What Will We Need After Civilization’s Gone?

research gardenI‘ve received some interesting responses to my post yesterday wherein I said:
Paradoxically, the less faith I have in the established order and the ability of civilization’s well-intentioned systems to save us from ourselves, the more energized and exhilarated I become.
To which my fluwiki colleague lugon replied:
I’ve had that feeling. And even though I have never attended an Open Space gathering, I guess that’s the feeling people have in such meetings…Released from the bad, bad witch spoonfeeding us. Taller in a way. Note to self: What’s next?
He and David Parkinson and a couple of other readers refer to the feeling of freedom that comes from going into wilderness or otherwise finding yourself outside civilization’s influence, where things aren’t done for you, and where you have the self-confidence and ability to make your own decisions and be fully responsible for your own actions. YOYO (you’re on your own), he concludes. Perhaps a better acronym might be WOOO! ( we’re on our own).
The opposite of Learned Helplessness is self-sufficiency and the self-confidence it brings with it. Kal Joffres suggests that faith in something that imprisons you is what we call addiction. Like junkies, our deluded faiths (“I could quit anytime; it just helps me relax”) and our addictions, work together to lock us in — there’s no way out even if we wanted one, which we don’t. What we need is liberation from all five types of faith — economic (“the market will save us”), political (“the opposition party will fix it when they get in”), social (“a great movement of global consciousness is going to occur”), technological (“our ingenuity will save us”), and theological (“a higher being will save us”).
Lugon’s closing question “what’s next?” is the point many of us are at now. It’s all well and good to say (as I have) that we need to find people we would love to live with, and love to make a living with, and then establish with them experimental intentional communities that are self-sufficient, self-managed, ‘radically simple‘, and outside of and unaddicted to our unsustainable civilization. Most of us (including me, though I’m getting closer) are not yet ready for that. So, what’s next in the meantime? (Or, to use Getting Things Done jargon, what’s the “first, next action” that will set us on the road to where we want to get to, eventually)?
My sense is that it’s more self-change, oriented to prepare us for that bold and independent future. I’ve concluded that my next Let-Self-Change programs should be based on answers to the question: What will we need in the world after civilization?
I don’t think our generations (either Boomer or Gen X) will live long enough to see more than the beginning of civilization’s collapse, but answering this question now, and learning what we would need, could be both liberating (freeing us from the addiction to civilization even before we’re ready to walk away from it), and useful training for teaching our grandchildren, who will probably need answers to this question urgently.
Here are some of my “what will we need” answers, that are now directing my Let-Self-Change activities and learning:
  • Good food: Nutritious, unprocessed, unpoisoned, organic, balanced, and as much as possible native to the places we live or plan to live in. I’m reading up on native species and permaculture. My goal is to show my granddaughters how to plant a garden that is nutritious and needs no artificial chemicals or protection from the elements to thrive.
  • Durable clothing we can make and fix ourselves: I’d like to invent a computer peripheral that can sew, knit and embroider fabric to keyed-in specifications, that’s as easy to use as a printer. Perhaps we will ultimately need to re-learn to do these things by hand, but this is a step in the right direction, away from imported crap that has us dependent on oil, wage slavery and ‘free’ trade. We may also need to invent ‘wearable home‘ clothing that keeps us warm, or cool, in buildings that can no longer afford the wasteful luxury of heating and air conditioning thousands of cubic feet of leaky space.
  • Warmth and electricity: I’m learning that solar technology is jumping ahead of wind technology, and that the combination of the two, combined with geothermal, can make communities energy-independent at least at a radically simple lifestyle level.

