by Ray Jason, who has lived aboard his beautiful sailboat for over 20 years. He wanders the Wide Waters, keeping his life simple so that he has the time to ponder the big questions.
A fine sunset is beginning to pastel the sky. I am seated on AVENTURA’S cabin top watching a great blue heron standing motionless in the twilight shadows, patiently awaiting its dinner. The melancholy is heavy on me tonight. These pristine, quiet, un-peopled places do that to me.
My sweet, strong sailboat and I have been together for over a quarter of a century. While aimlessly meandering amidst some fond memories of our decades together, I am suddenly jolted by an unpleasant realization. It is all so profoundly different now. When we first sailed together, she was just a sea-going magic carpet, transporting me to far-away lands, plush with exotic creatures and cultures. But now she has also become a survival pod, protecting me from the possibility of societal collapse.
Admittedly, when I first disconnected from life on the land, the world was already extremely dysfunctional. That was part of the enchantment of the sea gypsy life – that I could voluntarily exile myself from much of the violence, injustice, ugliness and shallowness of modern techno-industrial society.
But in only 25 years, global conditions have gone from deeply disturbing to cataclysmic. We certainly knew back then that our human activities were damaging Mother Earth, but we didn’t realize that our conduct could actually unravel the critical bio-geo-physical systems that sustain all life on our luxuriant, garden planet. Who would have believed that we could actually annihilate our support system?
I might not have believed it back then, but I certainly do now. That’s because sailing the wide waters imposes a heightened sense of reality on a person – far more so than shore-side life. Out on the vast ocean, where one has to fend for oneself without any nearby assistance, delusions can kill you. So, my many years at sea have trained me to see things as they are rather than as I wish them to be. And what this sea gypsy beholds just beyond the horizon is grave and frightening.
Fortunately, others far wiser than me also see the troubles ahead, and they are attempting to raise the alarm about the impending catastrophes. But tragically, they are almost completely ignored. This neglect is so significant that I have created a term to describe these well-intentioned messengers who carry such unwelcome news. I call them the Cassandra Choir, because they suffer the same ignoble fate that befell the mythological character Cassandra. She could accurately foretell the future and she used this gift to warn her people about the woes that awaited them. But they either ignored or scorned her.
The truth-tellers of our modern Cassandra Choir are relentlessly marginalized and ridiculed by what I call the TMA – The Malignant Authorities. These political, corporate, religious and media gatekeepers are so obscenely engorged with wealth and power under the existing system, that they will fight ruthlessly to defend the status quo. They desire a population of The Asleep. They fear a population of The Awake.
So they label those in the Choir “screwball doomers” and claim that the risks that they are exposing are greatly exaggerated. The TMA do their utmost to insure that the message of the Cassandra Choir is suppressed, because when looked at objectively, it is supremely convincing. (At the end of this essay I will provide a footnote listing many of these insightful and courageous thinkers. A few weeks spent reading them, will probably convince you that our current path will most likely lead to a devastating societal collapse.)
The phrase that I use to describe the possible catastrophes confronting us is the Big Bad “E”s, which stand for Energy, Economy and Ecology. One of these alone could destabilize the world so profoundly that the life that we currently take for granted would be shattered. But because they are so intertwined, an emergency in one will probably impact the others, thus compounding and accelerating the problem.
Let’s look at Energy first. Any clear thinker can discern that Petroleum has virtually enslaved us. Its black hand is smeared across every aspect of our daily routines. Without abundant, affordable liquid fuels the food trucks stop delivering to the grocery stores, the tractors aren’t plowing the fields, the airplanes don’t fly, and the container ships can’t transport low-priced consumer goods from East to West. And even more disastrously a large portion of the power grid goes down. Without electricity, the air conditioners don’t cool and all of the electronic gadgetry that mesmerizes the citizenry into a docile stupor suddenly disappears. The swiftness with which the fabric of civil society can be shredded will be astonishing.
As for Economics, because of the interconnected nature of our globalized world, a crisis in one area will impact billions on the other side of the planet. Should China decide to renounce the U.S. dollar as the world reserve currency and install its own gold-backed yuan, this will have profound repercussions in every nation and in every market, whether it is stocks, bonds or commodities.
The Ecological future looks even more terrifying each passing month. Melting ice caps, further destruction of the Amazonian rainforest, bubbling tundra, and a relatively new environmental horror — climate change denial — add up to a grim path forward … and most likely downward.
