Entry: tangent, repost Friday, March 26, 2004



I'm going to try with all my might not to spring off into too many tangents with this post, and I'm going to fail miserably. There's simply too much to respond to, and my thoughts are going a thousand miles a second. That said,

The fall of civilization, providing we use my earlier definitions of civilization for these purposes (which, since no one has proposed an alternative, I will) is indeed inevitable. This is logically provable since; 1) the planet is finite, 2) we as a species consume more than the finite planet can support, 3) we consume more each year than we did the previous year, and 4) there is no reason to believe, given current trends, that we will stop increasing our level of consumption.

I'm going to go ahead and try to provide some evidence for each of these assertions, even as I feel that I'm repeating myself. I'm going to do so in response to Ant's accusation of drastic thinking (for the record, my thinking is drastic, as is the situation we face, and the measures which we need to take).

1) The planet is finite. There can be little argument as to the veracity of this statement. Since we occupy a finite space, and (presumably) a finite span of time, there can be no assumption that on a material level the planet earth is infinite. Therefore, it must be finite. Ergo, it could conceivably get all used up.

2) We, as a species, consume more than the finite planet can support. By consuming as much as we have in the way of forests, we have damaged the Earth's system of climate control. Global Warming has ensued (despite the rhetoric from the Bush administration). In the United States, less than 4% of our native old growth forest remains standing (source1)(source2). The implications of this are, of course, devastating. Similar situations exist in the fields of mining, oil drilling, manufacturing, and many other engines of production.

3) We consume more each year than we did before. This statement is not technically true. Americans sometimes consume less one year than we did the year before. When this happens, it is said that the economy is in a slump. Every company listed on Wall Street (or Nikkei, or any other stock exchange) is dependant on production. Companies sell products, or in cases like banks sell the ability to buy products. The net result of every financial transaction is production. Ergo, if the stock exchanges go up, more products are being sold. If more products are being sold, more of the finite matter of the Earth is being consumed. Since our 'economy' has been steadily 'growing' for the past few hundred years, I think it's safe to say that we have been increasing our level of consumption.

4) There is no reason to believe, given current trends, that we will stop increasing our level of consumption. The Dildo in Chief of the United States of America, which is to say (grimace) our president, has stated publicly that there is no such thing as global warming, even as the effects of global warming are causing drastic changes to take place in such areas as, for example, THE WHOLE WORLD. This is obvious bullshit, which doesn't alone doesn't tell me that we aren't going to change our way of life. What tells me that we aren't going to change our way of life is that the asshole stands a chance of being reelected. Will Durst put it best; "The American people (also) want drive through nickel beer night."

Given these facts, it is impossible not to conclude that we will eventually, in essence, eat the fucking world. The debate becomes one about how long it is going to take. I don't want to enter into that debate, because I think it's nihilistic and it makes me cry.

--

People are not Civilization. Culture is not Civilization. Civilization is not our lives. It is the way our lives are organized. There is nothing to say that, outside of the framework of automobiles, genetically modified produce, electrical outlets, microwaves, convenience stores, fluorescent lights, enormous concrete blocks full of plastic trinkets and cut rate blue jeans (which is to say, Mal Warts and the like), jet skis, airplanes, vending machines, credit cards, eight lane mega highways, freight cars, boxcars, shipping containers, and eighteen wheelers, we can not sing. It is not to say that without Civilization, we can not dance, or write, or make love, or cook excellent food, or worship our favorite deity. As Ant is fond of pointing out, human beings are really fucking resilient little bastards. Culture is great. Our culture sucks.

--

Next, I'd like to address the paragraph of Lolo's post on evolution that deals with the hybridization of pre civilized cultures with the best of civilization. While, on a certain level, I think he and I arrive at the same place, I get there with a very different sort of metaphor.

Three friends leave high school together and head toward college. They've been friends for as long as any of them can remember. The three of them, as young college students do, begin to drink heavily and to experiment with drugs. Two of the kids stick to the fairly harmless stuff, and moderate their use. The third, without realizing that he has an extremely addictive personality, goes way out of control.

Over two years of college, despite warnings from his old buddies, he gets really hooked on speed. He ends up dropping out of school and living the speedfreak life. He rarely sees his friends. Two more years go by, and finally the third kid has decided to get clean. But he's become a totally different person. He doesn't remember how to live a healthy life, doesn't remember how to be human. He goes into a treatment program, but still feels like a shell.

It takes looking up his old buddies, who hesitantly get back in contact with him, to be reminded of what life is like when you aren't a junkie. He can never be his old self again, and he isn't going to become his friends. He has to learn a new self, and his friends are his teachers.

This is the relationship I see between modern people, primitive people, and future people. Neither is the other, or even a hybridization of the other two. The primitive is the teacher, showing us the nuts and bolts of how to live. We bring into the learning the experience of ten thousand years of torture, genocide, fine art, and really good cooking. We do not leave the class the same person we were when we came in. We also do not leave the class as a clone of the teacher (god, that would be scary). We become a distinct third, more than the sum of its parts.

Last, I would like to address Lolo's final strange tangent about going to space, in just a few words. Until we get our shit together here, we have no business trying to live elsewhere. Colonizing space would, at this point, just be the next chapter in ten long and bloody millennia of Civilization's exploitation and conquests.

Until we have a far better understanding of the ecosystems of other planets, we should not go there. What ecosystems? You might ask. They have no life. That's my point. We have no idea what kind of delicate balances may exist on the Moon or on Mars, and I really don't think we ought to go fucking with them.

Given that I've touched on as broad a range of topics as I have here, I'm not going to bother trying to write a conclusion that ties it all together. Instead, I'll just thank you guys. This is a lot of fun.

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