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Excerpt from Endgame

Breaking Faith (p. 817)

From chapter "Breaking Faith"

“The currency of the economic system is faith,” Brian says. “The whole system runs on faith. Insurance runs on faith. Banks run on faith. When people stop believing in it, the system crashes, and quickly.”


There is yet another reason that the civilized have been able to defeat the indigenous. This is perhaps the most important reason of all. Many of the indigenous began to believe that the gods, spirits, mysteries, processes who had protected them forever on their land had abandoned them. This destruction of their faith came about because these protective forces did not save them from the civilized. The civilized burned their villages. The indigenous fought back. Their villages were burned again. They fought back again. And then their villages were burned again. Fewer fought back. Their villages were burned again. Still fewer fought back. Their villages were burned again. They capitulated. No longer did the conquerors need to burn their villages, except once in a while to remind them who’s in charge. The conquerors’ new subjects had lost faith in their old ways. They had become demoralized.

This is how abusers work. One insult, one threat, one strike, is rarely enough to defeat a woman or break a child’s will. The wearing away is repeated, often timed so that just when she begins to recover faith in herself he slaps her down again. Timing is important. Too soon and the demoralization isn’t maximized, too late and she might begin to build up reserves of confidence. Even more important than timing, though, is repetition. She must be forcefully taught that there is no escape, that resistance is futile. She must be pacified.


We all—even those of us who are wildly anti-civ—buy far too much into the myth of the primacy of the machine. We believe civilization works. We believe civilization is resilient. Whether we want to admit it or not, we believe in the deus ex machina, the god in the machine who will save us in the end.This is certainly true of those who believe that science or technology will save us from problems partially created by science and technology. But nearly all of us believe in the machine far more deeply than that.

What do you do when you’re thirsty? If you’re like me, you go to the sink, and you’re utterly certain that when you “turn on” the water it will flow from the tap. It’s automatic. It’s a complete, and completely invisible, belief backed up in the short term by consistent experience. Likewise when we flip a switch we’re absolutely certain that ghost slaves will light up the night. We’re certain that when we go to the grocery store we’ll find food (which we can purchase from transnational corporations). It may surprise us to learn that for nearly all of our existence humans have had this faith not in technologies but in landbases. They knew for certain they could drink water from streams. They knew for certain the salmon would come, or the passenger pigeons, or the bison, or the char, or whatever creatures they relied on for food. But no more. Our faith has been replaced. Our new faith—deep, abiding, unshakable—is in civilization, that it will one way or another take care of us, that it will continue. This faith is strong enough that nearly all of us no longer perceive it as faith. Indeed, most of us do not even think about it at all. I would imagine the possibility that civilization will not take care of us into the foreseeable future is a thought that never once occurs to nearly all Americans in their entire lives. Not once. Civilization with all it entails is simply the way things are. Not many people consider themselves to have faith in gravity. Gravity just is, and if you trip you fall down. No faith is involved. Civilization is perceived the same way.

Even those of us who oppose civilization also generally have an unshakeable faith that civilization will win, at least in the short run. It has defeated so many who have tried to fight it before, so surely it will defeat us too. This faith, too, is so commonly held as to no longer be considered an article of faith, but rather the way things are.

But civilization is not gravity. It is not an immutable force of nature. It is nothing more nor less than one social organization among many. It is a social organization centered around war and maximizing the exploitation of resources. Civilization is a great mass of people who have been driven individually and collectively insane, driven equally out of their minds and bodies by the exploitative violence that characterizes this mode of social organization. Civilization is nothing more nor less than cities using increasingly sophisticated technologies and increasingly more force to steal increasing amounts of resources from increasingly depleted and ever-increasing parts of the globe. That’s it. That’s all it is. And it will not last.

Civilization will not win. I know this as surely as I know that rain falls and carries away exposed soils. I know this as surely as I know the sun shines, bringing light and heat, and I know this as surely as I know there is night. I know this as surely as I know that you cannot use something up and expect to use it again. I know this as surely as I know I am an animal.

Civilization cannot continue. I know this as sure as I know I am alive. I know as sure as gravity that we will win.