"NO MASK NO ENTRY" - Ivan Illich and the exercise of freedom

The early Christians made ... community by sharing the simple communion meal through which they remembered their Lord, and by a mouth-to-mouth kiss through which they shared their spirits in a conspiratio or breathing together,

states Canadian radio broadcaster David Caley in a book on Austro-American social philosopher Ivan Illich's views. [David Caley, The Rivers North of the Future. The Testament of Ivan Illich. House of Anansi Pr., 2005]

So this is what it means to conspire. Rather than theorizing on others doing it, we are called to do it ourselves. Which brings me to a message published in our local gazette, the News & Notes 839. It says,


Mask dilemma

The Covid Task force in its weekly communication with the community in the News & Notes, on Auronet and through many Bulletins has done a heroic job! The Pandemic in India is  certainly  not  yet  under  control  and  we  are asked  to  take caution;  It  is  required  by  law  to  keep  social  distance, wear masks while going out and in public places and do not hold or go to large gatherings. As Auroville and Aurovilians, we have to follow the law.

Lately there are more voices of dissent, people who absolutely refuse to wear a mask in Auroville’s public places: going to the Financial Service, PDTC or Pour Tous, (despite clear signs that say: ‘NO MASK NO ENTRY ‘. Unpleasant, jarring, impatient and hot arguments were heard in PDTC at the entrance attacking the amazing people, who keep this service going since March, in a spirit of selfless service, wearing their own hot masks all morning!! and providing us with all our food needs, meanwhile keeping a beautiful atmosphere.  Over the carrot-and onion displays someone went ballistic: shrieking to another customer who dared to inquire why she wasn’t wearing a mask. This was shocking painful and hurtful to everyone present. If some Aurovilians feel so strongly not keeping these simple rules, they of course have the freedom to stop shopping or use Auroville services and do their errands and business elsewhere. It  would  great  if  these  simple  rules  could  be  accepted  and followed by everyone -whatever people’s private opinions are- without the necessity to enforce them.

Stay Healthy!  ~ L.

I have a lot of questions about this piece of writing. What exactly is heroic about sitting in a self-appointed group passing down rules from the Central Government to The City The Earth Needs?  Why are those who work for a wage called selfless, and inhowfar does their self-torturing behaviour make a good example for everyone? It is certainly not ok to accuse or even shout at them, but where is all the rage coming from, did you ever wonder? From the threat of enforcement of 'voluntary' obedience, perhaps? Where can they go when all public doors are marked with Get-lost signs? Can they visit alternative offices when there aren't any? Are they supposed to starve to death in their homes? What has become of the Aurovilian pride in all the non-allopathic methods and ways of healing we once practiced? Once there were Chinese, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, Homeopathic, Yogic, Shamanic and all kinds of ways, now there is only one, the control-obsessed Western-orthodox approach, or rather a perverted politicised version of it that defies all scientific and common-sense understanding.


Despite the many questionable points in the above opinion piece, I'll focus on the topic of obedience alone. Mirra Alfassa, the founder and "Mother" of Auroville, also called the place The City At The Service Of Truth, and she made clear in many of her statements that laws, rules, traditions, morals, or religions alongside money, police, courts, politics, governments etc. should not rule its ways. A life divine, but no religions, as she famously said.


source: Pixabay

As can be seen from the following quotes, to no surprise, the New Testament as a spiritual document anticipates some of the things that the Mother, along with many other wisdom teachers, said about proper relation of the truth-seeker to rules.
Let me quote from Caley's book [in italics]; not in order to establish yet another authority or to argue theological points, but to give a perspective on what the insistence on obedience might mean.

What the Samaritan does is to step fearlessly outside what his culture has sanctified in order to create a new relationship and, potentially, a new community. He does not seek God within a sacred circle but finds him lying by the road in a ditch. His possibilities cannot be predicted or circumscribed. He lives, in the apostle Paul’s words, “not under the law, but under grace.” [Caley]

“We are released from the Law, having died to what was binding us, and so we are in a new service, that of the spirit, and not in the old service of a written code.” [Paul, Letter to the Romans, 7:6]

In other words, the spirit defines our relationship, not our man-made arbitrary rules. One of Illich's central tenets was that even the duty to help and the obligation to solidarity eliminate empathy and spirit from the good work. Before everything else, there ought to be compassion, not judgment. The person that comes to your doorstep is a person in need. Right action does not draw its direction from the norm or from fear of breaking rules.

“If I had not come and spoken to them they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." [Jesus, Gospel of John, 15:22-23]

While modern political and social theory has it that societies are shaped and held together by their rules, the bond of community is understanding. It doesn't mean that laws, traditions or rituals are absent in community, but that they do not have precedence over compassion. Through the message passed on by numerous voices such as the Buddha, Jesus, or the Mother, we have been made aware of our freedom to act compassionately, and that the strict application - not the breach - of rules is a sin:

Sin, in this new context, no longer means just a violation of the law, but something more — a coldness or indifference to what has been revealed and made possible. [Caley]

Don't take 'sin' for the religious crime codified by the Roman Church, but for the betrayal of the relationship established by the loving trust of the Samaritan into the commonly despised stranger.

“Sin,” Illich says, “is refusing to honour that relationship which came into existence between the Samaritan and the Jew, which comes into existence through the exercise of freedom, and which constitutes an ‘ought’ because I feel called by you, called to you, called to this tie between human beings, or between beings and God [...] It is not in any sense offensive of a law. It is always an offence against a person. It’s an infidelity.”

To value the law over the person, that is sin. Freedom, though, is not about permanent rebellion against rules in general, but about unrestrained acting in the spirit of the good: compassion, truthfulness, community.

Sin, on this account, is not simply an evil, or a moral fault. It is a failing against the Spirit, possible only for those who have heard and ignored what they have heard, and visible only in the light of that freedom that Paul says is identical with “the forgiveness of sin.” [Caley]


Stiftung Corona-Ausschuss: Erster Zwischenbericht

Seit ihrer Gründung im Juli 2020 hat die Stiftung Corona-Ausschuss 17 Sitzungen zu je ca. vier Stunden abgehalten. Angehört wurden bis zum heutigen Tag etwa vierzig Sachverständige und Betroffene der Corona-Maßnahmen aus den Gebieten Gesundheitspflege und -forschung, Psychologie, Wirtschaft und Finanzen, Verwaltung, Kinderfürsorge, Altenpflege, Polizei, Kunst, Gastronomie, Verbraucherschutz, Rechtswesen, Politik, Medien und Datenschutz.

