Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!
So here’s your situation: You are a man about 10,000 years ago. You head off into the eternal forest to forage for some plants or perhaps kill a deer or something. As you are going along your way you happen to run in to another man and luckily he is able to communicate in exactly the same way you communicate with your family and tribe. He speaks to you. If Christianity existed back then you’d be able to recognize the scenario instantly, but alas it would not come in to existence for still 8,000 more years. It just so happens that on this particular day you are feeling a little sick and it is one of the more meager times of year for food so you’re feeling a little annoyed at the lack of success and energy lately.
The man tells you he wants to show you something. You swear you see his eyes turn red for a moment but then you think better of yourself, you still know people’s eyes just don’t turn red. And from behind a tree he grabs a giant ball that looks like its made of ice. Today we might call it a crystal ball. He holds it up with majesty and tells you to look inside of it. When you approach it you realize you actually see images within the ball. A potential image that flashes across the clear ball might be of the impressive city of Taipei (above). Not just cities flash across the ball, no. People do, their clothes do, lights, vehicles, airplanes do. Everything of our modern world flashes briefly before your eyes while you stand in the middle of the only thing you’ve ever known – forest. All of the different types of widely accessible food flash across the ball, clubs, movies, parties, sports all flash silently across the ball. You don’t know what to make of half of it, but you do know that you are in absolute awe of the powers of the people within the ball.
You look up and the man winks reassuringly at you. You don’t know what to say to the incessant images of indulgences and convenience. Who are they? How do they do it? How have they conquered nature? You’re hooked, you want to know more. The man looks intensely at you seeing you are ready to hear more, “These people have powers you can’t even dream of,” he tells you. You nod slowly in agreement as you look back down at the ball seeing what looked like people dressed up in complete body costumes floating with no ground beneath them in a black void. Then the man’s voice tenses, almost snakelike he hisses, “I can give you these powers.” The intenseness of the way he said it and what he says makes you snap up and stare at him. But the man smiles idly and waits for a response from you. You want to ask how but everything is so overwhelming you can do nothing but start to return your gaze to the mysterious ball of powers. The man continues again, calmly, “I can give you these powers and much more. Not just you, but your family. I can give these powers to your family and even your tribe. To anyone you want.” The desire for it starts to overwhelm you and make you lose composure but you are a dignified person and understand there must be something he wishes for in return. The man continues, “I can even give these powers to your children, and your children’s children… and yes to even their children and their children. You don’t have to hunt tirelessly and starving through the woods anymore. You can have all the material wealth in the world you want. There are ways to heal the sick, there are ways to live longer, there are ways to travel without a step. What would you do for such powers?”
“Many things,” you reply honestly.
“Then there is but one measly thing I ask for in return,” he says offhandedly, “I just ask for your soul.”
And that’s where our scenario ends. A deal with the devil! One of the oldest and most commonly told stories of humanity. Would you agree to it? Or would you disagree to it? Many of us who live with principles would claim to disagree to it. But let’s take a step back and look at our situation for a moment. Most people who use the internet are fully integrated within civilization. Chances are you woke up in your bed which was manufactured for you, and step on to the rug of your house and then go to the fridge to get something to eat which was already prepared for you by someone else somewhere else, then you use the toilet and step into the shower, then you get in your car and on to a road to go to a job which uses various technologies to service other people. You deal more with money than with all of nature in its natural form. Almost everything you touch from morning til night is an unnatural, man-made creation. We have officially created our own world within a world. Too cold? Turn up the heat? Too warm? Turn up the AC. Raining? Go inside, use an umbrella. We have a man-made solution for even the most whimsical problems.
BUT… is this at the cost of our very own soul?! Certainly that answer can not be positive as there are many different interpretations of what a soul is, whether it even exists, and whether it even has to do with religion or just spirituality. We can’t possibly prove that it’s at the cost of our very own soul simply for all the differences. It can be undoubtedly and unendingly argued on how beneficial civilization has been for the human race and perhaps even the world. And why shouldn’t it be? Can you imagine waking up tomorrow, flipping on the morning news to find the major headlines on all news stations: “ALL CIVILIZATION HAS BEEN COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY PROVEN WRONG”? What would happen? Would they expect us to give up our beds we just comfortably awoke from? Our houses? Our appliances? Our toilets? Our money?! Our roads? Our cars? Our governments?! Civilization is constantly unquestioned and pushed by humans for about the last 10,000 years, since the concept became notable along the ancient banks of the Tigres and Euphrates rivers. Basically civilization is popular. At the mention of dismantling it the fear of absolute chaos, loss of medical experts, thoughts of being starving and lonely out in the wilderness fill a civilized persons mind.
This is because civilization is the action of humans domesticating themselves. Why doesn’t the dog run off in to the woods to become wild? Because the owner has trained the dog since birth that to expect food, water, attention and meaning all to come specifically from obeying the owner. Surely if the dog was lost in the woods it would begin to feel desperate and worry about food when it missed his regular meal time. Dogs, too, feel the fear of becoming undomesticated when they spent their entire lives domesticated and following the simple rules of domestication.
