“Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.” – Endgame Premise 1, Derrick Jensen
I’m writing this just a week after the World Wildlife Fund’s annual Earth Hour event. As usual, I’m stunned and left in awe by the event. Don’t get me wrong here – I’m in awe not because we were able to defeat the energy companies and cause the collapse of an economy and civilization which survives at the expense of ecosystems and distant cultures. On the contrary. I’m in awe at the fact that people – well-to-do liberals, mainly – actually believe that turning their power off for an hour every year makes a dent in the levels of man-made carbon in the air. The fact that these people have deluded themselves to believe that a simple act like not using their television for an hour actually amounts to a lick of change. Yeah, I’m in awe. In awe of the culture of symbolic “action” in the face of huge adversity.
As has been written in these pages and screamed about on countless punk records, our world is fucked. From environmental devastation to genocide of indigenous cultures; from greed-driven wars to the mass slaughter of non-humans to the mass slaughter of third-world humans. All sorts of sick pleasures that benefit the privileged few at the expense of the world majority. And yet for some reason, the masses of us in the privileged part of the world who claim to want to change this can only come up with mindless symbolic “actions” to raise awareness or “change”. This just smacks of pure self-indulgence and ignorance of this culture’s role in mass destruction. Not to mention ignorance of our culture’s inherent privilege.
I don’t think there’s any conscious person out there who would deny that the so-called “first world” benefits greatly from the exploitation and wholesale destruction of the natural world. However, there is a big difference between awareness and action. Being aware of something is the easy step. Doing something about it is where a lot of us fall behind.
The left-of-center often talk about creating a “sustainable” world, where capitalism and “green” politics can work together hand-in-hand. A world where simply buying the most politically correct toilet paper is enough to sustain the planet and every living being on it for centuries to come. A world where reducing your shower time or not flushing your toilet will save every drop of water for eons. A world where the solutions are all so simple that you won’t have to risk your safety, freedom or your lives to attain them. Or maybe in the case of such huge problems like nuclear power or oil wars, you might write a strongly-worded letter to the newspaper and sign a petition or two. Or vote for the left half of the corporate party, and they will do everything possible to make sure their financial backers only destroy half of what they were previously destroying.
Oh, but maybe I’m just bitter. Maybe I’m just an eternal pessimist, or I’m not sending out enough good vibes to the universe. Maybe I’m not praying to my monotheistic deity of choice hard enough. Maybe I haven’t given pacifism and letter-writing a proper chance. Maybe I just need to reflect that energy company CEOs are people too, and I need to remember that all people are inherently good deep down. OR maybe I’m sick to death of leftist impotence. I’m sick and tired of watching this planet that we all inherited from our elders and nature herself get destroyed and pushed to the brink of extinction. Maybe I’m tired of the constant dialogue that never goes anywhere. I’m sick of those who claim to be allies condemn and rat out those who choose to do drastic actions against the system. I’m sick of those who claim to be allies who turn out to be cheerleaders for the system; who distract us with meaningless feel-good activities like fucking Earth Hour.
While we reduce our personal power use – for an hour! – the benefactors of industrial civilization march forward at the same pace they always have. Rivers are still dammed; power plants continue operating unabated. Resources are still gobbled up by multinationals. Forests are still levelled. The system continues operating, with maybe a slight dip for an hour. Oh, but at least the symbolism will live on! At least while the earth burns, we “progressives” can smugly sit back and enjoy our symbolic actions! Instead of lifting a finger (or other tool) to stop the machines of mass destruction, we will know that we truly made a difference by not sacrificing any part of our privileged way of life – but at least we sent a message!
Give me a fucking break.
This culture is a predator. We survive at the expense of other living beings (land, non-humans, indigenous cultures, “third world” people, water, air, etc.). Western civilization is at the top of a very sick pyramid scheme. Our culture’s survival depends on slaughter, exploitation, and other horrific crimes. As such, it is the responsibility for everyone in our culture who considers themselves “progressive” to do everything in their power to halt the machines in their tracks. Let’s stop selling out the planet. Let’s stop pretending that symbolism is stopping anything, while the board of directors for the World Wildlife Fund gets richer on our dollar.
“Get active, don’t stagnate. Work together to achieve change!”
-Another Destructive System
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with reducing your personal water and power use. In fact, please do. But for christ’s sake, don’t buy into the bullshit belief that it’s the only way you can fight climate change and planetary destruction.
Hey America! Soon I will be in you! My birthday’s coming up, and I want to spend it in Minneapolis… so that’s my first stop. I turn 27 on the 7th of May, so let’s go bowling or drinking or something sweet. On the 18th, I’ll be joining DRESDEN for a week on their tour. We part ways on the 25th in NYC. Come say hello! I’ll be the skinny Canadian with the hipster glasses. Travel plans are always changing, so I’ll keep you posted in my next column.
Doomed Society Radio has a website (http://doomedsocietyradio.wordpress.com) and a new home at http://brutalexistenceradio.com.
Hey, so it’s 2012. Why are punks still whining about the prices of punk records? Get over it – there’s more important shit to get upset about. Records cost money to record, press, distribute, etc. In the real world, the people behind labels/distros/bands have to shell out money from their own pockets to fund their projects.
This is 2012, not 1996. The prices of everything else in the world have increased multiple times in the last 16 years. It’s to be expected for it to happen in our scene eventually. PE is not the fucking enemy. Got it?!