Corona-Ausschuss (Live-Szene, © 2020 OVALmedia)

Dabei richteten die vier Anwälte, die die Stiftung gegründet haben und nun den Ausschuss leiten, ihren Blick auch über die Grenzen Deutschlands hinaus, u.a. nach Schweden, Belgien, Holland, Irland, Amerika, Argentinien, Italien, Nepal, Südafrika und Österreich.

Heute erschien nun die Kurzfassung des ersten Zwischenberichts über die Sitzungen 1-13.

Was die schätzungsweise dreißig Menschen zu sagen hatten, war erschreckend sowohl in der Tiefe als auch in der Breite der Angelegenheit: Von den Tests und Diagnosen über Therapien und Präventionsmaßnahmen bis hin zum juristischen und administrativen Umgang mit der sogenannten Corona-Krise häufen sich Fehleinschätzungen über Falschdarstellungen und Überreaktionen, sind staatliche Anordnungen kontraproduktiv, unklar formuliert, unverhältnismäßig, gesetzwidrig oder gar verfassungsbrüchig. Die meisten Maßnahmen tun nicht, was sie angeblich sollen, richten hingegen sehr viel Kollateralschaden an, der flächendeckend totgeschwiegen wird.

Darauf wies ja schon die Video-Dokumentation von Sebastian Götz hin, doch nun werden dessen Informationen nicht nur durch über sechzig Stunden Interviews mit Experten unterfüttert, sondern durch eine ganze Reihe bisher unberücksichtigt gebliebener Sachverhalte ergänzt.

Erschreckend -- wenn auch fast zu erwarten -- fand ich des weiteren, wie jene, die die Maßnahmen angeordnet haben bzw. lautstark befürworten, durchgängig weigerten, ihren Standpunkt zu präsentieren, was in den meisten Fällen bereits damit begann, dass Anfragen ignoriert wurden. Das spricht aus meiner Sicht Bände. Da wir mit den Positionen jener Leute aus den Mainstream-Medien vertraut sind, tat ihre Abwesenheit im Ausschuss dem entstehenden Gesamtbild keinen Abbruch, aber es wäre natürlich schön gewesen, etwas mehr über den Wissensstand, die Motivationen und Grundannahmen der Beteiligten zu erfahren, so dass man eventuell in einen Dialog über das weitere Handeln hätte eintreten können. Es scheint -- und da gesellt sich das Mauern der Verantwortlichen nahtlos zum gewaltsamen Auflösen von Demonstrationen, den verzerrenden Pressemeldungen, der situationsunabhängigen Durchsetzung von Auflagen -- dass ein solcher Dialog gar nicht erwünscht ist. Viel leichter lässt sich's durchregieren, überstülpen, verunglimpfen, denunzieren, zensieren, plattwalzen, unterpflügen. 

Und damit natürlich auch provozieren. Denn jene, die sich aufgrund ihrer besonderen persönlichen Situation oder ihrer inneren Haltung wegen dem Regime nicht unterordnen können, werden dermaßen in die Ecke gedrückt, dass man sich wundern muss, warum es nicht bereits zu gewalttätiger Gegenwehr gekommen ist.

"Wir wollen gerade nicht nochmal in diese Richtung, aber wir haben den Blinker schon gesetzt zu dieser Abzweigung. Noch können wir an der Ausfahrt vorbeifahren, noch haben wir sie nicht genommen, aber den Blinker haben wir schon gesetzt und die Spur ist auch schon gewechselt."
--Justus Hoffmann über Vergleiche mit dem Dritten Reich

 Wir verdanken es vielleicht Initiativen wie der Stiftung Corona-Ausschuss, Eltern stehen auf, Ärzten / Anwälten / Lehrern für Aufklärung, den Klagepaten, den Mutigmachern, Querdenken und alternativen Medien wie Demokratischer Widerstand, KenFM oder Rubikon, dass der Protest bisher friedlich blieb. Ohne die Möglichkeit, seinen Nöten Gehör zu verschaffen, liegt die geballte Faust als letztes Mittel des Ausdrucks (vor dem Suizid) recht nahe. In diesem Sinne: Danke, Doktorinnen Viviane und Antonia Fischer sowie Doktoren Reiner Füllmich und Justus Hoffmann, für die viele in Aufklärung investierte Zeit!

Rechtsanwalt Dr. Reiner Fuellmich fasst die vorläufigen Ergebnisse des Corona-Untersuchungsausschusses zusammen


Dieser Blog wird die englischen und deutschen Langfassungen ebenfalls verlinken, sobald diese zur Verfügung stehen.


When logic doesn't apply

The interviewer asks what she is supposed to do about the climate crisis, and Roger holds that it’s obvious. As it isn’t to the interviewer he gives a simple analogy. Go to 15:25 and watch for two minutes only, to see what happens when we don’t allow ourselves to question our lifestyles and assumptions.

Roger misinterprets Ms Ahituv’s not getting the analogy as playing games. I believe she actually *is* incapable of following him. She really cannot spell out the obvious, even though a three-year old could have done the mechanical repetition of what has been said in the analogous example. Because that would have meant to overthrow everything she lives by, for, and from. Confronted with preferences, logic does not apply.

And this inability to simply go through an hypothetical exercise has nothing to do with the correctness of the assumptions around anthropogenic CO2 emissions as the main driver of global temperature increase. (I no longer believe in those, either.) We find the same deficiency in everyday life whenever it’s about inquiring root causes and putting into practice what we find out, be it about environmental destruction, the wealth gap, the Corona regime, patriarchy, corruption, or genocide. We know what to do about them: So far as we are concerned, to simply to stop doing them, participating in them, staying quiet about them, endorsing them. What’s complicated about changing our own behaviour (rather than waiting for society to change) are our thoughts on how this would rock our boat and make us uncomfortable at first. We don’t know what to do without our comforts, and we wouldn’t dare to think how life could be arranged in different ways. Our unwillingness to question our preferences, assumptions and the stuff we deem “obviously real” kills not only our culture of reasonable discussion, it kills life on this planet in wholesale.

The reason why I hold that civilized culture and a good measure of its members are completely insane is this pathological inability to shed the distorted, delusional, dysfunctional sense of self which guides our thoughts and actions.


