I wonder what Derrick Jensen is doing these days. Western civilization is being destroyed, but it’s not about helping the salmon. The people out vandalizing, hating on our inheritance, felling statues of anyone and everyone that come to hand, craven politicians presiding over the ruin of America’s cities, allowing crime to escalate, encouraging the homeless and the insane to camp on the sidewalks where shit and used needles mix with the garbage… these are not people hoping and willing to go without ready electricity so that salmon might live. The civilization they are destroying is not the one Derrick used to criticize so evocatively.

There are two very different ways of thinking about civilization. On one hand, it’s the one begun in Mesopotamia – the predatory culture centered on cities and relying on plundering the hinterlands, evolving better and better technologies, but using them too often to subjugate neighbors and destroy the wilds. But there is another kind of civilization much, much older, and the very first large settlements still show its evidence. Being civilized also means being civil. Knowing how to be civil. How to show restraint and fairness, and aim for balance of power. Having the skills to solve conflicts peacefully, to create economies that cycle rather than grow obsessively and endlessly, being courteous, respecting women (and men as well), paying attention to the widow and the orphan as the biblical prophets put it. It means talking out disagreements. It means thinking things through for the good of the community. It means altruistic punishment, being willing to stick one’s neck out to penalize behavior that spreads waves of harm through human settlements and destroys the work of ancestors without remorse. It means thinking of the seventh generation. It means the Golden Rule.

That kind of civilization emerged in our tribal days. When the Iroquois Confederacy came to be, what was it but a great civilized invention? When a form of governance was invented that brought peace among tribes caught up in endless wars, wasn’t that civilized? When the matrons had significant control over the chiefs, and both sexes shared power, though in different ways, wasn’t that civilized? When the Eskimos learned to watch their Big Men supercarefully, being willing to even risk one’s own life in challenging such a person if they got out of hand, wasn’t that civilized? On the other hand, when Cahokia descended into mass human sacrifice, later followed on that path by the Aztecs and preceded by the later Sumerians, that was descent into barbarism, wasn’t it, despite their fancy pyramids that remain to this day.

There are many accounts of the early contacts with American Indians, before things fell apart into mutual acrimony, hatred, and massacre, of the Indians being more “Christian” than the newly arrived Europeans. More charitable, more thoughtful in their community debates and governance, admirably eloquent, and living in such ways that freedom – to speak one’s thoughts, to follow one’s dreams, to explore and to enjoy life – was promoted. They even had ways to turn captured enemies into friends and relations by adoption. So many rather “barbarian” settlers longing for something better ran away to the Indians that laws had to be passed to stanch the flow. And Indians raised among the whites mostly went back to the tribal ways whenever they could. Among the “savages” a person could live better and freer than in the joyless Calvinist villages of the former Europeans. It is said that the stubborn leaning away from monarchy that worked its way among the Colonists like hidden mycelium until it came to fruit in the American Revolution was fed by acquaintance with, and inspiration by, the Indian ways.

The destruction of the West follows a different pattern. Rioters and vandals are celebrated and excused, criminals are elevated to martyrdom, people who refuse to say black is white and red is blue are hounded and “cancelled” – their livelihoods ruined, their lives turned into a nightmare as the mob pursues them. The center no longer holds. What is unlawful is allowed, even encouraged, and what is lawful is ridiculed or punished. Fakery proliferates and psychopathic behavior thrives. Bizarrely, civility is attacked as white privilege. Truth is spat upon as insults and lies proliferate like viruses. None of these self-designated “revolutionaries” would survive in a widespread lower technology and energy, and high civility civilization that Jensen (and many a doomer) wants. Wiser, more civil civ could have grown out the voracious caterpillar of capitalism that has brought unimagined wealth to common people all around the world, but that option is being foreclosed upon before our eyes.

It takes no skill to throw a rock through a store window. It takes a lot of skill to make even simple glass. Such a civil civilization would require a high level of skills, not only for securing food, local safety, and mostly lower-tech comforts, but also for cooperative problem-solving and non-violent communication. Both are needed for survival once the high tech fabric that covers us all begins to shred. Both could help the salmon.

Sometimes I wonder if the chaos will bring forth another Hitler, just as the chaos and misery of the Weimar Republic brought forth the one we knew not so long ago, and his minions. If the psychopathic chaos-makers wanted to help one rise, this is one effective way. But on the other hand, there is always the quiet terror of Orwell’s 1984. Sneaky drugs, fancy machines, ear on the phone, endless and pointless blather everywhere, ignorance of history, reckless destruction of cultural and political inheritance, endless sloganeering, totality in a 21st century garb, where people are muzzled by masks everywhere for the rest of their lives and never connect with another human being in public, ever again. Groupthink is holy. Free speech is hate speech. Perversion is righteous. Pedophilia is just another lifestyle choice. Und Arbeit macht frei.

And the salmon continue to die.

And the salmon continue to die.