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Excerpt from The Myth of Human Supremacy

Stealing As Much As Possible (p. 400)

From chapter "Epilogue"

If a doctor killed or injured every single patient he saw, would you trust your life to this doctor? If a cop bungled every single case she handled, would you want her investigating (or preventing) the death of your loved one? If every single bridge built by a certain engineer collapsed, would you want him building bridges over which you and those you love will travel? If a financial advisor gave you bad advice every single time she opened her mouth, would you trust her with your financial future?

Yet this is the track record of human supremacists.

It’s of course even worse, because “management” in human supremacist terms really means “stealing as much as possible” from the one being “managed.” So as well as being completely insufficient to the task, the doctor is stealing organs from his patients, the cop is busy killing relatives of the dead and cutting rings off their fingers, the engineer not only steals building materials to re-sell, but also loots the homes of those who die in the collapses, and the financial advisor’s real goal all along was to gain access to your assets.

In each case, the managers do fine. Their victims, not so much.

In our own lives, no one would entrust anything to these thieves and murderers—to these thieves and murderers who, even if they weren’t thieves and murderers, would still be incapable of performing up to their claimed abilities—yet, time and again, we entrust the source of all life to them.

Part of the reason, of course, is Mumford’s magnificent bribe. We have sold whatever native intelligence and integrity and empathy and common sense we have in exchange for our cut of the swag. I hope you enjoy your share of the money we got for the ring that used to be on our big sister’s finger. I know I sure did. I bought myself a new computer. And Mom’s liver paid this month’s electricity bill.

Another reason we’re all so stupid about this has to do with our enslavement to authoritarian technics. The technics say we can manage anything we turn our minds to, and who are we to question the all-wise and all-knowing technics? Technics, by the way, that brought me this damn computer, and electricity itself, without which life would be unimaginable, so you keep your mouth shut about any of your so-called “downsides” to this technology. Jesus. Fucking ingrate.

With apologies again to Upton Sinclair, it’s hard to make a man understand something when his entitlement depends on him not understanding it.

Rationalized theft really is a big part of it. Robert Jay Lifton wrote that before you can commit any mass atrocity, you have to have what he called a “claim to virtue,” that is you have to convince others and especially yourself that you are not in fact committing an atrocity, but instead performing some virtuous act. So the Nazis weren’t committing mass murder and genocide, but rather purifying the Aryan “race.” The Americans weren’t committing mass murder and genocide, but rather manifesting their destiny. And are, of course, still doing so. Members of the dominant culture aren’t killing the planet, they are “developing natural resources.” And it’s not mass murder, theft, and ecocide, it is “managing” forests, wetlands, rivers, and so on.

Lifton was not the first to observe this role of self-delusion in the perpetrating of atrocities. I’m sure some humans have been decrying this as long as other humans have been doing it. In the late fourteenth century, for example, Timur, sometimes known as Tamurlane the Great, initiated military campaigns that killed about seventeen million people, or 5 percent of the human population at the time. About this he said, “God is my witness that in all my wars I have never been the aggressor, and that my enemies have always been the authors of their own calamity.” Historian Edward Gibbon responds, “During this peaceful conversation [when Timur said this] the streets of Aleppo streamed with blood, and reechoed with the cries of mothers and children, with the shrieks of violated virgins. The rich plunder that was abandoned to his soldiers might stimulate their avarice; but their cruelty was enforced by the peremptory command of producing an adequate number of heads, which, according to his custom, were curiously piled in columns and pyramids.”Gibbon also comments, with his usual dryness, “For every war a motive of safety or revenge, of honor or zeal, of right or convenience, may be readily found in the jurisprudence of conquerors.”And that is certainly true today in the war on the natural world (which means, the war on life itself ).