The Nihilism of Dostoevsky, by Vadim Filatov (Russia)

VADIM

(A public lecture given 12.02.2012 at the Arkhangelsk Teachers Training Institute during the interuniversity scientific conference “Philological education: modern strategy and technologies”)

The Russian nihilism of the second half of the nineteenth century enjoyed popularity throughout Europe. In many respects this occurred with the connection of creativity of the Russian writers. The most significant author in regards to the promotion of ideas of nihilism was Fyodor Dostoevsky.

The Russian nihilists maintained that God doesn’t exist, therefore any moral is relative, and the sense of life is concluded in destruction. Thus the political nihilists have thought. The philosophizing nihilists were convinced that life has not any sense, and some of them even denied the reality of life at all. The philosophical nihilism had very ancient history. But the Russian nihilism usually associates with a secondary, political version of nihilism. Now we begin our story about it.

POLITICAL NIHILISM

It is well known that the first Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin hated Dostoevsky’s creativity. “I have no free time for this rubbish”, “This is a kind of moralizing vomiting”, “Re-read his book and threw aside”, ― thus the revolutionary leader characterized Dostoevsky’s works. On the other hand, Lev Tolstoy was called by Lenin as “a block” and “experienced man”, and even as “a mirror of the Russian revolution”. What were the reasons of such opposite estimates? Lev Tolstoy was imposed by Lenin with his withdrawal from Orthodoxy and his demonstrative opposition to autocracy. It is possible to declare that Tolstoy took approximately the same place in public life of Russia at the beginning of the 20th century which was appropriated by Solzhenitsyn on an outcome of existence of the USSR.

Both Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn have loosened ideologically the existed political systems, though Solzhenitsyn circumspectly was engaged in this destructive process being turned out abroad. On the contrary, Dostoevsky has convincingly showed that so-called “Russian revolution” was actually not the revolution of Russian people, but was the revolution of some “active minority”, or revolution of demons. Therefore Dostoevsky was forbidden in the USSR up to the 50th years of 20 century, when he was returned to the school program with his very weak and harmless story “Poor Folk”. Only at Khrushchev’s epoch, when revolutionary demons and their descendants, being worried by Stalin repressions went to their historical homeland — Dostoevsky returned with “Crime and Punishment”.

The word “nihilism” was used in Russian literature for the first time in 1829 by publicist Nadezhdin in his article “The congestion of Nihilists”, to which nobody paid attention. And only when Ivan Turgenev wrote in his novel “Fathers and Sons” (1862) about nihilist Bazarov, who said that any boots were much more useful than Raphael’s pictures, such nihilism made great impression on youth and the word began to be used widely. When Turgenev returned from Europe to St.-Petersburg, there were many fires in the city in which the public opinion accused Chernyshevsky and the youth deceived by him. Thus the various acquaintances spoke to Turgenev: “Look what your nihilists do: burn down Petersburg!” Turgenev in reply has pretended coquettishly that didn’t understand about what there was a speech. And in Dostoevsky’s novel “The Demons” the mad governor von Lembke has desperately shouted: “It is arson! It is nihilism! If something flares, it is nihilism!” Many people really thought so. It is possible to understand these people, because the hero of the Turgenev’s novel, Bazarov, proclaimed that the society together with all its state institutes had to be destroyed.

After publication of the novel of Ivan Turgenev all the young people which have said constantly that they wanted to overthrow the tsar, which derided religion, cut frogs, and also supported female equality and free love, began to be called as “nihilists”. So nihilists (men) were represented in literature in the form of criminals and bandits, who were looked externally similar as tramps, and nihilists (women) as their accomplices, who are externally similar as men. For example, in 1870 Russian writer Nikolai Leskov published the novel “At Daggers Drawn”, as an angry attack aimed at the nihilist movement, which caused Dostoevsky’s sharp disapproval.

Ivan Turgenev, who has composed Bazarov, didn’t share his ideas. But Bazarov started leading his own life independent from the will of the author. The same may be told about the philosophizing nihilists thought up by Dostoevsky. The author wanted to show insolvency of their ideas, but suddenly these ideas became very strong and deep. Dostoevsky sought to consider sore points of human life and a non-existence to the latest limits and even further. Therefore philosophizing nihilists were looked so convincingly in his novels. And his political nihilists are represented derisively and mockingly. In 1866 Dostoevsky wrote to Katkov: “All nihilists were socialists… There were a lot of swindlers and small wreckers among them”.

Dostoevsky quarreled with the founder of an image of Bazarov, Turgenev, when has lost all his money in roulette, and asked Turgenev for the credit. Hard-fisted Turgenev has borrowed only a half of the requested sum and later, tactlessly asked Dostoevsky to repay a debt. And finally the relations between two outstanding Russian classics fell apart. When Turgenev has published the next novel about the Russian political nihilists under the name “Smoke”, Dostoevsky noticed to him maliciously:

― Ivan Sergeyevich, would you like to buy a telescope in order to see better our life from abroad?

Ivan Turgenev heard this and became very upset, as he always considered himself like the big expert on the Russian life.

Being not satisfied with this, Dostoevsky has represented Turgenev in his novel “The Demons” with image of the vainglorious writer Karmazinov.

In the 19th century the Russian revolutionary populists were nihilists. There were three directions in their movement: the propagandists led by Lavrov, the rebels, led by Bakunin who has proclaimed the nihilistic thesis that any kind of destruction represented a version of creation and, at last, the conspirators, led by Tkachev. Tkachev was one of the first populists who refused to idealize the simple people and began to say that revolution would be the result of actions of “revolutionary minority”, “people of the future”, whom the Russian academician Igor Shafarevich called as “the small folk” later. “Idealization of uncivilized crowd, ― thus Tkachev spoke, ― was one of the most dangerous and most widespread illusions…” But Dostoevsky has idealized the Russian people, with whom he connected the future of Russia. It is necessary to recognize unfortunately that Tkachev’s views concerning the people were closer to truth, than the views of Dostoevsky and Lev Tolstoy. The last one have found rescue from his youthful pessimism, expressed in persuasive reflections about senselessness of life, in unification with the simple people by means of disguise in country clothes. Dostoevsky anticipated Lev Tolstoy’s tragic and comic flight from his estate and his death, when he have wrote about the hero of his novel “The Demons” Stephen Verkhovensky, who also left his house, saw a lot of simple people and immediately died. His son, the leader of gang of the district demons Peter Verkhovensky (according to Dostoevsky’s plan), was urged to serve as a caricature on the well-known nihilist, the follower of Tkachev, Sergey Nechaev, who, in his “Catechism of the Revolutionary” admitted honestly that “any revolutionary is a washed-up person”. As a result Peter Verkhovensky had to become the most banal and belittled double of philosophizing nihilist Stavrogin in “The Demons”. And liberal Stephen Verkhovensky, whether he wanted this or not, brought up unscrupulous and cruel nihilist Peter, just as in 1917 the Provisional Government created conditions for coming to power of Bolsheviks. Actually it is possible to confirm that political nihilism in Dostoevsky’s image has became more or less banal and belittled continuation of nihilism philosophical.

PHILOSOPHICAL NIHILISM

“Right or wrong, it’s very pleasant to break
something from time to time.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Now it is possible to notice that not only Vladimir Lenin hated the creativity of Dostoevsky. In today’s Russia the modern demon Anatoly Chubais hates it too. Their positions are quite clear. And Vladimir Nabokov, well-known Russian writer of the 20th century, spoke about Dostoevsky in such a manner: “Let’s agree that Dostoevsky — first of all ― was the author of detective novels, where each character who has appeared before us, remained the same up to the end, with the developed habits and hyphens”. Thus Nabokov wrote in his “Lectures about the Russian literature”. Nabokov has introduced this idea after listed diagnoses of the main characters of Dostoevsky. He summarized that the world of the writer was the world of sick people which is interesting only to those who was sick himself. Certainly, heroes of works of Dostoevsky, having been in the turned world, had to become (or even to ache) on the head for the aim to see all the surrounding in the correct foreshortening. Whether Nabokov, who destroyed stereotypes concerning the settled ideas of Dostoevsky’s creativity, acted as the nihilist himself?

What is the philosophical nihilism? If briefly, without pressing in particular its various versions, the philosophical nihilism approves a non-existence priority (anything, emptiness) above the life, up to the full annihilation (destruction) of life. It is possible to carry out some ethical conclusions from this fundamental thesis. In the received conclusions the philosophical nihilism is crossed with political one, just as Stavrogin and Kirillov were crossed with Peter Verkhovensky. Nevertheless, the political nihilists, at least on the field of their denial of the standard ethical values, acted not as the purpose, but only as means of achievement of other, mercenary and ordinary purposes. So they represented a kind of weak imitation of philosophical nihilism. Friedrich Nietzsche, who has tried to clear the roots of this nihilism, attentively read and summarized Dostoevsky’s novel “The Demons”. Nietzsche considered the must general aspects of nihilism, such as illusiveness of idea of the transcendent God (“God died”), and also insolvency of a religious picture of the world acting as development of the idea of progress. He distinguished compassion, contempt and destruction as the fundamental signs of nihilism, and mentioned the pessimism as a source of nihilism and its classical representatives, such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. According to Nietzsche, they both were obviously inclined to compassion. Nietzsche explained this fact having addressed to the theory about racial fatigue of the Russian civilization and culture. (Other interesting representative of the German culture ― Joseph Goebbels ― also called Dostoevsky among his favourite writers. Darkness of the German soul is a very mysterious subject!) According to Nietzsche the consecutive nihilism is defined by its degree of exemption from behavioural dominants, ideals and values, from all usual moral, just as from recognition of ideal measurement of human existence as a whole. Stavrogin’s scandalous confession in which he told about how he raped the juvenile girl, who didn’t take out such mockery and was hung up ― may be an indicative example of such release. However, Nietzsche, with all his loud appeals to revaluation of values, wasn’t ready to accept Stavrogin’s radical nihilism. The philosopher showed some kind of intellectual cowardice, having said that the original nihilism assumes the sufferings, caused pleasure as an indirect acceptance of reality.

