Tags: collapse

Are You a Failure? Are You a Loser?

Are You a Failure? Are You a Loser? I get sick of hearing how often we are referred to as "consumers" instead of "citizens." One thing you will hear over and over as both an insult and a dismissal in one, is that someone is "a failure."

What they mean of course is solely based on economic success or lack thereof. To them anyone who isn't "making bank" is (the ultimate insult) "a loser." People conceive of "getting rich" as the highest and greatest good they can imagine for their lives.

Using this "rationale," to these "unidimensionalists," those who historically did not "make bank," people like Van Gogh, Jesus, Gandhi, the Buddha, Tecumseh, Marx, Paine, and so on, were all "failures" and "losers."

Well, people who are forward-thinking have a chance to re-tool their mindset to better endure, survive, and even flourish, in what is coming. If your entire worth to yourself and others is based on your economic worth, then when you go broke and become poor, well, it's game over, isn't it? (Except for those who mainly focus on starting over "to get rich or die trying").

So if "making bank" isn't in the cards, make your achievements in the technological and ideological spheres. These should not be overlooked. And of course the social dimension of family, friends, community, and service to humanity is a whole world of possibility. Even economics isn't just about finances and "money," it's much larger...it's about trade, making a living, how you use resources, and how you live in and provide for the stewardship of your environment, including taking care of the land (and you don't have to "own" the land, in order to take care of it).

Remember, economics is important indeed, but anthropologically it is only one of the three legs of the products of human culture: economics, technology, and ideology.

If you "fail" at your finances, lose your job, your house...don't consider yourself a failure or a loser. Look at the rest of economics, because money isn't the end-all of economics. And achieve in the worlds of social, technological, and ideological possibilities. Even if those worlds are within arm's reach :-)

Beyond Orlov and Greer, there's McPherson

"Our way of life, and its supporting myths, seems to suppose that we have arrived at the pinnacle and end point toward which this 3.8 billion year experiment with Life and evolution has always been headed. That is the underlying implication. But is the deepest Meaning of life on Earth really only about us making payments on our standardized boxes in the suburbs, with both parents holding down unfulfilling jobs so that we can drive our air-conditioned SUVs to middle school soccer games, stopping along the way at our favorite fast foods franchise, finally to end our day collapsed in the blue glare of Fox News? Was it for this that we took this country away from the Indians, and turned it into freeways, parking lots, suburban malls and inner city ghettos? Are we dismantling the Earth, ecosystem by ecosystem, species by species, for no better reason than to make bankers, corporate executives, and hedge fund managers filthy rich? Are our excesses of appetite, all at the expense of a living planet, really the ultimate significance of Life on Earth? That seems to be our story — the one we are living in and doing our utmost to make real.

If the human species goes down, as in near term extinction, and we take out the Community of Life and the animate Earth along with us, it won’t be our extinction itself that would leave me inconsolable. Extinctions happen; species fail. Were I able to see with the long eye of the Life Force, what I would find irreconcilable is the incommensurability between the ongoing promise of Life’s self-renewal and the paltry, self-serving species that brought it all down."


The Trees are in Trouble

I have noticed here in Montana, increasing trouble in trees, especially the higher branches, older trees thinning out, and so on. Elms, ashes, and others. I was wondering if I was just imagining it or what.

I just turned 53. I and my brother have been helping a friend farm on his small place. He focuses on peas and carrots. But we put in an intensively intercropped variety of dozens of heritage plants this spring. You are right, that few like to physically work. I am overweight and ill, but I really enjoy it. It feels good to work, body and soul.

No one is listening. I see it all dying around me. I am an American Indian, and it is like watching my family die, but even worse because people naturally die, but nature itself is not supposed to die. If this is the end of nature, I don't want to be around to see it all play out.

What to Do as You Find Yourself at the End of the World

My own thoughts, about apocalyptic thinking and what one can do about the mess we are in, are very much in line with the recent essay here:

"Dark Ecology: Searching for truth in a post-green world." By Paul Kingsnorth.
Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Orion magazine

Kingsnorth essentially has come to the following ideas, which I excerpt here:

"And so I ask myself: what, at this moment in history, would not be a waste of my time? And I arrive at five tentative answers:

One: Withdrawing. If you do this, a lot of people will call you a “defeatist” or a “doomer,” or claim you are “burnt out.” They will tell you that you have an obligation to work for climate justice or world peace or the end of bad things everywhere, and that “fighting” is always better than “quitting.” Ignore them, and take part in a very ancient practical and spiritual tradition: withdrawing from the fray. Withdraw not with cynicism, but with a questing mind. Withdraw so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you. Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance—refusing to tighten the ratchet further—is a deeply moral position. Withdraw because action is not always more effective than inaction. Withdraw to examine your worldview: the cosmology, the paradigm, the assumptions, the direction of travel. All real change starts with withdrawal.

