Carolyn Baker writes:
The most deadly criticism one could make of modern civilization is that apart from its man-made crises and catastrophes, [it] is not humanly interesting. . . . In the end, such a civilization can produce only a mass man: incapable of spontaneous, self-directed activities: at best patient, docile, disciplined to monotonous work to an almost pathetic degree. . . . Ultimately such a society produces only two groups of men: the conditioners and the conditioned, the active and passive barbarians.
~Lewis Mumford, 1951~
Until you can ‘see’ yourself, you can’t be yourself. Or perhaps more accurately, once you can ‘see’ yourself, you can’t any longer be somebody else, the person you’ve pretended to be, that you thought you were, that others want you to be, somebody you’re not.
~Dave Pollard, “How To Save The World” Blog~
This past week I have been intrigued by several articles that have surfaced across the Internet which appear to substantiate what many of us have known for more than a decade, namely, that industrial civilization is in a rapid downward spiral of demise. In his August 2 article on Alternet, Noam Chomsky argues that “America’s Imperial Power Is Showing Signs Of Real Decline,” in which he cites an international terrorist campaign by the United States as the reason that countries around the world are viewing it with increased suspicion in general and that in particular, the US has destroyed the notion of Latin America as its reliable back yard.
Earlier this week, psychologist Bruce Levine argued in “Why Life In America Can Literally Drive You Insane,” that mental illness in our culture is now epidemic for a number of reasons, including the over-diagnosis of it by mental health professionals. Levine succinctly summarizes the pathology of modernity in this way:
Underlying many of psychiatry’s nearly 400 diagnoses is the experience of helplessness, hopelessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, and dehumanization—culminating in a loss of autonomy and community-connectedness. Do our societal institutions promote:
- Enthusiasm—or passivity?
- Respectful personal relationships—or manipulative impersonal ones?
- Community, trust, and confidence—or isolation, fear and paranoia?
- Empowerment—or helplessness?
- Autonomy (self-direction)—or heteronomy (institutional-direction)?
- Participatory democracy—or authoritarian hierarchies?
- Diversity and stimulation—or homogeneity and boredom?
Similarly, in her BBC investigative video report, Reeta Chakrabarti asks, “Is Modern Life Killing Us?” which highlights the maddening pace of modern life and the toll that it takes on our bodies and souls. But as Levine points out, it is more than just the tempo of modernity that deadens us. It is also a lack of aliveness, passion, community, and autonomy.
What the scions of the Industrial Revolution and the Enlightenment philosophers before them were unable to grasp was that a society established on the principles of separation from itself and the earth community; a society that reveres the accumulation of wealth and status as its raison d’être; that pompously assumes that the earth’s resources are here for our use only and that they are infinite; that esteems rugged individualism as a hallmark of holiness; and that assumes that reason and intellect should be the fundamental guiding principles of relationships with all beings—a society based on these tenets is destined to fail miserably. Why? Because these assumptions are inherently emotionally and spiritually toxic for humans and all life forms within their purview.
Read more here.