“The nihilism represents the main direction of the development of Western history, ― thus Martin Heidegger declared in the 20th century. ― This movement finds out such depth that its expansion can have as a result only the world accident”. “The absolute knowledge demands the most radical nihilism”, ― thus the representative of philosophy of a postmodern Jean-François Lyotard claimed. And the modern Russian philosopher Chanyshev proclaimed the absolute character of Non-Existence, which generated and inevitably destroyed any being. Everything arises for a while, and perishes forever: the person comes from a Non-Existence and falls into it, without having understood anything.

WORKS

Dostoevsky has showed a problem of nihilism in such a substantial scale, that only radical ways of the decision became acceptable. Whether Existence was eternal, or it was deceptive, and this meant that it wasn’t present and wouldn’t be at all.

“The Hostess”

This is Dostoevsky’s unfairly forgotten early story. The characters of the story lived on the verge of real and imagined, madness and health, which mutual transitions were so imperceptible that any distinction between life and a Non-Existence was erased. Dostoevsky has debuted before this novel with far-fetched and lifeless imitation of Gogol, the story “Poor Folk” (“new Gogol appears!”), which caused unlimited praises of Belinsky. He hoped that the new author would be able to replace Gogol, who was gradually falling into religious obscurantism. However, Dostoevsky, in his novel “The Hostess”, unexpectedly went to the gloomy and mysterious area, having plunged into darkness of soul and opening gallery of mysterious outcasts with the image of Murin. The main hero of “The Hostess”, Ordyntsev, and the hostess named Catherine herself, were absolutely ambiguous. So Belinsky has responded about the story “The Hostess” in the spirit of Lenin’s later statements: “nasty thing” and “terrible nonsense”. Many people thought that revolution in Dostoevsky’s outlook was connected with his stay on penal servitude however the first sources of his latest philosophical reflections could be founded in his story “The Hostess”.

“Notes from Underground”

“The whole work of man really seems to consist in nothing but proving to himself every minute that he is a man and not a piano key”― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

This program story of Dostoevsky was conceived by the author as a lampoon, having directed against political nihilists, and turned into apologia of philosophical nihilism. The Underground Man became one of the most spiritually powerful characters of Dostoevsky. He showed his willfulness long before Kirillov. Also he denied any attempts of creation of a rational picture of the world, both bourgeois and utilitarian, and socialist. (In “The Demons” Kirillov has cherished his main idea, lying on a floor at the American slum, and destroying mentally all intolerable and disgusting reality. So Kirillov’s thought was also directed both against demons of chaos, and against demons of a petty-bourgeois order). Thus, the main targets of sarcastic criticism of the Underground Man were the banal evidence, and the Nature: “Upon my word, they will shout at you, it is no use protesting: it is a case of twice two makes four! Nature does not ask your permission, she has nothing to do with your wishes, and whether you like her laws or dislike them, you are bound to accept her as she is, and consequently all her conclusions. A wall, you see, is a wall … and so on, and so on”. The Underground Man (according to Dostoevsky) had to destroy rationalism from within, bringing its logical preconditions and opportunities to the consecutive end and coming to absolute denial of reality. He, like the ancient philosopher Diogenes, has rejected society, which at the same time was necessary to him. Thus splitting of consciousness was symptomatic and peculiar to many talented and not so talented people. The petty-bourgeois world didn’t accept the philosophizing nihilist and this was the normal order of things, because “a person is silly, is silly phenomenally”. The Underground Man, being started “communicating” with the imagined interlocutor, tried to achieve his sympathy and favor, but very quickly made the very unpleasant impression on him. However, this contradiction was the seeming one: he has wanted freedom not so much from the world, but from himself ― thus was the basic criterion of a solvency of the person which related the Underground Man with Stavrogin. “I am not present”, ― such hidden signal was send by Underground Man to nonexistent world, and so his idea sounded even more loudly, than Kirillov’s shot. The General Law of the “strengthened consciousness”, having opened by the Underground Man, excluded absolutely any possibility of the termination of reflection even if it conducts to denial of the world and general destruction: “I say let the world go to hell, but I should always have my tea.”

“Crime and punishment”

“Break what must be broken, once for all, that’s all, and take the suffering on oneself.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment

The main character of this novel ― Rodion Raskolnikov ― was in spiritual relationship with the first nihilists of the Russian literature. But Raskolnikov had a serious advantage ― both before Bazarov, and before the hero of “Notes from an Underground”, because unlike them he has not only talked and swore, but passed directly to practice. According to Dostoevsky’s plan, verification of the theory by the direct action had to put Raskolnikov to awareness of insolvency of his own nihilism. Thus the author gave to the hero the chance of repentance with the help of deeply religious prostitute Sonia Marmeladova. By reading the Bible she persuaded Raskolnikov to repent and admit his murder. Vladimir Nabokov pointed fairly to obvious artificiality of the theatrical scene when “murderer and loose woman united during reading the eternal book”.

In the ending of the last Russian screen version of the “Crime and Punishment” impressively created by director Dmitry Svetozarov, Rodion Raskolnikov has been repented about his recognition and didn’t refuse his idea. He has regretted that he remained a kind of a shivering creature, but not about the murder. This ending didn’t correspond to the text of Dostoevsky’s novel, but quite coincides with logic of development of outlook of the main character. Another hero of the novel, Svidrigaylov, appeared much more consecutive nihilist then Raskolnikov. He showed that, being the nihilist, it was optional to kill people by an axe, but it would be more important to realize his own willfulness as fundamental value.

“The Idiot”

“I do not exist now and I know it; God knows what lives in me in place of me.”
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

This novel narrated why the idea of remaking the world by means of Good is a kind of madness. The world is initially evil, so everything represents various, sometimes rather deceptive and freakish forms of redistribution of the same Evil. Sometimes Evil pretends to be good for the aim to overcome its competitors. If somebody attempts to imagine the world which is building on the basis of the final celebration of Good, it would be real idiocy. Thus is the reason of the name of the novel and the name of the main character, actually, the idiot. Prince Myshkin has tried to create Good, and, for the aim of the purity of experiment, Dostoevsky gave him financial leverages in the form of unexpected receiving inheritance. As a result of altruistic feeble efforts of the idiot, the inevitable process of prompt increase of the cash evil has began, which reached its apogee with Nastasia Filippovna’s flight from the kind prince to angry Rogozhin and her death.

The main character of the novel “The Idiot” actually is Hippolyte ― the young man, who realized himself as “being who denies everything”, and who “had to die inevitably”, especially just as all the people were sentenced to death. So he decided to take execution of the sentence in his own hands. However, when Hippolyte has learned that he was fatally sick, he decided to postpone a suicide. He wanted to look as the self-satisfied and fateful world would painfully suffer, redistributing its Evil. Hippolyte’s interest to the world was a curiosity of very metaphysical plan, so “Hippolyte’s Confession” became the strongest text created by Dostoevsky, which, due to a misunderstanding, was put into the weak and far-fetched novel “The Idiot”.

“The Demons”

“If Stavrogin believes, he does not believe that he believes. And if he does not believe, he does not believe that he does not believe.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

The main character of the novel “The Demons” Stavrogin has denied the world and, according to the nihilistic principle of willfulness, rejected any obligations and relations with other people. Throughout the novel the fateful world with its stupid puppets danced and wriggled round the lonely thinker, but he kept absolute tranquility, which was similar to the well-known apathy of ancient philosophers. Sometimes Stavrogin showed some easy activity with a great deal of boredom, which reminded the fuss of Bazarov with frogs. In reply the provincial bog started croaking and letting out loudly the putrefactive gases, being pleased that it was noticed and, therefore, it existed. Thus the quantity of the cash Evil increased with the geometrical progression. Then Stavrogin came back to his usual loneliness and apathy, having satisfied his metaphysical curiosity.

