The Light Age is the Dark Age, part two
I am about to go away until early next week, and I won't be on't Internet during that time, so I can't engage with any further comments here for now. But keep them coming, and I'll look forward to digging in next week. Thanks to you all.
It seems the Machine's greatest trick was to create the 'Machine Greens', rolling them out as useful idiots to do its bidding. It would be truly comical if it wasn't so dangerous.
Always recall R.S. Thomas:
What to do? Stay green.
Never mind the machine,
Whose fuel is human souls
Live large, man, and dream small.
If there is any truth to The Iron Law Of Oligarchy, once they get power, all human systems will eventually be taken over by sociopaths.
This is the lesson from Lord Of The Rings, among others.
Good article. I spent most of my life on the far left: communist, anarchist, green neo-pagan, etc. In the end, a few years ago I could no longer recognize the lefties I grew up with. The Green Left used to look to Schumacher, Zerzan, and Fredy Perlman. Now they look up to Bill Gates. The 180 degree about face to Machineophilic environmentalism and politics, combined with the woke revolution, has completely turned me off of that side of the political spectrum. Of course, the conventional Right is just as disgusting as always, but those who are being labelled fascists I find quite simpatico. The life and work of Pentti Linkola is a shining beacon to our debased times. Lately, I have often been called an ecofascist. I do not identify with this term, since, as we all know, fascism was a Machine-ideology, but I take it as a sign that I am going in the right direction. Sometimes if a world gone mad can't find the words to applaud those still right in their heads, the people fighting for truth, beauty, and goodness, have to receive their nourishment and encouragement through the hatred of the robotic masses. At any rate, we need to transcend the left-right divide and think only of the Divine, which we are all part of, and which also penetrates every cell, every atom in the realm of manifestation. As Lawrence wrote:
"Now above all is the time for the minorities of men,
those who are neither bourgeois nor bolshevist, but true to life,
to gather and fortify themselves, in every class, in every country, in every
Instead of which, the minorities that still see the gleams of life
submit abjectly to the blind mechanical traffic-streams of those
the stone-blind bourgeois, and the stone-blind bolshevist;
and pander to them."
The total reign of quantity over quality.
Iain McGilchrist explores the challenges associated with left-brain dominance in this fascinating RSA animation:
Oh thank you so much for writing this!
I feel the need to explain - as briefly as I can - why, even just five years ago, I would have been infuriated by this argument. In fact, I would have been infuriated with myself for even paying it any attention. Others, like me but more sure of themselves would not be commenting here now.
Basically it comes down to the (correct) statement that "we have no five point plan of our own." It would mystify me when someone - usually with a humanities or social science degree - would observe somebody else - usually with a natural science degree - embracing some new technological or technocratic development and assume that, because they embraced it, it meant they approved of it. It doesn't follow at all. I can quote some peer-reviewed articles if needed!
As far as I can see, it's a deeply held foundational belief of social scientists that human history is about choice. That it didn't have to be this way, that we can always choose otherwise. Natural scientists grow up in a wider culture that believes this but in a professional culture that is, at best, agnostic. And it's hard to believe.
For an old school conservationist (which is not the same thing as an environmentalist, of course) I think it is very difficult to get away from the belief that the 'problem' is simply humans. Not any force within human history or culture but all of us. We don't generally want to say that or think that but not saying it and not thinking it often feels like a form of denialism, rightly or wrongly.
So people who are coming more from the social science or political side want to know why we are colluding with the enemy. We always have been. Give us another option.
Brilliant essay even if I'm left depressed beyond words, living in a Scotland where the government of Greens and the SNP peddle puberty blockers to nine year olds. The rebellion of a few SNP members of the Scottish Parliament last week is the one ray of hope and was at least a partial answer to a prayer. All I feel able to do is keep on with the prayers, pay with cash, and turn off location services on my phone as much as possible. Pretty pathetic, I know..
Well, yes, wisdom over information every time as far as I am concerned. Thing is these 4th Fantasies can't happen, can't scale. Digital and electricity are indivisible. Electricity needs energy to exist and the hungrier the machine the harder it is to mobilise the Ancient Sunlight. Industrial civilisation is well into overshoot.
Since the end of the paleolithic, agri-food and human craft (civilisation) had to make do with the limits of annual sunlight, which is where humanity is headed again.
Much information will be lost on the way.
I rather approve of back of envelope calculation, and it is these numbers that stare the 4th Wonks in the face - hence the fantasy. Try Philipe Bihouix French engineer and his translator, rational in both the modern and traitional sense, nous and ratio, who see the approach of the inevitable. https://techtelegraph.co.uk/a-review-of-the-age-of-low-tech-by-philippe-bihouix-2/
I am rather in favour of literacy and libraries and public health, and what I call sufficiencies. These identify with urbanisation and modernity, but are valuable at every scale. Lots of good skills and works of hand can favour wisdom. Save what we can and hope for mercy.
BTW, thanks for heads-up for Jeremy Naydler' In the Shadow of the Machine. I am getting there.
I was reading a bit of Chris Smaje's blog, A Small Farm Future, and linked in the comments one of your essays that was very relevant to the questions he was discussing. Coming from an atheistic, rationalist, perspective and working through where we are and how we need to change has brought the discussion to some very religious/spiritual topics. His responses to Monbiot were fantastic.
I am so very glad you are writing these essays Paul. It's like an island of sanity for me in this crazy time.
I went to the VERGE conference in Silicon Valley in 2019 to drum up business for my regenerative agriculture startup. It was my wake up call that "green" has gone mainstream, and as you say, it is not any version of green that I can identify with. It's Machine Green to the core.
Let's celebrate the fact that so many companies now have a Chief Sustainability Officer! Universities are rushing to offer degrees in this area. Now we can finally make some progress! Our institutions will save us! Oh, wait...
Chesterton once wrote in a commentary on Peter Pan that "there is an advantage in root...and the name of it is fruit".
"Love, God, Place, Culture" as Paul points out are actually what make life worth living, and can only be fruits of rootedness, instead of "business models" enabled by the cloud.
Who was it that said "Nearly all of humanity is washed away by the tides of history?" I think it was Dan Carlin of Hardcore History discussing the violent expansion of empires.
As for the next part, I believe the United States is leading the example. A politician's husband was attacked and within minutes of the story breaking the social media feeds were bathed in conspiracy theories. And then traditional media attempts to counter that narrative. All in one day. This is constant. Staring at screens, screaming at phantoms. I believe it is a growing virus of madness. It feels that way for me at least. Can you blame people who have grown up in this system to desire the powerful to do something? Its filled with such sadness. We aren't built to hold the worlds psychosis in our hands. We have a hard enough time being neighborly. So, is it better to CHOOSE to look locally, live with people locally, and let the tide of history one day be on your door step, or does it help to watch the tide from afar inching closer and closer? Is it better to die ignorant and sudden or informed and part of the psychosis? Pardon the dramatics. I just keep going back to that question. Like you said previously, the wise people probably aren't on the internet hahah
Is it possible we are bifurcating into 2 species? One species wants to remain human, rooted, as gardeners and caretakers of the creation here on Earth. The other are those who want to upload themselves into the cloud, transcend the body, merge with AI, plug into the Metaverse, live in a pod with an IV drip of liquified lab grown “meat”, send their consciousness intergalactic, and so on.