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Excerpt from Endgame

Unsustainable Sense of Self (p. 547)

From chapter "Identification"

The other night I dreamt I got off an airplane and walked through one terminal to another, carrying a metal suitcase. My first flight had been delayed, and now I was late for the next. I arrived at the gate. The person behind the counter asked for my ID. I pulled out my wallet and handed her my driver’s license. For some reason she didn’t like the numbers on it and so wouldn’t accept it. No problem, I thought, and pulled out another driver’s license. I evidently had about ten. Unfortunately she didn’t like any of them. Me and my metal suitcase were going to have to find another way to get where we were going.

That dream has me thinking about identity. Who am I?

The whole question of identifying myself as a consumer, or as a voter, or as a writer, or as a revolutionary all has me thinking again about definitions. Just as it seems clear to me that the only level of technology that is sustainable is the stone age, for reasons I hope I’ve made clear, it also seems clear to me that only a certain sense of self is sustainable, too.

The eighteenth premise of this book is that this culture’s current sense of self is no more sustainable than its current use of energy or technology.

If you perceive yourself as a consumer, consume you will. If you perceive yourself as a “new and thoroughly superior predator” you will act like one.If you perceive yourself as a member of a species that can act no other way than to destroy your landbase, that is what you will do. If you perceive yourself as the “apex” of evolution, you will try to climb to the top of something that has no top, and you will crush those you perceive as being beneath you. If you believe you are separate from your landbase, you may believe you can destroy your landbase and survive, and you may very well destroy it. If you perceive yourself as entitled to exploit those around you, you will do so.

Not one of those self-perceptions is sustainable. If you perceive yourself in any of those ways, you and those who perceive the world like you will not survive long into the future. I don’t really care about that: if that’s how you perceive the world, then good riddance to you. The problem is that before you go down you will cause a lot of unnecessary misery, and you will take down a lot of others with you.