Category Archives: literature

>Scalped

>

The American Indian reservations are the last chance for the survival of ancient traditions and ways of life. Yet the states drive Indians off their land (most of the Western Shoshoni people’s land, for example, was long ago confiscated for underground nuclear testing), claiming they can offer them a better life in the cities. However, the Indians will enter an American society where they will be cultureless people, bereft of just about everything.

The American Indians are forced to face a very old dilemma.

At the dawn of the fifteenth century, Spanish conquistadors and priests presented the Indians they encountered with a choice: either give up your religion, culture, land and independence, and swear allegiance to the Catholic Church, or suffer all the damage that the European invaders choose to inflict upon you.

To the conquering Spanish, the Indians were defined as natural slaves. Subhumans. That’s how they wanted to use them. The British and the Americans had little use for the Indians as slaves, so to justify their particular genocide they appealed to Christian sources of wisdom: the Indians were Satan’s helpers, they were murderous wild men of the forest, they were bears, wolves and vermin. They were beyond civil life. Hence, straightforward mass killing of the Indians was the only thing to do. They needed the land, not the humans.

Today is no different. The choice still stands: Surrender all hope of continued cultural integrity and effectively cease to exist as autonomous people and prepare yourself for even worse merciless inequality in our cities, or remain on the reservation and attempt to preserve your culture admist the wreckage of governmentally imposed poverty, hunger, ill health and the endless attempts of the state trying to rob you of your land.

The poverty rate on American Indian reservations in the United States is almost four times the national average. In Pine Ridge in South Dakota (where more than 60 percent of homes are without adequate plumbing, compared with barely 2 percent for the rest of the country) the poverty rate is nearly five times greater. The conditions on many reservations are no different from conditions that rule throughout the Third World.

The suicide rate for young Indian males and females aged 15 to 24 years is around 200 percent above the overall national rate for the same age group, while the rate for death caused by alcohol – another form of suicide – is more than 900 percent higher than the national figure!
American Holocaust.

This is the setting for Scalped, a grim graphic novel created by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra. As described on the back of the first volume, Indian Country: ”…a gripping mix of Sopranos-style organized-crime drama and current Native American culture”.

So, life and crime on ”The Rez”, then.

Dashiell Bad Horse ran away from poverty and despair on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation (could very well be the above mentioned Pine Ridge) some fifteen years ago, and now he’s back, only to find that nothing has changed, except for ”the glimmering new casino and a once-proud people overcome by drugs and organized crime”. It is the eve of the opening of the casino. Welcome to violence.

It turns out that Dash is an undercover FBI agent, and he ends up infiltrating this web of criminality spun by tribal leader Lincoln Red Crow, a former ”Red Power” activist now turned crime boss and the most hated man on the rez, who before he ventured into the heart of darkness was the compatriate of Dash’s mother, Gina. How’s that for a complex and totally unruly sentence? Well, that’s how I felt about this multi-layered, uncomfortable and deeply gritty story in the first place. Unruly. At times I found it hard figuring out who was who, kind of like when I read Blood Meridian the first time. But it was worth the effort of hanging on.

Scalped has its fair share of people holding on to their many secrets, almost Twin Peaks-like, and as the back story is slowly being revealed I was deeply impressed. This is so much more than fights, trashy sex, Indian pride, split families, domestic abuse, mindless violence, scalpings, shootings, revenge, drugs, prostitution, racism, lies, sorrows, drinking and gambling. Much more. The hero and the villain are as crappy and dirty as the world they live in. Here is no peace. Only the lust for vengeance, flesh, profanity and power.

I cannot agree with the Sopranos comparison, though. Aaaron has stated he had The Wire in mind when creating Scalped, and that’s more like it. Like a mixture of Oz and The Wire, maybe. Deadwood? I haven’t even seen that series yet, so throw in some Frozen River and  Gomorrah, and that should do it for most of you.

>Life — A continuing story of survival horror

>

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman is that famous graphic novel currently being adapted for the screen as a TV series produced by the same channel that gave us Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It’s directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), so I’m definitely psyched. The first shots look very promising.

