civilization vs primitivism

By Zerzan’s account we might say that civilization is like a vast hole, with the living participants being consigned, collectively, to the inescapable role of “digger.” The rule is that salvation can be found only through more efficient and relentless means of digging; the participants experience the mute horror of watching natural light recede while engineers design artificial lighting and air conditioning systems. An increasingly powerful legal-bureaucratic-managerial authority promises a vast array of material pleasure as the reward for digging, poverty and insecurity for those who refuse to dig, and severe repression for those who sabotage the digging apparatus. Then the workers dig deeply enough they will discover an underground river called Styx (hatred) and its confluence with other rivers, including Lethe (forgetfulness and oblivion), and these will mark their crossing over from life to death. And the shovels will be taken from their hands and replaced with oars, and their training in digging will suit them perfectly for rowing with metronomic precision. And they will pull endlessly along this dark river, forgetting there was ever even a world of sun, green earth, and air. And with these metaphors civilization will think that it is indicting the dark, prehistoric world. But really it is only indicting its own efforts at constructing an entirely man-made environment where “misery is the river of the world” and everybody rows.

Michael Becker

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3 thoughts on “civilization vs primitivism

  1. Jack McMillan

    Very thought provoking essay/story.
    Interesting how Michael starts out with the standard metaphors of light and darkness, which I have recently turned upside down in reconsideration, and ends up defending darkness as a scapegoat we have invented to blame a force over which we are powerless, thereby relieving us from responsibility: ” And with these metaphors civilization will think that it is indicting the dark, prehistoric world. But really it is only indicting its own efforts at constructing an entirely man-made environment where “misery is the river of the world” and everybody rows.”

    We have vilified darkness. Made it the enemy of light. And made light the hero. Could it be the opposite? How interesting that when we sleep, we go into that “dark” place of healing, a place where we “see” most clearly, and feel most completely and complexly. And then rise to the light, which we can bear only but briefly before we must retreat again into the “darkness” to recover, make sense of it, and prepare again for another bout of the unbearable lightness of it all. Is the gravity of it all in the lightness of it all? Where we are no longer grounded? Floating “lost in space”. The place where we have killed the glory of darkness and gravity?

    Oh, gosh. This mystery, borne of our temporal prison. Would that I could find my way out of it as well as I can (sort of) think my way out of it. But thinking is meaningless. At least during the “light” of day. Light thoughts, merely.

    Reply
    1. riodelmontana Post author

      Wow, well said. When I enter darkness at night in forest its as if I know myself for the first time. Perhaps darkness is a window into our selves in primordial world.

      Hope to hear more from you.

      Reply
      1. Jack McMillan

        Thanks RioDM. And what you say is so true. The forest at night takes us back, to where we can truly see the light of day. Darkness IS the window into our selves and our souls. Hope to hear more from you, as well.

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