  • Contraception: ‘Uncivilized’ women breastfed for four years, so they ‘naturally’ didn’t conceive again more often than that. We need something different, and the solutions developed so far are either too complicated or too dangerous.
  • Self-managed health: We cannot rely on staggeringly expensive, grossly overpriced drugs and health services from corrupt and inept oligopolies. We need to learn to diagnose and treat ourselves for most conditions (I plan to learn CPR, and basic first aid).
  • Self-powered transportation: Not just the venerable bicycle, but self-powered vehicles that can carry some cargo, and which work in cold weather.
  • Self-managed education: The model of massively-centralized education systems that employs people to stand up in front of bored classes and recite textbooks is hopelessly anachronistic. Community-based education, based on self-directed learning, will, thanks to ubiquitous technology and knowledge resources, not only be easy to introduce, it will be far more effective.
  • Self-managed recreation and entertainment: Jim Kunstler describes the business of Hollywood as “making violent masturbation fantasies for 14-year-olds”. The music oligopoly makes its money pimping nursery rhymes grunted by drug-addled gangsters. We shouldn’t have much trouble learning better, local, sustainable ways to amuse ourselves.

What else will we need? And while we may agree that these are skills we should learn (or re-learn), are we willing to pay people what it would cost (no massive subsidies as rewards for corporate political contributions for us) to show us how to do it, and/or to provide these things to us until we learn to be self-sufficient? These are the types of Natural Enterprise I’d like to create, but I’m not sure there is – yet – a large enough market for them to be viable, and I don’t want to sell only to the rich (and transporting elite goods all over the world kinda defeats the purpose,doesn’t it?)

What do you think? 

Categories: Let-Self-Change and Building a Community-Based Society

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7 Responses to What Will We Need After Civilization’s Gone?

  1. MLU says:

    I think it exceedingly odd that you “keep” artifacts of advanced civilization–solar panels and computerized textile factories–while you wave away the civilization that supports them.You’ll be quite disappointed with CPR. It can sustain viability while you transport a breathless, pulseless patient to an emergency room–an interesting facility, very dependent on complex systems of manufacturing and transportation to keep it stocked with a startling array of magical pharmaceuticals, many of which have short shelf lives and require controlled environments for storage.But CPR by itself almost never solves the problem. It just maintains viability for the few minutes it takes to get to one of those corrupt and inept oligopolies that, I suspect, you will be extremely glad to get to at some date in your future.It’s sort of fun to watch a six-year-old dying due to an asthma attack respond instantly to a whiff of albuterol–maybe you can get a primitive to blow some sweetgrass smoke her way. . .You really aren’t serious, are you? It’s just a game to while away a meaningless existence. . .

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve often wondered about how to get good food in a place like Alberta if we had to grow it locally. The growing season is so short here, and our gardens haven’t given us much. I am sure there are ways, but maybe we would have to move to a more southerly location?You’re idea of self-propelled transportation that would be suitable for cold weather is something I’ve thought about too. What would it look like though? One of those three-wheeler cycles where you sit down, but with some kind of cover? Not sure that you’d be able to get heating in there, but even keeping the wind away would be a step in the right direction.For self managed health, we need to look at preventative health systems, that would significantly reduce trips to those expensive health care facilities. The “good food” will go a long way to improving this situation.Keeping warm in the winter will at some point in the (near?) future be a huge hurdle to overcome. With reduced oil and natural gas availability, and more and more expensive electricity, I don’t know what the answer will be, but solar hot water heating and passive solar seem like the best alternatives. These don’t have to be hi tech solutions either – just good design.If only we could convince the world to look at this now, but it seems the best we can hope for is an extremely slow uptake. If we could ever somehow loosen the corporate stranglehold, then we might stand a chance. I am just doing my own thing, with the hope that my son will be able to say “at least my Dad gave sustainable living a good effort”.

  3. Bharat says:

    “What will we need”The civilization we are part of is the result of a way of thinking. Humanity’s collective worldview so to speak. Even though we (in the sense, people concerned with current state of the world etc) think we are different from the “others” who “don’t get it”, Iam starting to realize that at a fundamental level, our way of thinking is the same as the others’. so, i believe what we need, first and foremost, is a different way of being. Out of that state, i believe, all the other “what will we needs” will flow out naturally. I may sound theoretical, but i think this is very important. I think we truly walk away from civilization, only when we walk away from the way of thinking that spawned it. Then, we need not walk away physically from it. Then, being within the civilization itself, the new way will flow out. I think it’s similar to this — There are many wanna-be Buddha’s who flee to Himalayas or Tibet, thinking that just going away from the mundane world and meditating will “free” them. But alas, their thoughts follow them !so what is this new state of being ? Iam not talking about rising of global consciousness magically. Iam talking about personal change, and out of personal change, the new way will naturally flow out.

