Wednesday night. We planned to head over to the fairgrounds to pick some ripe bing cherries from volunteer trees. We heard a man shouting outside. I went out to get mail and investigate. Middle-aged white dude cussing out two teenagers at the top of his lungs, and shouting at one to get in the truck. Cussing and shouting escalated and continued. I walked toward the truck. He saw me, pulled back and into parkign lot across way and stopped for a minute. Truck windows rolled up, still heard him shouting and cussing. I started walking toward them again. Driving aggressively, he pulled out of parking lot and started heading south by my house again. I shouted at him as he passed something like, “Please show show people more respect!” The best I could muster.
He slammed on breaks, squeaked tires at intersection. Burned some serious rubber backing up to me. I readied myself for confrontation and thought briefly about my safety, the safety of the woman and girl in the car with him. “Does he have a gun?”
What happened next sent surreal chills down my spine: He immediately calmed down and rationally explained away his behavior to me, like someone flipped a switch on the back of his neck. Then after telling me everything he thought i needed to know about the situation, he said, without a hint of irony, that it’s really “none of my business.”
“Yeah, well, when I hear you out in the street yelling at the top of your lungs and cussing at people you supposedly love from inside my house, you make it my business.”
He launched again into all the rationalizations. He “didn’t know where his daughter was,” and “was concerned for her safety” and “found her with a boy he’d never met.” Ok, those sound like reasonable things to be upset about as a parent, and decent excuses for a man to exhibit angry, controlling behavior. Any port in a storm, and the long, slow burn of persistent patriarchy provides one hell of a 20,000 year old storm for us to weather.
“I’m allowed to get angry and fly off the handle.”
“And there’ll be consequences when you do that. Is that really how you want to show your love? Is that what you want the people around you to think love is?”
“You know what, fine. Call the cops on me. I don’t care.”
“I’m not concerned about you being angry. I’m concerned about the reasons why. I’m concerned that if you treat the people you say you love this way in pubilc, how do you behave in private?” (yes i know that many abusers present with perfect angelic behavior in public).
“Then call the cops on me,” he said again, and drove off.
Neighbors (one of whom is a mandatory reporter) heard him shouting, and came out to see the confrontation. And, unknown to him, they fulfilled his request without ever hearing it. “Yeah, that’s not love he was expressing,” they said, “when you can hear it pretty clearly from inside over an AC unit running on full blast.” They called cops, who tracked him down (apparently lives on a street a few blocks south of me). I have no idea what happened from there.
I went back inside and cried out my own anger and frustration and tried to calm my own fight or flight response. I wanted desparately to sleep that night. I hoped and begged my body, mind and spirit to cooperate.
And for some reason, I was reminded of my next door neighbor, who, shortly after I moved into my house several years ago, asked me to cut down “my” tree so he could get better television reception. A casual request for the destruction an entire biome — thousands of lives — for the sake of the quality of his chosen method of consumer entertainment…Do we need to talk through the insanely corrupt entitlement and value systems embodied in such requests?
I think of how I know it’s spring, not because plants leaf out again and flowers bloom, but because I pass rows of zombies mindlessly spraying poisons on land they believe they “own” in droning acts of biotic cleansing to purge the landscape of edible and medicinal plants they call “weeds” (again, without a hint of irony) as they scramble to maintain the stunted monocotic symbol of socioeconomic desperation they call “lawns.”
I think of the people who I see walk within feet of destroyers openly preying on the destroyed, only to ignore and pray it away like an errant thought.
I think of how 99% of the perpetrators of public violence seem to be men, and, how most of those men have reputations or history of giving (and sometimes receiving) abuse in their private life. I think of how often men stalk women and white people profile black people.
The term kyriarchy comes to mind. Civilization requires slavery of any and every kind. It requires domestic slavery and wage slavery and chattel slavery.
