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Excerpt from Dreams

Murder and Sacrifice (p. 507)

From chapter "The Murder of the Planet"

Two hundred species went extinct today.

Also, today, January 26, 2010, the last remaining member of the Bo people of the Andaman Islands in India died. The dominant culture is destroying human cultures at a relatively faster pace even than it is destroying wild nature.

Two hundred species went extinct yesterday.

Also yesterday, I heard a line by an American Indian, about mining: “First they came for the animals with fur, then they came for the trees, and now they’re coming for the stones.”

Two hundred species went extinct the day before that.

That same day, I learned that ground had been broken on a new dam in Burma. This dam will displace forty-five human villages, and inundate forested land the size of New York City. This dam will provide electricity for industry in Yunan, China.

And two hundred species went extinct on the previous day.

On that day I learned that not long after the Europeans began their conquest of North America, many groups of indigenous peoples gathered to try to understand these settlers and their bizarre ways. Why would any people kill all of the wolves for no apparent reason? Why would they kill the wood bison? Why would they kill the forests? Those at the gathering could come up with only one conclusion: these settlers must be insane.

Two hundred species went extinct the day before I learned that.

On that day I participated in a video presentation in which I was asked essentially that same question: Why on earth would anyone be so destructive? Why would a group of people kill the planet on which they live? And why would so many others not stop them? I went through the answers I’ve given in so many books—posttraumatic stress disorder, a system of social rewards that leads inevitably to atrocity, the drawdown of ecological reserves that leads to short-term competitive advantage, the wétiko illness, a mass conversion of what were humans into flesh-eating zombies—and ended by saying, “I have no idea. After all these years and all these books and all this analysis, I still cannot fathom what would cause people to behave so atrociously.”

Two days from now is the Super Bowl. An estimated 100 million people will watch this game. This game. Across the country, people will gather not only to watch the game, but to have “commercial parties,” where the point is to watch the advertisements (a recent poll suggests that 51 percent of those watching the Super Bowl watch it specifically for the commercials, not the football).

Two hundred species will go extinct two days from now.

And fewer people will care about those species than will care about the advertisements in a fucking football game.

Even given the fact that it is happening, I still find it hard to believe that anyone could be stupid and insane enough to kill the planet that is their only home. Even given the fact that it is happening, I still find it hard to believe that anyone could succeed in being so destructive. Even given the stupid and insane—and sociopathological and hateful—rants of scientific philosophers from Francis Bacon to Richard Dawkins to Sam Harris and the ridiculous polemics of capitalist economists and their pet politicians who buttress their destructive behavior; even given the urging of fellow cult members, whether the cult is monotheism, capitalism, or science; even given the “luck” we talked about earlier, I still find it hard to believe that anyone can be so insatiably and successfully destructive.

We are, after all, talking about the murder of the planet.
The question returns: how do they do it?

Of course the fact that they are masters at the application of organized violence and on technologies of exploitation certainly helps them to perpetrate their destructive behavior.

But really, how do they do it? Seriously, to systematically destroy so much. To destroy everyone who lives.

Yesterday I learned that even just one hundred years ago, there were runs of salmon twelve miles wide that ran for twenty-eight days. Unless we stop this culture, I give salmon another fifteen years before they are driven extinct.

So really, how to they do it?

Of course the fact that they have made a fetish, a religion, and an economy of perpetual growth helps to rationalize their behavior. But still, how do they do it?

Of course having the arrogance to believe you are the only being worthy of consideration, and that the world was created just for you to use—in other words, to be a narcissist and a sociopath—helps facilitate these behaviors.

But how have they succeeded in killing so many, so much?

And of course having a sociopathic epistemology as described by Richard Dawkins and enacted by the fanatic followers of the cult of the scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial perspective certainly also facilitates the destructive activities.

But how do they do it?

Here’s a possibility. What if the Aztecs were right? What if their gods did indeed require blood sacrifices in order to be sustained? And what if every action requires a sacrifice? What if Martin Prechtel was right, and we owe spiritual debts to other sides? What if every invention carries with it a spiritual debt that must be paid? What if a knife is an expensive piece of equipment, and a gun even moreso, and an airplane even moreso? What if an automobile costs more than money—what if it creates a spiritual debt?