A gentle reminder

or, Here be long sentences.
Having spent nearly three months in complete seclusion from the outside world, alongside a next-to-perfect disappearance of electronic communication channels for most of that period, I had a lot of time to think about, and feel into, the so-called Corona crisis. It was a time of intense joy over the increased quality of life, owed to civilization's coming to an almost complete halt, and it was also a time of intense agony over what my growing understanding of the crisis brought to light, both in terms of outer truths and of the resurfacing of psychological traumas. In short, I shifted from ordinary grief via excited free-fall to deep fatigue followed by burning rage within a few weeks only.

As I haven't been bombarded with the news as heavily as most of you were. I was enough at ease to ask questions and look for the answers in places that were not mediated, not agitated, not trying to pull me one way or another. When there was opportunity I also did some research, and I could draw from having witnessed first-hand the severe Influenza pandemic of 1996 during my service as a state-qualified geriatric nurse, when most of the personnel including myself got sick and seven inmates died before my eyes.

From the evidence I saw I came to a conclusion that not only positioned me on the side of the critics of the shoddy science behind the corona scare, but caused me to disobey orders.

What's more – and this is my meta-critique to the situation – the factuality of the health threat becomes a side issue when regarded from a different angle.

I direct my hardline opposition to the Corona regime first and foremost against the fear-mongering, health-impeding, manipulative, cruel, out-of-proportion, brainwashing, dehumanizing, patronizing, authoritarian behaviour of media, governments and the people who regard themselves as their gate-keeping subjects, the Soap Police. I would sustain that opposition whether I believed in a serious health threat or denied it altogether. (I do neither.) What happens here – 8 bn people taken prisoners, many of them driven to the edge of existence if not actually killed, but kept from speaking their truth and exposed to psychological brutality – is outright WRONG and completely unacceptable to me, no matter the reason it happens for. This position is based on direct, lived experience, not on mediated information or hypothetical considerations. The outrage runs deep, for it has a valid foundation built from suffering and pain.

During those months, when anger gave me funny ideas, I wrote satirical pieces sharply attacking the regime: the incapability of allopathic medicine to understand life in any other way than mechanistically, the irrational fear of micro-organisms, the death-phobia, the permanent irradiation with disjointed factoids, the manufacturing of news, the total disregard for people’s needs, feelings and traditional understandings, or the pre-emptive surrender to the totalitarian order to shutting up anyone and everyone who showed even the slightest sign of disagreement. Where are those pieces? Am I going to substantiate my opinions and claims with official figures, scientific reports and case studies?

Well, apart from the quick note of last Monday – a few lines of concern and two links – I decided that first of all, we have spoken enough to that topic. For months all the other oh-so-important issues, from Russiagate to North Korea, from rising poverty to dying polar bears, have been drowned out completely, even in personal conversations and alternative media. I do not want to contribute to the craze by putting more fuel into the propaganda machine of either side. Let disagreements not come between us.

It's time to re-discover our common humanity and the huge pile of pressing issues we need to look at right now.

And what about the bright sides of life – shall we explore whether they still exist?

Secondly, although I was tempted to respond to some of my friends' postings and the judgmental accusations and authoritarian demands therein / thereunder, I decided to drop the matter altogether; I continue to take care not to comment on Corona-related issues, at least for the time being. I do have an opinion, and so does everyone else; so what? I speak up considering that others may have good reasons to come to different conclusions. This hurts only as long as one stays attached to one’s being right. Believe it or not, you have a better chance at convincing others of your views when you enter into an open exchange, allowing yourself to change in the course of it as well. Repression causes resistance. Always.

I do empathize with the utterance of concern in dedicated places. Those who feel the need for protection from Corona have a right to act accordingly and to discuss relevant topics without getting exposed to harassment, censorship or conversion attempts.

A gentle reminder to you, my dear friends, that, in my places and in my writings, I take the same liberty to express the truth I understand as you do in yours.

pic: Bijay Chaurasia, (cc by-sa 3.0)

And I won’t be stopped. It's fine by me if you signal disagreement in response to my postings so long as it happens in a respectful way. But some of you need to ask themselves why they are jumping at my bringing up the topic, trying to prove me wrong, when they rarely ever cared to comment before. If you think I''m principally fighting for Corona truth you are mistaken. The central theme of my blog was – and continues to be – the problem of civilization, the wholesale destruction, the distorted reality, the mental sickness, and the trauma it causes, and the illusion of separation it is based upon. Whether we are discussing healthcare or governance or economics or arts or racism or language or climate collapse, the issue at hand serves always merely as a case study of that central theme, and the next good example is just one media hype away.

My credo though – whether explicitly or implicitly stated – remains the same throughout: this culture will eat the world alive and turn it into poisonous trash. By design it can neither be sustained nor reformed; it will end, and soon, taking most everything and everyone down with it. Those who are looking for sanity don't empower it by listening to its voice, believing its media, letting themselves get scared into panic and then soothed by false hopes, craving its offers, buying its goods, working its chores, paying its bills, divorcing themselves from others along predetermined breaking lines, or by obeying orders; to no greater extent, at least, than necessary. This means, how to face the current situation – in which ever way you define it – should become more clear as you are listening quietly for an answer within yourself rather than from external sources, approved or not.

If you feel that you can't stand what I'm saying, if you believe that certain views are dangerous and must never get expressed publicly you have not understood a single word of what I've been saying all those years.

You've been following or friending the wrong person all along. Do yourself a favour, take a conscious decision now, like that fellow Aurovilian did who – rather than questioning me face to face – unfriended and blocked me immediately after my one-off posting. He's a wise man, knowing too well that I'm lost to the culture of make-believe. Saves us both some breath. In a few years it won't matter any longer anyway.


Dritte Auflage

Ende letzten Jahres, lange bevor der ganze Zirkus mit dem C. losging, überzeugte mich jemand, dass mein Buch “Mach was!?”, das ursprünglich für Menschen in meinem Umfeld geschrieben worden ist, vielleicht geeignet wäre, ein größeres Publikum zu erreichen. Ich habe daraufhin angefangen, entsprechende Passagen umzuarbeiten. Schnell stellte sich heraus, dass manche der Informationen eine Aktualisierung vertrugen und dass manche Punkte noch nicht optimal herausgearbeitet waren. Ich hatte außerdem ein weiteres Buch (mit-) übersetzt, “Klima” von Charles Eisenstein und diverse interessante Publikationen über Stammeskulturen und nicht-menschliche Intelligenz gelesen, Material, das sehr gut zu dem passte, was ich bereits abgedeckt hatte. So entstand eine veränderte und um 25% erweiterte Fassung, die nun als dritte Auflage zu haben ist. Hol sie dir aus dem Downloads-Bereich dieses Blogs, wo weitere freie Publikationen in Deutsch und Englisch auf dich warten.

