Pillars of Destruction #1 Introduction
Future essay (2536 or year 75 of the new count) about the fall of 21st century human civilization.
Reporter to the great human thinker Mahatma Gandhi around the 1930s: “Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?” Gandhi: “I think, it would be a very good idea.”
Note: This 25th century article has been edited to 21st century English, for easier comprehension of its contents.
Discover how, what the 21st century people called, ‘the pillars of civilization’, where actually the roots of their downfall. Capitalism, Democracy, Individualism, 21st Century Science and the USA, propagated with a fervor as ideals. They turned out to be deeply barbaric, destructive and misguided. How couldn’t or why didn’t want they to see? Let’s explore.
Introduction: Down Into the Big Rift
The Rift or Great Rift. The Dark Ages that lasted from the 21st to deep into the 24th century. Billions of people died. Eco systems collapsed. Many species with a vital role in the system disappeared. The land was barren. Food, clean water and air to breath were scarce and foul. Only when nature, what diversity was left of it, had started to restore itself and found new balances could we start to look beyond direct survival. We were very few and humbled by this ordeal. Since then we have gradually started over to a point where we can call ourselves a society again. The oceans produce slowly more oxygen again. There’s new forests teeming with life, still quite unbalanced. The biggest ordeal however seems over. But we must make sure the lessons need not be repeated. Human kind might not get another chance. So what caused this terrible Big Rift that did us almost in for?
The big dying began with the growing amount of natural disasters. Storms, floods and heat waves added to human deforestation, depletion of natural resources and damaging of natural life cycles. All together they started to crack living conditions of millions undeniably from the second decade of the 21st century forwards. And still many did not want to see, let alone adapt their ‘civilized’ life style to natural realities. The growing shortages led not to new insights, better cooperation and coordination. They led to wars over the last natural resources, last green lands, last fish and last goods. Corporate ownership led to immense cruelty; denying all, who couldn’t pay, access to basic things such a water, food and shelter. Mass migrations, fights between peoples, governments, nations and even neighbourhoods followed. These wars, together with the geo-engineering ‘solutions’ the dominant powers promoted, added to the damage and downfall of the global technical civilization, that had dominated the World since it’s rise from the Industrial Age forward. And it took them straight down into the great dark Rift.
The Self Deluded Civilization
Mankind had to start all over again. We all know the Big Rift made us embrace essential lessons about natural principles and environmental demands. And it’s not as if the 21st century people had a lack of these insights. In fact much of the principles and insights we live now by, were already known by the second half of the 20th century. But more than install safeguards to prevent these disasters, the 20th century paradigms and powers actually increased the dangerous spiral downward. I deeply understand all the blame we poor down on that cursed age and civilization. We blame them for the most horrid experiences of human kind, and perhaps for all life on this planet. They acted as criminals monsters against better judgement. Yet, we should wonder. The pollution, the wars, the ravaging of the planet, all happened not because they knew they were acting as monsters. They were deeply convinced their way of life was ‘civilized’. They felt their life was normal, and anyone challenging it therefore must be barbarian, or terrorist as they framed such challengers. Their leaders however were eager to exploit these challenger as such. We must admit these self deceiving, self justified, self serving leaders branded and propagated the very life styles that led this destructive human society straight into the abyss, often consciously.
So how did these barbaric people blind themselves and create the very troubles we now call the Rift? We’ll find that their actions were all based on what they perceived as the pinnacles of civilization. We’ll find how the pillars on which they build their society, that seemed so glorious to them, were actually the roots of their downfall.
The trouble with civilization
What is civilization? In fact it is nothing more than how much a society or culture ranks compared to the ruling paradigms, values and norms of the society that does the ranking. In the 20th century industrial societies with the most technological advance would proclaim themselves the pinnacle of civilization. If you happened to be a democracy even more so. The sum of wealth, technological advancements and personal freedom (read access to consumer goods) was seen as the proof of this claim.
An 20th century USA dictionary proclaimed it’s own democracy as the most advanced political system on the planet. All other forms of government were deemed backward, barbaric or even uncivilized. On top of this many Americans believed their was the nation most favored by God. So why would they question their own actions?
This perception of being the highlight of civilization became a threat towards the end of the 20th century. Warnings from other belief systems were hardly taken serious. How could they take it serious? They were the most glorious. They wouldn’t let anyone question their system, even while it’s disadvantages became clearer and clearer. They rather pushed criticisms aside and promoted their own views as the pinnacle of advancement. Their art (movies, books, music, media) all promoted their way of life without any questions. Outsiders who threatened it were often portrayed as evil or criminal. Meanwhile the West, or USA, used democracy, or threats to it, as a banner to advance the interests of their own elite. Much like the Spaniards in the 16th, and most Colonial powers in the 17th and 18th century had used the Christian faith as an excuse for the advancement of their own political power. The use of a ruse to seek domination in economical or military sense is of all times. And how can one question a government that seeks to bring ‘enlightenment’ in whatever form to ‘backward’ people? How can one question a system that is seen as the highlight of civilization? One can’t. Being the first among many surely blinds important senses, like self reflection. And, as we will see in the case of the US empire, it rather opens up doors to paranoia and greedy self justification.
Journey into the Rift
By now we have learned, amongst others, that Taoist principles and many Native American beliefs of their tribal era, were in fact more civilized and important than the damaging ways of the Western powers of the 20th century. To open their eyes to other meanings of the word civilized they seemed to need a big catastrophe. Mayor criticisms from within their societies that already warned of what would and could happen if they would not listen were ignored, suppressed or ridiculed. Just like in biblical times, prophets are rarely popular voices.
