War Machines Make War. Not Butterflies.

[I wrote this post on November 23, 2016 – three months ago.]

Did we really think we could build a war machine that would not make war on us?

It is heartbreaking to hear the reports from Standing Rock, from the undeclared war on the water, the land, their human protectors. And I wonder: Haven’t similar scenes been unfolding in other countries, and in American inner cities, at the behest of our war machine, for decades (at least)?

It is not that the mercenaries in North Dakota are doing anything out of the ordinary; it is just that they are doing it here. And, in my world, personal connections to people at Standing Rock are far more common than personal connections to those dying in our nation’s murderous raids overseas.

What parts of industrial civilization do you love? To what lengths will you go to defend it? What horrors will you have to witness, or endure, before you understand that carnage is not an anomaly for industrial civilization, a spot that will come out in the wash – before you see that this is what it does?

Eons ago, someone posted a want ad: Seeking a story that will destroy life, while buying off most humans with dreams or illusions of affluence. Required: Sense of urgency, demonstrated record of abuse, working smartphone. Wrap a rock with your application and hurl it at the nearest peaceful being. Bonus points if you score a kill.

Industrial civilization rushed to answer the ad. Pick me! Pick me! It said (though no one else applied). And set about accomplishing precisely the mission it was made for.

How do tanks travel from A to B? How do mercenaries mass at the pleasure of their corporate masters? How do tear gas cannisters, water cannons, rubber bullets, metal bullets, riot gear, get made? None of this could happen without money, mining, highways. Without the systems, the stories, the warfrastructure we use – for supposedly peaceful purposes – every day.

In Engine Summer, by John Crowley, Earth’s women have banded together, in the wake of a devastating industrial disaster, to destroy all the technology that intertwined to make such a disaster possible. In a sense, they have returned the genie to the bottle, and hidden the bottle where no one will ever find it. The few remaining humans marvel at concrete, plastic, and the like – objects they’ve lost the key for. They call these objects “angel-made.”

There is awe in this term; there is wonder. Yet no one in the story (as far as I can recall) wishes to find the bottle, or let the genie out. They know what industrial civilization has cost them. And so I ask myself: What’s my investment? What of industrial civilization, inseparable from everyday carnage, am I attached to? What would I mourn, if it were gone?

So much I would not mourn: jobs, phones, dollars, clocks. Recorded sound. Asphalt. Yet I hold on, as if I have aught to gain. As if I’ll receive my gleaming reward, slick with blood – someday.

Beyond Bounded Choice

Let’s talk about bounded choice.

Years ago, on my way out of Zendik, I read a book of that title (subtitle: True Believers and Charismatic Cults). The author, Janja Lalich, had become a sociologist, specializing in cultic studies, after ten years in a political cult that dissolved when the followers lost faith in the leader. In the book, she draws on her own experience, as well as her research into other groups (Heaven’s Gate, in particular) to show that cult members are neither stupid nor mindless, that they do think and choose for themselves – it’s just that great swaths have been removed from their field of possibility. So they operate within an extremely narrow range.

This last election, and its aftermath, have confirmed for me that yes, industrial civilization is a cult, and yes, its true believers experience, and act from, a condition of bounded choice.

The range of options was already dismally slim, before the campaigning began; it excluded (for example) a shift to bio-regional governance, an overhaul of a constitution designed to smooth the transmogrification of a continent into cash, and meaningful participation by a party opposing corporate rule. Then Bernie – who threatened to expand the view at least a few degrees – was shoved off the stage, and the pressure (in my world) to fall into lockstep behind Hillary intensified to the point of suffocation. Two choices remained: Back Her, or be responsible for bringing on the apocalypse.

Never mind that She too is a creature of the technosphere, which can’t help but chomp sovereignty, joy, leisure, and other requirements for health and well-being, with every beat of its frigid heart.

Anyone who insists you have only two choices is lying, and/or terrified you’ll peek behind door number three (or door number infinity), and/or hoping to stave off further abuse from a person or entity she or he does not yet recognize as an abuser.

Now, post-election, some are calling for a Love Revolution – sounds good to me! But, for the most part, the range of response seems cramped: Protest. Call or email your corporate stooges – I mean, elected officials. Rage against Chief Tweet-Tweet’s latest appointment. Boycott X department store. Take your money out of Y bank. Maybe that’s because pretty much every suggestion for “action” comes to us by way of the technosphere, which, despite its seeming omnipresence, represents a mere blip in the field holding all the many ways of knowing. What do the trees say? The insects? The fungi? How about the water? The soil? Our ancestors? How about our own souls – have we paused to consult them lately? How about our bodies, our inner teachers, our deep wisdom, revealed to us through sacred mirrors?

Take, for example, Obamacare. In my world, repealing it is heresy – how will X number of people access health insurance, and techno-medical care, without it? The bounded choices are: Fight for Obamacare, or suffer from lack of access to allopathic medicine. Okay, now how about let’s widen the field to include a few more options: Quit subsidizing the production of edible food-like substances (by paying “farmers” to monocrop, by destroying beings of all kinds in the name of “cheap” oil, by building and maintaining highways plied by long-haul trucks). Redesign human communities for local trade, and walking. Restore sovereignty to localities, which won’t necessarily be willing to surrender their “resources” (aka living webs) to the highest bidder. Revive our millennia-old relationship with plants as medicine. Reject wireless internet, with its EMFs and push towards isolation. Close schools and prisons, and replace jobs with mutualistic community-based contribution, so we can relax and move at a pace we choose. Replace house-boxes with commonly held farms, woods, and gathering places, capable of providing all the social nourishment we need. Quit subsidizing, and legitimizing, psychopathic (corporate) polluters. Begin to create the possibility of real, glowing, exuberant health – imagine that!

Can you?