Armageddon or Quantum Leap? U.S. Imperialism and Human Consciousness from an Evolutionary Perspective

December 1, 2002


Awaiting the impending U.S. government’s concocted "preventive" war against Iraq (indeed, against the world), this is perhaps one of the most frightening moments in human history. In a surreal scenario, the U.S. government is renewing active threats of using nuclear weapons and reviving use of anti-personnel land mines, and is introducing new technological weapons of death we can only imagine, and some we cannot. As grim as this scene is, I believe it must be the inevitable and logical extension of the continued growth ad nauseum of the American Way Of Life (AWOL) in particular, and the Western Way Of Life in general. Premeditated murder of thousands–perhaps millions–of innocents is the price for AWOL’s insatiable consumption and its bloodthirsty vengeance, totally abdicating responsibility for lethal consequences to the planet and its species, including, ironically, our own. Perhaps Gaia is presenting the current transparent dangers to us as like a cosmic gift so that we might actually be able to see the extraordinary folly of our ways in time to creatively "storm the Bastille."


U.S. Terrorist Roots

U.S. civilization was founded on and has been sustained by terrorism, facilitated by Eurocentric racism, classism, and arrogant ethnocentrism. The grossest irony of all, of course, is that the "War on Terror," to be successful, must focus on our own civilization, the most egregious proponent of terror the world has even known. Terror was systematically utilized since our country’s beginnings in the 1600s. The following instructions, facilitated by a cruel racism, are part of the historic record: "burning and spoiling the [Indian] country," (Captain John Underhill, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1636); "put to death the [Pequot Indian] men of Block Island" (Massachusetts Bay Governor John Winthrop’s order to Captain John Endecott, 1637); "laying waste," and instilling "terror…by any means" among the Indians (General George Washington, 1779); "[with] malice enough in our hearts to destroy everything that contributes to their support" (General John Sullivan, 1779).

In a prominent history book published in 1906 (The History of the United States, James Wilford Garner, Ph.D. and Henry Cabot Lodge, Ph.D, L.L.D), the "destruction" of the American Indian is explained as follows: "History teaches that inferior people must yield to a superior civilization….They must take on civilization or pass out. The Negro was able to endure slavery while learning the rudiments of civilization; the Indian could not endure slavery, and…refused to be taught."

Attitudes uttered by white, Puritan, Christian men, civilian and military, thus set the tone for our civilization, sentiments that to this day have not been seriously renounced. We remain primarily a white male supremacy society with overtly expressed as well as suppressed sentiments of racism and classism dominating much of our political life and foreign policy. How can someone drop a bomb knowing that thousands of innocents will be murdered if the bomber is not possessed by cruel racism and/or ugly ethnocentrism?

Conveniently left out of the historical record is the fact that our civilization has been founded on three holocausts, the first being theft of virtually all our land base at gunpoint while murdering millions of the original inhabitants. The second brought us "free" labor from Africa, but resulted in two-thirds of all those originally targeted for apprehension being murdered in the process of trying to escape or from being stowed as human cargo in slave ships known as floating coffins. The third holocaust took place during what the founder and publisher of Time and Life magazines, Thomas Luce, called "The American Century." This century witnessed more than 300 military and perhaps 10,000 covert interventions by the U.S. into more than 100 countries, stealing resources at gunpoint while murdering millions of the increasing numbers of impoverished people struggling for independence. "American exceptionalism" must succeed at any cost. In the process, the three Buddhist "poisons" are employed:

  1. greed — for profit at any cost of human suffering;
  2. hatred — of any obstacles to profit;
  3. ignorance — of the intimate link between Western corporations/governments and "Third World" repressive regimes


U.S. Oligarchy

It does not matter which of the two parties, the republocrats or demoblicans, is in power. They both easily consented to the selection of their chief executive officer in violation of the rights of thousands of illegally disenfranchised Black voters, and of their Constitutional system itself that makes no provision for the Supreme Court to make such selection. Both believe in preserving the "national security" of AWOL, which means continued, unabated acceleration of extraction, consumption and pollution patterns, and obscene profits for the plutocrats and their bribed oligarchs in Washington. For all this to happen, Mr. Bush, indeed, has laid out the necessary plans for a world imperium to assure, in his and his cohorts’ minds, continuation of our Western way of life, business- and profits-as-usual.

These oligarchs are not able to perceive the fact that further continuation of AWOL guarantees our destruction. They are not able to even consider the need for radical contraction and creative alternatives. They act as if blind drunk with their personal and political values of money and power, under the cloak of their disfigured version of Jesus. Unfortunately, the inevitable consequences of their business-as-usual forces are systematic destruction of virtually all sustainable ecosystems and human-created institutions.