But at first, I wasn’t that impressed with the novel. It isn’t original at all; it’s that same old story of one dude waking up all alone in a hospital creeping with zombies, finding his way to a camp of survivors, etc, etc… Very standard. And man, I never thought I’d enjoy a soap opera! Because that’s exactly what it is.

Kirkman states how he loves zombie movies, but hates their open endings. He always wanted to know where the characters went next, after the credits roll. That’s why – at this point, at least – the series is ongoing, pretty much stumbling on without an end. You might think it’ll get boring and repetitive, but having read the first four volumes (issue #1–48) I’m pretty impressed with the way things are going. In short, you’re up for a pretty dazzling post-apocalyptic zombie ritual soap opera.

Essentially, it all boils down to our basic human needs; breathing, eating, sleeping, fucking, exploiting, creating and destroying. It’s about our primal instincts and the reducing of humanity (yes, even among those that are alive – The walking dead are the survivors, in this sense). As the story unfolds and we get to know the characters, we’re in for some hefty relationship drama. And this is were the focus lies; on the ongoing building and shattering of relationships in times of hardship. This is about the people, not the monsters.

As this is pretty far from deep and rather filled to the brim with the most obvious cliches, I still like it. If I wanted deeper stuff, I’d probably go for Y – The Last Man instead. This is Zombie Lit,  and with that you also get the old fashioned sexist idiocy (which seems to be the very essence of the Lit genre…).  Compared to the complexity of Watchmen, for example, this reads more like Tom and Jerry. But as long as you know what to expect, I think it’s ok.

Art by Tony Moore

As for the art, we get some truly powerful, beautifully detailed illustrations of the most vicious gore. However, the art is far from consistent, which is a bit annoying. At times, it’s just splendid, like the larger panorama-like strips. But every now and then, I get the feeling the artist has been in a hurry. Also, there’s an artist change after the first six issues which makes it even more irritating. However, once you get past this moment of vexation, it’s pretty well executed. I’d like more of the details, though, like Glenn wearing Swollen Members- and Hieroglyphics shirts. Tony Moore, who did the first six issues and the cover art up until issue #24, is more into details, while Charlie Adlard, Moore’s successor, works in a more simplistic way. I like them both, though, even though I’d love to have every single strip as detailed as the cover below:

Cover art by Tony Moore
Cover art by Charlie Adlard

Yes, there’s a huge difference between Moore and Adlard, but as the series went on I kind of got to like Adlard’s stuff more and more. I find Adlard’s art to be a lot darker and straight to the point, even though Moore pays more attention to details. Dark is good.

>The meaning of the curse

>

Cut off from the world, having broken with all his friends, he read me – with an almost indespensible Russian accent, given the situation – the beginning of the Book of Books. Reaching the moment where Adam gets himself expelled from paradise, he fell silent, dreamily staring into the distance while I thought to myself, more or less distinctly, that after millenia of false hopes, humanity, furious at having cheated, would finally receive the meaning of the curse and thereby make itself worthy of its first ancestor.

A flame traverses the blood.
To go over to the other side, circumventing death…

To withdraw indefinitely into oneself, like God after the six days.
Let us imitate Him, on this point at least.

Between Genesis and Apocalypse imposture reigns.
It is important to know this, for once assimilated, such dizzying evidence renders all formulas for wisdom superfluous.

Since our defects are not surface accidents but the very basis of our nature,
we cannot correct them without deforming that nature, without perverting it still more.

If the Hour of Disappointment were to sound for everyone at the same time,
we should see an entirely new version, either of paradise or of hell.

No fate to which I could have adjusted myself.
I was made to exist before my birth and after my death, not during my very existence.

I anticipated witnessing in my lifetime the disappearance of our species.
But the gods have been against me.