Two: Preserving nonhuman life. The revisionists will continue to tell us that wildness is dead, nature is for people, and Progress is God, and they will continue to be wrong. There is still much remaining of the earth’s wild diversity, but it may not remain for much longer. The human empire is the greatest threat to what remains of life on earth, and you are part of it. What can you do—really do, at a practical level—about this? Maybe you can buy up some land and rewild it; maybe you can let your garden run free; maybe you can work for a conservation group or set one up yourself; maybe you can put your body in the way of a bulldozer; maybe you can use your skills to prevent the destruction of yet another wild place. How can you create or protect a space for nonhuman nature to breathe easier; how can you give something that isn’t us a chance to survive our appetites?

Three: Getting your hands dirty. Root yourself in something: some practical work, some place, some way of doing. Pick up your scythe or your equivalent and get out there and do physical work in clean air surrounded by things you cannot control. Get away from your laptop and throw away your smartphone, if you have one. Ground yourself in things and places, learn or practice human-scale convivial skills. Only by doing that, rather than just talking about it, do you learn what is real and what’s not, and what makes sense and what is so much hot air.

Four: Insisting that nature has a value beyond utility. And telling everyone. Remember that you are one life-form among many and understand that everything has intrinsic value. If you want to call this “ecocentrism” or “deep ecology,” do it. If you want to call it something else, do that. If you want to look to tribal societies for your inspiration, do it. If that seems too gooey, just look up into the sky. Sit on the grass, touch a tree trunk, walk into the hills, dig in the garden, look at what you find in the soil, marvel at what the hell this thing called life could possibly be. Value it for what it is, try to understand what it is, and have nothing but pity or contempt for people who tell you that its only value is in what they can extract from it.

Five: Building refuges. The coming decades are likely to challenge much of what we think we know about what progress is, and about who we are in relation to the rest of nature. Advanced technologies will challenge our sense of what it means to be human at the same time as the tide of extinction rolls on. The ongoing collapse of social and economic infrastructures, and of the web of life itself, will kill off much of what we value. In this context, ask yourself: what power do you have to preserve what is of value—creatures, skills, things, places? Can you work, with others or alone, to create places or networks that act as refuges from the unfolding storm? Can you think, or act, like the librarian of a monastery through the Dark Ages, guarding the old books as empires rise and fall outside?

It will be apparent by now that in these last five paragraphs I have been talking to myself. These are the things that make sense to me right now when I think about what is coming and what I can do, still, with some joy and determination. If you don’t feel despair, in times like these, you are not fully alive. But there has to be something beyond despair too; or rather, something that accompanies it, like a companion on the road. This is my approach, right now. It is, I suppose, the development of a personal philosophy for a dark time: a dark ecology. None of it is going to save the world—but then there is no saving the world, and the ones who say there is are the ones you need to save it from."

I liked what he said. It resonates for me.

So what is the companion of despair? For me it is a very old kind of hope. It's not the kind of hope most people think of anymore when you say the word "hope." It is not a hope that thinks people will change, or techno-optimism, etc. It is the kind of hope a starving wolf has, or an ancient human hunter who hasn't eaten in a week. You keep moving, looking for food, because there might be a caribou over the next ridge. Because the only other alternative is to lie down and die where you are. But hunters, the wolf and the man, don't do that, they keep moving until they cannot move, because there might be that caribou just out of sight, over the next ridge..or the next.

Talking to the Owls and Butterflies (1)


Let’s sit down here, all of us, on the open prairie, where we can’t see a highway or a fence. Let's have no blankets to sit on, but feel the ground with our bodies, the earth, the yielding shrubs. Let’s have the grass for a mattress, experiencing its sharpness and its softness. Let us become like stones, plants, and trees. Let us be animals, think and feel like animals.

Listen to the air. You can hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it. Woniya wakan-- the holy air- which renews all by its breath. Woniya, woniya wakan-- spirit, life, breath, renewal-- it means all that. Woniya-- we sit together, don't touch, but something is there; we feel it between us, as a presence. A good way to start thinking about nature, talk about it. Rather talk to it, talk to the rivers, to the lakes, to the winds as to our relatives.

