Keith Farnish’s book Time’s Up (also available as a free e-book called A Matter of Scale) provides a valuable framework for Step 7 in the What You Can Do process (see graphic above) that I outlined last week — the step that’s about dismantling industrial civilization. I’ve summarized some of the key elements of Keith’s framework for action in the graphic below.
Here’s an explanation of this framework:
There are six categories of actions that Keith suggests we can make:
- Finding better ways to live: These are personal actions that you can take that will help starve industrial civilization of the consumer dollars and labour hours that it requires to continue:
- Consuming less (and strategically)
- Eating better (local, organic, small-farm, organic, self-prepared, unpackaged and GMO- and chemical-free)
- Traveling less and using non-air, multi-user public transport
- Living in more modest, more durable, homes (using less power/heat/air conditioning)
- Working for ourselves and not big multinationals (either as employees or as consultants to them)
- Unschooling/deschooling ourselves, our peers and children (i.e. self-directed, not institutional learning)
- Having at most one child
- Doing what we can to restore some of the damage to land, environment and society wreaked by industrial civilization
- Undermining industrial civilization: As Keith points out, the above personal activities by themselves are not enough. Unless we work actively to undermine and dismantle industrial civilization, it will just keep destroying and exhausting our planet until we’ve passed the point of no return on climate change, and exhausted the planet’s resources. Keith outlines four rules for this ‘undermining’ work, whose objective is to slow down the machine so that growth (and hence industrial civilization’s viability) ends, so that citizens realize its (and their) vulnerability and the damage it causes, and so that alternative models of living and making a living have a chance to flourish:
- Focus on the tools of disconnection and their perpetrators
- Only act if the rewards outweigh the risks (that generally means avoiding harm to people and other creatures)
- Plan carefully (don’t let your emotions get the better of you)
- Don’t get caught (the book explains how)
These are the perpetrators of the ten ‘tools of disconnection’ that we need to target in our actions. They
include most but not all:
|Corporations (including government-owned power generators and similar organizations)
Politicians, lawyers, judges, police and the military
Economists, junk scientists, shills and other generators of misinformation
The mainstream media, advertisers and PR firms
Religious organizations, therapists, techno-salvationists and PR-focused environmentalists
These perpetrators systematically disconnect us from our own instincts, knowledge and ideas, from other radical thinkers and actors, and from the natural environment and all-life-on-Earth. They do this using the ten tools of disconnection illustrated in the red circle in the graphic above:
- Reward us for being good consumers: They make shoddy stuff that has to be constantly replaced, and through advertising and how they measure prosperity (GDP) they equate wealth and consumption with well-being and self-worth.
- Make us feel good for doing trivial things: Their con job of labeling products as “healthy”, “natural” and “environmentally friendly” is designed to divert attention from the damage they are doing to the planet and make us believe that by recycling, signing petitions and buying their stuff we’re “doing our share” to make things better.
- Give us selected freedom: They let us demonstrate, as long as it achieves nothing. They give us Tweedledum vs Tweedledee choices of political parties and products, while blocking electoral reforms like proportionate representation that might reduce their power.
- Give us insignificant choices: They pretend to offer us a real choice of banks, of jobs, of schools, of media, and of products when in fact they’re all controlled by the same oligopoly and the differences are minuscule.
- Sell us a dream: They foment in us, through advertising, a constant sense of dissatisfaction with what we own, to distract us from being dissatisfied with what they are doing to our world. So we keep striving for the personal and unsustainable, for property, instead of sustainable, collective well-being.
- Exploit our trust in authority: They brainwash us to believe obedience to authority is necessary to maintain civil order. They redefine anarchy in their propaganda to be something evil, dangerous and unworkable. And they tell us over and over that their security forces and laws are in our best interest, when nothing could be further from the truth.
- Lie to us: In addition to telling us their way is the only way to live, and that growth is essential to well-being, the mainstream media, handmaidens of the corpocracy, bombard us with misinformation, distraction and simplistic false dichotomies to obfuscate the truth.
- Scare us: Fear has always been used by despots to keep subjects in thrall, disconnected, distracted and obedient. They invent phony and wildly-exaggerated enemies and then fear-monger to stir up panic and enable them to suppress dissent and information. The threat of “terrorists”, real and invented, and defined as they choose to include anyone who opposes their agenda, sustains a constant atmosphere of fear.
- Abuse and exploit us: By decimating the middle class, they’ve created a frightened and isolated working class with a huge underclass that has been propagandized to believe their misfortune (illness, poverty, ignorance etc.) is their own fault. The result is desperation and learned helplessness that saps the anger and energy that would otherwise be directed against the oppressors.
