Archive for social theory

Gender, Hierarchy, Civilization & Collapse: A Few Thoughts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

What did Sumeria ever do for us? Invented writing, our concepts of time, irrigation, cities, created the first literature…little stuff like that.

Sumeria predates ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Biblical times, though it was a completely forgotten civilization until very recently. The civilization spanned roughly 3,500 years, between 5,500 BCE & 1,750 BCE.

Remember, modern Western civilization is a mere 400 years old. Just a baby, by comparison.

The Sumerian civilization, mythology and writings inspired the book of Genesis and Homer, for example, and provided one of the primary the seedbeds for Western civilization, such as it is. Unfortunately they also invented or co-invented war, empire, conquest, ecological degradation, class division, hierarchy, plunder and inequality. Crappy stuff we’re still living with today. 

They did uphold gender equality, however. Mind you, this seems to indicate Eisler was wrong and Bookchin was right: hierarchy spreads as a corrosive social model that comes to infect everything, but it does not necessarily begin with gender. 

“Even so, the culture had been struggling to retain its autonomy ever since the Amorites had gained power in Babylon. A shift in cultural influence, evidenced in many respects but, notably, in the male-female ratio of the Mesopotamian pantheon, came with the rise to power of the Semitic Amorites in Babylon and, especially, during the reign of Hammurabi (r. 1792-1750 BCE) who completely reversed the Sumerian theological model in elevating a supreme male god, Marduk, over all others. Temples dedicated to goddesses were replaced by those for gods and, even though the goddesses’ temples were not destroyed, they were marginalized.

At this same time, women’s rights – which were traditionally on par with men’s – declined as did the great Sumerian cities. Overuse of the land and urban expansion, coupled with ongoing conflicts, are cited as the primary reasons for the fall of the cities. The correlation between the decline in the status of female deities and women’s rights has never been adequately explained – it is unknown which came first – but it is a telling detail in the decline of a culture which had always held women in high regard. By the time the Elamites invaded c. 1750 BCE, the Sumerian culture was already deteriorating and the [invading] Elamites simply finished the process.”

   – Joshua J. Mark, Ancient History Encyclopedia 

Hierarchy, inequality of class, empire, war, conquest, pillage and plunder, and ecological destruction: all of these things existed in Sumer alongside gender equality, it seems, and gender equality both in terms of cultural values, religion and mythology, and in practice. Therefore, we have to conclude that gender imbalance is a severe social, spiritual, and moral problem, but the evidence seems to indicate that it is not the root of all evils that it is sometimes presented to be.

That being said, when gender imbalance begins, society rapidly spirals into ever deeper problems, because the fundamental balance between agency and communion is destroyed; until the society finally collapses, or rediscovers a balance.

Sumeria was well on the way to collapse, regardless of external threats, exactly as with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. Internal imbalance always brings internal decline, and finally, either an eventual renaissance and rebirth, or the collapse of the civilization.

“Sumerian was well established as the written language by the late 4th century BCE and Sumerian culture, religion, architecture, and other significant aspects of civilization were as well. The literature of the Sumerians would influence later writers, notably the scribes who wrote the Bible, as their tales of The Myth of Adapa, The Eridu Genesis, and The Atrahasis would inform the later biblical accounts of the Garden of Eden, Fall of Man, and the Great Flood. Enheduanna’s works would become the models for later liturgy, Mesopotamian animal fables would be popularized by Aesop, and The Epic of Gilgamesh would inspire works such as the Iliad and Odyssey.

The concept of the gods living in the city’s temple, as well as the shape and size of the Sumerian ziggurat, is thought to have influenced the Egyptian development of the pyramid and their beliefs about their own gods. The Sumerian concept of time, as well as their writing system, was also adopted by other civilizations. The Sumerian cylinder seal – an individual’s sign of personal identification – remained in use in Mesopotamia until c. 612 BCE and the fall of the Assyrian Empire. There was literally no area of civilization the Sumerians did not make some contribution to but, for all their strengths, their culture began to decline long before it fell.”

   – Joshua J. Mark

Their civilization began to decline long before it fell and actually collapsed. Then as now. History is repeating.

We must regain the balance, in multiple ways, or we too are headed for collapse.