Ich würde mich über Rückmeldungen freuen, und bitte verteile das Buch auch an Leute, die vielleicht ebenfalls Interesse am Thema haben könnten. Es bleibt relevant. Die Einschläge kommen näher.

Was leider nicht geklappt hat, waren neue Illustrationen. Trotz einer Reihe von Anfragen war bisher niemand bereit, sich am Projekt zu beteiligen.  Ich bin also noch immer auf der Suche. Bist du der- oder diejenige, die ich zu finden hoffe?

Im Moment läuft außerdem die Übertragung von “Mach was!?” ins Englische. Vielen Dank an die Menschen, die sich hierfür zur Verfügung stellen. Die Bekanntgabe der Fertigstellung erfolgt auf jeden Fall wieder über dieselben Kanäle. Ein paar Monate werden aber schon noch drübergehen, schätze ich.

Halt die Ohren steif, bleib entspannt. Nichts ist unter Kontrolle – jedenfalls nicht deiner oder meiner.


What is civilization?

With states closing their borders left and right, shutting down services and institutions for obsessive fear of spreading disease, the damage inflicted on the globalized economy has already reached epic proportions. The costs of one single month of partial shutdown, with no end in sight, is predicted to result in national GDP losses of min 3.5 to 4 percentage points, driving states into negative growth across the board. Stock market bubbles are ready to burst, currencies like the Euro and the Dollar teeter at the edge of major devaluation anyway, and the reduction of the aerosol masking effect, better known as global dimming, following the closing of numerous factories and reduced traffic, may increase global average atmospheric temperature by 1°C or more within weeks. Among the many pressing issues that our culture has brought about and is troubled by, these are but a few hopefuls (sic!) pointing at a near-term demise of the system of the locust, global industrial civilization. Don’t hold your breath, though; evil rarely dies that fast, but there is a slight chance that this might be my last blog posting before the lights go out.

Since civilization has become the central topic to this blog so many years ago, have we ever defined what we mean by it? The description of its origins, its workings, and its implications for the future might have done the job thoroughly already, but it may help if I summarize the essence of it all in a few sentences.
What is civilization characterized by?
The illusion of separation (in general), especially into Me vs. Other, and culture vs. nature, creates fear of Other which results in the Program of Control: the project to measure, name, appropriate, domesticate, manipulate, coerce, commodify and consume the natural world, and to defend it against all that is not (yet) under control.

This, in turn, leads to accumulation of all kinds, individually of e.g. stuff, power, or money, collectively to societies characterized by growth, with expanding populations, cities, economies, knowledge, regulations etc.

Civilization (consequently) manifests in the growth of settlements too large to sustain themselves (cities); this is where the word derives from, etymologically, in the first place. The dependence on a huge hinterland supplying indispensable goods to the cities creates the peculiar relationship between center and periphery, of structural violence, most obviously social hierarchies in which permanent institutions are formed, with a tendency towards ossification. Structural violence, of course, works only so long as it is backed by physical violence. Hence the permanent threat and fear of harm or death, resulting in the absence of freedom, equality, brotherhood. As these are the indispensable birth rights and everlasting conditions of the existence of all living beings (to the point where wild humans have no name for those because they are, to them, like water to fish), we elevate them to the status of divine values, but we are unable to achieve them through the system which causes their absence. Historically, mass war, mass oppression, mass famine, mass slavery, mass poverty, patriarchy, and large-scale habitat degradation, among many other issues, have been constant companions to civilization from its very beginnings.

Why have we never been able to solve those problems? From the analysis of civilizations’ origin, history, and current manifestation, regarding the logic within its workings, I cannot help but disagree with the notion that we were “not civilized yet,” because as far as the above mentioned definitions matter we have reached the ultimate apex of our culture, the maximization of separation (social distancing, anybody?), knowledge acquirement (science our religion, surveillance state), population size (8bn), energy consumption, and territorial expansion. The wild, the divine, and the mysterious have been diminished to negligible size, to marginal existence. Not much more seems possible in terms of civilizing the world – and we are suspended over a cliff. From here on, downwards.
[public domain]
This is true even for Auroville, a township developed to manifest the Divine within physical civilized existence. The relentless forces built into our culture’s mechanism are dragging the community-at-large along without mercy. It shows that the basic condition for joining Auroville, “to be of good will,” does suffice neither to halt nor to reverse the accelerated transformation of the world into goods and services, the spiritual impoverishment, or the psychological sliding into insanity. Attempting to swim against that powerful current, on the individual level, comes at the expense of one’s standing, livelihood, and eventually membership in this club.

So to say that all the damage done was avoidable – could be avoided in the future – means that one overlooks the nature of the project called civilization. It’s not despite our best efforts that we have reached a breaking point, but because of them. All of this does not happen because of ill-informed decisions, bad luck, or evil intentions on the side of the ruling elites but because of regularities baked into the cake. Every civilization has developed a bit differently, but every single one of them which has not been swallowed by the Western model has collapsed as a result of the same shortcomings that our culture possesses. Don’t blame it on the wild, the untamed, the un-civilized which seeks to liberate itself from the shackles of our culture; blame it on this culture which has oppressed freedom, equality and brotherhood for ten millennia in a row.

Wild peoples have always been aware of the problem with our ways; they rarely gave up their ways for city living voluntarily. Early states, as we know today, had to forcefully conscript their population into staying put, and they habitually disappeared from the map as a result of people defecting in avoidance of slavery, drudgery, repetitive work, sickness, malnourishment, famine, and oppression. Contemporary neighbouring tribals, archaeological evidence shows, fared much better; they grew stronger and larger, lived longer, had less skeletal deformations, less signs of sickness and hunger and seemed to suffer lower mortality rates at a young age. 
The other day I had a few conversations which indicated to me that the word civilization, despite the all-encompassing harm it does to the conditions of existence both of humans and their habitat still, in the mind of most people, is connected to positive views, values, and hopes: civilization, the guarantor of life, liberty, and harmony, as well as arts, rational science, and a thriving economy.

