Tuesday, November 08, 2005

the gateway to hell is open

Sitting at the bar, the bartender goes, "that wind is something."

"yeah," I say, "its going to get worse too."

"the gateway to hell is opened," she answers and walks away."

There is no evil, there's only what's worst for us. For example, my dog killed a baby gopher and ate it. Squeezed its little guts out. Is my dog evil? If not, is the nature of life evil? Surely it must be, for momma gopher, brother and sister gophers, and baby gopher especially, who may have just opened its eyes to pretty sunlight before a sudden agonizing pain. That's pretty evil. But its good for my dog. He ate. If he was a wild dog, it would be really, really good, because an easy kill is that much farther from starvation - an easy thing to do when you depend on a volatile environment to provide life.


So what is just? The dog starving, or the gopher dying? Neither of course. Therefore nature must be inherently unjust, or maybe, justice is contained within nature, not above it. A cosmic justice would be that its all a dream, part of a grand motion where at the end is a surprise party where everyone reveals they were just pretending to have forgotten your birthday. That's only a guess, obviously. based on my feeling that the self-evident Beauty Of Life is a hint rather than a delusion.

And I can't really believe my dog is evil for killing a gopher. My dog is a lot of things, but above all I see the innocence in him. Neither do I believe the baby gopher deserved to die, or that its death means nothing, which leaves me in sort of a paradox.

And I don't think I can make a distinction between some kinds of bad being evil and other kinds just being acceptable destruction. Just because a murder is that much more despicable than my dog finding dinner does not make it more unjust. The gophers must be spoken for too. Just because we have brains and make talk does not infer that our lives are more precious than gopher lives. Momma earth loves all her children equally.

The trees are the only ones to have successfully explained this to me. They say that nature is composed of twin principles: creation and destruction, that in fact humans, (who are good at making distinctions, and favor creation (good) over destruction (bad) ), are the ones who divide the one principle from the other. In nature they are unified and form a larger principle - maybe you could call it "motion". There is no sin, no absolute transgression, only trajedies: worst variations on the theme. Unneccessarily destructive and painful, trajic because they are unhappy (at least to us), but in the end only the day to day business of being born or dying.

Keep in mind that the stars and the galaxies and the sun really do not care about whether you live or die. A supernova could knock us out tommorrow and that would be the last word on all our little struggles. Nobody ever believes that the rent will come due for them until it happens. I've watched enough people bulldozed over like trash with nothing more than a shrug to know this by now.

I must add that nonetheless I fully believe in bad spirits, but only in the same way that I believe that a cat plays with a dying mouse, or a person casually eats a cow that died badly in a miserable factory. Because there is no war. Only life, whatever the fuck it is.

She is not disturbed by your possible demise.

Friday, November 04, 2005

the industrial age

pictures are burtynsky's.

The political strife of the 19th and 20th centuries was caused by the same things it always is: land, power, protection of national interests and collapse of the social structure in the face of crisis. However, a major new factor emerged in this era: the struggle between political ideologies. Why?

Scientific power appears to be the primary source of this new conflict. Not only did fundamental discoveries take place for the first time in chemistry, medicine, physics, biology, engineering and psychology, but these discoveries were tied inextricably close to physical production. The consequences of which are commonly thought of as the "Industrial Revolution." In a basic physical sense, there has been no change in human civilization as profound since the revolution that transformed our very food supply from hunting and gathering to agriculture between 5,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The mass of human life was transformed within a hundred years of the 19th century from being predominantly rural, scarcely governed and unlettered to an urban, working class, newly "educated" and now dependent on the machinery of economics for their physical needs. In essence, human society and culture was so rapidly mechanized it became a completely new entity. The mass dissemination of information, (thanks to a new importance placed on literacy), expanded the arena of who could and could not influence the culture and its mythology. The humble and somewhat stubborn religions which had been taken for granted round the world for thousands of years as the basis for all inquiries into meaning, ethics and ontology were overnight awash with thousands of new voices, suddenly articulate, critical and ingenious.

