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Excerpt from Endgame

Elimination of the Possibility of Escape (p. 246)

From chapter "Why Civilization is Killing the World, Part II"

The civilized who chose to stay among the Indians did so because, according to historian James Axtell, summarizing the stories of whites who wrote about their lives among Indians, “they found Indian life to possess a strong sense of community, abundant love, and uncommon integrity—values that the European colonists also honored, if less successfully. But Indian life was attractive for other values—for social equality, mobility, adventure, and, as two adult converts acknowledged, ‘the most perfect freedom, the ease of living, [and] the absence of those cares and corroding solicitudes which so often prevail with us.’”

Because Indian life was more enjoyable, pleasant, and non-abusive than life among the civilized, the conquistador Hernando de Soto had to place armed guards around his camps, not so much to keep Indians from attacking, but to keep European men and women from defecting to the Indians.Likewise, Pilgrim leaders made running away to join the Indians an offense punishable by death.Other colonial rulers did the same. When, to provide one example among many, in 1612 some young Europeans in Virginia “did runne away unto the Indyans,”the governor ordered them hunted down, tortured, and killed: “Some he apointed to be hanged Some burned Some to be broken upon wheles, others to be staked and some to be shott to deathe.”We can ask ourselves whether the governor was actually outraged and acting out his volatility, or whether he simply preferred that his subjects fear him, even if that meant they hate him. The reasoning was straightforward: “all theis extreme and crewell tortures he used and inflicted upon them to terrify the rests for Attempting the Lyke.”

When even this failed to stem the flood of desertions—and who can blame the deserting colonists?—the civilized saw no option but to slaughter the Indians and thus eliminate the possibility of escape. (The aforementioned governor, for example, in another case of runaway white folks, sent his commander and some troops “to take Revendge upon the Paspeheans and Chiconamians [Chickahominies],” Indians unfortunate enough to live closest to the whites. This “Revendge” consisted of going to where the Indians lived, killing about fifteen of them, capturing their “quene” and her children, and making sure to “cutt downe their Corne growing about the Towne.” On the boat ride home, the soldiers of civilization “begin to murmur because the quene and her Children weare spared.” Not wanting to upset his soldiers, the commander threw the children overboard before “shoteinge owtt their Braynes in the water.” The Governor, displeased at the sparing of the “quene,” ordered her burned at the stake. But the commander, “haveinge seen [sic] so mutche Bloodshedd that day,” convinced his boss to let him merely stab her to death instead.

The elimination of the possibility of escape has, of course, been from the beginning one of the central motivators for nearly all actions perpetrated by civilization.

So, given the choice between Christianity or death, capitalism or death, slavery or death, civilization or death, is it any wonder that at least some do not choose to die? I recently watched some old movie about Alcatraz, and Art Carney, playing the Birdman of Alcatraz, says something that goes to the heart of this: “The only thing worse than life in prison is no life at all.”We may as well face up—and fess up—to the prevailing logic: if we’re stuck with a system that is based on rigid hierarchies, where those at the top systematically exploit those below—and this is as true on the personal and familial levels (wanna talk about rates of rape and child abuse?) as it is on the grand social level—a system that is killing the planet, that is toxifying our bodies, that is making us stupid and insane, that is eliminating all alternatives, we may as well have a nice car. If I can’t live in a world with wild salmon and egalitarian social relations, and in a body free from civilization-induced diseases (choose your poison: mine is Crohn’s disease), I may as well belly up to the bank and surround myself with as many luxuries as possible. If I’m going to be encased in an 880-by-90-foot steel-walled luxury prison called the Titanic, and that prison will soon become my icy tomb, it’s better, I suppose, in the meantime to be riding first class than to be scrubbing the toilets of “my betters.”

My point, however, is that these goodies that make up the bulk of the system’s “pleasantness” are entirely conditional on your subservience to those above you on the hierarchy. What happens to you if you act on a disbelief in the property rights of the rich? What happens if you act on a belief that police (and more broadly the state, and more broadly still those at the top of the hierarchy) do not have a monopoly on violence, and that violence perpetrated by those in power may (and sometimes will) be met by violence perpetrated by those considered to have no power at all? What happens if you act on a disbelief that those in power have the right to toxify the planet? What happens when you become convinced that violence from the powerless cannot be disallowed given the magnitude and relentlessness of the violence of the powerful?

You are, in a word, dead.