“When I observe the ruts in a road, I am compelled to think, how much deeper the ruts in the mind.”

– Henry David Thoreau

But as Thoreau said, it is never too late to give up our bad habits, or our old ideas. Remember: “There is more day yet to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

JTR,

May 19, 2020

Post-Script:

On a comic note, for comedic relief, note this. Trump must have been advising the Sumerians on wall construction. Something was clearly amiss. The futility is amusing, in any case. Decline and collapse was due to internal factors, not external threats. But it surely is a Homer Simpson moment to build a wall, and not even get the basic concept right!

“The Sumerian civilization collapsed c. 1750 BCE with the invasion of the region by the Elamites. Shulgi of Ur had erected a great wall in 2083 BCE to protect his people from just such an invasion but, as it was not anchored at either end, it could easily be walked around – which is precisely what the invaders did.”

Wow. Is that how historians will look at us in 4,000 years, presuming humans are alive on Earth by then? Ending our civilization with one big, “Doh!”

Oh, Marg….

 

Critical Reading:

Rianne Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade

Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom

Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom

Ronald Wright, A Short History Of Progress

Wade Davis, The Wayfinders

David Suzuki, Elders’ Wisdom

Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

Allan Wallace, Choosing Reality

Noam Chomsky, Year 501

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions

Henry David Thoreau, Walden and On Civil Disobedience

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Kindred Spirits & “Civilization”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

Thinking about questions of human society and what is “civilized” or “civilization” makes me realize again how much I agree with Chomsky, Gandhi and Thoreau. They have all been deeply critical of what is called Western “civilization”. It also makes me think it’s time to read Vine Deloria Jr. All of them seem like definite kindred spirits to me. I take that thought with a great deal of comfort.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

The end of civilization? I’d like to see its beginning

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2020 by jtoddring

 

Civilization? Technology does not define it. Morality does. That makes all empires uncivilized, because they are based in conquest, plunder, mass murder and theft.

Amazing… Scholars still talking about the Roman Empire as civilized and civilizing… By what definition? Because they had sewers? I agree with Gandhi, Western civilization, “would be a good idea”. 

An otherwise thoughtful historian writes typical gibberish, which is universally accepted in Western civilization (sic) as matter of fact, common sense, and informed opinion:

“Wolfram points out that no other nationality, such as the Celts, seems to carry as much emotional and historical baggage as the Goths. They are either traditionally blamed for the destruction of the civilization of the Roman Empire that plunged western culture into a “dark age” or as heroes who refused to bear the yoke of Rome submissively (best exemplified in the figures of Athanaric, Fritigern, Alaric I, and Totila). It is entirely possible, however, to see the Goths as both these entities. Recent scholarship presents a view of the Goths which is more balanced than the either-or view, which has defined them for so long. The historian Philip Matyszak writes:

Until recently it was automatically assumed that Roman civilization was a Good Thing. Rome carried the torch of civilization into the barbarian darkness, and after the unpleasantness of conquest, Rome brought law, architecture, literature and similar benefits to the conquered peoples…There is now an alternative view, which suggests that Rome became the only civilization in the Mediterranean area by destroying half a dozen others. Some of these civilizations were as advanced as Rome’s, or even more so. Others were developing, and the form they might have finally taken is now lost forever. (9)

Since histories have relied primarily on Roman sources to present the history of the Goths, these people are frequently equated with the concept of the “uncivilized barbarian” or the “noble savage”. In fact, they were neither. As Wolfram points out, their history cannot be claimed as that of the ancient German people nor of the Slavic people nor of any people presently living (74-75).

The Goths entered history at a pivotal moment in the decline of the Roman Empire and played their part in that drama. With the empire gone, they ruled over two great kingdoms: one of Odoacer and Theodoric the Great in Italy, and the other in France (that of Theodoric I).  In Totila, the last great king of the Ostrogoths, they produced one of the most brilliant military leaders in history, a match for the legendary Belisarius of Rome, known as the “Last of the Romans’. With Belisarius’ victory, the history of the Goths ends.”

