus significantly shifted toward the constructive work or program to transform society from below, reviving the economic strength of self-reliant, self-contained village cultures, actually hundreds of thousands of them in a decentralized federation.
The constructive program was as effective a path to altering political power as noncooperation. Noncooperation served to drain power away from the oppressor but the constructive program generated power in the hands of the villagers/resisters. In effect, rebuilding self-reliance from below served both to undermine support for the state while empowering local people to become autonomous. Today, we might talk of re-constructing local self-reliant, food and simple tool sufficient communities in watersheds or bioregions.
PRACTICAL Ingredients for constructing society from below (invisible resistance)
Some guiding mantras: less and local; contraction, relocalization, and conservation; small and slow are beautiful; sharing and caring in conscious community; autonomy and bioregional sufficiency; simplicity; transition from carbon economy to a non-carbon local one; steady state/subsistence; community essentially replaces national currency
Practice Examples for starters: Behavior shifts toward choosing independence from corporate made products and services from afar by re-discovering what I call the local/bioregional Neolithic or Indigenous model, where living in cooperative food- and simple tool-sufficient communities (thousands of them) becomes literally essential for survival with dignity:
* eating local, bioregionally produced food – CSAs, farmer’s markets, co-ops, home gardens (the 100 foot diet, the 100 mile diet;
* practicing permaculture (permanent culture); permaculture consciously practices harmonious integration with nature’s design – growing food; providing low tech energy, shelter, and transportation; building cooperative local community; and seeking all material and spiritual needs in a sustainable way.
* Community complementary currency and LETS (local-exchange trading system);
* switch any extra monies from banks & stock market to community credit unions/locally owned banks;
* reducing dependence upon or eliminating personal credit cards;
* living simply and below taxable levels, or practicing outright tax refusal;
* consciously increasing face-to-face conversations to replace many of our electronic-facilitated ones;
* create/participate in local, neighborhood resilience and transition support committees everywhere;
* transitioning to simpler technology in order to dramatically reduce our dependence upon grid electricity (which is generally dependent upon burning fossil fuels or processing uranium);
* buying used, not newly manufactured goods;
* bicycling and walking rather than driving cars; public transportation including trains rather than cars;
* cease flying (most intensive polluting and energy consuming form of travel per passenger mile)
* cooperatives as worker’s alternatives to being wage slaves;
* rainwater collection;
* composting everything organic, including our food waste, garden material, urine, and poop;
* design with passive solar concepts;
* heating with local dry firewood;
* community cob ovens;
* etc; etc.
Conclusion: It becomes critical to consciously practice local community as we cease using fossil fuels – stop flying, stop driving, stop burning natural gas and coal, dramatically reducing electricity use, etc. The massive proliferation of personal electronic gadgets and computers require generation of electrons, mostly by burning fossil fuels or processing uranium. The precious metals needed in manufacture of electronic gadgets are mined and manufactured by gruesome exploitation of various human cultures and the earth’s ecosystem. Radically downsizing our highly consumptive lives has become literally essential, i.e., living radically simpler lives re-discovering ancient practices of locally sharing with others. We moderns are equally the problem, and the solution. We are living in an evolutionary moment where a leap in eco-consciousness becomes the missing element for our survival. An eco-consciousness innately seeks to live within the carrying capacity of a finite Mother Nature in each bioregion where we live.
Resources – There are hundreds of resources relating to nonviolence and Gandhi. My emphasis here is to reveal Gandhi’s shift to the more important, as he saw it in the 1930s, building the constructive program from below. Here are some selected, relevant resources:
*DVD Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh documentary by Helena Norbert Hodge, Green Planet Films, Corte Madera, CA, about the Ladakh people in the Himalayas who lived peacefully for centuries and reveals what happens to their culture in just one generation of “development.”
*DVD Why Kerala, Grampa? documentary by Tom Chamberlin, Portland, OR, about the amazing development of thousands of relatively self-reliant communities communicating with each other in the state of Kerala, one of the 28 states of India.
*DVD The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil documentary by Arthur Morgan Institute for Community Solutions, Yellow Springs, OH
*“Gandhi’s Three Pillars of Freedom Are the Key To Our Survival,” interview of Vandana Shiva by David Barsamian, YES Magazine, Summer 2009. Note: The three pillars: (1) Swadeshi – self-making, local-reliance, decentralization; (2) Swaraj– self-rule, self-organizing, local responsibility; (3) Satyagraha– civil disobedience, noncooperation, withdrawal of consent. System change doesn’t happen at the system level; it happens by enough people wherever they are making changes that they want to see.
*“Gandhi’s Constructive Program – And Ours”, by Joanne Sheehan, Peacework, Issue 368, Sept 2006 (http://www.peaceworkmagazine.org/gandhi-s-constructive-program-and-ours)
*CONSTRUCTIVE PROGRAMME: It’s Meaning and Place by M. K. Gandhi (http://www.gandhi-manibhavan.org/gandhiphilosophy/philosophy_consprogrammes_bookwritten.htm)
*The Kingdom of God Is Within You by Leo Tolstoy (1894; Lincoln, NE: Univ of Nebraska Press, 1984).
*The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People by Jonathan Schell (NY: Metropolitan Books, 2003), Chapter 4, “Satyagraha”, pp. 103-142.
*Gandhi by Peter Ruhe (NY: Phaidon Press, 2001), “Introduction”, pp. 6-11.
*The Politics of Obedience: A Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etienne De La Boettie (@1552 or 1553, Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1997).
*Gandhi Today: The Story of Mahatma Gandhi’s Successors by Mark Shepard (Wash., DC: Seven Locks Press, 1987), pp. 5-8, 13-14, 42-43.
*Gandhi: All Men Are Brothers, Autobiographical Reflections, ED Krishna Kripalani (NY: Continuum, 1984), p. 183.
*Gandhi: A Memoir by William Shirer (NY: Washington Square Press, 1979), p. 213.
*For Pacifists by M.K. Gandhi (Ahmedabad-14: Navajivan Press, 1949), pp. 124-128.