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Excerpt from Endgame

Advantages (p. 825)

From chapter "A Matter of Time"

In terms of fighting against the civilized, the Indians—and by extension the indigenous before them running all the way back to those first who opposed this awful way of life—had many advantages over us today. They could move in the open in their own territory, and they could recruit through speeches without worrying about snitches and infiltrators, much less bugs and spy cams. They often had entire communities united against their enemy. Huge chunks of territory were out of the reach of the civilized, where those who opposed it could go to rest or to live. Civilization was not so powerful, with tanks and airplanes and automatic rifles and tasers capable of electroshocking entire crowds, indeed, with bombs capable of killing the planet. Television did not blare into the homes of the civilized, broadcasting propaganda directly into people’ brains twenty-four hours per day. The skies were full of birds, the rivers full of fish, the forests full of animals: people could easily feed themselves, and had not been forced into a position of dependency on the very social structures they were fighting. The list of advantages held by these earlier fighters over us is very long.

But we are not without advantages of our own. The first is that diversity leads to resilience, and never has any culture so relentlessly destroyed all forms of diversity. Further, never has any culture so totally relied on one resource. Egyptian nationalist Gamal Abdel Nassar rightly recognized that oil is the “vital nerve of civilization.” Without it, he wrote, all of industrial civilization’s machines and tools are “mere pieces of iron, rusty, motionless, and lifeless.”He’s right. As Matt Savinar puts it in The Oil Age is Over: What to Expect as the World Runs Out of Cheap Oil, 2005-2050, “In the U.S., approximately 10 calories of fossil fuels are required to produce 1 calorie of food. If packaging and shipping are factored into the equation, that ratio is raised considerably. This disparity is made possible by an abundance of cheap oil. Most pesticides are petroleum- (oil) based, and all commercial fertilizers are ammonia-based. Ammonia is produced from natural gas, a fossil fuel subject to a depletion profile similar to that of oil. Oil has allowed for farming implements such as tractors, food storage systems such as refrigerators, and food transport systems such as trucks.” He also states, “Oil is also needed to deliver almost all of our fresh water. Oil is used to construct and maintain aqueducts, dams, sewers, wells, as well as to pump the water that comes out of our faucets. As with food, the cost of fresh water will soar as the cost of oil soars. . . . Oil is also largely responsible for the advances in medicine that have been made in the last 150 years. Oil allowed for the mass production of pharmaceutical drugs, surgical equipment and the development of health care infrastructure such as hospitals, ambulances, roads, etc. . . . Oil is also required for nearly every consumer item, sewage disposal, garbage disposal, street/park maintenance, police, fire services, and national defense. Thus, the aftermath of Peak Oil will extend far beyond how much you will pay for gas. Simply stated, you can expect: economic collapse, war, widespread starvation, and a mass die-off of the world’s [human] population.

This is probably a good time to remind readers that the longer civilization continues, the more severe will be the human die-off; and to remind them further that the crash of civilization will come, and that right soon, because no matter how strong a culture’s denial may be, thermodynamics is infinitely stronger; which means if your primary concern is for the health and safety of those humans who live during and after the crash, then you need to turn off your fucking television, get off your butt, and start forming community gardens, start learning local edible plants so you can teach them to others, start figuring out what local people can do for potable water during the crash, and so on. Instead of being scared of or fighting against those who want to bring down civilization while something still remains of the natural world—or to put this a way that even the most anthropocentric of the civilized can understand, while there are still wild plants and animals for you to eat and still wild water for you to drink—you need to work to soften the inevitable crash in whatever way you can. If you’re not doing that, I don’t want to hear any complaints from you about those who want to bring down civilization. And if you are doing it, you probably understand why people want to bring it down, and you support them in their efforts.

So, one advantage we have over those who came before is that civilization is far more reliant on one resource than ever before. Bottlenecks—chokepoints— imply vulnerability. You can figure out what to do from there.

Another advantage we have is that this culture has clearly reached its limits to growth. From the beginning civilization has required, for reasons long since discussed, constant expansion. This is especially true of its most metastatic manifestation, modern capitalism. At all times in history, civilization still had new territories to exploit. But there are no more ridges to climb to see the vast expanse of uncut forests on the other side. There are no new masses of people to enslave. At this point all that is left of the vast natural capital—as the capitalists would perceive it—are the scraps. This means the age of grotesque exuberance is over.

Sometimes people tell me it would do no good to take out a big dam because those in power would simply rebuild it. I have three responses. The first is that this would be okay, because any money spent rebuilding that dam would not be available to construct some other undoubtedly destructive artifact. One of the central objectives of partisan warfare is to bleed your enemy however you can. Second, if they build it again, we take it out again, just as they did with Indian villages. If we take it out often enough, they, too, will become familiar with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s five stages. They’re already in denial. They’ll get angry. If we push them past that anger they’ll try bargaining. But I’m not interested in bargaining with them. The time for bargaining has long passed, and besides, for them, bargaining is just a euphemism for stalling, lying, and stealing: as Red Cloud said, “They made us many promises, more than I can remember. But they never kept but one. They promised to take our land and they took it.”Next, depression: I don’t care if they get depressed. After what they’ve done to the world and to humans, they should feel not only depressed but deeply ashamed. They won’t. But they sure as gravity will end up accepting that the dams are coming down. My third response is that the age of exuberance is over. The big dams won’t be rebuilt anyway. Neither the money nor the will is there anymore. The industrialized countries no longer even have enough money to maintain and repair their infrastructure now (roads, water pipes, sewers, dams, bridges, and so on), and nobody is attacking it except wind, water, sand, plants, and concrete-eating bacteria.

Another advantage we have is that this culture has exhausted its soil. I mean this both in the physical sense of destroying topsoil—as goes the soil, so goes the culture—but also in the sense of the Oswald Spengler line I quoted early in this book, that it has exhausted its spiritual and emotional soil. The culture is dead, but just doesn’t know it yet. Part of our job is to help make that clear. If I may be allowed to switch literary references, in his massive Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon described dynasties’ “unceasing round of valor, greatness, discord, degeneracy, and decay.”It should be clear that civilization is in the final two stages: even if nothing else convinces us, television should (Fear Factor anyone?). It should be equally clear that dynasties in those latter stages are easier targets.

All of this leads to the notion of Kairos, a Greek term describing the moment at which something new can break through. Rollo May and others called this a “destined time.” The theologist Paul Tillich called Kairos “the moment at which history, in terms of a concrete situation, had matured to the point of being able to receive the breakthrough.”In his case he’s talking about the coming of Jesus, but his definition works on many levels. It’s a pretty obvious concept, known to anyone who has ever tried to figure out the right time to ask for two weeks off work or to enter or leave a relationship, or to take down civilization. Timing is everything. And the time is right, or very soon approaching. Can you feel it? It is in the air, the wind, the rain, the streams and rivers. It is rumbling in the ground.

We have an advantage far bigger than any of these. A major reason the Shawnee did not sack Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., that they did not strike at civilization’s central infrastructure, is that just as the whites had a hard time infiltrating Indian communities, the Indians had a hard time infiltrating white cities. Had Tecumseh tried to enter New York City he would have been spotted and killed or captured immediately. But we have no need of hiding as we enter New York City. We don’t even need to enter New York City at all. We’re already there. We already walk among them. We are just people who, like Brian, have a fondness for our species, and other species, and life. We are people who try very hard to think clearly. We are people who are saying no to the machine culture and yes to life on this planet. We are people who are tired of living hollow lives guided by abstract moralities expressly created to serve those in power, moralities divorced from physical realities, including the land we love, including the land we rely on.