“There is only one rather serious philosophical problem ― a suicide problem… to solve to live or not to live means to answer a fundamental question of philosophy”, ― thus Albert Camus wrote in connection with the novel “The Demons”. So Dostoevsky, being the ingenious writer, gave the honest answer on this last condemned question. The engineer Kirillov has declared his wish to commit suicide, as “such was his idea”. And Kirillov’s idea was a kind of overestimated ideas, because for the aim of its realization he was quite ready to die. Kirillov knew that the God didn’t exist, but the God had to be. If the God didn’t exist, then Kirillov became the God himself. But the God didn’t exist all the same, so Kirillov had to kill himself for the aim to become the absent God. And Kirillov (from positions of his potential divinity), indifferently looked at various demons, which were fussing round him: “I defined that night that everything was indifferent for me now”.

Kirillov has become convinced that Jesus was deceived, like all ordinary people, “laws of the nature also forced him to live among lie and to die for lie”. Therefore the tragedy of each human life was embodied in Jesus. Each of us would be crucified and deceived like the Christ. The shot from the Kirillov’s gun has sounded as a signal for the beginning of nihilistic revolution, which would be directed on destruction of lie and deception. As fairly Camus noticed, not despair, but love to the Mankind, has pushed Kirillov to death. Before finishing bloody and unprecedented act of spirit, Kirillov said words so ancient, as all human sufferings were: everything is ok!

While Kirillov committed suicide for the aim to declare his own willfulness as a man who has became a God, Stavrogin realized the God as the Non-Existence and directed himself to his God.

Albert Camus, when has been discussing a problem of suicide, spoke that it was easy to be logical, but would be hard to be logical up to the end. The history of philosophy knew, at least, two examples of honest philosophical suicides:
In 1876 ― the philosophical suicide of Philippe Maynlender, who has understood that the cooling-down Universe was a body of died God. He didn’t wish to live in a corpse of the God after that.

In 1903 ― occurred the philosophical suicide of Otto Weininger. This Jewish philosopher hated women and Jews. When he found many female properties in his own character, this led him to despair and death.

“The Teenager”

In general, practically all teenagers are nihilists. And some of them will not mature at all. Thus the hero of “The Teenager”, Versilov, spoke: “The real nihilist can’t, shouldn’t reconcile with anything from existing. He doesn’t dare to go on transactions not under any circumstances”.

“The Brothers Karamazov”

“Everyone is striving to unite particulars and find at least some general sense in the general senselessness.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Among all the heroes of Dostoevsky Ivan Karamazov was the same one, who had luck to consider an internal calling infinity of a Non-Existence. Ivan has refused to accept the world, which basis was senseless redistribution of Evil and, as a result of this redistribution, appeared “a tear of the child”. Ivan went further than all the previous personages presented in philosophical novels of Dostoevsky, carrying out his nihilistic revolt. He has approved the radical point of view according to which anything isn’t present:
“… and is there immortality of some sort, just a little, just a tiny bit?”
“There is no immortality either.”
“None at all?”
“None at all.”
“There’s absolute nothingness then. Perhaps there is just something? Anything is better than nothing!”
“No. Only zero.”
“H’m! Good Lord! to think what faith, what force of all kinds, man has lavished for nothing, on that dream, and for how many thousand years. Who is it laughing at man? Ivan For the last time, once for all, is there a God or not? I ask for the last time!”
“And for the last time there is not.”
“Who is laughing at mankind, Ivan?”
“It must be the devil,” said Ivan Karamazov, smiling.
“And the devil? Does he exist?”
“No, there’s no devil either.”
(The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Thus, the main secret of Ivan Karamazov’s philosophy and ethics consisted on his understanding and apologia of absolute absence. Where everything was dissolved in anything, the original philosophical nihilism has dominated.

CONCLUSIONS

The notes of this paradoxalist do not end here, however. He could not refrain
from going on with them, but it seems to us that we may stop here.
― Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground

Thus, our world constantly develops its false reality, following the law of redistribution of the evil. Therefore, as the first Christian eremites, “desert fathers” were convinced very long time ago, the person subordinated to the world, is subordinated to the evil. “Laws of the nature can’t be forgiven”, ― thus Dostoevsky’s underground protagonist spoke. So the nature is such a lie which is necessary to destroy.

The idea of rejection not only the socio-political device of Russia, but also the world as a whole, was characteristic for Dostoevsky’s most intellectual ― powerful, mysterious characters: such as an Underground Man, Svidrigaylov, Hippolyte, Stavrogin, Kirillov, Ivan Karamazov. And this wasn’t casual, because any intellectualism, being brought up to its logical end, would came to an end with the nihilistic revolt. The heroes, which have denying the world, couldn’t win against it yet, but, unlike absolutely artificial, schematic characters, like prince Myshkin and the participants of a circle of Peter Verchovensky, they wasn’t won by the world. Thus was the existential and ontological sense of philosophical works of Dostoevsky.

dostoevsky

NB. This lecture is intentionally unedited, and is presented in the form in which it was received in order to retain the fantastic personality and engagement of Mr. Vadim Filatov in its original presentation.
— Adam Donaldson Powell

Taking the Bull by the Horns, by Michael G. Lloyd (USA)

“The weak find an excuse, the strong find a way.” Leo Louis Martello

Michael_G_Lloyd B&W

I grew up on a farm in the 1960s and 1970s. My brother, sister, and I had a good life. We weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination (at least in Western terms), but we lived comfortably and worked hard. We managed to entertain ourselves in the summertime by hiking, swimming, camping, biking, reading, and playing hide and seek and war (this was the Vietnam War era, after all). There wasn’t a lot of extra money, so we learned to make do. It’s a skill that has served me well over the years, both at home and at work.

It never occurred to me that others didn’t have this skill until I entered the adult world and encountered a plethora of people who seemed more content to complain about their circumstances than figure out a way to work around their situation. A case in point was the dearth of Pagan retreats for men who love men in the United States.

Now I had been going to mixed sex Pagan festivals for a few years, and they were great. But I consider my sexuality to be an integral part of my spirituality, and these festivals just didn’t meet that need even when several of us organized programming along those lines at those events. The right atmosphere and mix of people wasn’t present to satisfy the calling that a number of us were feeling.

At that time there were some other events scattered around the country during different times of the year such as Radical Faerie gatherings and the Mid-Atlantic Men’s Festival, but nothing that really called to most of us. What to do? We believed that the thing we were looking for was possible, but were unsure of how to make it happen.

Now some people are content to sit back and complain about the lack of choices, and certainly that was the case in this instance. But Julian Hill and I put our heads together and decided that we not only *should* do this, but *could* do it. We set out to learn the mechanics of how to run a large Pagan festival and, from that, we developed a plan for running our own event.

We got involved with several festivals, volunteering and learning the ropes. Both of us already had backgrounds in business and in risk management. I was in my 40s, and Julian was in his 30s, so we already had some life experience upon which to draw. In a couple of years, we both felt we had a sufficient grasp of what was required to successfully run such a gathering. In 2002, we founded the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering (BTW). The first year of BTW was rough, but with each succeeding year we built up a trained staff and a loyal following.

By the time Julian and I retired as co-facilitators (he in 2010 and I in 2011), the festival had broken the magical 100-person barrier and had become one of the largest events of its kind and was attracting a wide variety of gay and bi practitioners – Buddhists, the Norse, Druids, Wiccans, Witches, Ceremonialists, Shamans, members of African Diasporic paths, and others – from across North America.

We had initially aimed for persons living within a 500-mile radius of Columbus, Ohio, thinking that people simply wouldn’t travel further than that to attend a small festival like ours, no matter how unique it was. We were mistaken, as it turned out, with one man traveling all the way from Texas to be there in 2002. Since then we have hosted attendees from twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia, and from the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ottawa. And we have fielded inquiries from the countries of Mexico and France.

We’ve had many men pass through the festival who have become re-energized from their experience. Many speak about the life-changing aspects of BTW. Some talk about how they had given up on the concept of brotherhood or even simple joy in association with other gay men until they had come to this temple in the woods. From my own personal perspective, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the expression of awe or joy on the face of an attendee after coming out of a meaningful ritual, the look of connection and understanding during a workshop, or to watch the connections being formed between men from different parts of the country, different backgrounds, and different paths. Some men have made good friends of the people who they have met at BTW. Some have progressed beyond that point. We had our first handfasting at BTW in 2002, a tradition which we’ve been proud to see repeated twice more in the years since.

I raise these points to emphasize that all of this might not have happened if Julian and I had sat back like so many others, complaining about what didn’t exist and doing nothing about it. Instead, we devised a plan to realize our vision, developed the skills we needed to bring it to fruition, and then executed it. Don’t be that ineffectual complainer. Be the one who figures out a way to make it happen, whether it’s a big thing or a little one. Remember the words of New York Witch, gay activist, and Pagan rights activist Leo Louis Martello – “The weak find an excuse, the strong find a way.”

BullofHeaven

Michael Lloyd is a co-founder and former co-facilitator (2002-2011) of the Between the Worlds Men’s Gathering, one of the largest Pagan spiritual retreats for men who love men. He is the author of “Bull of Heaven: The Mythic Life of Eddie Buczynski and the Rise of the New York Pagan” (Asphodel Press, 2012).