Let’s ask that question about the Aztecs again: what if their gods did indeed require blood sacrifices in order to be sustained?

Now let’s ask it one more time, with two slight changes of emphasis that change everything: what if their gods did indeed require blood sacrifices in order to be sustained?

And now let’s ask a few more questions: What if other gods require blood sacrifices as well? What if in return for these sacrifices they will give you power? And what if they do not themselves have bodies, do not themselves have hands and fingers and thumbs with which to make things, and what if they need some human followers—some slaves, some addicts, some domesticates, some zombies—to do their bidding?

And what if these other gods do not wish us well?


Do you really think the Aztecs thought their mass sacrifices were anything other than how the world works? Don’t you think the Aztecs had an epistemology and cosmology that described the universe in ways that made sense to them, in ways that led them to think that they were just living?


What do you call the murder of the oceans? Once, whales were so thick in the oceans they were a hazard to shipping. Once, fish were so thick you could drop in a bucket and remove it filled with fish. Once, seabirds were so thick you could not see the sun. What do you call these murders?

What are they if not sacrifices?

Most any sane person already recognizes them as sacrifices: the planet is being sacrificed on the altar of economics, or on the altar of technological progress, or on the altar of civilization.

But what if this is not merely a figure of speech, but is in all spiritual truth what is happening?

What do you call the murder of the passenger pigeons? Prior to the arrival of this culture, there were more passenger pigeons in North America than all other birds combined. Members of this culture slaughtered them, and then slaughtered them, and then slaughtered them, until there were none left. Prior to the arrival of this culture, there were penguins in the northern hemisphere: they were called great auks, and they were plentiful beyond modern belief. Members of this culture slaughtered them, and then slaughtered them, and then slaughtered them, until there were none left. Prior to the arrival of this culture, the plains (and woods) were full of bison. This culture slaughtered them, and then slaughtered them, and then slaughtered them, until there were almost none left.

What if these are real blood sacrifices, and what if there are gods leading this culture, and these sacrifices are absolutely necessary in order for them to be sustained? What if these sacrifices are the source of this culture’s “luck”?

Name one indigenous culture which has not been harmed by the dominant culture. You cannot do it, because it cannot be done. Every indigenous culture has been harmed. Most have been driven from their land, most have had their ways of life destroyed, most have had their languages extinguished.


Five hundred thousand children die every year as a direct result of so-called debt repayment from so-called colonies to the institutions at the center of empire. Are these not sacrifices? Certainly they are sacrifices to capitalism. Who is to say they are not sacrifices to some awful god of capitalism?

Sixty thousand people die every day from the effects of pollution. On whose altar are those lives sacrificed?

One out of every four women in this culture is raped within her lifetime. An additional one out of about five has to fend off a rape attempt. Whom does this terror serve? Who feeds off of this mass terror? To what gods are the unbroken psyches of these women offered?

In Songs of the Dead I described many of the forty-some attempts made to assassinate Hitler. These attacks often failed for nearly unbelievable reasons. Fog saved Hitler’s life. Bombs unaccountably failed to explode, even after the detonators fired. A fly landing on someone’s hand caused an attempt to be aborted. Soviets could have trapped Hitler deep inside Russia had their tanks not run out of gas directly at the edge of the runway Hitler used to escape. In the famous July 20, 1944, plot, Stauffenberg was only able to activate one detonator instead of the two they had planned because someone interrupted him in the bathroom as he was setting the detonators, and would not leave him alone. The single detonator may have been sufficient, had the briefcase carrying the bomb not been pushed far beneath a massive oak table by someone trying to look more carefully at the maps on top. The list goes on.

How did Hitler get so lucky?

Maybe the tens of millions of victims of World War II and the Holocaust can buy a fair amount of luck.

I don’t believe the Aztecs considered their sacrifices as strange or disgusting. Indeed, they were simply a part of everyday life. The sacrifices were routine. They were simply part of how things were.

And how are things now?

Here is my final possible reason the dominant culture has been able to dispossess and destroy the indigenous, and why the earth has not killed us off. It is the possibility in which I most believe. This has all come to pass because the dominant culture and its members have been willing to sacrifice so much to their gods. Call these gods God, capitalism, science, technological progress, machines, civilization, or what have you. Or find and call out these gods by the names behind these rationalizations. Find and call out these others who do not wish us well.