Derrick Jensen began his two volume ecological call to arms, Endgame, by listing twenty premises. His first premise is that civilization, especially industrial civilization, is not sustainable. Premise seven is that the longer we wait to do something about our situation, the worse things will be. In a direct way, the impetus for this blog is predicated on these two premises, with the important caveat that industrial civilization is merely a symptom; the real problem is the asymmetric distribution of power and the intentional shaping of social relations that underwrites all civilization, industrial or otherwise.
In addition, the posts here are based around five major assumptions:
Assumption 1: All creatures, humans included, are better off living in ways that are congruent with their evolved predispositions.
Assumption 2: There is a dramatic mismatch between our evolutionary preparation as a species and life in post-industrial civilization. Humans possess physical and psychological needs, emotional tendencies, and behavioral predilections that reflect our evolutionary past as social primates, and more proximally as hunter-gatherers. The lifestyles we are forced to adopt to accommodate the demands of the technological order of modern global civilization are so far removed from our evolutionary preparation that many of our authentic human needs are not being met, or are being met in increasingly deficient ways.
Assumption 3: Individual autonomy—the freedom to engage in self-regulation—is an authentic human need that is not being adequately met due to the mismatch between our evolved predilections for egalitarian society and the oppressive requirements of the technological order of modern civilization.
Assumption 4: The technological order of civilization is an artificial construction. As a mode of social organization, civilization does not reflect an emergent property of the human animal. It is an artifact of history, and not an inevitable manifestation of the cognitive or social development of the human species.
Assumption 5: The technological order of civilization includes technologies specifically directed at the manipulation and control of human behavior. As such, modern civilization is becoming increasingly corrosive of individual freedom and autonomy.
If it is not obvious from the title of this blog, my primary purpose here is a subversive one. But the target of my subversion is not a person, a political party, or an ideology. The target is the technological order of civilization.
Complex technology, and the artificial authority relations it entails, is at the root of all of our most pressing problems. It is important to note that I am not a Luddite—at least I am not fundamentally anti-technology. I am not motivated by fear of “technology out of control.” Nor am I motivated by fear of the dangers of specific technologies (e.g., nuclear energy) or concern about the direction that specific kinds of technological development are taking (e.g., nanotechnology, genetic engineering).
The dangers are real; as is our complete lack of control. But I am not here to heap scorn upon mass society or promote any anti-tech conspiracy theories. I am not anti-technology per se, I am anti-authority. Autonomy-annihilating distributions of artificial power and authority are my primary concern. It just so happens to be that technology is the medium through which authority operates. And our reflexive reactions tend only to make things worse: the reflexive response to any problem with technology is to create more technology, to sacrifice even more of our freedom to feed the machine.
To have any chance of escape from the oppressive grip of the technological order, we have to first understand what technology really is and how it works—or at the very least understand that more of what is killing us is not a cure. And then, just maybe, we can start to direct our attention to Jensen’s premise number seven, and get on with the business of dismantling civilization and rediscovering our humanity.