It is therefore difficult at first to determine exactly what the legacy of the Goths is to the modern-day world until one realizes that, without them, there would not be one. The kingdom of Odoacer preserved the best aspects of the Roman Empire and that of Theodoric the Great maintained that preservation. Western civilization continued after the fall of Rome, an entity that was disintegrating daily and would have fallen anyway even if the Goths had never set a single boot on Roman soil; it was the Goths who preserved the light of western civilization, even as they helped to topple the empire that had given rise to it.”

(From Joshua J. Mark’s, The Goths, though it could be almost any standard issue text)

See notes above. Think again. 

Preserving civilization? What civilization?

Again, I say:

The end of civilization? I’d like to see its beginning.

JTR,

May 18, 2020

Social Psychology & Meditation On Death

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2020 by jtoddring

“We are born for action…I want us to be doing things…I want Death to find me planting my cabbages, neither worrying about it nor my unfinished gardening.”

   – Michel de Montaigne

How perfect is that sentiment and that view, expressed here by the great French philosopher of the Renaissance! And hilarious! Montaigne sounds like Thoreau, with his Earthy wisdom…or a Zen master…or Chuang Tzu! But that is not how most people live. And there’s the rub. That is the problem.

Montaigne said of fear, “There is no emotion which more readily ravishes our judgement.” That would seem to be the best explanation of our current mass social psychology: the great majority, including most of the otherwise thoughtful, intelligent, and emminently sane, are temporarily incapable of rational thought, due to panic and intense fear. That is to say, temporary insanity has descended upon them.

Montaigne echoes all the sages: when you meditate on death, you can face your mortality, and hence, conquer the fear of death; and when you conquer the fear of death, you thereby conquer all fear of life – and it is then only that we begin to truly live.

“To practise death is to practise freedom. The man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” – Michel de Montaigne

Yet, the great majority hide from death, and thus hide from life – and their secret fear makes them easily misled, easily manipulated, easily ensnared and enslaved, easily irrational and confused, as well as perpetually filled with a secret, unconscious, perpetual anxiety and fear, no matter how cleverly masked or disguised.

“No wonder that they often get caught in a trap. You can frighten such people simply by mentioning death… And then, in the midst of pain and terror, God only knows what shape their good judgement kneeds into!”

– Michel de Montaigne

JTR,

April 12, 2020

Further Reading:

The Essays of Montaigne: Of Fear; and, To Philosophize Is To Learn How To Die

Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3: 1-2, 17-20, Chapter 4: 5-6, 13

Walden, and On Civil Disobedience – Henry David Thoreau

The Divinity School Address – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Soygal Rinpoche

Introducing Buddha – Jane Hope

Chuang Tsu – Jane English translation

The Tao Te Ching – Jane English translation (no others compare)

Tao: The Watercourse Way – Alan Watts

The Way of Zen – Alan Watts

The Book – Alan Watts

World As Lover, World As Self – Joanna Macy

Dialogues With Scientists And Mystics – Renee Weber

Dreamtime and Inner Space – Holgar Kalweit

Choosing Reality – Alan Wallace

The Hero With A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

The Perennial Philosophy – Aldous Huxley

What Survives? – Gary Doore

Escape From Freedom – Erich Fromm

Brave New World, and, Brave New World Revisited – Aldous Huxley

 

Reading History And Social Theory As If People, The Planet, Or The Future Mattered

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 7, 2020 by jtoddring

 

A Review of Stephen Toulmin’s Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda Of Modernity, and, A Reading List For Thoughtful People

Slow to get going, then increasingly fascinating, Toulmin’s Cosmopolis is a genuine must-read. As a history of culture and consciousness it is stellar. I’d give it four out of five stars, in that realm. However, as a work of philosophy, I’d have to give it a failing grade, because it ends with a regression to ancient Skepticism (echoed in that rotting bog which is contemporary post-modernism). Two out of five as a work of philosophy. And as a history of political-economy, again, it fails: leading us into an uncritical passive acceptance of a clearly anti-democratic, technocratic, increasingly crypto-fascist neoliberal corporate globalization, as the inevitable and naturally superior gift of “progress”. Two out of five stars as a book on politics.