Origins of "Civilization"

Some history. As the revolution of urban civilization took root some 5,000 years ago the basic ingredients of "Western civilization" were introduced into our human evolutionary journey. The basic model of "civilization," for all but the most isolated and exceptional Indigenous groups, has seen the advent of powerful male oligarchs surrounded by elite bureaucracies of scribes and priests, overseeing hierarchies that involuntarily enforced large numbers of laborers, often violently captured during wars, to construct large projects for the pleasure of the king. Wars, systematic violence, and harsh class division originated with "civilizations." Secrecy of priestly knowledge about cosmic regularities and calendar-making assured that knowledge was monopolized by the small elite surrounding the oligarch. And the maxim, "the best defense is attack," was often used in early warfare, roots of our preventive strikes of today. According to Asian and Scandinavian scholars there have been nearly 15,000 wars during the last 5,000 years.


Extraordinarily Dangerous Trends

The U.S. economy reveals increasing vulnerabilities to the fiction and hot air behind Wall Street and the continued exploitation and creation of misery upon which it is based. The U.S. regime has chosen to protect its illusion of omnipotence under the veil of fighting "terrorism" and its curtailing of civil liberties is similar to a police state. Increasingly desperate means used by people in power to maintain that power is a historically typical, predictable phenomenon. Never before, however, have oligarchs commanded so much power and possessed so many weapons of mass destruction, with explicit intentions to use such weapons preventively rather than defensively.

I believe that we are at a pivotal point in history. We sit precariously perched on a ledge overlooking imminent extinction as a very real
possibility at this juncture in our long, 7- to 8-million-year human evolutionary journey. Academics often talk about how history is cyclical, but two demonstrable trends, clearly not cyclical, indicate that we are dangerously near the end of our evolutionary branch.

The first fatal trend is the impact of our rapid population growth on space and resources that are finite, facilitated by at least two significant factors — our departure some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago from the natural accounting system tendered when living close to the pulse of the Earth, and our recent nearly religious belief in and uncritical dependence upon dangerous, mind-numbing technology. Closely related, therefore, is the second trend, the "developed" world’s, i.e., Western Civilization’s, virtual total dependence upon dwindling supplies of finite material resources. Black gold, or oil, is only one of these resources, but perhaps the one whose imminent depletion may provoke a necessary evolutionary shift in human consciousness. Supplies of these earth resources have been available to us for only a short time in all of our long human history. We must envision a world of energy and fabric without them. Our cultural transition must quickly move from exponential growth to steady-state.

Two other features of so-called civilization have contributed substantially to this pivotal moment. One feature is the male dominator, hierarchical, bureaucratic model that uses violence, terror and secrecy to induce mass compliance. This model clearly emerged during the late neolithic period, about 3,000 B.C.E. Another feature is our inattention to the independent variable of size as a critical factor in the workability and sustainability of any political, social, or economic unit, and of technology itself.


Emergence of Nonviolent Anarchism

Following my tour of military duty in Vietnam, I was shocked at how easily I had followed orders, without asking any questions, to do things that in hindsight seemed so criminal and insane. I began pursuing new ways of thinking. I stumbled on a variety of thinkers who might today be called nonviolent anarchists. Anarchism is the natural and spontaneous tendency of humans to associate together for their mutual benefit. The idea is that social groups of modest size are better off organizing themselves without government, i.e., organizing without authority. Tolstoy, Kropotkin, Thoreau and Gandhi were all anarchist thinkers.


Peter Kropotkin

Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) renounced his privileged position with the Russian Czar’s Military Corp to study biology, geography, and anthropology in the vast unknown regions of Siberia. His work ultimately prepared a scientific foundation for an essential feature of anarchism by demonstrating that mutual aid — voluntary cooperation — is an even stronger tendency in human evolution than aggression and domination. One of the world’s greatest books, in my opinion, and one of the first to present an authoritative long-view of ecology before that word was even used, is Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902). Kropotkin begins by stating that "it is not love and not even sympathy upon which Society is based in mankind. It is the conscience — be it only at the stage of an instinct — of human solidarity. It is the unconscious recognition of the force that is borrowed by each man from the practice of mutual aid; of the close dependency of every one’s happiness upon the happiness of all; and of the sense of justice, or equity, which brings the individual to consider the rights of every other individual as equal to his own." He concludes his book by declaring that "in the ethical progress of man, mutual support — not mutual struggle — has had the leading part."