>Outer Dark — Awake from this dream:

>


There was a prophet standing in the square with arms upheld in exhortation to the beggared multitude gathered there. A delegation of human ruin who attended him with blind eyes upturned and puckered stumps and leprous sores. The sun hung on the cusp of eclipse and the prophet spoke to them. This hour the sun would darken and all these souls would be cured of their afflictions before it appeared again. And the dreamer himself was caught up among the supplicants and when they had been blessed and the sun began to blacken he did push forward and hold up his and and call out. Me, he cried. Can I be cured? The prophet looked down as if surprised to see him there amidst such pariahs. The sun paused. He said: Yes, I think perhaps you will be cured. Then the sun buckled and dark fell like a shout. The last wirethin rim was crept away. They waited. Nothing moved. They waited a long time and it grew chill. Above them hung the stars of another season. There began a restlessness and a muttering. The sun did not return. It grew cold and more black and silent and some began to cry out and some despaired but the sun did not return. Now the dreamer grew fearful. Voices were being raised against him. He was caught up in the crowd and the stink of their rags filled his nostrils. They grew seething and more mutinous and he tried to hide among them but they knew him even in that pit of hopeless dark and fell upon him with howls of outrage.

Yes, it’s that Cormac McCarthy again. This time in the nightmarish Outer Dark, filled to the brim with scenes of horror, incest and murder, told with the biblical rhetoric I’ve come to love, telling tales of the depravity of human nature — the fundamental truth — like there is no tomorrow.

The above quote cites Culla Holme, one brother who shares an incestuous union with his sister. A baby is born out of this incest and Culla, claiming it is dead, brings the child to the woods and buries it alive. The woman soon discovers her brother’s lie and sets forth alone in search of her baby. The brother follows, looking for her. And thus begins the tale of aimless wanderings from one unimaginable horror to another.
Of course, it is a must read. The setting at times reminiscent of the one in Child of God — another McCarthy masterpiece — but in a different part of the world, in another Hell.

Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea,
for the Devil sends the Beast with wrath,
because he knows the time is short…

>The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating — Blood Meridian Pt. 3

>

Blood Meridian is Cormac McCarthy’s first historical novel, as well as his first ”western”, with its roots in the history of the West. Like Samuel Chamberlain’s memoir, My Confession: Recollections of a Rouge – a mixture of fact and fiction which forms the basis of Blood Meridian – McCarthy’s novel is peopled by both real and fictional characters. However, those memoirs are far from the only sources used by McCarthy to tell his tale of the macabre. Every page in this astonishing book is the result of intense studying of great historical works by novelists, dramatists, reporters, biblical scribes, scientists, historians… The list of works is virtually endless, which makes the novel even more fascinating.

I knew from reading McCarthy’s novels that he pays great attention to geography, but I had no idea that Blood Meridian was based on such sickening historical analogues, such as the Yuma-ferry massacre, until I started doing a bit of research myself. Indeed, the Yuma-ferry massacre was very real. And Judge Holden – Satan – does exist:
Whatever his antecedents he was something wholly other than their sum, nor was there system by which to divide him back into his origins for he would not go.

However much historical research McCarthy did, there is still the fact that history is very much characterized by chance. Who was there and why? Whom to trust if only the winners get to write history? Facts really are ”facts”. If you study the Holocaust, this fact couldn’t be more obvious.
It seems like McCarthy is well aware of this, thus blending fact with fiction in such a smooth way. The cruel thing is that what may come off as fiction because of its sheer brutality is often pure fact.

The first time that I read Blood Meridian I was captivated by the balance of beauty and violence, and the words that read like poetry. I had a hard time struggling with the language, though, so the second time I could concentrate more on the story, delving into the characters and experiencing the flow. After this session I began studies on the text and by the third time I knew a lot more about the building blocks, the background stories and stuff like that.

You may read Blood Meridian as a work of fiction, but knowing about the conditions of the time in which Judge Holden lived makes it even more amazing. For example, the conflicts existing in 1850 between Mexicans (both common people and military), US troops, Texans (both Ranger and civilian), Comanches, Apaches, gold-rush travellers… and the scalp hunters.

