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Excerpt from Endgame

Solitary in an Echo Chamber (p. 438)

From chapter "Should We Fight Back?"

Years ago John A. Livingston, author of The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation and One Cosmic Instant: Man’s Fleeting Supremacy, told me, “Nowadays most of us live in cities. That means most of us live in an insulated cell, completely cut off from any kind of sensory information or sensory experience that is not of our own manufacture. Everything we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, is a human artifact. All the sensory information we receive is fabricated, and most of it is mediated by machines.

“I think the only thing that makes it bearable is the fact that our sensory capacities are so terribly diminished—just as they are in all domesticates—that we no longer know what we’re missing. The wild animal is receiving information for all of the senses, from an uncountable number of sources, every moment of its life. We get it from one only—ourselves. It’s like doing solitary in an echo chamber. People doing solitary do strange things. And the common experience of victims of sensory deprivation is hallucination. I believe that our received cultural wisdom, our anthropocentric beliefs and ideologies, can easily be seen as institutionalized hallucinations.”
(In related news, the stock market rose sharply today in heavy trading.)
Put another way, having long laid waste our own sanity, and having long forgotten what it feels like to be free, most of us too have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world. Seeing four salmon spawn causes me to burst into tears. I have never seen a river full of fish. I have never seen a sky darkened for days by a single flock of birds. (I have, however, seen skies perpetually darkened by smog.) As with freedom, so too the extraordinary beauty and fecundity of the world itself: It’s hard to love something you’ve never known. It’s hard to convince yourself to fight for something you may not believe has ever existed.

Another difference between conversations now about stopping the culture versus those happening before is that civilization’s stranglehold over life has grown stronger. It’s always easier to stop invaders before they establish a beachhead, and it would have been a good thing had someone been able to warn the Indians not to trust and help the civilized. Maybe the Atlantic Ocean would have held them at bay for a lot longer, and without the resources from the Americas civilization might not have been able to keep expanding, and so might have collapsed. In any case, many of the pleas by Indians trying to get other Indians to join them in the fight stressed the need to strike soon, before the civilized became even more numerous and the world and its people so much weaker.
Well, we all know by now that the civilized have pretty much insinuated themselves into all the nooks and crannies. We’ve already discussed the number of soldiers and cops at the disposal of the rulers. And we can’t forget the technologies such as video cameras, DNA banks, predator drones, RFID chips, all of which increase the control by those in power. In some ways we’ll need a far bigger lever to stop civilization than we would have needed a couple of hundred years ago.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that we might not. Civilization, with its relentless drive for standardization and absolute need to destroy diversity, has made itself extremely vulnerable to certain forms of attack. Any diverse system will by definition have far fewer bottlenecks, and those it does have will be far less crucial: diversity creates alternatives and leads to adaptability. If for some reason the salmon failed to return one season, the Tolowa could have eaten the abundant elk and even more abundant crabs and even more abundant lamprey. Standardized systems, while superficially more efficient, by their very nature are more susceptible to bottlenecks, and the bottlenecks they do have are far more constraining. By now, if oil supplies get cut off, the people who live in this occupied Tolowa territory will starve to death: the salmon, elk, crabs, and lamprey are gone, along with the knowledge of how to feed ourselves Further, a globally interdependent economy will, once again by definition, be subject to far more and greater bottlenecks. Remember all the fools it takes to cut down just one big tree. Break a link in this chain of fools (chain of supply), and the chainsaws will fall silent.

For all its fancy surveillance software and bunker buster bombs, for all the propaganda pumped continuously into our homes and into our hearts, for all the massive prison complexes waiting for when the propaganda systems fail, the whole system is, as we’ll explore in Volume II, far more vulnerable than it was at the time of Tecumseh, or than it has been at any time since its wretched beginnings. In its haste to control and destroy the world, civilization has handed us some very long levers, and pointed us toward some very well-placed and solid fulcrums. In case you are wondering, that’s a very good thing indeed.