Civilized/First World Privilege
One night, my partner and I went to a meeting of the discussion group that my friend puts together. One of the people there brought up the idea that the dichotomy between Reform and Revolution is a false one, which I quite agree with (an opinion I dropped and then picked back up recently, both times due to Derrick Jensen). After all, what good is it to dismantle civilization if there's nothing left of the people you're working to help? At the same time, what good is it to do volunteer work to better the lives of people in the culture if you're just going the let it continue to march all over them, metabolizing them and ultimately destroying the bulk of life on the planet? What good was it for the Nazi doctors at Auschwitz to do all they can to improve the situation of Jews in the camp (which they seem to have cared about) without questioning fundamentally why they're there and if the camps have any validity? What good would it have done to carpet bomb Auschwitz without first releasing the Jewish, Roma, and other prisoners?
The discussion going on after the meeting proper had me further analyzing subjects related to this, specifically after I'd suggested a book of Ward Churchill's for the next reading ("Kill the Indian, Save the Man"), which seemed to go over well. I'd brought up that one of the biggest influences on my current ethical stance(s), as well as one of my favorite books, is Churchill's "Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America". One of the major arguments in the short book, besides the fact that every situation and struggle needs to be evaluated on its own merits when deciding whether or not armed violence is an appropriate strategy, is that the habit of mainstream (especially White) activists to dogmatically embrace pacifism for themselves while supporting freedom fighters elsewhere is the result of White privilege and cowardice.
The implicit message to their pacifism is that their lives and well-beings aren't worth sacrificing in the struggle, as opposed to those of poor brown people elsewhere. Those who decry the freedom fighters elsewhere are worse still, as they seem to basically ignore the circumstances of their struggle and can only reference them in regards to their own privileged lives in what might be the most racist ethnocentrism ever. This is much like the insane vegans telling Inuit to import tofu grown in obliterated former rainforests or prairies instead of killing some fish and caribou. It involves a certain level of silencing of the voices of others (necessary for continued exploitation), or just an extreme willful stupidity. Or insanity. ("The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane...")
I think I see something similar in a lot of First Worlders when talking about taking down civilization, but there's more there than that. Sure, one of the big problems when talking to people (especially privileged, white, male people) is that they often simply cannot see or comprehend circumstances too drastically different from their own. It's part of the way our abusive culture limits our stimuli, like in any abusive situation. Further than that, this creates a state of mind in which people identify civilization as all of humanity, maybe all of life, and become incapable of seeing that the "accomplishments" of civilization do not extend to all humans, not even all civilized humans. This is where the real danger is, for it creates a story of the world which is false, which ameliorates murder, genocide, ecocide, and shit, omnicide, for the lengthening of the lifespans of a select few (to that of prehistoric people) and the delivering of ice cream and grapes year-round.
Arguing that taking down civilization means killing people dependent on it ignores that civilization is killing far more to give the privileged situation to you, and that it will continue to do so. It ignores that the cancer cures given predominantly to rich White people are killing hundreds more poor brown people through the release of dioxin (the most carcinogenic substance on the planet) into poor neighborhoods. It ignores the fact that to get a constant supply of mono-species bananas (causing other types to become endangered) deprives people in Guatemala from having self-sustaining economies of their own, damning many to starvation. It ignores the fact that having cheap government subsidized corn and soy products for people in America destroys the once-fertile prairies and pushes farmers to destroy entire forest ecosystems to spread their farmland, essentially murdering the various species that live there. It ignores the fact that your cell phone requires coltan, for which bloody civil wars are fought and child slavery is employed to mine.
Arguing that we can't throw away the science that we've learned is stupid and racist. Aside from assuming a lot about the value of Western science (and no, it really hasn't proven itself to be of much value aside from a few bright ideas), and for some reason thinking that useful knowledge would instantly be thrown out the window, it ignores the sciences of other cultures. "Western Science" as a worldview is shit, at its basis being built around a false epistemology. This is not to say that the scientific method has no redeeming value, but it is to say that the world view postulated by "Enlightenment" thinkers does not. It's a way of thinking created to facilitate hyper-exploitation of land and people by describing the world as mechanistic and devoid of volition. It goes hand in hand with the myth of Progress, the cousin of the completely racist myth of Social Evolution.
Not to mention the completely racist and ethnocentric bias in ignoring the knowledge and learning of everyone else on earth by slapping the label SCIENCE on the meager learnings of a few Westerners, thus implicitly relegating other knowledge and other ways of learning as UNSCIENTIFIC and superstitious. Sounds a lot like labeling heretics, doesn't it? In labeling one's own belief as the true science, it ignores the fact that indigenous people (who have historically enjoyed much higher standards of living before being forcefully civilized) have their own immense and complex learning, the collected wisdom of generations. Vine Deloria Jr., the famous indigenous philosopher and scholar, when comparing Western Science to indigenous ways of learning, said that science imparts an immature understanding, whereas the entire indigenous lifeway was based on gaining maturity and mature understandings.
Examine your loyalties. Are they to life and freedom? Or does your frame of reference, like so many civilized, extend only to your industrialized surroundings? Even if you choose to be 100% anthropocentric, there are other humans out there that will instantly benefit from the dismantling of civilization. Does your frame of reference extend to the bulk of humanity that won't care if the electrical infrastructure gets turned off? To the subsistence farmers being forced off their land or being forced into a cash economy that will/does starve them? To the wage slaves in this country? To the indigenous still having their land stolen by force, now by corporations building coal-burning plants and uranium mines or Olympic Stadiums? To the indigenous in Peru earlier this year who were machine-gunned so corporations could steal the forests? To Iraqi children being born en masse with birth defects from depleted uranium dust? To the over 25% of women who are subjected sexual assault in our high-rape culture (no, not all cultures rape)? To the children getting cancer from inhaling airborne dioxin from burned medical waste? To anyone getting cancer at all!?
The main argument I'm making here is that to lay one's loyalties with civilization, to argue for industrialism and against life (while thinking it is FOR life), to argue against the REVOLUTION part, one must ignore the others in the world. This is especially true for non-humans, but also of women, children, people of color, indigenous people... this has been the major means by which the abuse of civilization is perpetuate, just like any abusive and exploitative relationship is maintained through denial and silencing. This is why Western Science as a world view has historically been used to commit the worst acts of genocide in history. To ignore the fact that your culture is emmiserating the bulk of humanity and literally murdering life on the planet, you need to narrow your focus to the circumstances of privileged First Worlders. Until one understands what it really is to be human animals, what it's been to be human animals for the past 1-3 million years, and how the rest of humanity today is living as a result of industrial civilization, I don't think one can make any reasonable decisions for strategy in making the world significantly better.