Intellectual slumming with a genius: an essay by Adam Donaldson Powell (Norway) on T. Wignesan’s book “Poïetics : Disquisitions on the Art of Creation”

T. WIGNESAN : INTELLECTUAL SLUMMING WITH A GENIUS.

Literary criticism by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon “Poïetics : Disquisitions on the Art of Creation”, published by Cyberwit.net, India, 2008, ISBN 978-81-8253-104-8, 214 pages, paperback, US$20.

What happens when a genius and a scholar and a writer compiles and publishes a series of essays and interviews on poïetics, with the aim of both presenting this all-too-obscure area of investigation on a level that is understandable to a non-genius and perhaps even to a non-scholar? For most readers the consequence is perhaps that of easily getting lost – much as in the process of digesting the long-winded sentence I have just presented. One needs to either quickly “learn” or “recognize” the language of multi-leveled thought processes and communication – or to give up, with the rationalization that the book is “boring” or “uninteresting”. The latter unwittingly reveal themselves as interesting subjects for the author and his interpretation of poïetics, as the experience of “boredom” is a central concept in his oeuvre. For those of us who share T. Wignesan’s interests in philosophy, abstractions, existentialism, surrealism, the development of literature, analysis of the difficulties in both artistic expression and translation etc. this book is more than mere “eye candy” – it is a walk through Wonderland. This walk together with Wignesan affords the consenting “genius” the opportunity to intellectually slum through a multitude of complicated, competing and converging presentations of reality and “sub-reality” … with accompanying elements of entertainment, including small commentaries that bring forth the occasional snicker, as well as hidden “checks” by which the reader can himself determine if he is truly still awake in the classroom, and even more importantly: the fun of following an otherwise academic presentation while subjectively being presented with the very points of the analysis in the writing form itself. THIS is where the true naughty genius of T. Wignesan makes itself evident, a genius not entirely unlike that of Jean-Paul Sartre, Voltaire and other masters of literary presentations of philosophical thought.

Many readers are possibly wondering ‘what the hell’ I am talking about – and quite understandably perhaps. It is therefore appropriate to define a few terms. The title of this book would be for some an abstraction in itself, but which is yet perfect when dissected. “Disquisition” refers to an elaborate analytical or explanatory essay or discussion; a formal discourse or dissertation; or a diligent inquiry. “Creation” refers to starting or introducing something new, everything that exists, the human act of creating something, the event of bringing something into existence, and a thing or artifact that has been brought into existence. And finally, “poïetics” is defined by T. Wignesan himself as “the science and philosophy of creation. It is the tie which links the creator to his work while the work, as Passeron (René) puts it, is in the process of being created. The study of this act of becoming is the object of poïetics. Once the work is created or the act of creation is consummated, three conditions (according to the French “school”) prevail:

1) that the finished product or oeuvre constitutes an unique entity;
2) that the finished product be invested with a personality of its own, and
3) that the finished product compromise the creator in that he is in some ways still responsible for the oeuvre through his role as the progenitor of the product.”

Fairly basic stuff actually. However, every philosopher has the burden of defining his/her concepts on both sides of the margin. As a discussion of ”being” necessitates a complementary discussion of “nothingness”, so does a discussion of creation require an analysis of what is or is not a creation. This larger discussion affords the author a wide range of opportunities to draw upon many related discussions pertaining to human perception and systems of thought, which he does with expertise. However, as indicated above, Wignesan also combines his artistic literary talents together with his love and understanding of philosophical analysis to make the reading experience itself an active illustration of his concepts. For example, Wignesan discusses at length the impulse and function of “boredom” in the process of creation and aptly manages to produce a book that is designed to illustrate and experientially convey both boredom and the desire to promote understanding of complicated universal processes in a simple way. (I can almost hear the snicker of a few readers at this commentary of mine. Yes, I did find the oeuvre both boring at times and often incredibly thought-provoking and stimulating.) His discourses on translation constitute yet another example of this active communication and active dialogue, in that the reader is invited into an active thought process triggered by Wignesan’s examples and writing style. To me, this is the highest form of creation and art: a work that entices the reader, viewer and listener himself/herself to think creatively.

This is an ambitious work. Does T. Wignesan succeed in making this analytical and literary experience accessible to the “uninitiated” and the layman? In my opinion, he both does … and occasionally does not. As an author and reviewer of books who shares many of Wignesan’s philosophical perspectives regarding the nature and function of creation and of existentialism, as well as an understanding of the difficulties of writing on many levels of comprehension in one work and attempting to simplify where possible … even I found myself getting “lost” a few times – having to go back and take a comprehension and reality “check” for myself. But then again, literary “entertainment” can also include self-reflection, new learning, academic language and abstractions to be explored. And not everything needs to be explained in entirety or in the simplest of terms.

Even the cynical or lazy reader who would dismiss this book as “uninteresting” or “folly” will be left with a nagging question that at least momentarily disrupts his/her inner peace: ‘have I – in fact – all too quickly set up barriers in self-defense against an important area of exploration and self-knowledge?’

By Adam Donaldson Powell, Norway.

THE INDIAN FRONT OF SPIRIT — Portrait interview with Azsacra Zarathustra, by Katya Ganeshi (Russia)

THE INDIAN FRONT OF SPIRIT

Interview with Azsacra Zarathustra
by Katya Ganeshi

Azsacra_Steel

THE ABSOLUTE REVOLUTION ►
Our line of sight in the Revolution:
One must learn to ride the dragons ↑
Dragons of Horror kill dragons of fear ↑
The Revolution from within ↑ …
Beyond the beyond and Upward ↑
Beyond all forms, and no forms ϟ
To think about Shunya only with
the help of Lightnings ϟ ϟ ϟ ϟ

AzsAcrA
↑A↑A↑A↑

You have a mysterious name. What is the secret of your name? Who are you?

My name is Andrei Azsacra. But in the East and the West all know me by the name Azsacra Zarathustra. However: I am not the Persian and/or pro-Islamic Zarathustra; I am only based in Russia and India ― my two primordial Sacred Native Lands. My “philosophical language” is derived from Russian and Sanskrit.

You have many philosophical concepts. One of them is “The Indian Front”. What is the meaning of this concept?

Like I said earlier, I am a Russian by birth, but simultaneously I am an Indo-European thinker or, if you wish ― Indo-Aryan. Arya! I study the most secret ideas, manifestations and rituals of Ancient India. I write about them in my books, films and specially-created mantra-music. I aspire to reveal the most hidden riddles and ciphers of ancient the Indo-Aryan Gods and Heroes. In other words: I want to revive the Spiritus Mundi up against the present economy-based existence, by means of a powerful Indo-European Spiritual Uprising. An Indo-Europe Rising! This is the Indian Front of Spirit! Undoubtedly, today only India, as Spiritual Heart of the world, has the capability to overwhelm the consumer-addictive illusions of post-contemporary, and temporarily weakened Europe. Many people are thinking that the crash of Europe is irreversible, but I am convinced that, very soon ― first in Europe and America ― there will begin (in a flash!) one of the particularly strongest Spiritual Revolutions possible ― a revolution of an Entirely Different Weltanschauung. First of all ― there will be a Revolution from within! For this purpose the “soul of each” will pass through the Over-active Shunya ― a magical and terrible Zero point ― a point of Nothing to Power and Emptiness to Supremacy. The Buddha of Europe is, as a matter of fact, the Anti-Buddha! It not the thinker who calls for dilution and dispersal in the state of Nirvana, but on the contrary ― he strives to strengthen more greatly all ideas, laws and principles contributing to the Will to Live as a holy Yes to Life.

What are your coming plans in regards to creation and activation of the Indian Spiritual Front?

I plan to continue further development (both theoretically and practically!) of my concept of “Shunya-Revolution” and the doctrine “The Absolute Revolution”. I will continue to explore in depth, as before, the Will to Life ― through the conditions of the maximum interpretations of the experience of Death. Europe, in its study and interpretations of Nietzsche, Heidegger and etc., has learned only about “a passive stage” of the nihilism, burdened with a damned “spirit of heaviness”. But Europe and America never knew about the principle of the Over-active, Solar Nihilism, as the most unstoppable form and process of Will to Life, which rigidly eliminates any “will to the power” (i.e. that which treacherously blocks Absolute and Exulting Life Way). Id est: I study Death not as a certain “limit” or “infinity”, but how (here and now!) my own Iron Will, which even in the Absolute Non-existence and Total Absence, is capable of the most fierce and ferocious Resistance and Struggle against any kinds of “weakening”, “death”, “dying” and “disintegration”. The Future of Spirit is an absolute uprising of all the most fearless forces of India, plus the total mobilization of all the most courageous forces of Europe. I am talking about an Indo-Europe Rising!

AZ1

You spent your childhood in Russia. What events in that period influenced the creation of your main philosophical and revolutionary concepts?