And we still have humans on this Earth who are undomesticated. After the irritating 2004 Tsunami in which nature demanded to show off her power (which people constantly minimize) articles began appearing about how some of the tribes in South East Asia handled the attack. One of these articles focused on the Sentinelese. The Sentinelese are a fiercely independent people on an island in the Adaman Islands. Anytime their island is approached by a boat a rainfall of arrows descend upon the boat. They disdain contact from any other people or group and because of their aggressively defensive nature they have one of the most naturally preserved undomesticated cultures in the world.
This does not mean, however, that undomesticated people are bloodthirsty and aggressive people. All throughout civilized history the domesticated have come in contact with the undomesticated and many were kind, helpful, and generous. Some were not. Some complained about problems that civilized people just couldn’t understand. Instead of attempting to understand them civilized people dehumanized them, we decided to not look at tribal people as other humans, but as savage beasts, no different than the rest of the animal kingdom. Stories of cannibalism, unwarranted murder, dark magic, paganism, and insanity allowed the civilized people to either remain inactive on injustices to undomesticated people, and in fact become aggressive towards them. “Uncivilized” people like the tribal woman on the right (also from the same stretch of islands as the Sentinelese) have no problem walking around in the nude. Is it because she’s dumb? Is it because she’s savage? Or is it because she, like all the rest of the animals on the planet, have no shame about the body she was given and see it as a free liberty that she was naturally given to expose it as much or as little as she chooses? It is most likely the latter reason, the former reasons are just rationalizations for the civilized people who refuse to treat undomesticated people like people. In fact domesticated (or civilized) people are taught that naked is only meant to be thought of sexually and no other way is socially acceptable. This is such an odd concept. In fact if an alien were to visit Earth civilized people would have a lot of explaining to do on why they are so ashamed to reveal their bodies.
And this is the point – with all the good that comes with civilization, we must be prepared to recognize the bad. This is the soul that the devil asks for when mankind decided to pursue civilization. First of all civilization is invasive. Like locusts or cancer civilization is based off of exploitation which is naturally selfish. If we look at how the world is run without civilized humans but including undomesticated humans we notice that there is no one overarching dominant species. In fact with all the science we use to look at the history of the planet there has never been a single overarching species that permeated all other living beings lives… not even humans… until civilized humans came along. Undomesticated people tend to view the world very different from civilized people and they don’t feel comfortable exploiting. The definition of exploitation is two-fold. It’s “to make productive use of” and “to make use of meanly and unfairly for ones own advantage.” Now “productive” is an opinionated word. What is productive for one has the ability to be unproductive or in fact a hindrance for another. And in the case of civilization, civilization has been productive for people who are obedient and domesticated. It is unproductive and constraining for undomesticated people and animals. Many of these tribes have fallen innocently victim to the wrath of civilization.
When the “New World” was “discovered” by the West, those civilized in Europe were not interested in making a cultural connection with the Native Americans so much as they were interested in what spoils the New World had to offer for European profit. What drives civilized people to become invasive and exploitative is approval from civilized authority figures which will grant them more power within civilization. This power can come in any form that civilization offers it but is all surrounded by money. Does anyone else ever find it interesting that we fight, kill, steal, and work for something that is completely made up and has no useful value other than to give it to other people? Money does not directly feed us, wash us, shelter us, or satisfy us with any specific properties of its own. It is a product of an obedient group of people who call themselves civilized.
Civilization breeds dependence. What people were asked to give up for the riches of civilization – the science, the medicine, the material luxury – was their ability to take care of themselves. Slums like the one on the left just did not exist when people were undomesticated. And this wasn’t because they were anymore brutal than civilized people. Civilized people have created the largest wars in the world, have amassed more human and non-human deaths than uncivilized people, civilized people systematically kill their food with no great care given to anything but the sanitation of it (which is forgone in many parts of the civilized world), civilization has tortured more people and forced more people in to slums than uncivilized people. The reason I know this with absolutely no references is because slums, wars, systematic oppression, and dependence can only be overtly found in civilized culture. While undomesticated people fight they do not generate wars or oppression anywhere near on the scale civilization has done in its past and continues to do as a whole. If civilization were a human concept that humans were trying to “sell” to alien worlds it would probably be one of the most scorned proposals ever because of the poor track record we have.
Many will argue that areas such as slums are “uncivilized” but the fact is these areas wouldn’t exist if civilization was not around. Civilization is created by governments and leaders that demand payment, regulations, or relocations which is where slums come from. It’s created when a person or a group of people demand dependence on people rather than the land. The country tends to think it can fit in to the civilized world, and while those who caught on to the game quick all of their troubles became other people’s troubles… magnified. In fact even in the most civilized cities in the world, even in the United States, there are sections of which that reveal the victims and losers of civilization’s rules. Would these type of people not exist before civilization? They probably existed but the family members and tribe were forced to address the issue as opposed to avoiding it completely or putting it in to the hands of a system which does not handle them as individuals.
