I’m often questioned about my motives for writing and speaking the unspeakable. More often, my motives are disparaged without question by people under the influence of the dominant paradigm.
I understand that the burden of my message is great. I understand that the process of unlearning the lies of civilization is a difficult enterprise. I understand that questioning one’s entire life might lead to actions that attract unwelcome attention from authorities or, worse yet, one’s friends and colleagues. As a result, I understand the desire to avoid the unthinkable. After all, thinking is difficult.
As with most of the dominant paradigm, a little thought would dismiss most of the disparagement of my work. But most people capitulate to the dominant paradigm without even the slightest bit of thinking. The unquestioned assumptions underlying the notions of infinite growth and imperialism are too heavily embedded in the typical, patriarchal mind to bear mention, much less action.
The evidence supporting the idea of near-term human extinction is overwhelming. But the patriarchs refuse to be overwhelmed by evidence. There is no convincing people who ignore, disparage, or deny the evidence. There is little point discussing important issues with people who choose belief over evidence. There are plenty of people in the latter category. If you’re among them, you can save time and effort by skipping the remainder of this essay.
What I Promote
Among the untrue insults most commonly launched my way are that I propose inaction, or worse. I have never proposed inaction, nor would I. And the notion that I encourage people to “roll over and die” is of course utter lunacy. As indicated by the subtitle of my latest book, I promote living.
According to the patriarchal perspective, I’m the leader of a death cult. But it’s the dominant culture, with only a little help from me, driving to extinction 150 to 200 species each day. It’s the dominant culture, with only a little help from me, destroying every aspect of the living planet. If there is a death cult to be found, it’s the dominant culture. As I’ve pointed out too many times to count, I’m a huge fan of terminating the death cult, even though it will kill me.
Unlike the typical, privileged patriarch, I’m not interested in actions that benefit only the continuation of human beings. Non-human species are worthy of human attention and action, and not in the directions typically promoted by self-absorbed humans within the dominant culture. To presume that the 13.8 billion years of this universe’s existence is simply a warm-up act for the 200,000-year run of our species seems a tad ridiculous to me. And yet, most people with whom I come into contact believe humans represent the crowning achievement of this universe, which is one among an infinite number within an unending multiverse. According to the narrow, patriarchal view, the species known as Homo sapiens is unimpeachably good, and the notions of mortality and extinction are unspeakable.
I agree with iconoclastic Tucson-based writer Edward Abbey: “Action is the antidote to despair.” It’s clearly too late to extend our run as a species. But it’s not too late for the myriad species we drive to extinction every day. Acting on their behalf by terminating the omnicide of the dominant paradigm, thus overcoming the arrogance of humanism as we dive into the existential abyss of extinction, is hardly the same as rolling over and dying.
I encourage additional actions, too. Promoting decency, compassion, excellence, and love in a culture avidly pursuing indecency, hate, mediocrity, and indifference is a tough sell. But acting with respect and bestowing dignity upon ourselves and others is hardly the same as doing nothing, much less rolling over and dying. If you believe I’m a nihilist, perhaps you ought to check your dictionary.
Contrary to the oft-mentioned myth, my message does not encourage suicide. No evidence indicates my message contributed to the death of my friend and colleague, Michael C. Ruppert, contrary to recent commentary in the blogosphere. Indeed, many people find my message quite liberating and the suggestion my message contributed to Ruppert’s death laughable. I encourage people to pursue love and excellence while imposing constraints, including semantic ones, on neither pursuit.
Birth is lethal. Civilization is a prison. Patriarchs would have you believe the opposite about both issues.
The Role of Education
I spread the message about abrupt climate change for many reasons. First and foremost, I’m a teacher. The word and the attendant act define me, and undoubtedly blind me to the other roles I play. Teaching is not what I do. A teacher is what I am. It’s not only personal. Rather, it’s pragmatic, too.
Who else is connecting the dots in the public realm? The world’s corporate media and corporate governments do not benefit from the knowledge I transmit. If you stop playing your designated role as consumer on the treadmill of civilization, the jig is up. When that happens — and it’s a question of when, not if — the house of cards comes tumbling down. The privileged among us, almost certainly including most people reading these words, lose their privilege.
If you’re on the verge of death, you deserve to know. If your medical doctor withholds relevant information from you regarding your imminent demise, it’s called malpractice. The world’s corporate media and corporate governments are guilty of malpractice. Those who protect them because they’re afraid of the truth are doing a great disservice to the rest of us.
Along with the media and governments are misinformed patriarchs who would have us believe atmospheric methane is a minor problem to be solved by future generations. Promotion of this incorrect perspective is analogous to telling a patient with an open wound there’s no need to practice good hygiene.