In my childhood I very often faced various types of death among both people and animals. The basic tragedy of living a life becomes even more intense when one also faces experiences of dramatic death. Thus ― during my childhood ― I already began an uncompromising Spiritual Struggle: I began to become obsessed with the protection of trees, animals and birds, everywhere I saw them. At one point I founded in the Urals (in Russia) the largest center for providing help to wounded birds of prey: “Maiastra”. This center has now existed for almost 20 years. Besides birds of prey, we treat other predators ― but also non-predatory animals as well. My personal development encompassed first of all ― real-life practice, and then ― I developed the theoretical aspects of my philosophy. I have thus lived most of my life not in the cozy “calm of a house”, but among real-life dangerous people and predators. They, and only they (as well as, perhaps, the books and soul of Jack London) truly taught me about the Will to Life. Melville’s Captain Ahab says: “I have no personal history with Moby-Dick, no revenge to take … but I do have a becoming! Moby-Dick is neither an individual nor a genus. He is the borderline, and I have to strike him to get at the pack as a whole, to reach the pack as a whole and pass beyond.”

You have a very severe and inexorable philosophy. Can you tell us why this is so?

Very often I am accused of being cruel, and even “evil” as a philosopher. But the grass, animals, trees and birds ― they must also have unshakable friends and faithful defenders. I am not “evil”, and I am not “cruel”, but I am, rather, the one who inexorably destroys and divides each instance of evil, and directs its pure energies against the remainders of “prior dirt”. First of all ― every day and every night I strike ruthless blows against myself. By rigidly acting and really struggling against the mere “man” in myself, I skillfully reveal those initially hidden forces of Soul and Spirit, which are the only ones that can and will define the further life of the Light. Yes, I am the Light! I have always acted, and always will act, as the vital fighter of amor fati and mystic of the Will to Life. But for some reason, some moral liars and intellectual hypocrites constantly attempt to equate “Will to power” with dark and demonic elements.

You often speak about “Fearlessness of Soul”, “Strength of Spirit” and the “Iron Will”. Do you mean that the man must become the Übermensch?

A priori “there is no immortality” is overcome only through a posteriori “there is no fear”. The main shortcoming, to be exact: the worst enemy of each ― is its fear. The fear is the identifier of each “man”. Remove the fear ― and there will be no “man”. There will be no “former society”. But the result will then be a strong upswing [only Upward-bound!] of the most initial of its components ― Spirit and Soul. I struggle for the Absolute Making of the Spirit through new types of Light Revolutions. Consequently, I build upon my philosophy in order to deprive man of his “indispensable fear”. Accordingly, with such a severe approach, the main virtues of each become ― Bravery and Fearlessness.

The Internet ― is a huge information field which is overloaded with various data. How does this miracle of technological progress influence your work?

Sometimes the matrix and “hollow” of the Internet coincides and strengthens telepathic influences within “the lonely fighter” of Thought. It happens seldom, if at all; but when it does occur ― a simple falling speck of dust can overturn not only the world, but also all of the divine Universe. But on the other hand, a revolution can only take place if we close ranks within our reality. Now we must fight shoulder-to-shoulder. And together we will surely raise Indo-Europe in Spirit!

What is your concept of “enlightenment”?

Enlightenment for me entails thinking without fear and without the hellish constraints of worrying about money, work and summer holidays. I believe that we should live with a feeling of and behavior exemplifying responsibility for all lives – all at once – and without the idea of separating “bad” and “good” acts of bravery. To be strong really means to be, as bequeathed from Nietzsche, beyond Good and Evil. Or to be more exact: to be only in the Flaming Depth of one’s own fearless heart.

AZ2

Where it is possible to find your books?

My philosophical and revolutionary books can be found and ordered at ▬►

Cyberwit.net

Amazon.com

Interview by Katya Ganeshi

Katya1

 

 

 

 

 

 

English adaptation by Adam Donaldson Powell

(photos courtesy of Azsacra Zarathustra and Katya Ganeshi)

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HERE ARE SOME OF AZSACRA’S MANTRA PODCASTS:

http://adamangel.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/azsacra-mantras-beyond-time-and-eternity/

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OTHER INTERESTING LINKS:

http://www.azsacra-zarathustra.ru/index-e.php

AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA’S WEBSITE

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https://occupyessays.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/the-absolute-revolution-of-azsacra-zarathustra/

THE ABSOLUTE REVOLUTION OF AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA, by Katya Ganeshi & Lena Semenyaka

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http://katya-ganeshi.livejournal.com

KATYA GANESHI’S LIVE JOURNAL

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http://absoluterevolution.wordpress.com/author/katyaganeshi/

The Absolute Revolution ~ edited by Katya Ganeshi

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http://shunyarevolution.wordpress.com/author/katyaganeshi/

Shunyarevolution ~ edited by Katya Ganeshi

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http://adamangel.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/azsacra-zarathustra-the-phenomenon-and-the-enigma/

AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA: The Phenomenon, and the Enigma (by Adam Donaldson Powell)

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http://adamangel.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/extreme-poetry-adam-donaldson-powell-azsacra-zarathustra/

A POETIC COLLABORATION BETWEEN AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA AND ADAM DONALDSON POWELL

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http://adamangel.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/extreme-azsacra-zarathustra/

ESSAY BY ADAM DONALDSON POWELL ON THE EXTREME ART PHOTOGRAPHY OF AZASACRA ZARATHUSTRA

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http://www.pbase.com/AZSACRA

AZSACRA’S THEATRE OF CRUELTY NOH PHOTO GALLERIES

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http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4394791/truther_interview_with_azsacra_zarathustra/

SEAN HARDIN INTERVIEWS AZSACRA ZARATHUSTRA

The Rise and Fall of the Human Empire, by Dr. Steven Best (USA)

Steve Best in Genoa July 10

“I’d like to share with you a revelation I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague.” Agent Smith, The Matrix (1999)

This essay tells a story. It is more than a little story, it is one of the biggest stories of all — the story of how humans evolved from one of the weakest to the most dangerous animal on the planet, from hunted to hunter, from vulnerable prey to top predator. This is the amazing saga of how one species became the first and only global species and in a very short time built a vast empire that has colonized the planet for need and greed, has created a new geological epoch – the human-dominated Anthropocene Era — and is threatening to bring down the planetary house.

Like all empires, the human empire rose, had glorious triumphs, but ultimately was a decadent and unsustainable colossus; and thus it also dies, ebbs, declines, and falls like the rest. But much more is at stake in this drama than an imperialist state and its colonies, for here we are talking about the entire species of Homo sapiens and its impact on biodiversity and the ecological dynamics of the planet as a whole.

There is no scientific consensus to this story; there are, rather, a thousand narratives of the origins of Homo sapiens and the proper taxonomical tables and nomenclature. The prevailing cacophony of dispute arises partly for the empirical reasons (the science is uncertain and always changing), and also for political reasons (scientists, researchers, and historians have vested interests in challenging competing narratives and validating their own discoveries and narratives). Uncertainties aside, grasping the outlines of the human past are critical for understanding what kind of animal we are, illuminating the causes of current social and ecological crises, and creating viable future societies — if indeed such a project is still possible in a significant sense.

Out of Africa and Out of Control

Our earliest ancestors evolved from an independent branch of the primate tree some 5-7 million years ago. Pressured by climate changes, they moved out of the Eastern and Southern forests of Africa and into the savannas where for various reasons they stood up on two legs and evolved into bipedal animals. These Australopithecines were 3 feet tall, hairy, ape-men — like apes in their relatively small brain size, and like humans in walking upright. After 2-3 million years, various australopithecine types evolved into diverse variations of the Homo genus, including species such as Homo habilis, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, and Homo sapiens, and Homo sapiens sapiens (behaviorally modern, language-speaking humans). Along this dynamic, variegated evolutionary path, hominid brains grew increasingly large; their technologies and cultures became ever more sophisticated; and their populations continuously expanded in size and geographical reach as their ecological impact became more and more severe.

There is no consensus on key questions, such as: What is the proper taxonomical language to characterize humans in relation to other primates? What alleged Homo types were true species rather than sub-species? What Homo species co-existed, and when? Did they evolve as one species in a linear fashion, as the “Out of Africa” thesis argues, or did various Homo types co-evolve and leave Africa at different times and in many migrations, as the “Multiregional” theory claims? [1]

Whatever the diversity of human types and subsequent migration patterns, about 100,000 years ago (there is no consensus on this date either) Homo sapiens left the African continent to explore a vast, unknown world in which continents were conjoined by ice sheets. They migrated to Europe, Asia, Australia, Siberia, Indonesia, and into the Americas, establishing their empire throughout the globe. All the time multiplying, diversifying, and scattering across the continents, humans wasted no time in colonizing the world from north to south and from east to west.

Just one among tens of millions of existing animal species – many already dispatched to oblivions, thousands currently poised on the end, and thousands yet on the brink of extinction and some yet to be discovered – Homo sapiens has risen from humble mammalian and primate origins to become the most dominant, violent, predatory, and destructive animal on the planet. Nearly everywhere it journeyed and lived, Homo sapiens wrought social and ecological devastation, extinction crises, and chronic warfare.

The Extinction of Homo neanderthanlensis

As Homo sapiens moved into Europe, there was another Homo species already inhabiting the cold terrain – Homo neanderthalensis, or “Neanderthal Man.” According to speciesist folklore, Neanderthals were primitive, grunting beasts compared to far more advanced humans, but in fact these two species of Homo were roughly equal in intelligence and cultural sophistication. Many scholars argue, for instance, that the complex culture of Neanderthals included decoration, music, burial rites, and grieving for the dead. Neanderthals were stockier than humans, had a broader and flatter nose, larger muscles, and even a larger brain cavity. Homo sapiens may have had a slight technological edge or better adaptation skills, but they also were more violent and cunning.