Getting an Indian’s scalp was the most certain way to prevent the Indian’s soul from reaching paradise. When the scalp is torn off, the body becomes useless, not even worthy of burial. Also, if the Indian is killed by strangulation, the soul can never escape but must always remain within the body, even after complete decomposition. Thus, to the Indians, to keep the scalp was more important than to keep the life, and so, when the scalphunters presented a scalp is was certain proof of the Indian’s certain death.
(The head photo of this blog depicts an Indian burial ground)

There was good money in the scalphunting business, and the scalps were the recipes for these business men – a tradition that exists in modern day warfare as well (for example, troops in the Vietnam war had ears tied to the antenna of their vehicles as trophies of the body count).
The government of Chihuahua paid scalp bounties, which was not uncommon. Many American states, counties and cities did this, although the government of the United States never bought hair. The governmental payment for one single scalp exceeded the amount that a common day worker who became a gang member could earn in a year.

John Sepich writes in Notes on Blood Meridian:
”Pay in the United States Army at about that time ran between seven and fifteen dollars a month when bonuses were included. A group of fifty Indian hunters paid two hundred dollars a scalp would have to bring only four scalps a month into Chihuahua city in order to exceed the army’s rate of pay, and for work not much more hazardous than the army’s. Kirker’s group was known to have killed as many as two hundred Indians on a single trip, bringing in one hundred and eighty two scalps. This approach yielded sixty times what the men would have earned in other employment. At one point, Chihuahua owned James Kirker $30,000.”

The government of Chihuahua was also willing to pay for the scalps of women and children. Also, the city was inhabited by mestizos, Latin American people whose hair was similar to the Indian’s, resulting in the slaughter of many Mexican citizens. The moral problem of scalphunting was not even a problem, since the scalphunters were licenced to do a job for the benefit of the state.
The American Holocaust in full effect.

To be continued in Part Four.
Insights reached with the help of Notes on Blood Meridian by John Sepich.

Related posts:
The Evening Redness in the West — Blood Meridian Pt. 1
The Letting of Blood — Blood Meridian Pt. 2
Genocide Awareness Pt. 1
Genocide Awareness Pt. 2
Belief and Bloodshed: The Religion of Genocide
Derrick Jensen: Endgame
Edward Abbey on population growth
Chomsky on demoralized societies
McCarthy’s The Road
The Road
The Road — A Neverending Well of Bliss

>Emot världen, emot livet

>

Universum är bara en flyktig uppsättning elementarpartiklar. En övergångsform mot kaos. Som till sist kommer att segra. Det mänskliga släktet kommer att försvinna. Andra släkten kommer att uppstå, och försvinna i sin tur. Himlen kommer att vara iskall och tom, genomstrålad av det svaga ljuset från till hälften slocknade stjärnor. Som också de kommer att försvinna. Allt kommer att försvinna. Och mänskliga handlingar är lika fria och meningslösa som elementarpartiklarnas fria rörelser. Gott, ont, moral, känslor? Rena “viktorianska påfund”. Endast egoismen finns. Kall, intakt och strålande.

Michel Houellebecq
H.P. Lovecraft – Emot världen, emot livet

>The Letting of Blood – Blood Meridian Pt. 2

>

In the days to come the frail black rebuses of blood in those sands would crack and break and drift away so that in the circuit of few suns all trace of the destruction of these people would be erased. The desert wind would salt their ruins and there would be nothing, nor ghost nor scribe, to tell to any pilgrim in his passing how it was that people had lived in this place and in this place died.

The nihilism in McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is ever present, and it’s not that shallow, quick nihilism you might be used to. This shit is deep. The above quote could be seen as a description of what became of the original owners of the American land. Total death. Read more about that here.

As the gang rides – like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but more of them – the world opens up showing its most grim and vile side. And in this world, the gang only live to kill, or rather: to kill before they are killed. McCarthy once said in an interview that he’s not particularly interested in books that don’t deal with issues of life and death. One commentary said: ”But his books are only about death, never about life”. I’d say it’s quite the opposite. Or rather: life is death. As simple as that. And McCarthy is the master of storytelling it in a beautiful and haunting way.
His visions are morbid, yet so full of beauty. They tell us things of utmost importance, things about life and how we are. He encompasses the brutal and more base elements of human nature, skipping the newspaper politics altogether, and still manages to convey a message: There won’t ever be a John Wayne type of character coming to the rescue. This is not the romantic West. This is the real deal, this is the brutal truth.