Undomesticated (uncivilized) people have a connection to the world that very few civilized people can understand. It’s the same connection the animals have to the Earth. Most civilized people will look at animals and tribal people shaking our heads in confusion and continue on with what makes sense to us… which makes very little sense to the rest of the world. To balk at this is to deny the fact that both humans and animals have survived… and survived well for millions of years without a single “convenience” of civilization.
Civilization also carries another curse, the darkest curse of them all. It will end. While there are probably thousands of analysts attempting to predict the 3rd quarter income of Exxon-Mobil there are comparatively few who are assessing the future for viability of civilization. In fact all the long run predictions for civilization are negative. It took mankind (and civilization) all the way up until the 1800s to reach a population of 1 billion people. By the 1960s it was 3 billion, and only 40 years later it was 6 billion. This is what is known as exponential growth. When does exponential growth become not viable? As the graph to the right shows – very quickly. Civilization has allowed people to continue to survive who naturally would be deselected to survive from nature. And this is why civilization considers nature its arch-nemesis. Who am I to say you don’t deserve your cancer treatment because nature would have intended you to die? Myself included, many of the people I love have survived due to the fruits of civilization. However that does not mean we are allowed to ignore the problem it poses. Certainly I’d be a fool to ask for you to give up any beneficial thing civilization has given you. “Nice try,” you might say, “but this is still the reality that I live in, and whatever the animals and uncivilized people do to survive, I do something different.” But one day the Earth just will not be able to support our man-made empire designed to forgo nature.
Some claim this is the point where mankind goes off to live in space. Hunting for another world to populate and live on forever… or something. This needs to be addressed: the human race is going to have an end eventually. Everything will have an end – you, me, the human race, life on Earth, the planet, the sun, even the Milky Way. Even if humans could get along long enough to lift off in to space being able to travel to another planet that might support not only life, but our life, will be quite a distance to travel. We will have left behind every thing that we have ever known – from the seasons, to how long a day is, to deer, Africa, even what our weight is. Everything would be left behind and we would have to survive first in a dark, cold, non-producing environment surviving on whatever meager meals could be prepared for uncountable years on a space ship. Others claim that religion will come rescue all the faithful and finally teach all those people who believed in other religions because they had family members and cultures that believed just as strongly in their religion as you did in yours a solid lesson in eternal punishment. But this situation is also unlikely due to the lack of proof that any divine being has ever handled this Earth.
The truth is even civilized people are very connected to this planet. We still relax from a cool breeze, we enjoy parks, many people have a favorite animal or pet. We belong to this planet and this planet belongs to us. Unfortunately civilized people have a hard time understanding that this planet is a planet that needs to be shared in order to not be cruel and everything against good human nature.
So what is this post about? It’s not about throwing everything away and going tribal. We’ve reached a point where that would not be a workable thing as civilized methods are so prevalent it’d be easy to manipulate people again quickly. As being products of civilization we have an honorary duty to make sure we don’t abuse our powers just because we won’t be punished by a man-made authority figure. Perhaps another sprawling suburb will ruin that much more habitable land for nature as well as suck more power and water. Maybe we can put all our differences aside as a global civilization and agree not to have anymore than 2 kids (preferably less). It’s important to focus on the positive aspects of civilization – literacy, knowledge, health, compassion, liberty, the ability to work as a team… but not use them for the bad parts of civilization – relocation, genocide, control, power, oppression, disease, destruction.
Sometimes the line is blurred and hard to see. But when you focus honestly about it and truly listen to opponents perhaps a decision can be made that is agreed upon by all while it may not be the cheapest and most convenient for any one person. This site will have many examples in the future on aspects of civilization that we should be focusing on making more acceptable to the planet, and perhaps regaining some of our communication which we have since lost with the planet. We had ancestors just like the Sentinelese with the ability to understand the Earth on a level we rarely bother to attempt within civilization. This leads us to disassociate ourselves from the Earth and make up things such as imaginary Gods that have given us the power to manipulate things with the ability that only nature has been able to before. The truth is however we do not carry the wisdom to create like nature creates. The sun, water, plants and the atmosphere all do their part, because of the properties of the Universe, to keep us surviving because we are products of these things. There is no mystery about that and since we already have the proof that these things exist, perhaps these specific things that give us life and allow all of us to experience this planet should be appreciated more, because even if you are religious every last thing on this planet was created by your ruler, so maybe these things aren’t as worthless as many people assume.
Civilization and its obsession with material wealth, its ability to put diversity, nature, and uncivilized people second, as well as its upshooting population it is unable to sustain is a deadly mix when it becomes too powerful. Do you think we have the ability to pull back away from war, oppression, unsustainable actions, in return for more understanding of the planet that created us… or not?