It seems weird to us how the people of the 20th century couldn’t and wouldn’t believe, how much damage they were doing to the very world they would leave to their children. The evidence was all around them, yet they ignored it. Why? It is very easy to call them blind and stupid from our perspective. But if I asked you to give up most of your conveniences and belongings in order to safe the planet you’d think twice. You’d rather watch your community if they also went along. You also might become very doubtful of the urgency of the need as long as the catastrophes were not directly affecting your life. Thus the elites, that could best fend of the effects, were the last to really face the effects of their actions. They only were ready to really see, when it was way too late. It is always hard to really freely change the way you live, before the situation forces you to. We can only wonder why the educated poor didn’t start a revolution earlier.
The Pillars of Destruction
So what were the fundaments of their downfall? What created the Rift, what lay at the root of all the pollution and collapse of eco-systems? Here we have to look at what they ranked as highest achievements. Most people of the 20th century considered Science, Capitalism, Democracy, the US Empire, and Individualism as the beacons of their civilization. Yet, these pillars all added up to the disaster. And even worse, where these pillars collaborated, the disastrous effect even became bigger.
Capitalism put money first. Only when food and resources ran out, they discovered that you can’t eat money. The culture of greed, putting economic progress over beneficial growth of the whole, became a cancer that applauded itself for successfully depleting natural resources and polluting the world for many in favor of profit for a few.
How could Science become damaging? Most scientists looked at their own field and didn’t care to look at how all things affected each other. Shamelessly they first build the machines that emptied the seas, destroyed the forests and stirred up the wars. Then they heralded plastics and consumerism as progress. Then, when they finally tried to stop the damage, at the hand of big business, they build the machines that should prevent further damage. But when corporations favored their own products over real solutions they worsened the damage. Corporates pushed many scientists to build geo-engineering machines that invoked many new disasters as side effects to the solutions they promised to bring.
Capitalism combined with science turned our planet into an overmedicated old woman, heavy on addictive drugs with devastating side effects, that would make matters far worse. And the corporations and political leaders earned on while Mother Earth died. Because no one wanted to change their own lifestyle. They sought only to solve the effects of their destructive lifestyles. And thus most people elected leaders that would protect their place in society over embracing real solutions and paying a price for it. This only made the final reckoning so much worse.
Democracy combined with individualism made it almost impossible for the peoples to make choices that would favor our common future. Stupid promises like tax reduction, or fear mongering about immigrant groups were favored over nature protection. Short term self interest steered most debates towards blindness about long term effects. And big corporations manipulated people further away from collective responsibility. The limits of democracy to cope with the troubles of the 21st century lay within its ancient paradigms. It was and stayed a kind of ritual war favoring quality of marketing candidates over wisdom about real issues.
Individualism made matters worse. It stimulated self interest (consumerism) and clouded the ability to see yourself as part of bigger pattern. 20th and early 21st century people didn’t think beyond their years, let alone think about the eco-system they were born as integral part of. Their huge concrete cities filled with cheap screens disconnected all awareness of nature as a living system, that they should care for. Only when it all was lost, did they acknowledge how the very system that had kept them alive, was now doomed. And still rather than change course, they started wars, invoking Gods and blaming and killing millions of others for being the dangerous ones. The worst killers refused to acknowledge, that they in fact were the very monsters they claimed to fight.
Finally the US Empire combined all of these excesses to the max, and by the time it lost its hegemony to China, this country had taken over the worst paradigms of its predecessor. By then the oceans had started to die, the last primal forests were almost gone and wild life had become less than 20% of what it was, not even 5 decades earlier. Thus together these 20th century pillars of civilization have proven to be the very fundaments of humanities downfall into the Big Rift.
The Unheeded Call
The call to save our common future at the end of the 20th century was to reduce industry, economical development, find more beneficial (they called it sustainable) ways and discover new ways of government. Many activists and grassroots initiatives called for building meaningful relationships across political boundaries and with the ecological reality of nature. They promoted a honest distribution of water, food and safekeeping, while safe-guarding the environment and natural resources. And perhaps most important of all called for a revitalizing of all natural cycles that had been damaged. They showed that all the solutions were available, even when they would decree smaller economies, millions of small organic farms and the end of the dinosaur corporations, like oil and weapons industry. Sadly mankind as a whole failed almost at all of these sensible ideas. What we now know as common sense, was then seen as disruptive activism endangering the status quo for most people. And the big earners made people believe their financial losses would be worse for mankind than the death of nature. Thus the Great Rift became a disaster way too few could or wanted to prevent from happening. The history of the 20th century is a look into what interests, values, paradigms made the descend into the Rift unavoidable. The plagues of unlimited expansion, destruction of natural resources, blatant self inflating consumerism (the 25th century people have one word for this: scorching) and finally geo-engineering as the worst solution possible, were born out of that.
At the end of this series we’ll look at how to look forward. Because by looking back we learn that our civilization is the result of the lessons of these barbaric times. We may not have to make the same mistakes. We may not be the pinnacle of civilization of our or even of all times. We are not democratic, individualistic, scientific or capitalistic like of ancestors, but like them we do cherish paradigms that might contain similar dangers or limitations locked within. Some claim we should start boldly expanding again. In that call lie the roots of the same mistakes the 21st century people made. Perhaps we should be more open to our own prophets, some who use words similar to those already spoken in the 20th century. Perhaps we should use our time travel technology not for tourism, but to try and warn those, that will devastate our Mother Earth in their times.