Photo by Second Life artist Nevar Whitfield
Several of you gave me a hard time over my article on co-ops, specifically because I said I wouldn’t personally be part of the co-op movement. I’m not sure whether the objections are semantic (i.e. if I’m writing about it, I’m part of it) or substantive (i.e. if I’m not going to do some of the real spade work, shut up already). I won’t argue semantics, but I will argue substance.
Let me try to say it more clearly: I am walking away. I give up on trying to fight civilization culture in the trenches, inside the system. Call me a quitter or a coward, that’s fine. It is not in me to struggle for years to try to make hopelessly broken and dysfunctional systems work a little better. It is not in me to work hard against people who are too stupid to understand they are killing this planet, people who have money and power and momentum and numbers and who have billions of ignorant people following them blindly and obediently and doing precisely what they tell them to do, for no other reason than that it’s the only life they know.
I love activists, but I am not an activist at heart. I am an artist and a dreamer. I write reasonably well, and I imagine possibilities reasonably well. That is what I am going to practice, mostly, in the years to come. That is what I enjoy doing. I think it is useful. Whether it is valuable right now to those fighting the good fight, whether it is enough not to disappoint you, is no longer my concern. I am through with rising to other people’s expectations.
We live in a prison culture, and in this horrifically overcrowded and unnatural civilizational prison we have all become mentally ill. As David Suzuki says, we are in a huge vehicle headed at light speed towards a brick wall, and we’re all arguing over the seating arrangements. There is no helping us. I’m bailing out before it gets messy.
This is what happened when previous civilizations ended. As they slid into precipitous decline, a large number of the members of the civilizations that Ronald Wright and Jared Diamond have chronicled, just walked away. They rediscovered and relearned a simpler and easier way to live and make a living, one that was small-scale, community-based, egalitarian, resilient and principled. The civilization and systems they walked away from simply became more trouble than they were worth.
We’re there again, at that tipping point.
I’m out of here. I’m going to find someplace natural, someplace warm and peaceful, probably near forests and ocean beaches, perhaps build a cabana or a yurt, live mostly off local and home-grown foods, and reconnect with uncivilized life, with my instincts, with my senses and emotions, learn to pay attention, live in now time, play, reflect, explore and learn about the local ecosystem, and just be present. And from that stillness, I’m going to imagine and write about what’s possible.
You’re welcome to come and visit, and stay as long as you like. You can tell me how civilization is becoming unbearable, hellish. But don’t try to recruit me to fight against those trying to make civilization serve their self-interests a little longer. That’s a war I’m through participating in. It’s a civil war, and there will be no winners.
I’ll keep writing about intentional communities, natural enterprises, gift and other alternative economies, co-operatives, the value of innovation and collaboration and research and consensus and facilitation and other model behaviours and ways of living and making a living. And I’ll keep applauding the brave and energetic souls who build these models and embody these practices. But this weary body and tired heart will be elsewhere, living a life of modest joy.
earth…had better things to offer — crops without cultivation,
fruit on the bough, honey in the hollow oak.
no one tore the ground with ploughshares
clever human nature, victim of your inventions,
(Ovid, 60 BC)
Category: Our Culture