  4. PeterC says:

    Dave, I think your list needs some shelter, straw bale or yurt, we are going to have to make some choices about how we live in the context of our world. Grasses seem to be the best way to grow insulation without doing too much harm. MLU, if you can name the number one leading cause of death in Canada, I’ll concede all your points. However, I agree with you about CPR, it is pointless if you are more than 10-20 min away from serious medical intervention. The, made by TV, idea that someone spontaneously starts breathing again after CPR is maybe the 0.1% case. The first aid part of CPR is much more important but you have to have knowledge of what to do after you stabilize someone which is not taught.On a related note, “battlefield medics” in Europe’s middle ages were able to put back together jaws what were busted in two. Not just external scares but ways to support the knitting of bone back together without infection. We need to learn more about what is available to us in the world. Actually, it was quite funny watching the archaeologist disbelieve what he was seeing in the bones of these medieval soldiers. After extensive research though, he found written records supporting the simple fact that primitive medicine could be much more advanced than previously thought.Back to the list, you know, one thing we lost when our medieval were replaced with capitalists was the idea of the commons. A communally managed area which was used to supplement grazing, food gathering, wood gathering, and hunting. I think we desperately need to re-learn to share rather than one up. Another interesting story from transitioning to industrial times, a baker in a town in France managed to corner a market and raise his prices on baked goods. It cause a riot against his practices but the interesting thing was each of the rioters PAID him what the baked good were traditionally worth as opposed to just taking things. They understood that each of us needs certain things in order to live and if they didn’t pay anything the baker just might not survive to the next year. As I recall the King of France passed a law about the price of bread in response to this riot.Heh, you know Dave, thinking about the examples I pulled from my wasted University education and all the “dumb” history, sociology, music appreciation electives I had to take I am really beginning to appreciate the diversity of education I have. I begin to wonder if a big part of our problems are school curricula dedicated to make workers rather than the broadest education possible.

  5. Ed Diril says:

    I can’t help but think that even though your predictions are possibly correct, they are still predictions. They are no better than looking at the past and extrapolating to the future assuming the same conditions of the past will hold true. We don’t know when, how (or if) civilizations will collapse, and when/if it does, what it will look like.Instead, why not just focus on applying your suggestions and making use of your forward thinking to improve the living conditions right here, right now? For example, identifying and working to eliminate all kinds of addictions (especially monetary and substance addictions) is very applicable right now. Starting intentional communities is what people are already trying to do when they jump into entrepreneurship (on a smaller scale). These changes are already taking place. Perhaps in the near future it will make it to the chasm and cross it..When will civilization collapse? What will it look like after the dust settles? What will we need at that point? Who knows?! Can we even answer these questions for 3, 5, 10 years later? On the other hand, what we will need in the future, we also need right now. I’d say focus on now and now only. IOW, instead of going after “imaginary future customers/civilizations”, focus on the ones we’ve got right now. If we help the current ones, perhaps the future, imaginary ones will never materialize.

  6. etbnc says:

    To me self-sufficiency and self-confidence do seem like important building blocks of a personal foundation. Dave, you’ve also written about communities, too, and so it seems there’s a factor that’s not about “self”.I was just thinking about other concise terms to describe “the opposite of learned helplessness”. How about “discovering empowerment”, or perhaps REdiscovering empowerment? Or maybe just “rediscovering ability”.Thoughts?

  7. Howard says:

    Dave, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Even more so since reading Endgame by Derrick Jensen. The sad thing is that, as I discuss in my latest blog post, The Challenges of Accepting Civilization as Unsustainable and Unhealthy, few people even accept the unsustainability of the current system, obviously. But what I’ve found even more distressing is how difficult it’s been to forge strong, consistent bonds with those who do understand. In a way, I wonder if those of us who see through the dominant culture are also some of those who have been most hurt by it. As a result, we may have a lot of trouble maintaining relationships. In any case, my post is a plea for more discussion and community among those of us seeking alternatives. Thanks for your post.

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