These are just a few “scribbled on a napkin” examples of possible disasters headed our way that easily came to mind because of my years of researching the likelihood of Collapse. Anyone, who thoroughly investigates the existing data, is likely to reach a similar conclusion – that we are probably doomed. Almost the entire Cassandra Choir agrees in this regard. A huge die-off of billions of people and a reset to an almost unrecognizable, low-tech style of living seems to be the consensus.
And the most radical sector of the Choir is so pessimistic that they have coined the term NTHE, which stands for Near Term Human Extinction. They believe that Homo sapiens will either go completely extinct or only a few pockets of a remnant population will survive. I ardently hope that this is not the case, and my research up to this point has not totally convinced me that this is the case. But there is a wise old sailors’ adage that goes like this: “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst!”
It is in this profoundly empowering spirit that I have written the rest of this essay. Up to this point it has just been an introduction or a setting of the scene. The rest of this meditation is my core message and my heartfelt truth. I hope it proves to be a helpful addition to the growing conversation on how we can most wisely confront the agony that lies ahead.
Many members of the Cassandra Choir paint a sobering and convincing portrait of the horrors that are headed our way. The unsettling images in their books and blogs are so disturbing that they often feel obligated to conclude their message on a more cheerful and optimistic note. So they usually extol the value of “resilient communities” that can protect their members from the ravages that most people will experience.
I greatly admire the basic concepts behind this Transition Town – perma-culture – low-tech model. But sadly, I believe that this response to an imploding world is as doomed as the “stay in the city and see what happens” approach. The reason for my concern can be stated in one word – MARAUDERS! As a friend of mine tragically describes it, “The Amish are toast.” When people are cornered into choosing between starving and marauding, it is fairly easy to predict their decision. This is a recurring blind spot in the otherwise brilliant and well-grounded thinking of the Cassandra Choir. How can they not foresee that their vegetable gardens and root cellars and chicken coops will be stormed and ravaged by heavily-armed, hungry people?
But the solution that I am proposing to any worst-case Collapse scenario deals with the problem of marauders effortlessly — you simply sail away from the violence and mayhem that is overwhelming both the cities and the countryside. I call my alternative approach THE SEA GYPSY TRIBE.
Name any apocalyptic scenario, and I will argue that being at sea in a sailing vessel is the best way to deal with it. Pandemic? The contagion danger comes from large groups of humans jammed closely together. Grid Down? Sailboats are self-contained survival pods with wind and solar power systems, water-makers and long-distance radios. Thermo-nuclear? There is not a single ICBM on the planet aimed towards the middle of the ocean. And the fallout danger is more easily handled in a boat with ¾ of its surface area underwater. Famine? It is easy to have a year’s worth of provisions stashed onboard, and the sea provides, fish, shellfish and seaweed. Submerged Coastal Cities? Not an issue in a floating survival module.
But more than just being a survival concept, I also envision the Sea Gypsy Tribe as a “seeding” option. Here is my basic premise:
I believe that if there is a near extinction catastrophe, a Sea Gypsy Tribe has the best chance of both surviving and replenishing the human population in the wisest manner.
Those last four words are exceedingly important – “in the wisest manner.” There is already a fairly large group of people who have been paying attention to the global unraveling, and who have responded by preparing for the worst. These folks are usually referred to as “preppers.” I applaud their foresight and dedication. But I have grave doubts about their ability to reboot the post-Collapse emergent world “in the wisest manner.”
That’s because most of the preppers are very religious and patriotic. And there is overwhelming evidence that more blood has been shed in human history in the name of god and country than for any other cause. And besides that, the hierarchal nature of religions and nations invariably attracts the most ambitious, ruthless sociopaths who ascend to the highest positions of power. They would soon be repeating the same mistakes that plague us today.
What I propose is a far bolder vision of a post-Collapse future. I call it Humanity 3.0. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors were Humanity 1.0 and our civilized forebears comprised Humanity 2.0. For about 2 million years the Paleolithic tribes lived peaceably with each other and in balance with Nature. They perceived the world as a web and themselves as but one strand amongst millions of others. They lived a life of harmony rather than hegemony.
