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The Lakota Sioux prophet Black Elk pondered the meaning of advanced society; he asked what it is advancing toward. Ruin in every sphere is the ever-clearer answer to his question. Almost daily we learn of some new growth industry that's spiking. Lately, these include binge drinking, obesity, autism, infectious diseases and workplace violence, not to mention the accumulating and increasingly predictable assaults on the natural world.
Small wonder, then, that academic journals, usually reluctant to discuss extremist ideas, are beginning to take primitivism seriously as a social theory. That is, a questioning of civilization itself is emerging as a consequence of the enveloping crisis that so many of us feel we can no longer ignore.
Even an examination of reason presses upon us. What we thought was an ordinary human activity turns out to be close to the core of the problem. And unless this problem is insoluble, so much that we have always taken for granted has to be critically examined. Solutions must be found and tested.
Some of this isn't new at all, but returns now with urgency - a return of the repressed, a return of that which won't go away. Consider, for example, the concept of "instrumental reason" as put forward by the Frankfurt Institute theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in their profound work, Dialectic of Enlightenment. They present reason not as a natural, eternal given, but as a human faculty deformed by the force of civilization, altered by the forcible suppression of Eros and instinctual freedom, so that work and culture could reign supreme. Following the thread, thinkers from Sigmund Freud to the anthropologist Marshall Sahlins point out that every increase in culture adds to the human workload.
What has passed unnoticed as just plain "reason" or "rationality" is, at base, defined by repression and domination of nature. This is reason's dynamic and its inner logic. It would be more appropriate to refer to our mental processes, suspended in culture, as "domesticated reason." Civilization depends on this reason for its existence and continuation.
Meanwhile, confidence in the future and joy in the present are among the casualties. Did they vanish as the collateral damage of our current trajectory? If not, then these grievous human losses must be seen as a universal accident, happening to everyone, everywhere. Globalization, anyone?
Think of other givens that we need to pick apart. How about the growing faith that limitless technological innovation and a synthetic, completely mediated future are inevitable because, after all, human curiosity is irrepressible? And yet an expanding body of knowledge reveals that our species didn't demonstrate such curiosity for a couple of million years; we lived with intelligence, but without organized violence, competitive accumulation, gender subjugation or work as a separate activity. (As examples, see Sahlins' Stone Age Economics, or the works of anthropologists Richard B. Lee and Colin Turnbull.)"Human nature" is another fallback non-argument that is trotted out to justify every abuse of power, privilege, greed and violence. It's just human nature.
The journey's getting bumpy and will become much more so. The last flight of the space shuttle Columbia offers a pertinent metaphor. The global system must come to earth, to reality, at some point in the not too distant future - and it isn't going to make it. That which is inimical to all life cannot survive re-entry, the necessary re-connection to the earth, but that re-entry must occur of there's to be any chance for wholeness, healing, even survival. Civilization cannot act as its own rescue vehicle. In fact, it's not about better technology; it's about Black Elk's question. What is the nature of this system, what are its priorities, and where is it taking us?
We're all passengers on this flight of hubris - though we range from enthusiastic terrorists to hijack victims just along for the ride. It's getting bumpier, on the personal, social and environmental levels. Hazardous qualitative declines are becoming dangerously erratic; nonlinear fluctuations warn of catastrophic shifts.
Some see the problem as mainly attitudinal: how we think about the world. Environmental sociologist Ulrich Beck, for instance, calls for a radical break in relations of production of knowledge. Certainly a new and clearer understanding of what is known is required, but the notion of production itself is deeply problematic. Massified, standardized, impoverished, technified existence must be indicted and opposed.
Nightmares of reason take root in and draw nourishment from the nature of this complex society and its addiction to an abused form of reason. Unless we can throw off the chains of civilization that imprison our human natures and alienate us from our earthly home, the crisis can only advance. In this, as in all of current culture, expect acceleration.
>That is, a questioning of civilization itself is emerging as a consequence of the enveloping crisis that so many of us feel we can no longer ignore.
Unfortunately, the number of responses to this thread does not affirm that sentence. heh. people are too busy with caesar's games or political-"science" as it's called in schools. haha.
>Some of this isn't new at all, but returns now with urgency - a return of the repressed, a return of that which won't go away. Consider,
The term is usually called the`collective unconscious'
>What has passed unnoticed as just plain "reason" or "rationality" is, at base, defined by repression and domination of nature.
notice how this line of thought and action attempts to subjugate death itself (gravestones. heaven/hell. flowers for the dead) through the denial of life's non-closure and hence people become obsessed with immortality, which is, if you look closer, really an obsession with a resource extraction/consumer based reality/habit. (ie there are no other world views possible to reason obsessed eyes..hate to use a pop-culture example but the matrix envisions a theoretical world where anything is possible and all that can be imagined is the exact same world we are living in...part of me just thinks "wtf? who would want immortality imprisoned in this? thats reason's nature, ie irrational...").
>How about the growing faith that limitless technological innovation and a synthetic, completely mediated future are inevitable because, after all, human curiosity is irrepressible?
seems like faith is the key word here as the word "curiosity" has absolutely no positive connotations in american culture. (for anyone over 3 years of age at least)
>Environmental sociologist Ulrich Beck, for instance, calls for a radical break in relations of production of knowledge.
Very interesting, but the basis of what this article says is that civilization and linear/industrial conceptions of "time" must be de-constructed through erotic love/sex (ie the Eros) in order to live in the perpetual present. At the most basic level the change would have to come about within, as Leary said, the most basic political unit, ie the family. It would be interesting to see more closely how psychedelics factor into the situation as well. It could easily be argued that psychedelics are (in some cases at least) a doorway to the Eros. But americans' puritan attitudes about fundamental things such as the family, drugs and sex are already deeply etched.
anyone else want to continue/contribute? or is everyone too busy dividing themselves over the latest hoopla on the electronic heroin set? eliminate the word "should" from your vocabulary. see the difference?
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