I, increasingly, see these diverse pathologies of civilization, the alienation, the abject psychopathy, narcissism, entitlement, chronic fear, as varied symptoms of the same underlying problem. It’s not so far fetched. Consider, for instance, that three people can have celiac disease diagnostically manifesting with a non-overlapping display of a range of hundreds of various symptoms in each person. They can eat similar diets and live simlar lives, even have similar genetics. Yet, one will exhibit no clear or overt symptoms, or maybe occasional stiff joints and headaches. One will exhibit primarily gastro-intestinal symptoms. The other will feel primarily neurological symptoms of anxiety, depression and brain fog. Some unlucky, extra-sensitive few may suffer through all these symptoms and more. The condition underneath remains the same: a destroyed gut interacting with a socially and physically and chemically toxic environment.
In the same way, civilization throws these pathologies at us like a game of whack-a-mole, and our symptoms vary massively. In refusing to play that game, we call into question the foundations of our existence and our motivations in life. It requires going deeper and looking, first and foremost, at our own pathologies and addictions to the processes and substances threatening to make zombies of us all, even as we continue our agonizing participation. Waking up is painful. I meet few people who seem willing to give it up their slumber, who wish truly for the embodied spiritual ecstasy of liberation (I have caught only fleeting glimpses of it myself), who have no desire to bring any of the pathologies with them on they paths they walk with increasing mindfulness into a life worth living. But we exist. And we become more numerous and more bold, more desparate and courageous with each new day we learn to tell the difference between life and psychopathy.
The liberal cancer syllogism would have us believe that humans are destroying the planet: humans are to the earth as cancer is to the body. Nothing could be further from the truth. The earth will survive long after civilized humans demonstrate once and for all our final incapacity to participate in and support life and love. The war against civilization is purely a war against the spiritual devastation of humanity. We are no grand saviors of the planet, because cancer is to the body as civilization is to humanity. In a few thousand years — a blink in the eye of human’s existence — it has infiltrated and spread to epidemic proportions, supplanting nearly everything we know about life, replacing experience and feeling with pale parodies meant to contain and divide and distract us and keep us mired in crisis.
Leaving civilization does not mean flipping a switch. It does not mean moving out into the woods (or else we might just bring it with us like a smokestack of trouble strapped to our backs). It means depopulating the planet of humans and technology. Depopulation means fighting patriarchy and supporting the empowerment of women and queers and other minorities in society. It means purging ourselves — inside and out — of the opulent minority ruling class. It means supporting biomass as it asserts and protects itself against the expansive technomassive onslaught. It means, increasingly, ignoring and outright-defying the institutions and laws and corporate mandates of empire and colonizing states. It means disrupting the imperial flow of resources and other IV drips that slow civilization’s demise nad prolong its destructiveness. It means purging the earth of the giant factories that dredge and scrape and squeeze and siphon the life from the land. It means prioritizing things like food, family, love, clean water and breathable air above money and social prestige.
It means an absolute refusal to martyr ourselves on the altar of pathology. It means eating nourishing rather than poisonous foods, whatever that means for each person. It means refusing to set our lives aside to come save civilization when it whimpers and calls out to us like a hurt child, and then spits in our face and stabs us in the stomach as we stoop in compassion to help.
It means any of these things, and all these things, and more. For how pervasive civilization has become inside and outside of us, it remains extremely fragile to disruption. When only a few dare to shed their internalized colonization, first and foremost, it will create an economic, physical disruption of oppression that civilization will fail to contain and suppress. The only question in my mind is how bad we zombies will allow things to get before we wake up and fight for our right to live and die.
And I think about the purslane and wild lettuce and pineapple weed and sow thistle growing up through cracks in the middle of the intersection, how they resist and persist, day after day, year after year…the two-plus ton crush of metal beasts. The desertifying bake of the blacktop and urban heat islands…to create more life, more biomass, to displace, if only for a few months (or longer, barring civil intervention) the technomass that overruns and consumes and replaces earth’s life support systems as the immediate foundation of human existence.
The next day, we picked a half gallon of low-hanging bing cherries from feral trees. I thanked the trees, knowing that the timing isn’t always this perfect, and apologized for the small amount of damage I did. I wondered how long these trees will survive the endless hunger for energy when the urban fossil subsidies stop.