But then about 10,000 years ago at the onset of what I term “conquest agriculture,” humanity drastically changed its philosophy. These Neolithic villagers started viewing all of Life as a pyramid with Homo Sapiens at the pinnacle. And they perceived this position as a justification for ruling over all of the other life forms on the planet. This marked the beginning of what we term Civilization. It also marked the arrival of States and Churches and Rulers and Priests. As this worldview expanded and accelerated, it has unleashed dire consequences for all life-forms. And now it even jeopardizes our future existence as a species. I discuss the disastrous, unintended consequences of Civilization in much greater detail in my essay entitled “The Vast Picture.” _________________
I believe that the Sea Gypsy Tribe can function like the monks of the Dark Ages who preserved the best of the Greek and Roman cultures, which then led to the Enlightenment and to the Renaissance. Our mission would be to conserve the best of Humanity 2.0, and also to sound the alarm about its worst elements. I have a catch-phrase to describe this — “Mozart without the mushroom cloud.”
Perhaps the best aspect of my Sea Gypsy Tribal concept is that it is achievable. It does not require a global paradigm shift. It just needs about 1,000 kindred spirits. I use that arbitrary number because many anthropologists believe that after the last great human extinction event, which was the Toba volcanic eruption approximately 17,000 years ago, there were only about 1,000 survivors, and yet they successfully managed to repopulate the planet.
Right now there are already tens of thousands of people scattered around our wet, lush planet living a full-time sailing life. The vast majority of them do not possess what I would consider essential Sea Gypsy Tribal values, but there is probably a tiny minority that is ripe and anxious for my message. We just need to find each other, discover our common philosophical beliefs and exchange contact info. Then, if things start deteriorating, the various seagoing tribes can come together in their particular neighborhood of Mother Ocean.
A simple means of identification is the Earth Flag. I have been flying mine for decades. It symbolizes my desire for a world without borders. Anyone displaying the Earth Flag is probably an excellent candidate for the Sea Gypsy Tribe.
So, what sort of paradigm shift in values would I wish to see in this new, water-borne community? I’ll gladly provide some examples, but I emphasize that I am vehemently against “imposing” a philosophy on anyone. My goal is to inspire. I believe in “suggestions” and I despise “commandments!” If I was a Sea Gypsy Tribal Elder here are some of the things that I would recommend to my clan. They could then choose whether or not to embrace them.
• HUMANITY’S PLACE IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS. We have tried to elevate ourselves above the other creatures on our planet by claiming that we are human “beings.” But we are actually just human animals. We have further deceived ourselves, by claiming that the geometry of life is a pyramid, and we humans are at the apex. So this entitles us to dominate and control everything else — including the creatures, the land, the water and the air. We must return to the geometry that our Humanity 1.0 hunter/gatherer ancestors so clearly understood — that life is a web and damaging one strand damages the whole.
• THE LIMITS OF GROWTH. Only a buffoon believes that there can be infinite growth, which requires infinite resource extraction, on a finite planet. But beyond the absurdity of the equation, there is also the atrocity of its perspective. The few dozen indigenous tribes still surviving on our blighted, techno-industrial planet view the rivers, forests and mountains as their living neighbors. They don’t see them as commodities — as hydro-electric power, as board feet or as open-pit mines. Gaia should be enjoyed, cherished and protected — not strip-mined!
• A WORLD OF TOO MUCH TECHNOLOGY CANNOT BE REPAIRED WITH MORE TECHNOLOGY. The Luddites in England and the last Samurai in Japan were correct — the seductive benefits of techno-industrial Civilization would be short-lived. But the horrors that they spawned would be forever. The 443 nuclear reactors in the USA are a testament to this. It takes about 10 years to decommission each one. What will happen if the power grid goes down swiftly and all those cooling ponds dry up? We should abandon our addiction to “the latest gadget” and embrace low or appropriate technology. A basic, any-ocean sailboat is a great example of this. It is a bridge across to the Old Ways. Or as I like to say, “The path to the Future leads to the Past!”
• IMMERSION IN NATURE IS A NECESSITY AND NOT A LUXURY. None of the 80-90 indigenous tribes still living in their native habitats, suffer from mental illness, or require psychiatrists or need psycho-tropic drugs. Our Paleolithic operating system is designed for living in “the Wild” and not in “human-built environments.” I get to spend long periods alone with the creatures of the sea and the sky. To me this is not a vacation, it is a vital psychic centering. We must come home to the wild.
• HIERARCHAL SOCIETIES BECOME HORRIBLE SOCIETIES. Tribal societies are small bands where everyone knows each other and they work together for the good of the clan. There are no rulers and ruled, no rich and poor, no inequality between the sexes and no chiefs living in splendor, while the rest live in squalor. But hierarchal societies suffer from all of those injustices. And despite the false propaganda, those who rise to power in hierarchies are not usually the “best and the brightest.” Instead they are the most ambitious, ruthless and despicable, thus leading to “dominator” cultures that spew death and destruction across the planet. Hierarchies should be as unwelcome as the bubonic plague.