From the times when the term has been coined as a descriptor for our “ascending” culture – as opposed to the “primitive tribals” it has colonized – which informs today’s (mis-) understanding of what life is about within or outside of civilization, it is understandable that people feel concerned when thinking about the end of the world they have grown up with. You may regard it as a fallback into inferior ways of living, or you may look sorrowfully to the turmoil that the transition to another way of living almost certainly brings about. I do understand those concerns, yet it must also be clear that civilization is inherently unsustainable; it will collapse anyway. So what do you mean when you say we must build a better civilization? It is basically the same question as, What is it that you want to sustain when you are talking of sustainable living?

The answer might be that it is not civilization which is worth saving, but some of the above-mentioned values, and those are, as indicated, the birth right of every man, animal and plant. Not only do they not require civilization, they require its absence. In the absence of civilization, life – nature – thrives.

While every major change does indeed feel uncomfortable and bears the risk of violent outbreaks the one to blame, in this case, is civilization itself. No matter the good that you may attribute to civilization, ask yourself whether that justifies the quadrillion-fold suffering imposed on man, plant, animal, land, and sea, constantly, like that Orwellian boot in the face – forever.
I liken this to what my grandparents have related from their youth under the Nazi regime. Stating that not everything about Hitler had been bad they may simply have tried to convey the feeling that pervaded society at the time. It left me with the impression, though, that somehow they wanted to justify their silence in the face of surveillance, injustice, tyranny, eugenics, political murder, genocide, and war, as if economic success, autobahns, boy scout expeditions or the restoration of national pride had been worth all of that.

Seeing the world of today as it presents itself to me I cannot avoid noticing how much toward worse than back in the mid-20th century the situation has evolved. Considering the price this world pays for our food preferences, egocentric attitudes, computer obsession, mobility addiction etc., where am I standing in the overall picture? Personally, as much as I like to read a good book in my bed after dark, I would gladly give away scriptures, mattresses, pillows, electricity, lightbulbs and all the rest of civilized technology as the price for the restoration of humanity’s nature and place in the Universe. But that’s just me, one man wielding power over his own life alone.


"Are you happy now?"

Frankly, no matter the consequences, the end of the uglification of the planet will be a great relief as such. Which doesn't mean we are looking forward to the suffering that collapse brings with it.
It wasn't primitivists, anyway, who asked for densely populated places.
It wasn't anarchists who instigated globalization.
It wasn't tribalists who industrialized the world.
It wasn't animists who created the conditions for generally decreased healthiness of the human population. We had no say in it. We have been ridiculed, brushed aside, conquered, censored, silenced, threatened, killed when we warned of the outcome we have been expecting since a long time.

It was civilization itself that has brought about the situation we are in, and the situation we are in is only the logical consequence of what civilization is standing for since its very beginning: the idea of separation, materialism, utilitarianism, perpetual growth, governance, coercion, patriarchy, competition, selfishness and all the rest of it.

So are YOU happy, you folks who still think that this kind of society was a good idea?

Both questions are meaningless, the one you asked me, and the one I could ask you in return. We each had our preferences, but we both had no power over which path the world would take. When civilization collapses we each do have the choice whether we want to extend and whip up the suffering by resisting the decay, or we face it calmly, keeping an eye on lowering the burden on everyone around us, including the non-human world.


The Negro debate all over again

Two negroes are taking a walk in the woods. Suddenly one of them exclaims, “Look, there's a mushroom!” – “So what!?” says the mushroom.