For a vastly better critique of modernity, and far more insightful views on our ever-unfolding history, see:

Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues, along with: Class Warfare, Requiem For The American Dream, Profit Over People, and Necessary Illusions

Ronald Wright, Stolen Continents, and, A Short History of Progress

EF Schumacher, A Guide For The Perplexed

John Michael Greer, Retrotopia

James Howard Kunstler, A History Of The Future

Helena Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures

Wade Davis, The Wayfinders

David Maybury-Lewis, Millennium

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

David Suzuki, Wisdom of the Elders

Allan Wallace, Choosing Reality

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism

Erich Fromm, The Pathology Of Normalcy, The Sane Society, and Escape From Freedom

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, and Brave New World Revisted

George Orwell, 1984

Arthur Kroker, Data Trash

Chris Brazier, The No-Nonsense Guide To World History

Ken Wilber, A Brief History Of Everything

John Perkins, A Game As Old As Empire

Christopher Simpson, Blowback: America’s Recruitment of Nazis

Susan George, Shadow Sovereigns

John Pilger, The New Rulers Of The World

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine

Sarah Anderson, Views From The South

C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite

Peter Phillips, Giants: The Global Power Elite

Bertrand Russell, Roads To Freedom

Peter Kropotkin, Mutual Aid

Rianne Eisler, The Chalice and The Blade

Murray Bookchin, The Ecology Of Freedom

Henry David Thoreau, Walden, and On Civil Disobedience

Happy reading!

JTR,
April 7, 2020

The Myth Of Progress – Pricking The Bubble

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2020 by jtoddring

Again and again, I am reminded of the need for humility, as well as dignity and confidence. I am reminded not only by my own faults and errors, which are numerous enough, but also by many of the people I respect the most. Again, and again, I read an exceptionally brilliant book, am floored by the clarity and lucidity of mind, and then, am momentarily shell-shocked by the seemingly sudden loss of clarity, and the introduction of what to me is a glaring error. Few people are omniscient or infallible. Shared illusions, furthermore, are not only possible, but are the norm. Shared illusions with regards to the mythology of progress, are a perfect example.

(Stephen Toulmin’s, Cosmopolis, a brilliant book on the history of the modern world, made me reflect on these things again today. A once in 400 year book ends with an assumption, a presumption, of the myth of progress? As I say, question everything. If the most brilliant minds are capable of error, and often great errors, what are our politicians and media pundits capable of? Sheer idiocy, outright lies, half-truths, distortions, evasions, blatant self-delusion? Yes, all of that, and more.)

No one demolishes our modern illusions about progress so marvelously, or with such wit, as Thoreau; but I will do my best here, to follow in the footsteps of one of my great heroes; and urge everyone to read Walden, and On Civil Disobedience, again.  We need such uncommon clarity and Earthy, practical wisdom now.

This is a short bit of reflection on a subject I have returned to many times over several decades – not a comprehensive discourse or treatise on the mythology or ideology of progress, by any stretch. But pithy kernels of thought are useful, it seems to me, because they spark further thought and reflection. Consider this one small spark – knowing that that is all it takes to begin a wildfire: one that can burn through our shared illusions, like the sunrise dispels the darkness of the night.

*

The Western world is heavily influenced by certain founding mythologies (mythologies in the proper sense of the term, meaning grand narratives, subtextual philosophies or worldviews), or confluences of mythology, culture and thought: including Judaism, and later Christianity and Islam; those of ancient Greece, both pre-Hellenic and Hellenic; Roman; Medieval, that of the Renaissance, and of the Enlightenment. (We are dealing in major patterns here, though of course there have been, and are, many other currents.)

Core among Western assumptions, are assumptions or mythologies surrounding the nature of time. Four common mythology groups can be identified, as a start, with regards to views of time: linear descent, linear progress, eternal return, and time as an illusion.

Let’s take the last view first. Time as an illusion is the least common view in the West, the view or mythology with the least cultural, psychological or historical influence – though it is most accurate. All is change, as Heraclitus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu have said, and King Solomon as well; yet, as the Buddhist, Hindu and Taoist views all assert, and mystics of the West as well, time remains an illusion, because while the many are always changing and in flux, the many are always, in truth, the One – hence all is in constant change, yet all change is illusory; therefore time is illusory. Compassion within the illusion of time is paradoxically essential to an intelligent life, much less an enlightened state; yet time remains an illusion, because duality is an illusion, and hence, no true change exists, but only changes in appearance or form.

