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Excerpt from What We Leave Behind

Gordian Knot (p. 254)

From chapter "Despair"

The pain and confusion can certainly feel like good enough reasons not to persevere, but there’s an even more deeply frightening and fundamental reason that holds many people back. It has to do with the forcefulness and completeness with which this culture has inculcated us to more highly value this culture than our own life, the lives of others, and life in general; to consider this culture more real than life; to identify more with this culture than with life; to be more attached to this culture than to life. Because we’ve been so completely inculcated into identifying more with this culture than with life; and because we’re inculcated into thinking this culture is life; and because we’re taught to believe this culture is our life; and because the destructiveness of this culture is so overwhelming and has so much momentum; and because we’re told again and again that the harm this culture causes is our fault because we drive, wear clothes, eat, shit, consume (“You can save the earth by consuming less”); and because the processes by which we’re allowed—allowed by those in power, and more importantly by ourselves—to even slightly rein in the destructive acts of those in power are rigged in favor of, no big surprise, those in power; and because these processes are sham processes, Potemkin processes, set up to deceive and discourage us; and because we’ve been so thoroughly trained to be submissive to authority, to be good little boys and girls, to never talk back to our parents/teachers/bosses/leaders, to never get smart, to answer the questions posed by our betters and to never reframe or reject those questions (and certainly to never pose questions of our own), to only be creative in ways we’re trained to be creative and to not be creative in ways we’re trained (often without being explicitly told) to not be creative; and because we’ve been so completely turned into imbeciles with high IQs, like our parents/teachers/bosses/leaders, that it never occurs to most of us that even though the processes in which we’re allowed to participate are rigged, we can create our own processes, stop the destruction our own way, on our own terms, not theirs (picture a Gordian knot, picture a sword, picture a sword cutting the knot: now go find yourself a sword and start hacking). Because we don’t know what to do (won’t someone please tell us?); and because our defeats can be so very painful and discouraging that it can so very easily become so very attractive to not feel those defeats by not attempting to win in the first place; and because to stop this culture from destroying the planet would be to stop that with which we have been trained to most closely identify; and because to act against this culture can feel like we are acting against ourselves, can feel like we are splitting into a thousand pieces, can feel like we are disintegrating (in part because we are; or rather, because our socially created selves are); and because we’ve been taught to despise ourselves, other victims, and all those beneath us on the hierarchy set up by this culture, and never to hate those above us on this hierarchy; and because we don’t want to go to prison, or be tortured or killed; and because we know that those in power often imprison, torture, or kill those who oppose their (oftentimes psychotic) desires; and because we do not want the full power of the state coming down on us and those we love; and because we do not want people to disapprove of us (never mind that it would only be others of the living dead of this culture; while the real living, including nonhumans, including wild humans, including others of the resistance, would love us all the more, would stand up in respect for us); and because the whole bloody mess is so out of control, it can be so very attractive, once again, to simply try to control what we can, and hope that God (or Buddha, or, far more to the point, our culturally-formed consciences based on the value systems of this culture) grant us the serenity to accept that which we (have been taught to believe we) cannot change. And that which we “cannot change”—so we are told again and again, in ways large and small, including, for example, every mainstream proposal to “solve” global warming which takes this destructive culture as a given—is this culture. What we can change—“the only thing we can change,” we’re told again and again—is ourselves. As with the “solutions” to global warming that take this culture as primary and that attempt to force the natural world to conform to it, we are once again made to believe that this culture is immutable, and this time it is we personally who must conform.