Homo sapiens encountered Neanderthal 45,000 years ago, and 15,000 later Neanderthals were extinct. There is an ongoing debate and raging controversy over the question of the cause of the demise of Homo neanderthalensis, with three competing claims: (1) Humans and Neanderthals interacted and interbred, and eventually Homo sapiens absorbed them into our gene pool, which means we all have Neanderthal ancestors and Neanderthal genes. (2) Homo sapiens out-competed Neanderthals in the struggle to survive amidst harsh and changing climate conditions. (3) Humans did not peacefully co-exist with or out-compete Neanderthals, but rather waged a fierce war on them over a period of 15,000 years until Neanderthals became extinct.

It is, of course, possible that interbreeding, maladaption, and climate all played a role in the demise of the Neanderthals. But a more plausible interpretation — one consistent with a disturbing pattern that shows evidence of tribalism, xenophobia, chronic warfare, and systemic violence — is that Homo sapiens slaughtered Neanderthals.

As Nicholas Wade explains, “Given the hostility of human hunter-gatherer societies toward each other, and the extreme fear than Neanderthals seem likely to have evoked in modern humans, it is hard to imagine that the two species enjoyed hanging out with each other, let alone that they would welcome an exchange of marriage partners.” [2]

Jared Diamond notes that Homo neanderthanlensis was adapted to harsh Ice Age climates and survived them for tens of thousands of years, and thus it is implausible they would die out at the same time humans were moving through Europe. He emphasizes a repetitive historical dynamic in which those with superior technologies invade, conquer, and massacre peoples with less advanced technologies. “If so, then the Cro-Magnon-Neanderthal transition was a harbinger of what was to come.” [3]

This would mean that our first encounter with another human species involved genocidal warfare and set the stage for subsequent history and the crises humans face in the present day. History tells us that “the nice fold didn’t win, that we are at best the heirs of many ruthless victories and at worst the heirs of genocide. We may well be descended from humans who repeatedly exterminated rival humans.” [4] The massacre of Neanderthals, on the basis of this interpretation, was thus a prelude to the assault of agricultural societies against primal peoples for thousands of years, to Columbus’ slaughter of the Taino Indians, Pizarro’s extermination of the Kayapo peoples of South America, the US pogrom against Native American nations, the Nazi annihilation of six million Jews and other peoples, and the genocidal warfare in Rwanda and Darfur.

The Pleistocene Overkill Controversy: Extinction of the Megafauna

With the demise of the Neanderthals 30,000 years ago, and the disappearance of a Homo erectus variant (Homo floresiensis) from the remote island of Flores 10,000 years later, Homo sapiens became the sole heir of the stunning evolutionary journey of bipedal primates. Whether or not they vanquished their Homo rivals in Europe, Homo sapiens did not go on to establish lasting peace and harmony on the planet. Rather, everywhere humans journeyed they exterminated animal species, waged war on one another, and laid waste to their natural surroundings.

The Pleistocene Overkill thesis is a controversial theory regarding the widespread human tendency to exterminate all the megafauna – large land animals — it came across anywhere in the world. [5] According to the overkill hypothesis, megafauna extinctions resulted from the sudden introduction of human beings to environments where animals had never before encountered the new predators and were unprepared to survive their lethal technologies.

The key question in this raging controversy would be: is the connection between human migration and mass extinction a relation of coincidence or causal correlation? According to many theorists, the extinction of the megafauna resulted not from human overkill, but rather from abrupt climate changes and the inability of many animal species to adapt. Ronald Wright notes that humans hunted in Africa, Asia, and Europe for a million years without killing everything off, so why should their behavior suddenly change? [6] Some extinctions, moreover, do coincide with climatic upheavals, and the beginning or end of the last Ice Age may have come too rapidly for some species to adapt. But Wright also correctly observes that while the climate change scenario can explain some extinctions, it cannot account for all or explain the consistent pattern over 50,000 years linking human migration and extinction of animals such as wooly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers, cave bears, giant ground sloths, Mastodons, flightless birds, tapirs, lizards, lemurs, Western camels, and the wild ancestors of horses. The preponderance of evidence suggests that human activity, not natural events, was responsible for mass extinctions.

As Nils Eldredge notes:

The evidence is straightforward: Wherever we went, other species seem to have become extinct shortly after our arrival. Whether it was Malagasy peoples reaching Madagascar a scant 2,000 years ago, or peoples arriving on Caribbean Islands at about the same time; or people living in the New World 12,000 years ago; or aboriginal Australians getting to their home 40,000 to 50,000 years ago, the results always seems to have been the same: Substantial numbers of species soon disappeared, especially but not exclusively prime hunting animals, such as large game animals and, in a few instances, large birds. [7]

Always small, weak, slow, clumsy, and lacking sharp teeth and claws, humans were no match for the huge predators that stalked them. Despite evolutionary myths, for most of our history we were prey, not predators. [8] For millions of years, humans and their ancestors lived in constant fear of attack from powerful animals. This changed about 50,000 years ago when humans began to use fire to clear environments and learned to develop spears, a deadly weapon fashioned by tying sharpened rocks onto long sticks. They also innovated the strategy of surrounding megafauna animals as a group and hurling their new weapons simultaneously. Having no reason to fear humans, megafauna were easy targets and all were brought down with relative ease. [9] For some writers, the decisive event in history is not the emergence of capitalism, the Industrial Revolution, or even the formation of agricultural societies (see below), but rather the innovation of spear technology and organized hunting, the shift in human status from prey to predator. [10]

“Primitive” upper Pleistocene people were in fact efficient killing crews and throughout the globe species fell to their stone weapons and fires used to clear vast areas and force animals into the open. There is also evidence of humans driving huge herds of animals off cliffs to their deaths so they could plunder their remains.

Whether speaking about the extinction of the Neanderthals or the megafauna, many historians and anthropologists refuse to countenance the possibility that Homo sapiens are natural born killers. They want to exonerate humans of any culpability in the bloodshed, die-offs, suffering, and prolific extinction rates, by arguing that environmental factors, not human proclivities, caused the massive loss of life.

The Agricultural Revolution

The extermination of the megafauna was followed by the advent of agriculture. The real problems stemming from human existence on this planet began in the seismic shift from hunting and gathering societies to sedentary and agricultural societies. Some fifteen to ten thousand years ago, throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, humans began to change the basic mode of social organization that abided throughout their history and that of their ancestors.

Thus, instead of scavenging, small-scale hunting, taking foods found in nature, and roaming from one locale to another, humans started to root themselves in one area in order to cultivate the plant and animal species they deemed most useful. Now engaged in the domestication of the wild, humans began to grow wheat and barley, to adopt and tame the offspring of scavenging wolves, and to pen goats and sheep to serve their purposes. Although the transition to agricultural society took different paths in difference places, it always had the same destructive results such as replaced harmonious relations among humans and between culture and nature with antagonism, disconnectedness, and unsustainability.

One key change involved the production of surplus goods. This allowed some individuals to remove themselves from labor and devote their time to writing, manufacturing, metallurgy, or serving in a professional army. Scribes and priests emerged to monitor and administer the resources, to plan and implement field use, and to organize crop rotation, and thereby formed a privileged group in relation to manual laborers. Around all this, a political state emerged to keep administrative records on census, taxes, currency, and trade; this generated the technology of writing and thus precipitated the transition from preliterate oral cultures to literate written cultures. Surplus food production also enabled population growth, and consequently led to gigantism, manifest in the transition from villages to cities to states, and finally to empires.

Whereas hunter-gatherer bands were egalitarian and knew no patriarch, cult of experts, king, class, or state, in agricultural society one finds, alongside the domination of human over animal, the domination of men over women, wealthy classes over laboring classes, and, ultimately, the state over citizens. Quite unlike the use-oriented and egalitarian nature of hunting-gathering bands, agricultural societies were organized to advance the interests of powerful, wealthy, propertied elites through control of labor, slavery, warfare, and empire. With animals already enslaved, humans turned to enslaving their own kind. The wealth, power, cities, and empires of civilization grew through a powerful minority enslaving a vast majority.

Once humans could produce and store enough food to support burgeoning populations, they stepped outside of ecological constraints and moved from one collapsed ecological region to another, until they attained global status, and had nowhere to run from the systemic planetary results of overpopulation, excess production, and unsustainable consumption of resources.

Whereas all species including our closest ancestors lived as small populations within the constraints of local ecosystems that set limits on their numbers, agricultural society enabled humans to cross beyond the confines of local ecosystems and the limits they imposed on population growth and to expand in numbers and geographical range. With growing technological skills came a detachment and alienation from the world that gave birth to anthropocentric and speciesist ideologies. With agricultural society, there emerged the “possibility of indefinite social expansion: more and more people organized over more and more territory,” [11] and thus the colonization of the planet takes its first giant step at this point.