Such runs a Sponti joke I've heard back at school; it stuck in my mind ever since. The absurdity of the described situation is hilarious as such, the choice of words is peculiar, and the multi-layered observation embedded in it is highly accurate.
What is your immediate response to it? Are you taking offense by my using the n-word? Or do you see the underlying satirical remark on people pointing fingers at something that (or someone who) is disturbing their perceived state of normalcy?
When I grew up in Germany's seventies and eighties people would stand and stare at anyone and anything that seemed sort of off of what they were used to encounter: people of colour, long-haired men, bald-headed women, patchwork clothing, homeless folks, Turkish couples (her dressed in a chador or hijab, following two paces behind him), sports roadsters, wheelchair drivers, atheists, unmarried mothers, or two-headed cats, to name few typical examples. The Spontis – leftist political activists of the students' and pupils' movements in Germany who thought that spontaneity and humour were revolutionary elements – with their above-quoted joke pinpointed the discriminatory finger-pointing goggle-eyedness and threw it back at a blaming and shaming duplicitous society. “Everyone's a stranger – somewhere,” the Spontis noted accurately.
One would think that those times are over. But not only does discriminatory thought persist in backward countries like Japan where I – the tall blond long-haired stranger – got photographed and giggled at underhandedly on the Tokyo metro, and in India where I get invited to random people's weddings or excluded from farmers' meetings merely because I'm fair-skinned; the discrimination in our heads survived in Germany just as well as anywhere else. That it's not showing as obviously today as it did in the seventies and eighties doesn't mean a thing. What we are engaged in since the nineties are political correctness (pc) debates which in their mind-fucking sneakiness are far worse than the obvious separation and animosity of earlier decades.
On the surface pc seems to address discrimination against others by shaming the use of certain vocabulary while underneath the emphasis on the right to be different crystallizes the specific phenomena of human existence – skin colours, sexual preferences, religious beliefs, nationalities and what not – into distinct identities such as politics, genders or races. For example, as pc does not address racism as such, merely its ways to express itself, a politically-correct racist simply takes over the new pc lingo for spewing hatred against people of colour. And thus we shift from nigger to negro to black to Afro to coloured to pigmented and so forth in a constant effort to evade the discussion we have to have in the overcoming of racism and xenophobia (as well as sexism, genderism, speciesism and other low-consciousness notions): that there is a focus on differences rather than similarities, that there is an arbitrariness to what marks someone as different, and – most significantly – that difference is perceived as unnatural or evil.
The terms used for pc speech – which are really the same as those later-on used for discriminating against others – are subject to a self-perpetuating process called the euphemism treadmill. This means that whichever correct term is chosen for a person discriminated-against, it eventually turns into an insult, triggering the quest for a new pc term.
The other day (sorry for being so day-istic) I have been writing a comment on one of my favorite topics, what makes wild communities generally work as compared to the multiple ever-increasing, ever-worsening problems that civilized societies experience. Both consist of human beings; almost everything else is different. With both populations being of the same species the traps of whether “human nature” exists and what it implies – the nature-vs-nurture debate – is irrelevant to the discussion. Me using the term “wild,” though, became an obstacle for people looking for a pc word pointing at the non-civilized. Someone argued that “wild” and “civilized” were the language of the European colonizer and that these words were discounting the deep wisdom and cultural sophistication of these “indigenous people,” as he called them. The whole notion of “wild” needed to be rethought after we found out that “jungles” like the Amazon, the Mayan heartlands or the North American west coast have actually been food forests, carefully stewarded lands at the time of European conquest.
Those were careful considerations, but like so many post-modern thoughts they have not been mindful of the difference between judgmental discriminatory dominator language and distinctions consciously introduced for communicative or research purposes. The use of “wild” alone implied “colonizer” mentality to them.
I have to admit that it is not so easy, these days, to tell the difference when our whole language, including ordinary words like “green,” “democracy,” and “free,” are getting hijacked by the corporate dominator culture. Think of the facebook “friend” and other “social-” media “community” fakery, think of “humanitarian aid” (weapons deliveries), “peace-keeping operations” (invasions), “health insurance” (enslavement to a system of chemical poisoning) and countless further examples from the Falschwörterbuch (German: fake dictionary) of Neoliberalism. More important than the face of a book is the idea it wants to sell. As all views are perspectival, all communication of views, all writing is in a sense propaganda, with the ambiguity of words (and images) used for this or that purpose. No statement, no information can be taken at face value. The recipients' job is to notice the sales pitch and to inquire within for the deeper truth about it. So let's do this as an exercise in the context of my distinguishing “wild” peoples from “civilized” humans.
Regarding “wild” peoples, there is no (other) word that is fully and properly including everybody we mean by it: modes of being that are not domesticated, not based on abstraction and abstracting, on strong hierarchies, strict separation of labour, state institutions, large numbers and growth, categorization, separation – in short, not civilization. The way I have put it in the above sentence suggests negative phrasing: not-civilized, un-domesticated, non-hierarchic etc., which I find weird because it implies a lack of something. In the same way, our culture could be called un-free, non-egalitarian etc. -- which I actually use sometimes for breaking the spell of mainstream vernacular. By pointing out in which way we find a culture wanting does not describe its asili, its core and ultimate cause of collective thought and behaviour. I would like to say somehow that certain cultures exist in their own right rather than being underdeveloped predecessors to the crown of human evolution.
In many of my writings I have clarified what I mean by “wild,” and it is so obviously not derogatory of those cultures – neither consciously nor unconsciously so – that anybody with a different opinion who notices it would have to wonder why. That the term loses its negativity anyway can be seen in the establishment of “wilderness reserves” and the emergence of the “rewilding” movement. While for some there is certainly a derogatory (or romanticizing) connotation to the word, it is the only phrase that people from across the spectrum may understand, while it is not reducing the “wild” to the negation (or lack) of “civilization.”
Is there no other positive term we could use for talking about the common denominator uniting the thousands of different communities outside of civilization?
  • I find “Intact” is a wonderful word, though it requires a lot of introductory explanation as to what it relates to. Basically, “intact” can only serve as a label in the face of disturbed societies, and it becomes increasingly inaccurate with civilization's progressing encroachment. The introduction of so much as a simple idea embedded in the seemingly harmless question of an anthropologist may already disturb social peace within previously intact cultures, like asking men who have no knowledge about fertility on the tribe's means of birth control.
  • I also like “free” as an attribute, but it would surely be misunderstood in the sense of our shallow civil rights.
  • Primitive?” I have used it, explaining that I mean it in the sense of 'originally, appropriately human;' its derogatory meaning “underdeveloped” nevertheless co-vibrates.
  • Tribal” – another phrase I like to use, seems almost perfect... if it weren't abused for “tribalism” (as in “groupism”).
  • Indigenous” (from Latin, born on the land)... well, no; Italians and British – melting-pot peoples – are indigenous to Europe, Japanese are indigenous to East Asia (though the Ainu have been preceding them), modern US citizens are indigenous to North America; it's a matter of where you draw the historical-ancestral line required for someone to count as “native,” – 200, 2000, or 10000 years ago – and it does not define culture, the issue I'm pointing at when distinguishing the wild and the civilized. The whole concept of cultural indigeneity / nativity makes little sense without its historical perspective of conquest, colonization, displacement, domination and elimination of preceding peoples and species.
Struggling with finding a positive vocable for non-civilizational cultures since years, I have come to the following conclusions:
  1. In principle, one word would be as good as another if it weren't for the fact that, by using language, we attempt to tap into each others' concepts for communicative purposes. So what I am looking for are terms that express shared concepts.
  2. European languages, especially in recent decades, have been altered to a degree that they have become hardly recognizable to someone from the past. In Germany, the expression “Falschwörterbuch'”– dictionary of falsehoods - has emerged, a word that implies that meaning in language gets turned upside down so much so that e.g. 'freedom' has become the constitutional freedom of subjects being allowed to chose their oppressor. Has any word remained untouched, untainted? I don't feel so.
  3. The Falschwörterbuch means to hide what's beneath, similar to politically-correct phrasing which hides (for a while) an ugly notion, basically the idea of separation. The “indigenous” debate falls in the same category as the “Negro” debate and the rapidly expanding gender alphabet (LGBTQIA+, for crying out loud!). As long as words are to express or whitewash the notion of complete separateness and dehumanization of Other there is no end to such debates. So when we communicate to others and interpret incoming communication, a word's meaning has to be derived from context and/or explanation. Therefore I'm happy when people question my wording. This is the moment we actually have a debate.
  4. Every word is a symbol for the “object” it creates in the mind, an abstraction from the world. The Latin root of “abstract” points out that a piece of the All is conceptually ripped from its context. As an abstract, symbolic representation of reality, a word both generalizes diverse phenomena, while at the same time it creates distinct boundaries where there are shades of gray. For example, “Germany” generalizes the many differences between regional ethnicities such as Bavarians and Saxons while it creates an artificial boundary to neighbouring countries such as France and the Netherlands where there live German minorities, derivates and mix cultures; it also reduces people's identity to being born within Germany's boundaries. Definitions of words are arbitrary, objectivity is an illusion. It is in the responsibility of each the speaker and the listener, to be aware of the virtual reality that words create. Without that awareness language-based communication, through illusory precision, paradoxically becomes more fuzzy than it needs to. The Falschwörterbuch's successful manipulation of our shared reality seems, to me, a sure sign that we are generally not aware and awake.
My aim is the raising of awareness and the sparking of consideration of what makes us the culture we are, and wild peoples the cultures they are. The search for matching terms continues, probably with someone coining new pc ones.
As for the ancient cultures of the Mayas, Anasazi, Songhai, old Zimbabwe etc, I would classify them as civilizations, as they were based on separation; they were practicing domestication and were held together by force, for the benefit of a wealthy elite. Consequently they collapsed after having over-exploited their habitat and overstretched their citizens' capacity for suffering. Obviously, Californian Indians, Mbuti, !Kung, and Aborigines lived a different kind of approach – which is what I'm pointing at when distinguishing between “wild” and “civilized” cultures.


