Monday, April 11, 2011

Don't blame the bullet

The rhetoric from some otherwise hard-core green anarchists suggests that it’s not civilization per se, but industrial civilization that is the real problem.  If we just scale-back or eliminate harmful industrial practices, we can continue to enjoy all of the real benefits of civilized life. 

I’ve made reference to the zero-sum nature of civilization’s “benefits” before: there is not a single so-called benefit that does not also carry commensurate costs that completely nullify the beneficial nature of the benefit.  Value-added anywhere is always value-reduced someplace else.  But more to the point, hanging the blame on civilization’s harmful industrial practices is like saying it was the bullet’s fault Lincoln died in the theater that night.  

In terms of salience, the damage that industrial processes do to the natural world is obvious and undeniable.  But even the most blatant and hideous acts of biospheric dismemberment—say, rendering millions of acres of land in Canada toxic to all life in order to produce a poor quality petroleum out of tar sand or vomiting untold thousands of tons of plutonium-laced water into the Pacific ocean—are superficial manifestations of something far more systemic.  The real problem is with the machine of civilization itself.  Whether composed of human or metal parts, the machine of civilization will always operate according to the same deadly logic: control what can be controlled and kill everything else. 

There is no “repurposing” or “reprogramming” of civilization’s prime directive.   

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