Once capitalist ideologies and global market systems emerged, desires for power, property, and profit became completely unhinged from ideological restraints (via religion and philosophy) and swelled to utterly new levels of malignancy. Greed and materialism were championed rather than condemned, consumerism grew cancerous, and everything was subsumed by the imperatives of commodification, industrialization, and mechanization. Capitalism spread throughout Western nation states to the other continents, engulfing the world (by the late twentieth century) in a global economy dominated by transnational banks, finance industries, and corporations. Driven by a grow-or-die logic, inherently unsustainable, capitalism has devoured the earth’s resources, spewed out pollution and poisons, and precipitated a planetary ecological crisis.

Agri-culture is still our basic social paradigm. It is not only a mode of production but a social system, ideology, and worldview involving domestication of the wild, the domination of humans over animals, the earth, and over one another, unsustainable growth, and concentration of people in overcrowded living quarters. Capitalism is a continuation of this system in its most advanced and pathological state, involving expansionism, uncontrolled growth, the fetishization of money and wealth, all in a market-dominated global context where society is reduced to economy.

The Global Human and its Aftermath

In a journey without precedent, Homo sapiens evolved from a narrow pocket of Africa to planetary domination. First slowly and then rapidly; from thousands to millions then billions in number; from Africa to Europe; from Asia to Australia; from isolated regions to a dense global mass — humans became world conquerors. Their descendants radiated into a plurality of phenotypes, ethnicities, languages, and cultures, all of which are now shrinking back, imploding, homogenizing, as humans extend their planetary domination.

For several million years, we rarely traveled outside our birthplace. Most animals were distributed over only a small part of the world. But humans became the world’s first global species. [12] A global species is not only universally dispersed, it is interconnected; once we dispersed ourselves geographically, we linked ourselves through trade, economics, transportation, and communication. The growth of the human empire has reduced both biological and social diversity and now portends the extinction of humans themselves. One species has colonized a world replete with millions of other species, and the results have been devastating. We are planetary colonizers, parasites, and predators with cosmic ambitions. But there are three key indicators our evolutionary journey was out of control and has reached a critical crossroads if not a dead-end: overpopulation, climate change, and species extinction.

    Population Growth

Few indicators dramatize the malignant ascendance of humans to a global species better than its geometric growth rates. 50,000 years ago, when humans were migrating through Europe, their population was between one and five million. Ten thousand years ago, as agricultural societies began to spread, the human population was ten million. By 1000 BCE, human numbers grew to 500 million.

The human presence first reached the billion mark in 1800. In 1930, the human population doubled to two billion. In 1960, we ballooned to three billion. In 1974, we climbed to four billion. In 1987 we pushed to 5 billion and topped 6 billion in 1999. And in 2012, we hit 7 billion, as we continue to add over 70 million people each year. By 2050, the human population is predicted to soar past 10 billion.

There is an obvious pattern of accelerating growth. It took human beings 200,000 years to break the billion barrier, but only 130 years to double that, then 30 years to add a billion more, just 14 additional years to grow to four, and a mere 12 more years to add yet another billion. We continue to add another 75 million people to the planet every year and over 200,000 people every day, with the highest growth rates occurring in Latin America, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

At the five billion mark, humans became the most numerous species on the planet in terms of total biomass, and by 1990 their numbers exceeded all other mammalian species, even eclipsing rats. By 1980, humanity’s demands on the earth began to exceed its regenerative capacity. In 2003, our ecological footprint was 25 percent greater than what the planet could provide for.

To be sure, the ecological impact of middle-class and affluent Westerners is far greater – some twenty-seven times per capita the amount of resources consumed in undeveloped nations — than the three billion (half of the world) living on less than two dollars a day, the three billion who have no access to sanitation, and the two billion with no access to electricity. Yet human populations continue to grow and expand, as resources steadily dwindle. The problem of sheer numbers (people who require land if not resources) is evident in how the expanding territories of poor African villages overtake wildlife habitat and bring humans and elephants into ever-sharper conflicts. Indian villages, similarly, are invading tiger reserves and driving them into oblivion.

    Species Extinction

We are in the midst of the planet’s sixth great extinction crisis, the last one occurring 65 million years ago with the demise of the dinosaurs. [13] Unlike past extinction events, present waves of annihilation are caused not by natural phenomena such as meteor strikes but rather by human actions. This time, humans are the meteor striking the earth, over and over like a meteor storm, and the ramifications of their presence is spreading throughout the globe like a Tsunami wave.

The chief cause of species extinction is habitat loss, such as that induced by mining, forestry, and agriculture. Over the past several decades, the land range of 173 species of mammals around the world has been halved. Human-induced changes are driving species extinction at 1,000 to 10,000 times faster than the natural rate of extinction. Conservation biologists predict that one half of the world’s plant and animal species will be extinct by the end of this century. Each year, the planet loses over 27,000 species, amounting to over three each hour.

Currently, over 11,000 animal species are threatened with imminent extinction, including the great apes, the African and Asian elephant, the Florida panther, the cheetah, the leopard, the tiger, the blue whale, the polar bear, the sea turtle, the gray wolf, the giant panda, the California condor, the great white shark, and the black rhino. In the rainforests, oceans, and elsewhere, we are wiping out life forms we don’t even know exist.

    Climate Change

For decades, scientists have warned humanity of impending ecological catastrophes. The climate change debate seems nearly over as the skeptics (many on the payroll of ExxonMobil and other giant gas and oil companies) have been exposed or refuted, and planetary breakdown is exceeding the most pessimistic predictions of recent years. We are already at the “tipping point” of runaway climate change, such that the changes we have brought about will play out for thousands of years.

Scientists agree that the absolute threshold of global warming we must not cross is an increase of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Thus far, humans have raised the average temperature of the planet 0.8 degrees Celsius, enough to cause severe ecological damage. And even if we stopped increasing all carbon dioxide gas production right now, computer models predict the planet will rise another 0.8 degrees, pushing us to three-quarters of the two-degree limit. But carbon emission rates keep growing annually and the coal already set aside for burning will push us past the two degrees limit. We are clearly on a runaway train heading toward unimaginable disaster. [14]

In the growth of the human empire, we have moved from disrupting and destroying local ecosystems to destabilizing every major ecosystem in the world, from oceans to forests. The cumulative impact is such that we have been heating up the planet, everything is consequently out of balance, the homeostatic mechanisms keeping planet earth in balance for billions of years are now broken, and we are on the path of runaway climate change and irreversible breakdown. The results, already visible, include desertification, deadly heat waves, melting glaciers and ice caps, rising sea levels and flooded inlands and low lying coastal lands, and increasingly severe superstorms such as Hurricane Katrina. Already, climate change has had a drastic impact on animals, fracturing the icy habitats of polar bears, seals, and penguins. It is a key contributing factor to the death of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in poor countries. The World Health Organization attributes 150,000 deaths each year to the effects of climate change. [15]

Welcome to the Anthropocene Era

In 1989, environmentalist Bill McKibbin wrote The End of Nature. [16] What McKibben described was not the literal death of nature, but rather a natural world that has become so colonized, dominated, and transformed by human populations and technologies that there is not a raindrop or breeze that is not somehow influenced or altered by human existence. Moreover, through the genetic revolution science has begun to refashion the genetic structure of plants, animals, and humans, mixing genes from any species at will in a “second genesis” and new alphabet soup of DNA. In 2010, McKibben followed up with Eaarth. [17] He purposely misspelled the title to call attention to the fact that out planet already has qualitatively shifted from what it has been for eons.

Former NASA scientist James Hanson was among the first scientists to sound the alarm about climate change and his warnings have become increasingly urgent. In 2007, he said: “If we do follow that path, even for another ten years, it guarantees that we will have dramatic climate changes that produce what I would call a different planet — one without sea ice in the Arctic; with worldwide, repeated coastal tragedies associated with storms and a continuously rising sea level; and with regional disruptions due to freshwater shortages and shifting climatic zones.” A key theme to emerge from a February 2012 scientific conference was that by the year 2050, the planet will be “unrecognizable.” [18]

The Holocene Era of the last 12,000 years is over. We have entered a new era, one that by definition is named for the ubiquity and severity of our impact, namely, the Anthropocene Era. [19] The Anthropocene marks a break in geological time in which humans are now the major drivers of evolutionary change. Humans could not have become so decisive a force until the 19th century, when the capitalist industrial revolution took hold. The combination of these economic and technological revolutions began massive buildups of greenhouse gases in the environment, expanded cities, replaced natural vegetation with agricultural monocultures, turned grasslands into deserts, desertification of the grasslands and soils, acidified the oceans, destroyed rain forests, precipitated the sixth species extinction crisis, drained swamplands, dammed rivers, and turned habitat into superhighways.