Consider the power unleashed by industrializing a nation: massive quantities of complex tools and goods could be produced that could sustain a nation’s expansion in both scope and ability on a scale hitherto unknown to the species. This power was like a virus, spreading worldwide wherever it touched. A people must adopt these powers quickly, or vanish under their wheels.

As humanity’s capacity to manipulate the physical world grew, the competence of monarchy to administer the state crumbled. Industrialism had made possible the popularity of complex political systems, which in turn led to competition between these emerging systems for control within and among nation states. This force of raw power is one of the primary reasons that the 20th century has been the most violent in history. Any state, big or small, becomes at the same time powerful as it has never been before, and must acquire the resources to further its own process of survival against neighboring powers with the reach to coerce them. The result was physical coercion to an unprecedented scale. In a former age, when bows or horses constituted the tools of war, now were replaced by AK-47’s and tanks, in some countries within a generation.

And so at the opening of the 20th century new political structures were being proposed daily: America had proven for 100 years that one need not have a monarch to succeed in the violent sphere of world affairs. The monarch, once universally agreed upon as the only possibility for enduring governance, was now an impediment to industry, and sometimes even phrases such as individual freedom and equality were mentioned. Sometimes freedom and industrial development were blurred until they came to mean one and the same to Marxists, Capitalists, and Fascists, for entirely different reasons.

With the glamour of Monarchy fading, the late 19th century and much of the 20th century was a battle for a new, more sophisticated form of government. We find that the internal struggles of nations; their revolutions, purges and reforms, was as deadly and destructive as the cost of the two world wars.None of these new systems had ever really been proven. At the time, America was still in practice as oligarchial as the Roman Republic. The French Revolution was regarded as a disaster. So the new era consisted of revolutions and wars fought by men with a passionate fanaticism and/or idealism possible only in the utterly naïve, and with consequences that ought to be perfectly obvious. These new warriors and philosophers wielded the powers born from the sciences: airplanes, newspapers, electricity and of course, guns and bombs. All kinds of new guns and bombs... handing out guns to monkeys.

Capitalist Democracy appears to have won this struggle, and as far as I can see, that is alright by me. I much prefer it to any of the other systems, but really for one reason and one reason only: freedom of speech. Without it, in practice, Capitalist Democracy has screwed enough people worldwide that from a distance it isn't really all that distinguishable from the effects of Communism or Fascism. However, freedom of speech, in my opinion, is critical in having a humanizing effect on the state. This peculiar institution guarantees that the cultural dialogue will be, at least in principle, left free of control by the state, and free speech can only exist in a society that has free enterprise. socialism is capable of free enterprise, and a million revolutions has attested to the autonomy of socialists, but it has yet to develop a practical socialist system of free enterprise.

It is also alright by me that capitalism “won” (for now: the “end of history” is a naïve concept based on a standard of evidence usually accepted only by flat-earthers), because really there is a larger transformation than the mere structure of governance; as stated above, the industrializing of civilization, and we are still in the midst of this transformation. It has been such a violent and traumatic change that it is difficult to accept it wholly as being “progress”; its coercive aspect seems more akin to regression. But the transformation itself is such a profound phenomenon that catch-phrases like "Information Age" and all that tripe are but marketing slogans and fashion trends: this so-called Information Age is contained within the Industrial Age.

The driving force behind civilization, from agriculture to industrialism, is the survival instinct’s influence on the creative ability of the human species. Greater power over the physical universe is the survival instinct’s usual answer to solving problems. Power comes in many forms: to eat without fear of starvation is a form of power. The instinct, however, is not intelligent, and will urge power even after it has become an ultimately unhealthy goal. For instance, territorial animal species will sometimes kill an invader without hesitation – shoot first, ask questions later. This is a policy that is sometimes necessary, but not always. The survival instinct urges us to acquire and to control unrelentingly, on the basis of this principle. Ultimately, it may be our untamed survival instinct that leads to our fall.