Whether or not you have any sort of hope that the global system of industrialism can be defeated, something that we certainly should do is to deindustrialize our personal lives. As Nietzsche claims, a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example. It will also show those around us that this lifestyle can be lived and very much enjoyed, even by a modern ‘domesticated’ man.
Industrialization is a transformation of a society whereby goods that were hitherto produced by hand are now produced by machines on a large scale. This has for a long time been associated with explosions in pollution as well as technology-leaping. Industrialization is generally viewed in a mostly positive light by the broader population of the Earth in developed nations as they see it as doing something akin to ‘freeing us from barbarisms of the past and gifting us with many wonderful technologies to enrich our lives’. I will not deny that the technological advancements of industrialized nations are not amazing to behold and, in cases, fun to use. However, I do not think that the technological feats of the industrial age are liberating as they are though of.
We exist today in a form of ‘technological slavery’. The world is now structured around technologies in such a way that if one doesn’t have a particular piece of technology, it is extraordinarily difficult for them to participate in the conventional style of living, i.e. receiving wages to pay for a house, consuming products, and perhaps having children. If our complex web of technologies were to stop working (and it inevitably will), most people would have no idea how to survive beyond looting stores and warehouses. Most people feel that they need all of the technology in their life and that life would not even be worth living without it. The marketing and sales industries have done an extremely effective job convincing people that they need products. It is almost Huxley’s Brave New World if it is not already. We are subject to conditions that we would otherwise not be able to tolerate, and we are pacified with products, decadence, and psychiatric drugs.
There is of course the need to mention the catastrophic devastation that industrialism is doing to the Earth’s climate and ecology. Even if people were to switch to entirely green energy by the time where it won’t be too late (which they won’t and haven’t), there is still massive and unsustainable ecological destruction in supplying a global industrial society with ‘green’ energy. In this post I am focusing on the psychological aspects of living in an industrial civilization.
Human beings exist today in a state that is so far alienated from the modes of fulfillment that humans developed through natural selection for millions of years. The process by which humans have their psychological needs met Kaczysnki called ‘The Power Process’:
- 33. Human beings have a need (probably based in biology) for something that we will call the power process. This is closely related to the need for power (which is widely recognized) but is not quite the same thing. The power process has four elements. The three most clear-cut of these we call goal, effort and attainment of goal. (Everyone needs to have goals whose attainment requires effort, and needs to succeed in attaining at least some of his goals.) The fourth element is more difficult to define and may not be necessary for everyone. We call it autonomy and will discuss it later (paragraphs 42-44).
- 34. Consider the hypothetical case of a man who can have anything he wants just by wishing for it. Such a man has power, but he will develop serious psychological problems. At first he will have a lot of fun, but by and by he will become acutely bored and demoralized. Eventually he may become clinically depressed. History shows that leisured aristocracies tend to become decadent. This is not true of fighting aristocracies that have to struggle to maintain their power. But leisured, secure aristocracies that have no need to exert themselves usually become bored, hedonistic and demoralized, even though they have power. This shows that power is not enough. One must have goals toward which to exercise one’s power.
- 35. Everyone has goals; if nothing else, to obtain the physical necessities of life: food, water and whatever clothing and shelter are made necessary by the climate. But the leisured aristocrat obtains these things without effort. Hence his boredom and demoralization.
- 36. Non-attainment of important goals results in death if the goals are physical necessities, and in frustration if non-attainment of the goals is compatible with survival Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem or depression.
- 37. Thus, in order to avoid serious psychological problems, a human being needs goals whose attainment requires effort, and he must have a reasonable rate of success in attaining his goals.
As modern society has made the issue of securing one’s physical necessities a mere triviality as long as one can be an obedient agent of the economic machine, people seek to find fulfillment in ‘surrogate activities’, goals that one creates for themselves to exert autonomous effort in the attainment of. One is usually unable to secure their physical necessities, i.e. performing waged labor, with any autonomy at all, merely performing orders handed down from above. As Jacques Ellul said in The Technological Society:
- “Man was made to do his daily work with his muscles; but see him now, like a fly on flypaper. Seated for eight hours, motionless at a desk. Fifteen minutes of exercise can not make up for eight hours of absence. The human being was made to breathe the good air of nature, but what he breathes is an obscure compound of acids and coal tars. He was created for a living environment, but he dwells in a lunar world of stone, cement, asphalt, glass, cast iron, and steel. The trees wilt and blanch among sterile and blind stone facades. Cats and dogs disappear little by little from the city, going the way of the horse. Only rats and men remain to populate a dead world. Man was created to have room to move about in, to gaze into far distances, to live in rooms which, even when they were tiny, opened out on fields. See him now, enclosed by the rules and architectural necessities imposed by over population in a twelve-by-twelve closet opening out on an anonymous world of city streets.”
With a societal inability to go through the power process with autonomy, our society seems to be entering into some kind of mass psychosis. There has been a breakdown of the village and the tribe, we simply cohabitate the land with our neighbors and have little to no real community. It is well known that crowding causes aggression and irritation, but more than half of the population now live in cities. There is a well-documented phenomenon that exposure to the sights and sounds of nature is of great psychological benefit to a person, and it even aids in recovering from illness and injury. People are generally quite sedentary and unfulfilled by life, exhibiting boredom, demoralization, low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, defeatism, depression, anxiety, guilt, frustration, hostility, spouse or child abuse, insatiable hedonism, sleep and eating disorders, et cetera. It is not that these things did not exist in primitive man, but they existed on a much smaller scale than they do in industrial societies. As was mentioned in the previous post, suicide is an epidemic in industrialized nations, while most hunter-gatherers have little to none or even have a word for the concept. Though primitive man was psychically not as safe as modern man, he was psychologically secure in a way that few modern men are.
Now, am I saying that all people who survive (if any do) this coming collapse should be hunter-gatherers? No, I am not, though I greatly sympathize with the primitivist movement and the skills required to be a hunter-gatherer are important to have nonetheless. If anyone survives catastrophe, it is going to be the hunter-gatherers that still live today such as the Sentinelese and the many tribes in the Amazon. I believe that people can satisfyingly go through the power process and secure their physical necessities in varied and interesting ways in a world that is simply deindustrialized. While we have not yet reached the critical point of stress in the system to make a decisive and irreversible action to deindustrialize, something we certainly can do is practice personal deindustrialization.
This year I am beginning the process of constructing a self-sufficient homestead that is off-grid so that my physical necessities are secure regardless of the health of the systems around me. I am generally asocial, but even the most introverted man will eventually become distressed without contact. I hope to start an intentional community of mutual aid so that myself and others may share in the fruits of labor and companionship. We will be able to autonomously pursue our own goals of survival as well as practice our passions without mandatory participation in the economic machine to avoid homelessness and starvation. If people are put out of action, they can reliably be cared for and fed by the other members without having to worry about losing their livelihood.
Personal deindustrialization essentially means living a life where you will be fine if all of the industrial infrastructure in the world suddenly came crashing down, or if economic disaster were to strike. It is self-sufficiency and communalism. It is existing within the processes of nature instead of trying to conquer nature.
My next post will follow up on a similar topic to this one, addressing the delusions that people have about technology solving the problems it has caused and a bit of fun talking about ‘transhumanists’.
Stay safe – Normandie