Taking action is the most substantial behavior that we can do; first deciding on a ‘truth’ and then acting with all the strength and capacity that we possess, inviting others into our action and keeping faith with our truth.
Truth has always been – a hole-in-one; a hundred yard kickoff return – that rare, but not impossible event. We, most of the time, suffer along and sometimes win with bogeys (and double bogeys) and 3 yard scrambles up the middle. 3000 years ago people knew this: Tao Te Ching: “Truthful words are not beautiful. Beautiful words are not truthful.” Or a more present formulation: you get nowhere requiring a hole-in-one from every swing.
Increasing numbers of people are becoming aware that human beings, not just governments, NGOs, businesses or other organized groups, must act in response to the summary consequences of humanity’s presence on the earth. But what to do and to whom is far from generally clear.
Chris Hedges talks, in the voice of Derrick Jensen, about ending the industrial state. I speak, in the first part of this essay, of ending the power of the present elite – returning the elite to the common run – and the need for all humans to reduce their consumption. These are dramatic, “impossible”, yet necessary goals if the present construction of the earth’s ecology is to sustain.
Staying alive in a functioning relation with one’s environment is, for every species, a daily effort – diligence is required; effort and application of considerable skill (whether evolved Living Order skill or adaptive Consciousness Order skill). In my life I have seldom had occasion to more than lazy my way along; once solo mountaineering I was somewhat tested and there was that time with the mountain lion, but most of my “engaging” activities tend more toward selecting a good cantaloupe or taking care in crossing the street. The point: most of us are not well trained in being an active part of ‘big picture’ life – ‘little picture’ life is all that typically presents as opportunity; this is a forfeiture of our incredible capacities. For humans the requirements on our full capacities is episodic; we have to reconstruct our survival skills every few generations. It is always a messy process.
Action has basically two forms, one in which the organizing principle is contained in some large and essential part of the design and the other in which the organizing principle must be imposed by the Consciousness Order: the first is like falling down a hill and the other is like “falling” up a hill.
Growth, consumption, inequity, racism and xenophobia, religious irrationality and related actions and attitudes are like falling down the hill. They are all part of a matrix of behaviors that functioned in an integrated and successful way when inhibited by a strict and dominating natural environmental order, but they become biologically toxic when they exceed their evolved and adaptive boundaries.
Restraint of consumption, scientific rationality, material equity with all of life and related actions and attitudes are like “falling” up hill. They require an energy source and consistent guidance. The actions that humans need to take in the present are all “falling” up hill!
The various cacophonous realities collected in the preceding paragraphs inform the following propositions and arguments:
1) No leadership will or can come from the present political or economic order.
2) Action must come from personal and individual decisions to live in ways that fulfill human biological designs and capacities (specieshood).
3) The energy, direction and guidance to dismantle the industrial state and replace it with a human state will only come from people who are doing this process in their own lives.
4) Direct assaults on the industrial state from the industrial model of action will only create more consumption and environmental degradation. Direct action will result in overwhelming asymmetrical response from the industrial state.
Understanding the general conditions, while difficult, is easier than coming to actions to be taken. Suggesting specific actions is problematic; as people attempt to live in specieshood the actions available to them will clarify and they will be motivated and directed to them, but here are some obvious options.
Become informed: learn the basic science of life and earth. A familiarity with geology, general biology, natural history, atmospheric chemistry, ecology, etc. is not only important for people who will act “up hill”, but personally fulfilling. Walking through a countryside where the plants are known, where the geological history is seen in the landscape, is a most nutritious soul food. Our ancestors were raised in the poetry of this science; we may have to make do with the science.
Communicate: tell people about your life and choices. We assume that everyone lives just like us. In our isolated society it is necessary to say directly: “I ride my bike unless I have to carry something big and I am happier because of it.”
Organize: meet people of like mind. Do low earth-impact things together. Bring personal entertainment back to the human experience. Explore the talents of real and known humans in your immediate vicinity. Support each other in personal projects and local actions. Create and allow dependencies to reduce consumption and to magnify the presence of a specieshood devoted life.
Stay politically and economically informed: to survive, our progenitors had to know “everything about their world” – at least everything substantive in their daily experience. We today know almost nothing about the world, nothing about the forces that create the conditions that surround and control us. People living in specieshood would not accept this; they would demand to know.
Refuse to support the industrial state and the power elite: this is a very difficult goal. Since almost all food, water, housing, economic activity, movement, bodily comforts and protections, etc., are attached to industry and the elite, our actions of consumption need to be considered for the impact they have on both the state and the environment.
There are many people who would agree to the first four of these suggestions, but argue that we can bend and mend the economy to make it support the changes needed to stop the destruction of ecosystems and ultimately the biosphere. But we are beyond that, in both a broadly based willingness to consider such changes and the rates of consumption currently required by our large numbers. Dramatic action and reordering of economies and power are looking like necessities. Driving at a hundred miles an hour toward a cliff is not in any major way different than driving toward the same cliff at 60 miles per hour.
Finally, we must act, with the best knowledge of what is true that we can muster, against damage being done to this rarest of all places: our earth that has supported life for 4 billion years. Action will require sacrifice, as it always has: sacrifice to become knowledgeable, sacrifice of the ease that comes from excess and sacrifice of social acceptance and even personal safety.
The elite and the industrial state establishment are aware that human beings will not accept being further diminished and are preparing for the struggle. But this is to be a struggle like no other. We are not in a contest for the same levers of control, but for melting them and grinding them to powder. This has to be a contest to return much of the domination of the earth back to the earth itself; nothing else will do any more.