Telling numbers, missing stories

Almost half a billion animals have been killed in Australia’s raging wildfires with fears entire species may have been wiped out. Ecologists from the University of Sydney now estimate 480 million mammals, birds and reptiles have been lost since September with the figure likely to continue to soar. Devastating fires have ripped through the states of Victoria and New South Wales in the past couple of days alone,“
Zoe Drewitt wrote on Jan 2nd 2020 in an article on Metro online.
pic: Pexels, free to use

They are estimting the vertebrates only, I guess. The staggering numbers don't mean much, though, in the face of each and every death being a tragedy of its own. Imagine your pet and multiply the heartache half a billion times, coming from the Australia wildfires alone.
Add to this, among others 300 million cattle, 440 million goats, 540 million sheep, 1500 million pigs, and 45000 million chickens slaughtered every year for human consumption, which does neither include the wholesale destruction of wildlife in the name of progress, nor the victims of global warming all over the globe.

The body count you never hear about might be in the -trillions- per year.
Again, each and every one a tragedy both for the victims and for those left behind.

As we the civilized begin to understand that plants, forests, rivers and soils, as well, are conscious sentient intelligent beings we become hard-pressed to rethink our attitude towards our own place in the Universe and towards non-human life on Earth.

I'm not saying that death as such or feeding on another being were in themselves somehow inacceptable. My point here is the industrial scale on which it's happening, the exploitative manner, the huge collateral suffering and killing (such as these wildfires, or the slashing of the Amazon forests), and, worst of all, our complete indifference towards it all.

If this is the price of civilization - and indeed it is - then it needs to be taken down and abolished forever.


Who killed the Egyptian pyramids?

Tesla is the name of a band whose music tens of thousands of hardrock fans love to dance to since the eighties... Really? Well, it's true, but I'm joking of course. The Californian band is just one out of many groups of people, most of them companies, which adopted the name of the famous engineer who, among other things, invented the Tesla coil, the Tesla turbine, the remote control and an AC induction motor. Nikola Tesla (1856-1843) supposedly built some kind of electrical car which could have revolutionized transportation from the early 1930s on had it been produced at industrial scale. But it hasn't, since the concept was stolen and hidden by one or the other powerful corporation, various conspiracy theories purport.

Two years before Musk's introduction of today's most famous electric car brand in 2008 – guess what, it's named after the engineer – Chris Paine directed the sensationalist flick “Who Killed the Electric Car?” This might have been a sneaky marketing trick, or there might be some truth to Nikola Tesla's ingenuity – after all he was an engineer, a word derived from genius – which supposedly produced wireless energy transmission, zero-point modules, and in 1931 an electric car which ran without batteries. Whether it is true or not is beside the point for our discussion here. The fact is that he might as well have, and another fact is that we just don't know.

Through the death of an inventive person we lose all of his or her knowledge that has not been expressed in text, formulae, or artifacts, as well as all of his or her potential for further inventions. Whether destroyed by powerful interests or lost through biological termination, the year 1943 effectively saw the disappearance of a number of technologies. 
Who killed the pyramids? (pic by Gregory Rogers, Pexels)
In the same way, we may assume, the death of a civilization brings about the loss of much of its practical techniques and technological knowledge. Not only may we assume it, we know it for a fact. History is indeed replete with examples thereof, some of which I will mention a few paragraphs on. Most of the times it happened unintentionally. Some of the times people chose to 'forget' the kind of knowledge they would rather not apply. As much as the latter concept seems foreign to the members of our culture it is a sane reaction to thoughts that may easily disrupt a community or a society. The Pirahã, a tribe of the Amazon basin, have been taught a number of concepts over the centuries, yet they keep forgetting the significance of Jesus' crucifixion or European ways of building a boat, for instance. The Inquisition, as an example from our own culture, put millions of alleged heretics to trial, killing tens of thousands of herbwives as witches in the process. Both the spiritual understanding of druids and mystics and the intuitive and practical knowledge of healers were threatening the Christian order of the time; thus they have been extinguished where they were found. The eradication of knowledge was thorough and would have led to the complete loss of techniques, had they been of the engineered kind. To our great advantage mysticism and intuition are kinds of ingenuity which, given a chance, return again and again as they are immutably part of our humanity.

