Monday, January 11, 2010

A new story

Reading back what I wrote yesterday I can see how
fantastical it must seem: the idea that our civilization,
so solid, so expansive, so apparently unstoppable, is
in decline and even headed for collapse. I find it hard
to believe myself when I look at the props on our stage:
the cars, the roads, the global wheels of commerce, the
sheer amount of plastic everywhere. To stand up and
say that it can’t go on like this is like saying the king has
no clothes. Yet say it and see it we must, if we are not to
go on believing, as John Michael Greer says, that history
consists of a ‘linear ascent from primeval pond scum to
the American suburban middle class,’ and that the best,
indeed the only course of action is to join ‘our political,
economic, and religious leaders [in] following the path
of least resistance toward a head-on collision with
ecological reality.’ Essentially, he concludes, the crisis
is not an economic or even ecological but a religious
one; since the Enlightenment we in the West anyway
have worshipped at the one true church of material
progress and sacrificed to the god of growth. Time, he
says, to start telling ourselves a new story, because the
wind is whistling through the holes in the old one.

I want also to say that ‘descent’ and ‘decline’ are
relative terms and not necessarily doom-laden or
disastrous. We have made such a mess of things on this
planet that a great deal of further unnecessary suffering
is inevitable, as post-peak-oil societies start to struggle,
but many good constructive things will happen as new
ways of living emerge from the ruins of the old (or
should that be ‘older ways of living re-emerge from
under the impress of the newer’). Some of these are
happening already. As Giovanni says in his comment on
my previous blog
, 'if we have to ditch cars and reinvent
our cities around other modes and philosophies of
movement transportation,’ then bring it on. The day the
last shopping megacentre closes its doors for want of
customers no longer able to drive will not, I think, be
such a bad day.

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