And the truth reads like the Old Testament, both in its biblical rhetoric and its doom-like message about the void, Satan (Judge Holden) and the slaughtering of innocence. This is pretty far from good versus evil – this is evil versus even more evil. And that’s what the Old Testament and this world is all about, right? Right.

People speak of The Great American Novel. Well, thinking of how America is portayed in Blood Meridian, it sure is stunning and beautiful in its descriptions of the lawless West, but as for the people and the nihilism and misanthropy ruling the souls of the gang… Here is no peace. And in that sense, this is more like The Great Anti-American Novel.

That night they rode through a region electric and wild where strange shapes of soft blue fires ran over the metal of the horses’ trappings and the wagonwheels rolled in hoops of fire and little shapes of pale blue light came to perch in the ears of the horses and in the beards of the men. All night sheetlightning quaked sourceless to the west beyond the midnight thunderheads, making a bluish day of the distant desert, the mountains on the sudden skyline stark and black and livid like a land of some other order out there whose true geology was not stone but fear. The thunder moved up from the southwest and lightning lit the desert all about them, blue and barren, great clanging reaches ordered out of the absolute night like some demon kingdom summoned up or changeling land that come the day would leave them neither trace nor smoke nor ruin more than any troubling dream.

To be continued in part three…

>The Evening Redness in the West — Blood Meridian Pt.1

>

The Old West was scary as hell and Blood Meridian (1985) will break your spirit. Violence is just the beginning, and as Cormac McCarthy begins to paint these pictures with his words of death – a tree strewn with dead infants hung by their jaws – some people will probably stop reading. Too bad, because this is one of the best reads ever.


The story is based on My Confession, the questionably authentic autobiography of Civil War Commander Samuel Chamberlain, which recounts his youth with the notorious Glanton Gang – a group of American mercenaries hired by the Mexican government to slaughter Native Americans.

And so it begins…

See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He stokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a last few wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him. 

Night of your birth. Thirty-three. The Leonids they were called. God how the stars did fall. I looked for blackness, holes in the heavens. The Dipper stove.
The mother dead these fourteen years did incubate in her own bosom the creature who would carry her off. The father never speaks her name, the child does not know it. He has a sister in this world that he will not see again. He watches, pale and unwashed. He can neither read nor write and in him broods already a taste for mindless violence. All history present in that visage, the child the father of the man.

After finishing The Road back in 2006 (read my reflections here), I felt the need to read every word from this man’s pen. Now, having read Blood Meridian twice, I must say it surpasses The Road on many levels, even though they are totally different. The main difference being the prose. 

The language in The Road is very sparse, almost stripped of everything, based on repetition, but still very powerful, perfectly reflecting the setting of the postapocalyptic world. It’s a fairly easy read. Blood Meridian is dense as fuck, also based on repetition – the repeated violence – and is a much tougher read. There were some words in here that I couldn’t even find in the dictionaries. Still, I enjoyed the prose immensely. Everything is this world is so ugly and brutal, but McCarthy describes this darkness in jaw-dropping fashion, so very beautiful. And in between all the emotionally disturbing violence is McCarthy’s fantastic prose depicting the beauty of the desert landscape these killers travel in. The whole novel reads like one long descripive narrative, almost dreamlike.

They entered the city in a gauntlet of flung offal, driven like cattle through the cobbled streets with shouts going up behind for the soldiery who smiled as became them and nodded among the flowers and proffered cups, herding the tattered fortune-seekers through the plaza where the water splashed in a fountain and idlers reclined on carven seats of white porphyry and past the governor’s palace and past the cathedral where vultures squatted along the dusty entablatures and among the niches in the carved facade hard by the figures of Christ and the apostles, the birds holding out their own dark vestments in postures of strange benevolence while about them flapped on the wind the dried scalps of slaughtered indians strung on cords, the long dull hair swinging like the filaments of certain seaforms and the dry hides clapping against the stones.