Sustainability and Conservation
I’ve come to realize, many years beyond the time it could have occurred had I been paying proper attention, that sustainability is a myth promoted by the dominant culture. It generally is assumed to mean sustaining the unsustainable set of living arrangements known as civilization for as long as possible, notwithstanding the costs and consequences. Non-human species do not matter unless they can be exploited for financial gain. From the perspective of the patriarchs pulling the levers of industry, the same goes for most humans.
For those of us who do not comprise the 0.01%, we are all indigenous now. We are all collateral damage on the vicious road to imperialist dreams. We’re needed as consumers and cannon fodder. Willfully ignorant of the evidence, we march to the drum of empire because we cannot imagine another way to live. We cannot imagine lives more important than our own. We cannot imagine a species more important than ours. We cannot imagine questioning the dominant paradigm, much less resisting it. So we pursue progress, even if it means progressing over a cliff or into the gas chambers.
There is no meaning to our individual lives beyond what we create. Instead of facing the horrors of finding our own way, most of us defer to empire. We throw ourselves into the machine on behalf the 0.01% because we imagine that throwing ourselves onto the machine comes at too high a cost.
The conclusion is probably correct. Living differently has its rewards but, in my limited experience, the few rewards are massively overwhelmed by the many penalties of pursing life beyond the mainstream.
Making it Personal
My own attempts to walk away from American Empire have failed for many reasons. Afflicted by my own expansive ego, I assumed others would follow my lead, hence slowing or, in my wildest dreams, stopping the machine. I can’t even seem to escape my place of birth and my duty station, the United States, although I no longer view it as my country.
Too little, too late, I’ve come to realize I’m not very influential after all. It’s quite the bitter pill.
With respect to my ongoing work, and the human children I’m said to kill with every step I take, I weakly begin with a few words from writer Barbara Kingsolver: “Living takes life, but it can be thoughtful.” By living, we all contribute to death.
Much, and probably most, of the criticism tossed my way comes from city-dwellers who believe their own lives are beyond reproach. But if you live in a city, you’re living at the apex of civilization. As long as the fuel, food, and water keep showing up on demand, you’re on the front lines of imperialism. Believing otherwise while disparaging those who participate in the dominant culture is yet another thoughtless act of patriarchy.
Feeling superior doesn’t make one superior. Hubris does not humble others.
A tiny bit of thoughtful research could lead one to conclude that conservation of fossil fuels is austerity for the masses, proposed and promoted by a few for their own benefit. Jevons’ Paradox, the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate, half-empty flights, and consumption of fossil energy by the United States military all provide further support for the notion that the imposition of austerity onto the majority of humans is beneficial to the financially wealthy and allows continuation of the horrors of civilization.
Far be it for me to mention the Rockefeller funding behind 350.org or the People’s (sic) Climate (sic) March. If you’re interested in targets for your wrath, you might try NASCAR, the Rockefellers, professional sports, celebrity culture, or the cities supporting your own patriarchy. A single, little-noticed target is easier. And the messenger is far easier to attack than the evidence-imbued message.
Most city-dwellers will not admit their own complicity in promoting the dominant culture. Ensconced within lives of privilege, sucking the teat of empire, they look out rather than in. They accuse me of encouraging hedonism while, paradoxically, pursuing hedonism.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the role of global dimming requisite to maintaining civilization. Those embedded within civilization, those who depend completely upon its continued, smooth functioning for their very lives fail to see the bigger picture of which they are part. I suspect the blinders are self-imposed.
A Final Thought
I stop where I began this brief essay: motive. Contrary to what I read on the Internet, I’m not a profiteer of doom. If I received a paycheck each time I’m said to be paid for speaking the unspeakable, I wouldn’t rely on personal savings from a frugal life and donations from others to continue my work.
Had I not made an irreversible error by leaving active service at the university six years ago, I would have more than a million extra dollars in my bank account and I’d be able to further my work without assistance from donors (instead, the taxpayers would be on the proverbial hook). Mistakes have been made, and they’ve led me here. Us, too.
An old axiom indicates we learn from our mistakes. This, of course, is why I make mine repeatedly: I like to really hammer home the lessons learned from experience. I recommend you learn from mine, thereby preventing some of your own.
Catch Nature Bats Last on the radio with Mike Sliwa and Guy McPherson. To catch us live, tune in every Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, or catch up in the archives here. If you prefer the iTunes version, including the option to subscribe, you can click here.
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McPherson’s latest book is co-authored by Carolyn Baker. Extinction Dialogs: How to Live with Death in Mind is available. Electronic copy is available here from Amazon.
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