You have made it hard for us to experience nature in the good way by being part of it. Even here we are conscious that somewhere out in those hills there are missile silos and radar stations. White men always pick the few unspoiled, beautiful, awesome spots for the sites of these abominations. You have raped and violated these lands, always saying, "Gimme, gimme, gimme," and never giving anything back. You have taken 200,000 acres of our Pine Ridge reservation and made them into a bombing range. This land is so beautiful and strange that now some of you want to make it into a natural park. The only use you have made of this land since you took it from us was to blow it up. You have not only despoiled the earth, the rocks, the minerals, all of which you call "dead" but which are very much alive; you have even changed the animals, which are part of us, part of the Great Spirit, changed them in a horrible way, so no one can recognize them. There is power in a buffalo-- spiritual , magic power-- but there is no power in an Angus, in a Hereford.

There is power in an antelope, but not in a goat or in a sheep, which holds still while you butcher it, which will eat your newspaper if you let it. There was great power in a wolf, even in a coyote. You have made him into a freak-- a toy poodle, a Pekingese, a lap dog. You can’t do much with a cat, which is like an Indian, unchangeable. So you fix it, alter it, declaw it, even cut its vocal cords so you can experiment on it in a laboratory without being disturbed by its cries.

A partridge, a grouse, a quail, a pheasant, you have made them into chickens, creatures that can't fly, that wear a kind of sunglasses so they won't peck each other's eyes out, "birds" with a "pecking order." There are farms where they breed chickens for breast meat. Those birds are kept in low cages, forced to be hunched over all the time, which makes the breast muscles very big. Soothing sounds, Muzak, are piped into these chickens hutches. One loud noise and the chickens go haywire, killing themselves by flying against the mesh of their cages. Having to spend all their lives stooped over makes an unnatural, crazy, no-good bird. It also makes unnatural, no-good human beings.

That’s where you fooled yourselves. You have not only altered, declawed and malformed your winged and four-legged cousins; you have done it to yourselves. You have changed men into chairmen of boards, into office workers, into time-clock punchers. You have changed women into housewives, truly fearful creatures. I was once invited into the home of such a one.

"Watch the ashes, don't smoke, you stain the curtains. Watch the goldfish bowl, don't breathe on the parakeet, don't lean your head against the wallpaper; your hair may be greasy. Don't spill liquor on that table: it has a delicate finish. You should have wiped your boots; the floor was just varnished. Don't, don't, don't..." That is crazy. We weren't made to endure this. You live in prisons which you have built for yourselves, calling them "homes", offices, factories. We have a new joke on the reservation:
"What is cultural deprivation?" Answer: "Being an upper-middle-class white kid living in a split-level suburban home with a color TV."

Sometimes I think that even our pitiful tar-paper shacks are better than your luxury homes. Walking a hundred feet to the outhouse on a clear wintry night, through mud or snow. That's one small link with nature. Or in the summer, in the back country, leaving the door of the privy open, taking your time, listening to the humming of the insects, the sun warming your bones through the thin planks of wood; you don't even have that pleasure anymore.

Americans want to have everything sanitized. No smells! Not even the good, natural man and woman smell. Take away the smell from under the armpits, from your skin. Rub it out, and then spray or dab some nonhuman odor on yourself, stuff you can spend a lot of money on, ten dollars an ounce, so you know this has to smell good. "B.O.," bad breath, "Intimate Female Odor Spray"-- I see it all on TV. Soon you'll breed without any body openings.

I think white people are so afraid of the world they created that they don’t want to see, feel, smell or hear it. The feeling of rain and snow on your face, being numbed by an icy wind and thawing out before a smoking fire, coming out of a hot sweat bath and plunging into a cold stream, these things make you feel alive, but you don’t want them anymore. Living in boxes which shut out the heat of the summer and the chill of winter, living inside a body that no longer has a scent, hearing the noise from the hi-fi instead of listening to the sounds of nature, watching some actor on TV having a make-believe experience when you no longer experience anything for yourself, eating food without taste- that's your way. It's no good.

The food you eat, you treat it like your bodies, take out all the natural part, the taste, the smell, the roughness, then put the artificial color, the artificial in. Raw liver, raw kidney- that's what we old-fashioned full-bloods like to get our teeth into. In the old days we used to eat the guts out of the buffalo, making a contest of it, two fellows getting hold of a long piece of intestines from opposite ends, starting chewing toward the middle, seeing who can get there first; that's eating. Those buffalo guts, full of half-fermented, half digested grass and herbs, you didn't need any pills and vitamins when you swallowed those. Use the bitterness of gall for flavoring, not refined salt or sugar. Wasna-- meat, kidney fat and berries all pounded together- a lump of that sweet wasna kept a man going for a whole day. That was food, that had the power. Not the stuff you give us today: powdered milk, dehydrated eggs, pasteurized butter, chickens that are all drumsticks or all breast; there's no bird left there.