• CAPITALISM MUST CAPSIZE. It should be obvious that any system that places profit ahead of both people and the planet will end up being a disaster for both. Any economic model that worships greed, cannot possibly serve the common interest or the greater good. The tribal model has provided fulfilling lives without jeopardizing the environment for 2 million years. Shouldn’t we dismantle the Capitalist system which only enriches a tiny elite, and in just a few centuries is destroying the ecosystem which we depend on for our very survival?
• CHURCHES AND STATES MUST STAY BURIED IN THE ASHES. The most obscene atrocities in human history have usually been committed in the name of the love of god or the love of country. There is nothing wrong with striving for spiritual joy, but organized religions that demonize other groups and command their annihilation, should never re-emerge from the Collapse. As for States, humanity existed contentedly for 2 million years without them. And in only 10,000 years since their arrival, we have massacred hundreds of millions of people and now are on the verge of decimating our planetary support system. Churches and States should be buried for eternity in the world’s most polluted toxic waste sites.
If I was a Tribal Elder at a Council of Deciding, these are the far-reaching changes that I would recommend to my people. They may seem radical, but I perceive them as “radically sensible.” Also, it should be remembered, that these proposals are designed for a future scenario where there has been a cataclysmic societal collapse and the survivors are attempting to rebuild a civilization far more enlightened than our current version.
But let’s hope that we are never in that position. A huge majority of my personal friends regard my views on the possibility of impending collapse as semi-lunatic. They agree that the world is enormously screwed up, but they believe that humanity will continue to muddle along with things steadily deteriorating, and then some miracle will come along and save us. I would be delighted if they are right and I am wrong. But if they ARE correct, I still encourage people to consider adopting the Sea Gypsy Tribal Path as perhaps the healthiest way of living on a very diseased planet. These are some of its many rewards that I know so well from my decades of Sea Gypsy living:
• You are a World Citizen and thus in no way supporting the imperialistic perversions of any government.
• You live in the Yellow Light rather Than the Blue Light. Your illumination comes from Mother Sun and not from electronic addiction devices.
• You can escape the steady defilement of daily life as world governments keep morphing into police-surveillance states.
• You can reconnect with and embrace anew your wild, animal self.
• You can live slowly and simply – immersed in Nature – and exiled from the meaningless frenzy of the so-called real world.
• You can discover anew a sense of connectedness as you mesh with your new tribe of kindred spirits.
I hope that my words and my vision will inspire some of you out there to consider the Sea Gypsy Tribe as a viable alternative to a possible disastrous future. My desire with this article was to introduce an entirely new and potentially successful approach to worst case scenario survival strategy. But to state it more poetically, my heart of hearts hope is … that this little essay will launch a fleet of a Thousand Thoreaus. You can follow all my writing at www.theseagypsyphilosopher.blogspot.com.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: As promised here are some members of the Cassandra Choir. The topics that they emphasize in their thinking and writing include: Collapse, Peak Everything, Downside of Civilization, Economic Lunacy, Eco-Disaster and How the World Really Works. This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but it will give anyone with a sincere interest in re-evaluating the Future, a lot of wise resource material.
Dmitry Orlov, James Howard Kunstler, Richard Heinberg, Chellis Glendinning, Guy McPherson, Carolyn Baker, Derrick Jensen, Daniel Quinn, Morris Berman, John Zerzan, Jerry Mander, Jared Diamond, Howard Zinn, Albert Bates, Naomi Klein, Jan Lundberg, Paul Craig Roberts, Chris Hedges, Michael Ruppert, George Mobus, Dave Pollard, David Korten, Bill McKibben, William Catton, Thomas Berry, Tyler Durden, Matt Simmons, Stacy Herbert, Max Keiser, Gail Tvalberg, Gerald Celente, Joseph Tainter, Ronald Wright, William Banzai and many more fine and courageous thinkers.
I’ll be traveling for a while and therefore poorly moderating this space. Please limit comments to two daily, and restrict your attacks to ideas, not people. Both notions apply to the person posing as Thor, Rob, pat, Zumba, Boris, Ginny, GranolaGirl, OldMcDonald, Skank, Bill P., der kommissar, A Human, Agrarian, NewMan, and dozen or so other monikers.