- Give us false hope: We’re constantly told, by religious leaders, corporate greenwashers, techno-salvationists and even most environmental organizations that all we have to do is give them our political and financial support and they’ll look after our problems for us. So we become dependent, and ignorant of how to look after ourselves.
- Turn us against each other: [this is my addition to Keith’s list] From our first encounters with sibling rivalry, through the education system, media and sports programming, the job market and job performance, everything is presented to us as competition, a struggle against our peers for scarce resources and results. While we’re battling each other, they’re stealing most of everything. And so we learn to contest and argue, instead of how to collaborate.
- Innovating and pioneering: My personal opinion is that activists are mostly (like most other people nowadays) pretty unimaginative. The lists and sites that describe how to bring about change tend to focus on measures to create media buzz rather than bring about any real behaviour change (Keith hasn’t much use for environmental groups of this ilk). Because of the effectiveness of the tools of disconnection, media attention rarely generates much more than feelings of learned helplessness and frustration. I’ve stopped reading the news and press releases about environmental destruction and loss, because they rarely offer suggestions beyond voting, petitions and writing cheques (which generally change nothing, other than perhaps keeping some environmentalists employed).
So how can we innovatively
undermine and disrupt industrial civilization? In my book Finding the Sweet Spot, I outline a process for innovation that entails:
- researching the challenge or need
- inviting and forming a diverse and motivated innovation team
- collaboratively brainstorming, creatively and critically, ideas for action
- organizing how to realize the most promising ideas
- bringing the most promising ideas to fruition
- experimenting, to test the new ideas’ viability
- scaling up of successful experiments
I believe this collaborative methodology is the best way for us to identify new, innovative methods to undermine and disrupt industrial civilization. I’d like to convene an Open Space event around this specific topic, in Canada, using, as a test case, the challenge of stopping any further development of the Alberta Tar Sands.
- Influencing others: Part of any change initiative is to engage others and get them involved in the change activities as well. Keith describes Gladwell’s Tipping Point methods for doing this through “connectors” who spread the message to others outside the current group, and through “salespeople” who persuade others of the value of changing behaviour. Most importantly, this influencing effort needs to be targeted at people who are ready to listen and ready for a behaviour change. Keith also asserts that we need a clear and compelling, positive statement of purpose to explain why we advocate change. Here is his:
Human activity is destroying the natural systems that we depend upon for our survival. Our most basic instinct as humans is to survive; yet we continue to destroy our life-support machine. Connected humans understand this terrible contradiction; disconnected humans are not able to.
Not all humans are responsible: just those who are part of Industrial Civilization. Industrial Civilization depends on economic growth and the unsustainable use of natural resources, so it has developed a complex set of tools for keeping people disconnected from the real world and living a life that keeps civilization running. Humans have been manipulated in order to be part of a destructive system.
The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization.
Civilization is complex and delicate: it depends on everything running smoothly and also depends upon people having faith in its goodness. Global ecological systems are changing in unpredictable and major ways; natural resources are running out rapidly; the population is growing, particularly the population of urban areas; there is considerable political and civil unrest developing throughout the world: any combination of these factors are likely to lead to a sudden and catastrophic collapse of civilization during the 21st century.
It is possible to create a situation where civilization is left to crumble gradually, reducing the impact on humanity, and the sooner this is done, the less the global environment will be harmed. The key things we need to do are:
1. Reconnect with the real world, so that we can understand our close relationships with it in everything we do. The more you connect, the more you will realise how unreal civilization is.
2. Live in such a way that we do not contribute to the expansion of the global economy, reducing our impact on the natural environment in the process. Be aware that authority figures within the system, such as political leaders and corporations, will attempt to provide you with ‘green’ advice: this advice is designed to ensure that civilization continues, and should be ignored.
3. Create the conditions so that others may also change through education and, even more importantly, undermining the tools that civilization uses to keep us part of the machine. Don’t waste time protesting: this changes nothing – that is why it is legal.
A future outside of civilization is a better life; one in which we can actually decide for ourselves how we are going to live.
- Educating others: Even more important than influencing others is educating others — helping to debunk the misinformation they’re getting from the perpetrators listed above, by presenting factual knowledge, new ideas, and different perspectives. We need to have the courage and patience to speak up when we hear misinformation, no matter how awkward, political and radical that may come across.
- Relearning capacities and competencies: Keith identifies both survival skills and social/collaborative skills that we need to re-learn, in his book. His list is not that different from the list I have published on this site several times, which is reproduced again below.
What do you think? Other than that this is a lot of work, is this a viable framework for undermining, disrupting and finally dismantling industrial civilization, before it can do too much more damage?