We will pass over the mystics’ view of time, for now. Let’s look at what the non-mystic great majority have believed about the nature of time – since, unfortunately, they have shaped Western history more than any sages have done.

For the great majority of people, both East and West, time is very real. (Transcendent Oneness may be an attractive idea, but few are genuinely interested in even exploring it. Maya is everything.) And here we are left with three major remaining mythologies, philosophies, or views, with regards to the nature of time:

1. Time is linear, and everything is in a state of decline from an original golden age, or the paradise of Eden. This is the view of ancient Greece, China and India, and with important variations, it is also the core Judaeo-Christian view. Everything was wonderful, then there was a fall from grace, and we are on our way down to the bottom. And if we look deeply at this view, in all cases above, the bottom is not final, but only a nadir, from which rebirth is certain to occur. There is much to be said of, and for, this view, but that is not the topic of this essay.

3. The third view is one of circularity in time: the eternal return. Time may look linear to us, but it is circular in reality. There is much to be said for this view as well, but it too, is not the topic at hand.

2. The second view is linear time marked by an inevitable upward trend. This is the mythology of progress. This is – or became in the modern world – the true religion of the West.

When the Enlightenment thinkers revisited the ancient Western mythology of time, they turned it on its head – similarly to Marx turning Hegel on his head, and with similar general confusion.

The modern view became the mirror image of the traditional Judaeo-Christian view. Now, time is viewed as linear – that much is retained of the mythology; but the path is not inevitable descent, but inevitable ascent.

Modernity became as religiously devoted to the ideology and mythology of progress, as Judaeo-Christianity was wedded to the idea of the fall, decline, decay, the end of time, and cosmic rebirth.

The modern view was simply a secularization of the mythology of redemption. But redemption was to be by our own power and cleverness. (As Nietzsche said, “The ego –  our last article of faith.”) Progress is our redemption; and progress is assured – inevitable.

Thankfully, I haven’t heard anyone use the phrase, “You can’t stop progress”, in quite some time. The mythology has cracked, and is crumbling. “Progress” is not so assured to us now.

And what of the notion of progress? (The author John Michael Greer makes the case well: it is a dying and outmoded notion, that was largely illusory to begin with.) The ideology or mythology of progress takes it as an unquestionable truism that everything that comes later in time, must, by definition, be better than which came before. But is that really true?

Clothes produced in Chinese sweatshops tend to be low quality and wear out quickly – but moving all manufacturing to China and other low-wage areas of the world is a new phenomenon: so all products made in China must therefore be better in terms of quality, since this is a new “development” or phenomenon. Clearly this is not the case.

If the mythology of progress was true, then in the 1930’s, when fascism was rising in Germany and Italy, since fascism was new, it must therefore be an improvement, and must have been better than the free and open democracies which it replaced.

Clearly, only the criminally insane and the pathological would agree that Nazism and fascism were improvements over democracy, or free and open societies, simply because they came after democracy, and (for a time) crushed democracy. Clearly, what comes later in time is not necessarily better than what came before.

*

I do have faith, or confidence, if you prefer, in the long-term upward trajectory of humanity. I firmly believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” But I have no illusions that we cannot have set-backs, or that temporary regression is not possible. Clearly it is. Look at the Nazis and other fascists in the 1930’s and ’40’s. Clearly, we can regress, just as easily as we can progress. You can climb up a mountain, stumble, and fall back down again. Stumbling and falling are not impossible. Descent is as real as ascent.

China is now ruled by a totalitarian bureaucracy that has wedded itself to neoliberalism, every bit as much as Western corporate neoliberalism has wedded itself to it. It is a match made in hell, and the two deserve each other – while humanity deserves neither.

China represents neofeudal technocratic corporatism (or Red fascism, as I call it); the West is ruled by a technocratic corporate neofeudalism. One is the mirror image of the other. Neither can be tolerated by those who value freedom or democracy, civil rights, or a world where people are something other than slaves, consumer drones, and mindless cogs in a great machine.

But this new form of society for China, this new Confuscianist-Orwellian neofeudal corporatism, came after Taoism and Zen. Does that make it superior to Taoism and Zen, because it came later in time? The newer is better, right? Everything that is new is best. That is the mythology of inevitable progress.

