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2562. Coherence needed.
We are in a mess. We need to be engaged and to do that we need a sense of where we could be heading, which is hard because the major frame that held the world of meaning together has almost disappeared. Since the weakening of Christian perspectives the West has been in a scramble to create a world where the felt purpose of life cohered. The rise of populism - new mass movements - is understandable as a reaction within that loss of meaning, and climate and geopolitical crises can be understood as failures to find that coherence. The church replaced by neoliberal economics (liberal for money and exploitation for the rest of us) is not a successful shift. The need to find a viable approach to what next for humanity now embroiled in eco- collapse is forcing us all to look for such an approach. Gardenworld is a starting point we can believe in. We got smart coping with climate changes like the little ice age. We grew upright and on two legs in order to outrun the gazelles on the open plain as we were finishing off all the nuts and fruits in the trees. Nature and history should be treated as integrated, inseparable. not separate. We are like all creatures needing to eat, to drink, to breathe, to poop and to reproduce. Death also is part of our shared condition and a major event in our lives creating culture. Thinking about what you really care about and want more of in your life. We got here by coevolving with the planet in a continuous reassessment of priorities, beliefs and appreciations. Thinking that we are a part of nature, not separate and above it, helps us imagine what a better life could be.
History is often written as the emergence of the good, often in the form of “civilization,” from chaos. The perspective we need now is to understand how the possible (not yet certain) death of the human species emerged instead, and what we can do about it. A simple picture of our history, - and there are many - is that over the centuries we got bigger.
Stone age on the ground to
Settlements in huts to
Empires with architecture to
Colonies with trade to
Oil regime: cars, ships planes cities
population continuously increasing
Elites usually in charge
This was not the only possible path, but it is the path we are on. It seems to be the path all species are on - until growth will run out of resources or predators take their toll. Can we do better? The current path which we have been on for a long time, is arriving at a bad outcome. Did we ever have an alternative? New advances in world history are suggesting yes. At each stage other possibilities were explored and the results can be seen on other continents prior to colonialism. These alternatives lost out because the societies that relied on power and war won out. We tend to see history as a linear process we can impose on the above list, but actually at every point alternatives were considered, experiments tried. and what we get is the triumph of the West because those who chose violence dominated those who chose more peaceful ways. Was there ever a time we could have said “No”? Are we so locked in that we cannot revisit crucial turning points? Is Asia different?
There is a divergence between West and East. The division can be seen as the West turning more mechanical and the East staying more organic. Both had problems with population and the organization of power in order to have a coherent society. Most of what follows is about the West. Not just because I know it better but because the West, with its fixation on growth and private wealth, is the nearer source to the environmental problems we face and whose roots we need to rethink.
Perhaps the very idea of civilization, which can be directly linked to inequality, slavery, and war, needs to be rethought. These outcomes are not inevitable natural laws but stem from choices made by some people (not all) locking us into deep inequality.
As a species we have created a mess with many good moments along the way. The way we have gone about it comes deep in our DNA and emerges in our history. Basically We are over-extended, always tending towards a hierarchical structure of society. That increase has been managed by an elite for its own purpose as they exploited society and nature . Is an orderly retreat to a sustainable world possible? Elon Musk talks vigorously about colonizing Mars. What if instead we talked about colonizing earth? Not as in colonialism but as in creating livable places. To paraphrase Musk, colonizing earth will be really hard. But worthwhile. Not only should we do it, but how. We are part of the collapse of the economy into ecology. In more normal English, how do we reintegrate humans with nature? How do we make some use of this rather than be overwhelmed into passivity?What will it really take.?
From Chapter 1 Gardenworld Politics at douglasscarmichael.substack.com
For background. Toynbee The Study of History, Graeber and Wengrow The Dawn of Everything, Tainter The Collapse of Complex societies, Toulmin Cosmopolis