US Author Derrick Jensen’s philosophy is the catalyst for a film – END : CIV – being shown this week at the Byron Bay Uniting Church.
It’s heartening to know this church wants to expose elite power structures and is a hot-bed for radicalism. Isn’t that what Jesus would want?
The film examines our cultural addiction to violence and environmental exploitation through the construct of civilisation. The word civilisation comes from the Latin ‘civilis’, meaning civil, related to the Latin ‘civis’, meaning citizen, and ‘civitas’, meaning city or city-state.
The rise of cities is where civilisations start, Jensen says, and as it is a ‘collection of people living in numbers so large that they need to import resources’ that construct is not, or can never be, sustainable.
Our way of life is based on violence and slavery, according to Jensen. Our clothes are made largely by slaves from other countries, the meat we consume is farmed without consideration for the animal and diamonds generally have blood on them...
And of course there’s our collective unevolved thirst for oil and other non-renewables. He says we don’t see the violence because ‘we’ve been metabolised’ into the system.
Additionally, ‘We have bought into a strange notion that it’s ok to have to pay to exist on the planet.’ If you don’t pay rent for example, someone with a gun – or more power than you – will come and enforce compliance.
A less emotive and more anthropological analysis of civilisations is by Scott Nearing, author of Civilization And Beyond.
To paraphrase his dense and excellent tome in less than 100 words: civilisation is a means of communication, trade and record keeping. It includes an economy based on a division of labour and specialisation. It has a self-selected and perpetuating oligarchy, utilising a unified political and bureaucratic apparatus.
It requires an adequate labour force to farm, transport and mine, while it supports a large middle-class element of professionals, technicians and semi-parasitic fringe dwellers.
A well trained and financed military for both offence and defence is essential, along with institutions and social practices. And lastly, agreed-upon religions that maintain social conformity.