“It would be a mistake to think this culture clear-cuts only forests, it clear-cuts our psyches as well. It would be a mistake to think it dams only rivers. We ourselves are dammed (and damned) by it as well. It would be a mistake to think it creates dead zones only in the ocean. It creates dead zones in our hearts and minds. It would be a mistake to think it fragments only our habitat. We too are fragmented, split off, shredded, rent, torn.” ~ Derrick Jensen
Colonialism, expansionism, imperialism, call it what you will. It has systematically destroyed both our psychological and ecological environments. It is a heartless man-machine hell-bent on conquering, consuming, controlling and repeating, ad infinitum. Like Frantz Fanon said, “Colonialism is not a machine capable of thinking, a body endowed with reason. It is naked violence.”
And in its naked violence it leaves paths of mass destruction that transform healthy environments into burnt-out husks. Unhealthy and unsustainable, colonialism is an engine with outdated machinery and parochial, dyed-in-the-wool equipment. It rampages over environments like a mindless, hyper-violent backhoe; close-minded and dogged in its obsolete dog-eat-dog worldview.
What gets chewed up isn’t just the biosphere but the human psyche, the human heart, and the human soul. And the only thing standing in its way are healthy, reasonable, compassionate, and eco-centric human beings. Self-aware people that understand and empathize with the Sioux proverb: “The earth was not given to you, but loaned to you. We do not inherit it from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” Here are three ways to decolonize the human condition.
1) Decolonize yourself
“Keeping one eye on the way the world ought to be, while never losing sight of the way it is, requires permanent, precarious balance. It requires facing squarely the fact that you will never get the world you want, while refusing to talk yourself out of wanting it.” ~ Susan Neiman
In a colonized world, it’s extremely difficult to differentiate medicine from poison. It’s almost as if we have to become aware before we can become aware. Like George Orwell said, “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” Frustrating indeed.
So in light of this contradictory self-awakening revolution, what is one to do? First and foremost, we have to be okay with getting uncomfortable. Like Brene’ Brown said, “You can have courage or you can have comfort, but you can’t have both.”
Once courage has sufficiently trumped comfort, we can challenge ourselves into building a new world in the shell of the old. We can deny the egocentric communities and embrace the creation of eco-centric communities. We can choose to break the cycle of rampant nature deprivation. Like Carl Jung said, “Civilized man is in danger of losing all contact with the world of instinct –a danger that is still further increased by his living an urban existence in what seems to be a purely man-made environment. This loss of instinct is largely responsible for the pathological condition of our contemporary culture.”
We can make a commitment to restore our connection to mother earth. We can wake up to what the native peoples of this earth have always known: that ultimately the damaging development of colonization serves only to separate us from each other and from the very foundation of life itself. We can realize that the oil-mongers and warmongers are us. And then slowly, systematically, begin to un-oil-monger and un-warmonger ourselves by replacing oil with renewable and violence with love.
2) Decolonize through progressive technology
“Revolution is at once the most tragic and redeeming social experience. It is what societies do instead of committing suicide, when the alternatives are exhausted and all the connections that bind men’s lives in familiar patterns are cut.” ~ Andrew Kopkind
We can use technology to progressively evolve instead of regressively devolve. We have the creative capacity to overcome our limits. We always have. This is what makes us most authentically human. And this creative capacity manifests itself through our technologies. It always has.
Technology can be progressive and constructive, or regressive and destructive; a kind of techno-ontological double-edged sword. We are created by what we have created: shoes, the wheel, and computers.
Likewise, we are destroyed by what we have created: guns, the atomic bomb, and run-away capitalism. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to use our technologies. We just have to get better at using them in healthier ways.
Technology has forever been like a second skin for humans. The question is: will that skin be armor-like and invulnerable, and thus destructive and unsustainable; or robust and adaptable, and thus constructive and sustainable. Balance is key. Moderation is the secret. The Golden Mean is forcing our head over the edge of the human abyss.
The Golden Ratio is slapping us across the face. The Middle Way is perhaps the only way to right the ship, but the vast majority of people are too busy sinking it with their extremist views to see that perhaps rocking the boat in moderation is the way to stay afloat.
Along with emerging renewable energy technologies, guerrilla gardening is an exceptional technology for decolonizing the human condition. Or what about the Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement, and their idea of moving towards a resource-based economy instead of a monetary based one – money being a huge hurdle for the evolution of our species. Like Douglas Adams said, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
Or what about Google and the collective consciousness of the internet, or the Hubble Telescope or the Overview Effect, or even the use of smart phones. These technologies have a way of creating what Jason Silva calls “techno-social wormholes” that literally shrink our “line of sight” and squash the outdated notion of “out of sight, out of mind.” With these “wormholes” we can shrink space and time and come together through eco-conscious cells, forums, threads, posts, websites, with which we can crush the overreach of colonialism from the inside out.
3) Transform the Desert of the Real into the Garden of the New
“The Great Lie is that this is civilization. It’s not civilized. It has literally been the most blood-thirsty brutalizing system ever imposed upon this planet. This is not civilization, this is the Great Lie. Or if it does represent civilization, and that is truly what civilization is, then the Great Lie is that civilization is good for us.” ~ John Trudell
Who are the captains of spaceship earth? We are. Each and every one of us has a part to play in steering this most precious vessel. We must be able to transform the Wasteland of the Hyperreal into the Desert of the Real into the Garden of the New.
The Wasteland of the Hyperreal is the world that has been left behind by outdated colonialism and parochial imperialism. It is the ravaged, burnt-out husk upon which we all currently walk blindfolded. The Desert of the Real is that blindfold removed, the psychological/spiritual/existential wakeup call to the extent of our destruction and to the full realization of the damage that the Wasteland of the Hyperreal has caused.
One cannot even fathom the possibility of the Garden of the New without first removing this blindfold. The Garden of the New is an updated, healthy, and sustainable world where eco-conscious people have rediscovered a sacred balance between nature and the human soul.
This evolution takes shape within the process of techno-social rewilding, keeping in mind that we are not regressing into savagery, but progressing into a healthier more sustainable world for us all. It takes place within the courageous heart of each of us decolonizing ourselves and rising up from the gutters of an outdated way of being human in the world.
It’s an awakening to both our roots and our wings, and how to balance the power of both. It’s an emergence, a re-imagining, an existential revelation and a spiritual revolution. In short: it’s providence, and the salvation of our species. But until such time can pass, dear reader, heed the wise words of John Trudell, “Protect your spirit, because you are in the place where spirits get eaten.”