It was when reading these very words of Kropotkin’s sometime during the 1970s that I experienced my first "aha!" regarding the origins of my startling response to a question posed to me by a Vietnamese lieutenant as he and I witnessed the immediate aftermath of the bombing of a small village in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in April 1969. As I looked at mangled and bloodied corpses of mostly women and children, I gagged, then wept. The lieutenant was grinning as he asked me, "What’s wrong?" Without thinking, I responded, while pointing to a particular woman who was lying near my feet with three small children next to her, something to the effect that these people were part of my family. He clearly did not understand my response since he apparently perceived the horrible scene as a victory over "communism." My response had been a mystery to me until I read the above passages. Yes, of course, we are all intimately related by spirit, even by molecular and DNA structure, imbedded deeply in our ancient mind-body mechanisms. To realize that and act upon it will enable us to find the strength and wisdom to liberate ourselves from complicity with the depths of our nation’s insanity. It was these experiences that began my life-time journey as a recovering white male.

Etienne de La Boetie

Much earlier than the thinkers mentioned above, 18-year old French law student Etienne de La Boetie (1530-63) wrote a short essay in 1548, "Discourse on Voluntary Servitude," which became and remains a classic in the literature of nonviolence. It is brilliant in its explanation of the origins of tyranny and the ease in which enslavement occurs. His ability to grasp, more than 450 years ago, the psychology and inherent corruption that regularly occurs with social and political power is staggering. He argued that men create their own tyrants by giving obedience to them. He stressed that tyranny would easily collapse if the people chose to withdraw their support and complicity.

"The more tyrants pillage, the more they crave, the more they ruin and destroy; the more one yields to them, and obeys them, by that much do they become mightier and more formidable, the readier to annihilate and destroy. But if not one thing is yielded to them, if, without any violence they are simply not obeyed, they become naked and undone and as nothing, just as, when the root receives no nourishment, the branch withers and dies."

Note: "Discourse on Voluntary Servitude" was republished as a paperback in 1997 under title The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (Harry Kurz, translator).


William Godwin

The 18th Century political philosopher William Godwin (1756-1836), the first person in modern times after the French Revolution to develop a systematic theory of nonviolent anarchism, concluded in An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793) that men are subject to tyranny because the great mass of people agree to be tyrannically ruled. Godwin declared that reliance on basic truth necessitates sacrifices. Regarding war, he concluded: "We can have no adequate idea of this evil, unless we visit, at least in imagination, a field of battle. Here men deliberately destroy each other by thousands without any resentment against or even knowledge of each other."


Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau

Russian Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) espoused a religious anarchist view of nonviolence in which he advocated peasant nonviolent resistance to the State and war (The Kingdom of God Is Within You: Christianity Not As A Mystic Religion But As A New Theory of Life, 1893). Massachusetts native Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) protested against the institutions of slavery and the so-called Mexican-American War, hoping for sufficient numbers of persons to offer nonviolent non-cooperation. In Civil Disobedience (1849), Thoreau was concerned that people were too attached to the State, too little conce
rned with what is right. He declared that until people are willing to go to jail in considerable numbers, the State would continue to have its willing instruments for wars and institutions like slavery. He concluded: "All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable."


Mohandas K. Gandhi

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) rejected the merits of affluent industrial society. It can succeed, he said, only by organized greed or by systematic terrorism and oppression. His first principle of valid political action is non-cooperation with the disorder, injustices, and commitment to untruths characteristic of affluent societies. The core of Satyagraha, nonviolent resistance, or truth-force through love, is to lay down one’s life for what one considers to be right. The Satyagrahi has a religious and human duty to confront untruth in society with personal witness in order to reveal to everyone the falsities, even if it means suffering to the point of death. (See Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 1948).

The first duty of every person is to recover his or her "right mind" in order that society might once again become sane. Gandhi understood that to be "civilized" by force was in reality to be reduced to barbarism, as the civilizer was barbarized. His pursuit of the awakening of a mature political consciousness was not simply ascetic or devotional routines to suit the fancy of pacifists or poets, but precepts fundamentally necessary if humans are to recover their "right mind." There can be no peace without profound inner change that brings humans back to this healthy inner space.


