Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Consumerization

Being critical of civilization just comes natural to me I guess, but regardless of my reasons, it should be apparent to at least some that what we know as civilization has actually become a threat to our very existence on this earth. The oceans are dying, the ozone is disappearing, the climate is showing signs of instability, and all of this is occurring while the human population expands well beyond the long-term support capacity of the land. Are these problems the fault of civilization or are they merely due to unique economic and historical circumstances? Perhaps these problems we now face are just a much larger scale of ecological ruin, mirrored after other civilizations of the past such as the Roman, Mesopotamian, or the Chinese.

This begs the question, "Is civilization a mistake"? In the words of Derrick Jensen:

“We are members of the most destructive culture ever to exist. Our assault on the natural world, on indigenous and other cultures, on women, on children, on all of us through the possibility of nuclear suicide and other means--all these are unprecedented in their magnitude and ferocity."


Jesnen wrote his book The Culture of Make Believe, as an alarm intended to shatter any lingering hope that our civilization could be "fixed" so that it would stop destroying both we, the people, and the larger world we're part of. Has consumerism become a mechanism of civilization, used as a control for the purpose of our domestication? Has consumerism been shoved down our throats for so long, that our behavior has been gradually altered to accept the idea as being natural and comfortable?

Consider the following excerpt from the Green Anarchy website:

The success of civilization can be gauged by just how much it has limited our vision and our aspirations. It's nearly impossible for any one of us to really grasp just how much we have lost by our domestication. Our senses have been dulled; we've been trained to not trust our instincts, subjugated to a fully dehumanized, mechanical hierarchy; living in boxes within boxes within boxes. We mow our lawns, we play along, and we spend our entire lives being pushed through the linear future that has been scientifically determined to breed the most "efficient" consumers. We play along, yet every one of us has that urge, that feeling that something is wrong, or there could be something more. For millions of years we have lived in a way that is completely different from this. We always have to remember that when we're looking at "savages" and "primitives" we are really looking at wild (or more wild as the case may be) versions of ourselves. They are no different from us in any physical or mental sense, other than the fact that they have not been beaten down.


Is this sentiment of primitivism that civilization can't be fixed a popular view? I think most people would say no, but with civilization's consumeristic domination of nature and total control over our lives, how can we, as human beings, propose to get out of this mess we have been and are currently a part of? How did we as a people move from responsible caretakers of our world and all life upon it into the position we now take which is one of total control? This need for control has been called The Culture of Empire.

Our ancestors lived by adaptation to the life of the earth. When the pathology of empire broke out in the human family this adaptation and unity with the cosmos faded, and rather than adapt to the cosmos, humans became "God," as it were. Humans sought control rather than adaptation. This is the pivotal fact of the culture of empire. Humans in empire culture began this control with domesticated "biological slaves": wheat, barley, sheep, goats, water buffalo and rice. When this change occurred, human culture changed from ecological balance to ecological imbalance. The biological slaves have historically been used along with human slavery to extort energy from the earth's metabolism in a parasitic relationship. This led to the idea that humans have no need to unify and act responsibly and cooperatively with the cosmos but instead it was the cosmic role of humans to control the cosmos. Thus, the suicide pact of empire began. This need to control, so characteristic, truly, of a position of weakness, is the pivotal fact from which the coercive dynamics of empire culture flow.

This empire of consumerism pulls out all the stops during the holiday season which is upon us. I have heard it said that...civilization is a mental/material world of culturally transmitted illusion. It is suicide on a vast historical scale. It is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy of linear increase until the final exhaustion is reached. So how do we as concerned human beings begin to change our situation/place within our world and eliminate this empirical decay? Is there hope for change and a movement away from consumerism as long as the corporate interests keep mandating what we should do, what we should be, and what we should say? Will civilization finally pull in the reins of corporatism gone wild, or are we destined to just ride it out until everything, including our humanity, is depleted?

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