You don't want the bird. You don't have the courage to kill honestly-- cut off the chickens head, pluck it and gut it-- no, you don't want this anymore. So it all comes in a neat plastic bag, all cut up, ready to eat, with no taste and no guilt. Your mink and seal coats, you don't want to know about the blood and pain that went into making them. Your idea of war- sit in an airplane, way above the clouds, press a button, drop the bombs, and never look below the clouds-- that's the odorless, guiltless, sanitized way.

When we killed a buffalo, we knew what we were doing. We apologized to his spirit, tried to make him understand why we did it, honoring with a prayer the bones of those who gave their flesh to keep us alive, praying for their return, praying for the life of our brothers, the buffalo nation, as well as for our own people. You wouldn't understand this and that's why we had the Washita Massacre, the Sand Creek Massacre, the dead women and babies at Wounded Knee. That's why we have Song My and My Lai now.

To us life, all life, is sacred. The state of South Dakota has pest-control officers. They go up in a plane and shoot coyotes from the air. They keep track of their kills, put them all down in their little books. The stockmen and sheep owners pay them, Coyotes eat mostly rodents, field mice and such. Only once in a while will they go after a stray lamb. They are our natural garbage men cleaning up the rotten and stinking things. They make good pets if you give them a chance. But their living could lose some man a few cents, and so the coyotes are killed from the air. They were here before the sheep, but they are in the way; you can't make a profit out of them, more and more animals are dying out. The animals which the Great Spirit put here, they must go. The man-made animals are allowed to stay-- at least until they are shipped out to be butchered. That terrible arrogance of the white man, making himself something more than God, more than nature, saying, "I will let this animal live, because it makes money"; saying "This animal must go, it brings no income, the space it occupies can be used in a better way. The only good coyote is a dead coyote." They are treating coyotes almost as badly as they used to treat Indians.

You are spreading death, buying and selling death. With all you deodorants, you smell of it, but you are afraid of its reality; you don't want to face up to it You have sanitized death, put it under the rug, robbed it of its honor. But we Indians think a lot about death. I do. Today would be a perfect day to die-- not too hot, not too cool. A day to leave something of yourself behind, to let it linger. A day for a lucky man to come to the end of his rail. A happy man with many friends. Other days are not so good. They are for selfish, lonesome men, having a hard time leaving this earth. But for whites every day would be considered a bad one, I guess.

Eighty years ago our people danced the Ghost Dance, singing and dancing until they dropped from exhaustion, swooning, fainting, seeing visions. They danced in this way to bring back the dead, to bring back the buffalo. A prophet had told them that through the power of the Ghost Dance the earth would roll up like a carpet, with all the white man's works-- the fences and the mining tones with their whorehouses, the factories and the farms with their stinking , unnatural animals, the railroads and the telegraph poles, the whole works. And underneath this rolled-up white man's world we would find again the flowering prairies, unspoiled, with its herds of buffalo and antelope, its clouds of birds, belonging to everyone, enjoyed by all.

I guess it was not time for this to happen, but it is coming back, I feel it warming my bones. Not the old Ghost Dance, not the rolling-up-- but a new-old spirit, not only among Indians but among whites and blacks, too, especially among young people. It is like raindrops making a tiny brook, many brooks making a stream, many streams making one big river bursting all dams. Us making this book, talking like this-- these are some of the raindrops.

Listen, I saw this in my mind not long ago: In my vision the electric light will stop sometime. It is used too much for TV and going to the moon. The day is coming when nature will stop the electricity. Police without flashlights, beer getting hot in the refrigerators, planes dropping from the sky, even the President can't call up somebody on the phone. A young man will come, or men, who'll know how to shut off all electricity. It will be painful, like giving birth. Rapings in the dark, winos breaking into liquor stores, a lot of destruction. People are being too smart, too clever, the machine stops and they are helpless, because they have forgotten how to make do without the machine. There is a Light Man coming, bringing a new light. It will happen before the century is over. The man who has the power will do good things too- stop all atomic power, stop wars, just by shutting the white electro-power off. I hope to see this, but then I'm also afraid. What will be will be.

(From Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man, by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes)

We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

The Hopi Elders Speak
We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour. And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore.

They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for.
—The Elders Oraibi
Arizona Hopi Nation

Election Day is tomorrow

HIGHLY recommended...Chris Hedges' column this week! Read it!