Martin Luther King

Though Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was not an anarchist, his April 4, 1967 speech, A Time To Break Silence (sometimes referred to as Declaration of Independence from the War in Vietnam), given at the Riverside Church in New York City exactly one year to the day prior to his assassination, is one of the most revolutionary and prophetic essays of the 20th Century. His 1967 speech clearly indicated he was in the midst of a radical critique of the corruption of U.S. economic and political power as he called for a people’s nonviolent revolution of values and structures within the United States. Condemning the U.S. war against the Vietnamese and "deadly Western arrogance," King called for the lives of U.S. American people to "be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly."

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

King continues:

"The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before…We must support these revolutions….our brothers [sic] wait eagerly for our response." Then he asks: "Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men [sic], and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history."

I hope that after 9/11 we have internally registered that their yearnings and ours are the same. We are not worth more. They are not worth less.

Recognizing Our Complicity: A Key to Liberation and Empowerment

Indeed, I believe we the people have enabled Western civilization with our willing consumption patterns, taxes, silence, and various other levels of complicity. We have given legitimacy to our oligarchic rulers, willingly or begrudgingly. However, this likely happened over centuries of common people abdicating their individual and collective power in community affairs, either for fear of tyrannical rulers or from being mesmerized into dehumanization by cultural technics preempting spiritual meaning. Lack of use causes enfeeblement of physical, intellectual, and spiritual capacities.

Etienne de La Boetie, in his "Discourse of Voluntary Servitude" (see above), possessed a prophetic perception still relevant today:


"It is incredible how as soon as a people become subject, it promptly falls into such complete forgetfulness of its freedom that it can hardly be roused to the point of regaining it, obeying so easily and willingly that one is led to say that this people has not so much lost its liberty as won its enslavement."

Our nation’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776), signed some 226 years ago, forewarned against passivity, asserting active vigilance over government:

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Our originating document indicates a right of revolution when our existing government no longer conforms to the consent of the governed and the laws that government has sworn to uphold, such as our Bill of Rights.

We can now choose to actively and consciously withdraw our support in the best interests of humanity, and Earth herself. Knowing better in our hearts, many of us have nonetheless chosen to quietly "skate" because we could get away with it for just another day, another week, or year. We know differently now.


A Quantum Leap in Human Consciousness: Our Choice

The fact is that you and I just happen to be living at a moment when a huge, quantum leap in human consciousness and a radical cultural adaptation are begging us. Our days of living in relative comfort without paying attention to consequences are over. Done! It took 9/11 to bring us to this point, even though the origins and advancement of the gathering storm have been visible for centuries. As frightening as it is, this moment represents an extraordinary evolutionary opportunity for intentional participation in a huge shift. This is as big as the Neolithic revolution, when Old Stone Age food-gatherers became New Stone Age agriculturalists some 8,000 years ago, and the subsequent urban revolution that saw agriculturalists develop into city dwellers in the ancient Near East some 5,000 years ago. Fortunately, humans are totally capable of rapidly adjusting to imminent danger, if it can be recognized, and of making sudden, radical shifts in behavior and choices.

Is a dignified future worth risking position, reputation, life or limb? Do we want to build a new world, with a new man and a new woman, committed in partnership to emotional as well as intellectual honesty? Do we want to learn to live in decentralized communities based on local self-reliance that wisely honors each bioregion’s limits? Local availability of water, energy, food, fiber, and fabric is intimate information to be integrated into our mind-beings, so that o
ur choices become synonymous with Earth wisdom. This wisdom now dictates walking a mindful path of local responsibility within a global context. The Seneca Indians around whom I grew up, prophetically suggested making choices based on how they would affect the seventh generation of offspring. We have wise teachers if only we would listen.

Famous Australian archaeologist V. Gordon Childe (1892-1957) named his classic book Man Makes Himself (1936). What human beings have created, we can uncreate, and recreate anew, based on history’s lessons. There can be no more war, hate or violence! There can be no more systemic ethnocentrisms! There can be no more systemic greed! There can be no more oligarchies! There can be no more male (or female) domination! Out of necessity we must now support one another in healing from these disabling addictions so that our evolutionary process can continue.



Let us commit to a cooperative process of liberation from our quid pro quo, subservient relationship to violent nation-states, renouncing our allegiance to their insanity. We shall strive to recover our spiritual roots and the meaning of life as it connects us to the heavens and the earth–the sky, the cosmos and the carrying capacity of our seasonal Mother Earth in each of the bioregions where we live. We can choose to feel the Mother’s rhythms if we walk slowly on the earth, learning from the changing seasons, awe-inspired by a mere glance at the 350 billion-plus stars in our galaxy alone. We can find our way merely by being quiet and listening to the breeze of wisdom that totally envelops us at all moments, including right here at this very second.


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