Much of our technological knowledge today, though, is of a completely different kind – the kind I would call inhumane, alienating, and destructive. Sitting at a laptop right now, on the one hand I almost break my fingers over typing the things I'm going to tell you now; on the other hand I need to work with what I have, and I am not someone who believes that the master's house cannot be dismantled using the master's tools. The core idea I would transmit by way of this article is that both our survival and the wish for a humans-appropriate life requires us to throw away – forget – most of the scientific knowledge, professional techniques and engineered technologies in use today. Civilization critic Jerry Mander, for example, makes the case against computers, saying,
Most people, even those who see the relationship between computers and increased destructive potential, consider the computers themselves to be harmless. Value free. Neutral. "People invent the machines," is the common wisdom. "People program them, people push the buttons."
And yet, it is a simple fact that if there were no computers, the process of engaging in war would be much more drawn out, with a lot more time for human beings to change their minds or seek alternatives. It is only because computers do exist that a virtually automatic, instant worldwide war, involving total annihilation, even enters the realm of possibility. So, can we say that computers are to blame?
It is also a fact that if computers somehow totally disappeared, the world would be instantly safer. Even if atom bombs continued to exist, they would no longer have effective delivery systems. Pakistan could still drop an atomic bomb on India, but the presently envisioned, all-out nuclear war, which quite possibly could extinguish the human species, would be impossible.
I know that this is a difficult position to accept. Critics call it throwing the baby out with the bath water. Just because computers are integral to modern systems of nuclear annihilation, does that mean we must rid ourselves of computers? I am not sure, but I think so. This society upholds a fierce technological idealism. We believe we can get the best from a given technology without falling into worst-case scenarios of the sort described above. We maintain this idealism despite the fact that we have no evidence of technology ever being used at an optimal level, or even being sensibly controlled. – Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred, (Sierra pbk ed. 1992) p.73f
Considering that computerized data processing and electronic memory storage has become so cheap and ubiquitous, is the forgetting of computer technology even possible? It sounds paradoxical somehow, yet all it takes is a collapse of the global trade network, and all that takes might be a major currency crisis, a spike in oil prices, economic upheaval in Western countries, or widespread revolts of the Arab Spring or the Yellow-Vests kind shutting down neuralgic points of the world economy. Global industrial civilization is an intricate system the complexity of which makes it prone to collapse from any of the numerous possible impulses. It's not like this was outside near-term probability, as anyone who has followed world news recently must acknowledge. It is also not like this had never happened before.

Think of tribal medicine, or indigenous survival skills, or shamanic ways of knowing the future, all of which have been completely forgotten once civilizations had killed those tribes off or absorbed them. The same happened to Celtic druids in the early Middle ages, and yet again to the herb-wives a.k.a. witches of the late Middle ages and the Renaissance. It happened to the astrological, construction and transportation knowledge of the architects of Stonehenge, and again, thousands of years later, to similar knowledge on Rapa Nui with its Moai. What of the forgotten knowledge of Inka airtight stone setting, or, as one of the most famous mysteries of all times, how the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids of Giza? We don't know for sure how old those are and what they were originally for. One man's grave, that's laughable. We are not quite sure what the Greeks built the Antiklythera machine for; astronomy? Possible, but the know-how definitely got lost for the next couple of millennia shortly thereafter. With the collapse of the Roman empire its knowledge of road construction, aqueducts, high-rises, war machines and other items got lost during the so-called 'Dark Ages,' to be rediscovered only one thousand years later. Many skills known from the Middle ages till the 19th century, ranging from the area of raftsmanship to tawery to rope making to vessel mending to hand-weaving are unknown to similar professions today. Heck, we're about to forget how the steam engine and the Stirling motor are working. 280 years after Stradivari's death (1737) there is still research and experimentation going on, in an attempt to reproduce the unique sound of his violins, and technologies the Apollo program was running on have been lost due to negligent handling of data.
Who killed the Antikythera mechanism? (pic wikimedia user Juanxi, cc by-sa 3.0)
Who killed the pyramids? Who killed the Antiklythera mechanism? Who killed the Apollo program, the aqueduct, grandma's cookery, or Megalithic construction techniques? The answer in most cases is “nobody in particular;” It was merely the death of a person or a culture. In some cases, though, like with the witches' herbal medicine, the knowledge in question was simply too inconvenient, its ramifications too disturbing to allow its continued existence, and it was often our own culture which chose to make it forgotten. The oft-heard sayings that the march of progress couldn't be stopped and that the genie cannot be stuffed back into the bottle once it's out – they are lame excuses for a mental laziness and, worse than that, a lack of willingness to take responsibility for one's actions. The obvious and appropriate conclusion from researching into atomic energy would have been to abandon this direction of research altogether. As members of our culture have chosen – fully in compliance with its overall notion – to continue on their path to complete annihilation of all human cultures, extinct they will go. Given business-as-usual, and given our unwillingness to change we are doomed to fail. You can read the signs of disaster written all over our geo-biological, social, scientific, or economic systems already. Technology will eat itself, and society as well.

Future forgetting due to societal collapse would encompass the loss of industrial extraction and production methods, mass communication, nuclear power, high speed transportation, deep sea diving, space travel, plastics production, genetic engineering, bio-weaponry, micro and nano tech, computers and other electronic devices. As these technologies require resources from around the world, and as the global transportation system requires some of these high technologies for functioning, the industrial economy is unlikely to ever reboot once it got cracked. Its digital data storages will be lost, its analogous (paper) storages – the few libraries which may survive the immediate collapse – would soon disintegrate from the onslaught of water, mold, fire, theft, and vandalism. The biggest, most valuable book magazines would become least useful while most prone to destruction because its contents have been shelved in mechanical ways, accession by accession. With their electronic catalogues out of order they are, practically spoken, monstrous piles of millions of books in no accessible order whatsoever. As professionals die, professors forget, gears break, and spare parts rot or get lost our whole culture eventually goes to hell in a festival of human suffering. Does it have to end this way? Yes, perhaps.
Who killed grandma's recipes? (pic public domain)
Historically seen, technologies and techniques die out some of the times; some of the times they are getting killed before they can cause damage. We did it before; we could do it again. In principle we have that choice, yet systemic obstacles built into the worldview upon which our machine culture rests make it seem unlikely that we actually will. Jerry Mander points out that we ought to have a closer look at our technical systems anyway, to re-evaluate them from a holistic perspective, and that we ought to chuck out those which are found incompatible with Earth's sustainability and diversity. He goes on to say that
“There is no denying that all of this amounts to considerable adjustment, but it's not as if there were much choice. Truly, such change is inevitable if sanity and sustainability are to prevail. To call this adjustment "going back" is to conceive of it in fearful, negative terms, when the changes are actually desirable and good. In fact, it is not really going back; it is merely getting back on track, as it were, after a short unhappy diversion into fantasy. It is going forward to a renewed relationship with timeless values and principles that have been kept alive for Western society by the very people we have tried to destroy.
As for whether it is "romantic" to make such a case, I can only say that the charge is putting the case backwards. What is romantic is to believe that technological evolution will ever live up to its own advertising, or that technology itself can liberate us from the problems it has created. So far, the only people who, as a group, are clear-minded on this point are the native peoples, simply because they have kept alive their roots in an older, alternative, nature-based philosophy that has proven effective for tens of thousands of years, and that has nurtured dimensions of knowledge and perception that have become opaque to us. It is the native societies, not our own, that hold the key to future survival.” – Mander, p.384