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How Dominant Societies Fail

How Dominant Societies Fail Previous | Next

(From 4_04)

To be updated!

What are the most common, and most fundamental, ways in which dominant societies destroy themselves, their neighbors, and their habitats?


Competition, Aggression, Dominance & Coercion


Engineering of Habitat (transformation of entire productive habitat for sole human use) (this is really fundamental, more so than you have indicated, more than agriculture)

Anthropocentrism, Hubris & Wishful Thinking
Imagining we can know enough to manage nature; ignoring the knowledge & abilities of the other living things that work together to keep nature in balance; imagining that we can discover their
knowledge and do it ourselves

Confusing biological evolution (random succession) with intentional improvement; misuse of "evolve" as a transitive verb

Imagining we can sustain large-scale societies (civilizations and empires) and solve their problems, despite abundant evidence that large-scale societies are unstable and follow natural cycles of growth and decline

¥ Slavery has been eliminated

¥ Modern medicine has solved the problem of disease

¥ Experts understand: the human body, etc.

¥ Science is converging toward understanding the universe

All institutions of civilization evolved to promote civilization, so can't be used

Disrespecting Senses
Replacing our senses with instruments and our memories with writing and other recording technologies, so that they atrophy

Replacing the working and traveling abilities of our bodies with labor-saving machinery so that our senses fail to experience our habitat directly

Replacing our memory with recording technologies such as writing, so that our memory atrophies and individuals and communities lose the ability to pass on knowledge and wisdom

Replacing our imagination with passive consumption of media imagery, so that we lose the ability to visualize a future based on our own wisdom

Polluting our environment with toxins, recycled air, artificial light, mechanical noise, vibration, and media so that our senses are overwhelmed and damaged

Establishing an institution of knowledge (science) which trusts instruments and distrusts senses

Denying Place
Defining artificial political boundaries and geometrical grids which supersede natural habitats and resource pathways

Replacing diverse natural habitats with standardized impermeable surfaces, cities and distribution corridors

Developing and promoting a culture of mobility in which people can be "at home" anywhere yet be rooted nowhere

Maintaining a consumer economy which is place-agnostic, in which the habitat of origin of a product is either unknown or is secondary to its market value

Establishing an institution of knowledge (science) based on abstract mathematical space rather than on observable places

Linearizing Time
Establishing machinery (clocks and calendars) which regulates social behavior by dividing natural cycles into regular intervals, so that behavior is regulated by machinery rather than by
natural cycles

Replacing cultural memory with recording technology, resulting in a failure to recognize long ecological and cultural cycles, in turn resulting in a mistaken linear conception of time: the
misconception that phenomena proceed in an unrepeating succession

Mistaking the perceived advancement of technological power for improvement in the quality of life (progress), so that the entire focus of society is on change, and

Establishing an institution of knowledge (science) based on abstract linear time divided into universal standard intervals rather than on habitat-specific natural cycles

Mistaking the advancement of technological power (progress) for improvement in the quality of life, so that the institutions of society strive to make life better (accelerating consumption),
instead of keeping life good (sustaining and renewing)

Fetishizing Life
Creating an arbitrary distinction between living and nonliving things, with a corresponding division between institutions of knowledge (physical sciences and life sciences), despite the evidence of our senses that everything changes, develops, and participates in the cycles of nature

As a result, we look down on dirt, dead things, and human waste - essential and valuable components in the natural cycles of renewal

Failing to Inhabit
Concentrating populations in cities requiring remote resource production and distribution networks

As a result, people live in places which are not true habitats, relying for their subsistence on many remote sources (food, water, energy, materials) in remote habitats for which the urban
dwellers have neither information or accountability

As a corollary, true communities consisting of resource providers and users fail to develop, resulting in false communities based on ethnicity and economic class

Failing to Renew Habitat
Maintaining a market economy which allows the majority of people to consume resources without producing them, isolating consumers from the natural cycles of resource renewal

Concentrating populations in cities, isolated from the habitats and local environmental cycles which produce their resources

Maintaining mechanical barriers such as indoor plumbing which hide natural cycles from consumers

Maintaining distribution systems for resources and waste products which break natural cycles of renewal, delivering end products (such as body waste) to habitats remote from their origin
(such as crop fields) and absolving individuals from participation in natural cycles of renewal

By replacing body functions of work and travel with machinery, obscuring the role of food as our fundamental energy source, and misdirecting attention to the energy provided to machinery by
natural resources

Stigmatizing and avoiding death, body waste, and garbage, which are all essential and valuable components in natural cycles of renewal

By treating food as a commodity and food production as an industry, failing to recognize food sources as natural habitats, and hence obscuring the fundamental relationship of people with
nature, as renewers of habitat through harvesting and eating food and returning wastes to the soil

By failing to recognize cyclical time and long cycles in the environment, misunderstanding the role of wilderness as a reservoir of habitat in changing conditions, and failing to limit
population and resource use so as to maintain larger surrounding areas of wilderness

Failing to Renew Community
Maintaining an economy which privileges the individual and gratification of individual needs and desires, ignoring and eroding the relationship between individual and community

Through the institutions of the market economy, isolating consumers from producers, so that individuals fail to recognize their dependence on community, and values center erroneously on the

Through dwelling on a linear sense of time, failing to recognize the human life cycle as a cycle of renewal, misunderstanding the positive role of death and its relationship to sustenance,
fearing death and squandering excessive resources on quantitative longevity and the reduction of infant mortality

Failing to recognize the primary role of all individuals in the renewal of community through direct participation in the cycle of the generations: conceiving, bearing, and raising children,
providing sustenance and care to community members at all stages of life, and developing and providing wisdom and guidance through a culture of renewal

Failing to Foster a Culture of Renewal
With institutions and practices based on a market economy and isolation of consumers from habitats and resource production, the components of culture (language, religion, customs, dress,
sports, arts & entertainment) become divorced from their roles in the renewal of habitat and community

Market competition and cultural hierarchy robs local communities of most talented members

Without meaningful games and social arts (storytelling & drama, singing and dancing) to directly reinforce our community bonds and remind us of our personal roles in the renewal of habitat,
without meaningful rituals and ceremonies to remind us of our personal roles in the renewal of community, we destructively pursue the gratification of individual needs through consumption of
resources and abandonment of wastes

As a result of failing to recognize long cycles in the environment, failing to maintain and promote hunting and gathering skills as a reservoir of adaptation to changing conditions

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