In this world where both life and objects are without value, where children, old ladies and dogs are slaughtered by Judge Holden and his gang, where Holden speaks in long rants about Indian vases and amazing discoveries, only to destroy them when finished – these passages of desert mystic calm are much welcomed. Because this is the end of mankind and this book answers the ultimate question: What is the meaning of life? To survive and to destroy those who don’t want you to survive.

The judge smiled.

The characters in Blood Meridian represent true evil. The leader of the pack, Judge Holden, is a Kurtz-like philosopher who believes in war like others believe in God. His monologues are truth revealed.

The man who believes that the secrets of this world are forever hidden lives in mystery and fear. Superstition will drag him down. The rain will erode the deeds of his life. But that man who sets himself the task of singling out the thread of order from the tapestry will by the decision alone have taken charge of the world and it is only by such taking charge that he will effect a way to dictate the terms of his own fate. […]It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be.…
War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.

At one time in the book, one person chooses life over death. The kid gets a rare opportunity to kill the judge. The judge stands naked and unarmed in the desert before the kid, taunting the kid to take a shot. The kid is cheered by one of his companions: “You’ll get no second chance lad. Do it. He is naked. He is unarmed. God’s blood, do you think you’ll best him any other way? … Do it or I swear your life is forfeit.“
This is when morality comes into play. The amoral core of Judge Holden’s inhuman soul versus the human morality of the kid.

To be continued in part two…

I predict 2010 to be the year of the cowboys, the indians and the ceaseless violence. 

Red Dead Redemption!

RELATED POSTS

>Derrick Jensen: Endgame

>

I just started reading Derrick Jensen’s Endgame (thanks to Pierre) after having read bits and parts in A Language Older Than Words and The Culture of Make Believe. Here are the twenty premises of Endgame.

Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.

Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.

Another way to put premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) requires the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.

Premise Nine: Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways this reduction in population could occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation). Some of these ways would be characterized by extreme violence and privation: nuclear armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of overshoot, followed by crash. Other ways could be characterized by less violence. Given the current levels of violence by this culture against both humans and the natural world, however, it’s not possible to speak of reductions in population and consumption that do not involve violence and privation, not because the reductions themselves would necessarily involve violence, but because violence and privation have become the default. Yet some ways of reducing population and consumption, while still violent, would consist of decreasing the current levels of violence required, and caused by, the (often forced) movement of resources from the poor to the rich, and would of course be marked by a reduction in current violence against the natural world. Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps longterm shift. Or we may not. But this much is certain: if we do not approach it actively—if we do not talk about our predicament and what we are going to do about it—the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.

Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.

Premise Eleven: From the beginning, this culture—civilization—has been a culture of occupation.

Premise Twelve: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people. There are just people. The rich may have lots of pieces of green paper that many pretend are worth something—or their presumed riches may be even more abstract: numbers on hard drives at banks—and the poor may not. These “rich” claim they own land, and the “poor” are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world.

Premise Thirteen: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.

Premise Fourteen: From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.

Premise Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism.

Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary. This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences. It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves. It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.

Premise Seventeen: It is a mistake (or more likely, denial) to base our decisions on whether actions arising from these will or won’t frighten fence-sitters, or the mass of Americans.

Premise Eighteen: Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.

Premise Nineteen: The culture’s problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.

Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.

Modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the monetary fortunes of the decision-makers and those they serve.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the power of the decision-makers and those they serve.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are founded primarily (and often exclusively) on the almost entirely unexamined belief that the decision-makers and those they serve are entitled to magnify their power and/or financial fortunes at the expense of those below.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.

>Paradise — Disease and death and the rotting of the flesh

>

 But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what  is always beyond reach: it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — only if we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us — if only we were worthy of it.
Now when I write of paradise I mean Paradise, not the banal Heaven of the saints. When I write “paradise” I mean not only apple trees and golden women but also scorpions and tarantulas and flies, rattlesnakes and Gila monsters, sandstorms, volcanos and earthquakes, bacteria and bear, cactus, yucca, bladderweed, ocotillo and mesquite, flash floods and quicksand, and yes — disease and death and the rotting of the flesh.
Edward Abbey, Desert Solitarie (1968)