Pessimism Vs. Rewilding
For the most part, I consider myself an optimist. I find it funny that a lot of people label me as a pessimist because I advocate for the collapse of civilization. When I say “civilization will collapse no matter what we do,” rather than see that as an opportunity for something new, they file it away under “doom and gloom.” I think these people have it all backwards.
[This blog forms a chapter in my book-in-progress Born to Rewild]
I used to spend hours in fear of the collapse and all the horrific images of the apocalypse. But the more I study civilization, the more I realize that as long as it continues to grow, it will continue to devour the planet. As soon as it stops growing, and begins to descend, life will reclaim and rewild the planet. In fact, I can’t think of a better set of descriptive words to refer to civilization than the words “doom and gloom.” The collapse signals the end of the doom and gloom caused by civilization and the rebirth of something sustainable.
You want to know what the apocalypse looks like? Go outside and look around. The apocalypse looks like alienation from your neighbors and family. It looks like eating food sprayed with toxins and than shipped 3,000 miles to the store. It looks like slaving your life away for mere pennies so you can afford another drink at the bar or puff on your pipe to forget about your slaving. Oh god, let’s not put an end to any of that!
Martin Prechtel, a native who lived with post-civilization Mayans, explained that in his indigenous Mayan village the elders understood that the buildings in the village didn’t make the community, the need for the buildings in the village created the community. For this reason, every year, they would take their village down; when you have nothing you need community. People helped each other rebuild their houses and in doing so strengthened their communities. They didn’t build their houses to last because then they would have no reason, no need for their community. Martin saw his community shattered when the government forced people to build houses that would last. Nomadic people constantly broke down and dismantled their village and rebuilt it elsewhere. The end of civilization, the collapse, means the end of alienation and the rebirth of community. Geez. I feel like such a pessimist right now.
Fear of collapse works as a myth created by civilization in order to allow people to remain in denial and cling to the system. Civilization wants you to think you need structure, satelite TV and loose-fit jeans, and that any life where you actually have to participate in the world will feel worse than the awful depression you currently struggle with. You want doom and gloom? The apocalypse came a long time ago. It just happened slowly enough that we didn’t notice.
I’ve seen a bumper sticker around that says, “No Farms, No Food.” This just goes to show how people in civilization perceive subsistence. Without farming, you’ll starve! No… You’ll garden, hunt, gather, share and trade with your neighbors and it will feel great. It may feel like more work than sitting at a laptop all day (like me right now), but it will feel great because our bodies expect and can easily handle that work.
This existential perception of collapse as pessimistic really only takes hold of people in “more developed” countries (meaning the countries that steal from everyone else). Rich people will no longer have the ability to steal from poor people. Doesn’t that make you feel sooo sorry for those rich people?!? They won’t have cheap IKEA crap filling their previously air-conditioned McMansion, built by Mexicans. I can guarantee you that people in third world countries do not fear the collapse of civilization. Those at the bottom of the pyramid, the tortured slaves who make our affluent, luxurious American life possible, will no longer experience oppression and can live more comfortable lives, restoring their connection to their land.
The horrors of civilization devastation and oppression will immediately lessen in most areas when it collapses. The rich will have the most difficultly dealing with collapse, as will those who live in densely population areas. Those in power, those used to living in McMansions and ordering take out on their cell phone, those who sit at the top of the pyramid have the furthest to fall. They will (hopefully!) feel discomfort as they have to adjust to a more normal, less decadent, less luxurious (at least in the civilized sense) life.
Believing we can encourage collapse and rewild feels optimistic to me. Yes, we have over shot the carrying capacity of the planet and plenty of people will die. Yes, that will feel terrible, but will it really feel more terrible than the alienation and environmental destruction and the “modern comforts” of sensory suffocation we experience right now? I don’t think so.
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