To my mind, one would have to be out of one’s mind, to say that an Orwellian-Confucian neo-feudal bureaucratic corporate police state is superior to either ancient Taoism or Zen. I think there is absolutely no question about this. What came latter, happens to be a profound regression – not progress at all. That can and does happen in history. We can make miss-steps.

Neoliberalism is a recent ideological construct, not yet quite 50 years old – because it is new does that mean it is better? Must the drive toward a global corporate oligarchy be accepted as inevitable, or worse, as inevitable progress? I think we would be quite delusional and deranged to assume such a thing, when all the evidence is that neoliberalism, and the corporatism – aka fascism – which it represents, is extraordinarily destructive to people and the planet both.

Viewed in this light, we have had 50 years of regress.

Culturally, it is clear we have progressed greatly in the past 50 years. But in terms of reigning political-economic systems, structures and ideologies, we have simply fallen into a ditch – because we followed blind men.

We’ve had fifty years of neoliberalism – which is the ideology which rationalizes the corporate take-over of the world – and fifty years of post-modernism – which effectively lobotomized intellectuals for five decades, spinning polysyllabic webs of confusion justifying a hidden nihilism, which in turn provided the perfect cover for a corporatist (that is, fascist) take-over.

Maybe now we can regain our senses, and reject both neoliberal corporatism, which is fascism with a pretty face, and also post-modernist nihilism, which vacates all intellect and common sense, neuters the people, and paves the way for the justification of, and collusion with, almost anything – including the worst of evils, and the worst regression.

Are post-modernism and global neoliberal corporatism improvements over the values of the Renaissance, of dignity and confidence, with a counterbalancing of  tolerance and humility? Are they improvements over Spinoza, or over Plotinus, Socrates or Aristotle? Are they improvements over Jesus, Mohammed, Daniel or Moses? Are they improvements over the Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, and solidarity, the values of the American and French Revolutions, the values of democracy and common sense? I would say that any reasonable or honest accounting would show both post-modernism and neoliberal corporatism to be deeply regressive, barbaric, profoundly myopic, and frankly delusional. We had best retrace our steps, and think again.

There are many treasures to be saved, and preserved, and cherished, from our 5,000 year journey. Neoliberalism and post-modernism are not among them. These belong on the dung heap,

*

We can take the best from the past and the present, and decide to reject certain new trends, ideologies or technologies as destructive to life on Earth: nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons; along with fascism, neofeudalism, and neoliberal corporate oligarchy – all of which are various ways of describing the same single system; are among the things which we should reasonably and unequivocally, and firmly reject.

In short, we have choices. There are dangers, and there are opportunities. We must make the best of the latter, while navigating around, overcoming, or defeating the former. This should be a matter of common sense.

Chomsky sums it up well, as he so often does:

(I am paraphrasing from memory here)

“The world is filled with ominous portent, and signs of great hope. Which result ensues, is largely up to what we do with the opportunities at hand.”

Exactly.

Let’s not be complacent. There is work to be done. We have a better future, and a better world to build – a task we are entirely capable of fulfilling. But complacency and denial are luxuries that we most certainly cannot afford.

JTR,
April 6, 2020

 

Further reading:

Noam Chomsky, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control In Democratic Societies,
Year 501: The Conquest Continues,
Class Warfare,
and
Requiem For The American Dream: The Principles Of Concentration Of Wealth & Power
George Orwell, 1984
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, and Brave New World Revisited
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Jack London, Iron Heel
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine
David C. Korten, When Corporations Rule The World
Susan George, Shadow Sovereigns
John Pilger, The New Rulers Of The World
John Perkins, A Game As Old As Empire, and
The New Confessions Of An Economic Hitman
C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite
Peter Phillips, Giants: The Global Power Elite
Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom
Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom
Bertrand Russell, Roads To Freedom
Joanna Macy, World As Lover, World As Self

And perhaps most urgently:

Ronald Wright, A Short History Of Progress

For philosophical, cultural, anthropological and historical perspective, there is no better guide or place to start than here – an immenseley erudite and deeply perceptive book which reveals precisely, by contrast, and exactly where we stand in the early 21st century: still lost in a continuing dark age that daily threatens to get ever darker – until we reflect, and change our course:

Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces

Time to wake up. Fascism is rising, and the planet and the people are in peril.