The S&M Election

Each of the four national bloggers I follow regularly get only part of the Big Picture of the Change we are living through, or at least each only posts about part of it. Kunstler, Greer and Orlov... Bageant was the other of my Four, but he's sadly gone now. Each adds to the picture. There are three BIG things:

1. Climate Change w/ Environmental Toxicity-Collapse
2. Peak Oil / end of cheap energy of any kind
3. Societal-Economic Collapse w/ increase in internal crime/hostilities/corruption and external wars over resources

Each of those bloggers tend to really focus on only one most of the time, sometimes two. I have yet to see anyone integrate all three.

By the way, I voted early already and I voted for Gary Johnson. I have voted for Bo Gritz and Ralph Nader before. I voted for Obama last time, but I am not going to be fooled again. If he'll run in 2016, I'll vote for Jesse Ventura. Heck, Chris Christie seems to be a good guy who can handle bad situations, so I might even vote for him. For me, it's not about platforms etc. because they all say whatever to get elected anyways, and then do what they want. For me, it's about the leader's integrity, humanity, compassion, honesty, and being with the people, suffering alongside us, and competence. I don't want anymore smoke blown up my backside. We need the ugly truth.

Speaking of stuff going up one's backside, I'm going through my colonoscopy prep today, for tomorrow's fun. For those who have been through it, no words are necessary. For those who have not, no words are possible 8-P ...So between the colonoscopy and Election Day, there is definitely a theme going on tomorrow!!

Archaeology's Lessons

What are some of the things that all civilizations that crash have in common?

Overuse of natural resources is a big one, whether because of overpopulation or waste or having some grand ideas that are held to be more important than living in balance.

Overpopulation... yep, we are there...
Grand ideas, ideologies, that are more important than living in balance... yep

When I teach archaeology, people are always asking why all those other countries had these great civilizations, the Maya, the Egyptians...and so on... yet Montana did not

Success is thought of as "progress" (whatever "progress" is...if you end up destroying yourselves, is it really "progress"?)

Up until the introduction of the horse in about AD 1650-1700, Montana's Indians lived mostly the same way, hunting and gathering, through different climate changes, changing only the species they focused on hunting or gathering. Certainly there were times they starved in the late winter and early spring. Yet Montana Indians lived pretty much the same way of life for over 11,000 years.

That's a different kind of "success" I'd say.

Corb Lund: "Gettin' Down on the Mountain"

When the oil stops, everything stops, nothing left in the fountain
Nobody wants paper money son, so you just as well stop countin'
Can you break the horse, can you light the fire, what's that I beg your pardon?
You best start thinking where your food comes from and I hope you tend a good garden

Getting down on the mountain, getting down on the mountain
Don’t wanna be around when the shit goes down
Gettin' down on the mountain

The truck don’t run, the bread don’t come, have a hard time finding petrol
Water ain't runnin in the city no more, do you hold any precious metal?
Can you gut the fish, can you read the sky, what's that about overcrowdin' ?
You ever seen a man whose kids ain't ate for 17 days and countin' ?

Getting down on the mountain, getting down on the moutain
Don’t wanna be around when the shit goes down
Gettin' down on the mountain

There ain't no heat and the power's gone out, kerosene lamps and candles
The roads are blocked it's all grid-locked, you got a short wave handle?
Can you track the deer, can you dig the well, couldn’t quite hear your answer
I think I see a rip in the social fabric, brother can you spare some ammo?

Getting down on the mountain, getting down on the mountain
Don’t wanna be around when the shit goes down
Are they goin' to ground on the mountain?

When the oil stops, everything stops, nothing left in the fountain
Nobody wants paper money son, so you just well start countin'
Can you break the horse, can you light the fire, what’s that I beg your pardon?
I think I see a rip in the social fabric; brother can you pass the ammo

Getting down on the mountain, getting down on the mountain
Don’t wanna be around when the shit goes down
Gettin' down on the mountain...

We Are as Grass

Psalm 90:5 (Translation by Charles Spurgeon)

Thou carriest them away as with a flood. As when a torrent rushes down the river bed and bears all before it, so does the Lord bear away by death the succeeding generations of men. As the hurricane sweeps the clouds from the sky, so time removes the children of men.
They are as a sleep. Before God men must appear as unreal as the dreams of the night, the phantoms of sleep. Not only are our plans and devices like a sleep, but we ourselves are such. "We are such stuff as dreams are made of."

In the morning they are like grass which groweth up. As grass is green in the morning and hay at night, so men are changed from health to corruption in a few hours. We are not cedars, or oaks, but only poor grass, which is vigorous in the spring, but lasts not a summer through. What is there upon earth more frail than we!