 

The Collapse of Modern Civilization

Posted in activism, alternative, analysis, anthropology, books, Chomsky, class, climate change, collapse, common ground, consciousness, crash, crisis of democracy, democracy, ecological crisis, ecology, economic collapse, economics, economy, elite, empire, empowerment, end-game, environment, Eric Fromm, fascism, freedom, geopolitics, global warming, globalism, globalization, good news, history, imperialism, inspiration, must-read, neo-feudalism, neocon, neoconservatism, neoliberalism, peak oil, people's movements, philosophy, police state, policy, political economy, political philosophy, political theory, politics, politics of oil, post-carbon, reading, resources, science, social theory, sociology, spirituality, sustainability, the world's other superpower, Uncategorized, war on democracy with tags , , , , , , on March 12, 2020 by jtoddring

More than 150 years ago Thoreau commented, “Our sills are all rotten.” He was right. It is for that reason that Western, and Westernized, “modern” “civilization” is collapsing.

This could be cataclysmic, of course, (as in, an ecological holocaust), or relatively peaceful, (akin to the Maya abandoning their great cities and returning to rural village life). As a grand transformation, it could be more of a collapse, or more of a thoughtful and voluntary transition. So, the spectrum is between cataclysmic and relatively peaceful transition, depending on how we respond to the collapse that is already in progress and well under way.

We needn’t be pathetically fatalistic, it should be noted,  for that is self-neutering, self-disembowelling, and self-lobotomizing. But we do need to deal with reality. The slowmotion collapse of modern civilization is unfolding now.

At present, most nations are paying lip service to the growing, interconnected crises that we face. As a result, most nations and regions will likely experience the unfolding collapse and tectonic transition in cataclysmic ways, to varying degrees, unless radical action is taken en mass, and immediately.

Avoidance of reality never works well as a strategy for responding to change.

 

That does not mean that all is lost. We should, along with radical efforts at social change, and serious contingency planning, also look to the road ahead: to what comes after the transition, or collapse, as the case may be – and again, it will be more one or the other depending on the nation, region and community.

Thomas Kuhn’s, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, along with Stephen Toulmin’s Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity, among other important works, beginning with Thoreau’s, Walden, mark the beginning of the end of modernism – and they mark the beginning of post-modernism and the post-modern era. (Or whatever terms we come to settle on, after the dust settles.)

If the terms post-modernism and the post-modern era have any meaning at all, it is not in that pseudo-intellectual bog that is the incoherent and self-contradictory collection of thoughts in Western “philosophy” that have taken hostage of the minds of the Western intelligentsia for the past 50 years, and which is called “post-modernism”. No, it is here, in the deeper, more lucid critique of modernism, and the pseudo-scientific, quasi-religious ideology of modernism, and the social structures, institutions, power structures and systems of modernism which are built on this castle of sand, and which have dominated the world for the past 300 years, and which are collapsing now, thankfully.

And if we are to survive as a species, we will have to hasten their demise. 

Toulmin, Kuhn, Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Fromm, Kropotkin, Chomsky, Rifkin, Kroker, Orwell, Bookchin, Eisler, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Aldous Huxley, Allan Wallace, Joanna Macy, Vandana Shiva, Margaret Atwood, Ronald Wright, Jared Diamond, Wade Davis, Mathiew Stein, David Suzuki, and Helena Norberg-Hodge, Michael Hudson, Ellen Brown, Yanis Varoufakis, Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Gregory Bateson, EF Schumacher, Morris Berman, and yes, Nagarjuna, Shankara, Meister Eckhart, Lao Tzu, La Boite, Socrates and Spinoza, are a few of the guiding lights who can help lead us into the post-carbon, possibly post-collapse, post-modern era, through the 21st century and beyond, with confidence, compassion, and clarity of mind.

And we will need every source of good guidance and light we can find.

Keep calm, and let the revolution, and rebuilding, begin.

We must remember, however, that there are two extremes to be avoided. One is passivity. The other is fascism. Both are “trending now”.

JTR,

March 12, 2020

 

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