Thus far into the Anthropocene era:

• Humans consume over 40 percent of the solar energy captured by planets and 54 percent of the earth’s available fresh water
• We have colonized nearly half of the planet’s ice-free land areas
• 80 per cent of the world’s grasslands and 40 percent of the planet’s land surface suffer from soil degeneration
• Humans shrink the earth’s forest cover by forty million acres each year. Every hour, 1,500 acres of land become desert
• We have destroyed half of the world’s rainforests, decimated a quarter of shallow coral reefs, and depleted seventy percent of the major marine fisheries with technologies such as bottom-trawling nets
• We have entered the urban age, such that by 2030 two-thirds of the human population will live in cities. Mega-cities such as Mumbai or Sao Paulo will swell with over ten million or even twenty million, while over a billion people will live in filthy and disease-producing slums as a consequence of globalization, IMF and World Bank policies, and “structural adjustment programs”

Decline of the Human Empire

Just one among tens of millions of existing animal species – many on the brink of extinction and some yet to be discovered – Homo sapiens has risen from humble mammalian origins tens of millions of years ago to become the most dominant, violent, predatory, and destructive animal on the planet. Nearly everywhere they have journeyed and lived, humans have wrought social and ecological devastation, and as the human empire expanded in size, scope, and complexity, so too did its destructive impact and legacy.

History is replete with examples of the decline and fall of empires. Whether Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Persian, Mayan, Greek, Roman, or Ottoman, great societies have come into being and vanished into nothingness, due to overpopulation, overfarming, overgrazing, overhunting, deforestation, soil erosion, and starvation brought about through exhaustion of plant and animal food sources. These civilizations and others collapsed due to exhaustion of their ecological resources, and human societies globally are facing the same situation. [20]

But there is an even greater and more decadent empire than any from ancient or modern times, and this is the imperialism of the Human Empire, the reign of Homo rapiens, and the Human Reich imposed upon other species and the natural world. The Human Empire is inherently flawed, catastrophically overextended, ecologically overextended, and soon to fall on its own sword. The amazing thing is that we do not learn the lessons of the past because our violence, hubris, and delusions, along with the vested interests of elites, are stronger than our grasp of history, ethics, and will to change. Capitalist grow-or-die imperatives and the arrogant myth of Progress override the humility demanded by concepts such as limits, sustainability, and ecology, which tell that we are a part of the biocommunity, and not apart from it. Our societies, above all contemporary global capitalism, have been established in contradiction to the natural world and in contempt of inviolable laws of ecology.

The human species is driving itself full speed into an evolutionary dead-end. We are destroying the planet and everything we do murders animals and dismantles ecosystems. We have lost our moral compass. We think in terms of profit and power rather than ethics and compassion. We no longer have reverence for life or any sense of connection with the natural world. We see ourselves as conquerors of nature rather than citizens of a vast biocommunity. We are technologically sophisticated and morally stunted. We have no conception of the importance of nonhuman life forms in sustaining ecosystems and no sensitivity to the inherent value of species outside of our exploitative purposes. We fail to realize that what we do to animals and the earth, we do to ourselves. And all the while, we live in a fantasy land of entertainment and distractions whereby we focus more on the sex lives and surgical makeovers of movie stars than the greatest challenge our species has ever confronted: How can we overcome our dominator mentalities, our alienation from the natural world, and our unsustainable social systems to harmonize our existence with the earth before it is all too little, and much too late?

Crisis and the Crossroads of History

There is a persistent and influential myth that warfare, environmental destruction, and the slaughter of animals began with modern Europeans, or perhaps is most characteristic of Western cultures and their predominant anthropocentric and speciesist mindsets. As part of this utopian fantasy and cultural Manichaeism, scores of writers have portrayed Native Americans and other non-Western cultures in Rousseauian terms as noble, peaceful peoples who never killed needlessly or without reverence and always lived in harmony and balance with nature, and attributed ecological despoliation only to invading Europeans at the dawn of the modern era.

But recent historical and anthropological research has revealed that violence, extinctions, environmental ruination, and ecological overshooting begin very early in our history, and characterize it throughout. [21] There was no Edenic time, no Golden Era, when humans lived in peace and harmony with one another, other species, and their natural surroundings. As soon as they migrated from Africa, human beings began a cross-continental rampage that already had devastating effects on other species and the environment. This destruction only grew over time in proportion with their growing numbers, consumption rates, and technological and economic development. The pattern reveals systematic problems inherent in our species itself, which has strong proclivities toward violence, is deeply alienated from other species and the natural world, is unable to control its population growth and resource consumption, has little grasp of ecological realities and the consequences for violating the limits of nature, and is unable to foresee future consequences of present actions and to adapt behavior accordingly.

Perhaps the greatest irony of our time is the inverse relation between the aggressive attack on all life and the planet and the apathetic and passive response. Forces of resistance exist, to be sure, but in fragmentary and momentary form. Despite the all-out assault on the planet and the overt devastating effects, the overwhelming response has been denial, apathy, complacency, timidity, and resignation, rather than a steeled will and organized struggle in crisis conditions where the stakes could not be higher.

We are now faced with the grim choice posed by revolutionaries over the last two centuries, which involved “revolution or barbarism.” Our situation has deteriorated so dramatically that we must choose between revolution or ecological collapse, mass extinction, and possibly our own demise.

The twenty-first century is a time of reckoning. This is undeniably a pivotal time in history and an evolutionary crossroads where very different possible futures lay ahead. But windows of opportunity are closing. The actions that humanity now collectively takes – or fails to take – will determine whether the future will be only bad or completely catastrophic, merely difficult or totally disastrous, incredibly challenging or simply impossible.

We need the largest, broadest, boldest, most systemic and inclusive visions and strategies possible. We require the most uncompromising, militant form of politics we can muster. To stop the machinery of planetary war, we must employ every means at our disposal — from nonviolent resistance to civil disobedience, from sabotage to liberation, and from guerilla warfare to armed struggle. We must not take anything off the table, for everything is at stake.

From Athens to Paris, from New York City to Brazil, there is growing realization that politics as usual just won’t cut it anymore. We will always lose if we play by their rules rather than invent new forms of struggle, new social movements, and literally arm ourselves against unconscionably violence forces. The defense of the earth requires immediate and decisive action: logging roads must be blocked, driftnets should be sliced in pieces, whaling ships need to be scuttled, and cages of every kind need to be emptied. But beyond these ad hoc defense measures, we must forge a powerful resistance movement and build a revolutionary alternative to global capitalism — radically changing our values, identities, worldviews, economic systems, social and political institutions, and our relations to one another and to other animals and the earth as a whole.

I am acutely aware of the difficulties and complexities involved in such an epic political battle and harbor no illusions about humanity, anymore than I entertain fantasies about the good intentions of corporations or the benevolence of the state. Despite the inspirational platitude, we must realize that failure is an option. Our future is problematic at best and doomed at worst. There is no inherent purpose we are here to fulfill, no destiny at which we are assured to arrive in glory, however tardy, tattered, bruised, and blackened. There are no guiding angels to protect us from failure and no God to save us from total darkness.

But nor are there inexorable laws or wheels of fate that have pre-determined disaster and demise. We must change our course, and we can – if a critical mass of people throughout the world can understand the crisis and respond with the level of urgency, solidarity, and militancy necessary to transcend this evolutionary impasse.

That is a big “if,” however. While horrifying to contemplate from our perspective, Homo sapiens may not have the will, intelligence, or resolve to meet the greatest challenges it has ever faced. It might thereby succumb to the same oblivion that engulfed all its hominid ancestors, and into which it dispatched countless thousands of other species. As Michael Boulter notes, the earth is a self-organizing system that strives toward balance, and species lose out, if necessary, to the larger dynamics of ecological imperatives. “Extinctions are necessary to retain life on this planet. Humans not only are expendable in the overall calculus, their demise would be a positive event and may be utterly necessary.” [22]

In an era of catastrophe and crisis, the continuation of the human species in a viable or desirable form, is obviously contingent and not a given or a necessary good. But considered from the standpoint of animals and the earth, the demise of human beings would be the best imaginable event possible, and the sooner the better. The extinction of Homo sapiens would remove the cancer consuming the planet, destroy a parasite consuming its host, shut down the killing machines, and allow the earth to regenerate and new species to evolve. After 4.6 billion years of evolution, earth is only middle-aged and there is abundant time for an amazing array of stunning new life forms to emerge. [23]

If we cannot learn how to live on this planet and harmonize our existence with other species and the biocommunity as a whole, then, frankly, we have no right to live on earth at all. If we can only exploit, plunder, and destroy, surely our demise is for the greater good. Whereas worms, pollinators, dung beetles, and countless other species are vital to a flourishing planet, Homo sapiens is the one species the earth could well do without.

Every crisis harbors opportunities for profound change, whether it is a cancer in the body or a deep disturbance in a species and its dysfunctional mode of existence. The crisis is so severe and deep-rooted as to demand radical changes in humanity itself, drawing on every positive capacity we have and forcing us to evolve at every level, individually and collectively, spiritually and politically.

Human evolution is not a fait accompli – either in the sense that things will increasingly improve with the passage of time or that our species will continue at all. Thus, the future of human evolution – in a viable and desirable form, rather than in a post-apocalyptic, barren, Social Darwinist, Mad Max world – is something that will not come easy, if at all, and demands a struggle on an unprecedented scale.

The main drama of our time is: Which road will humanity choose – the road that leads to peace and stability, or the one verging toward greater war and chaos? The one that establishes social justice or that which exacerbates inequality and poverty? Will we stay on the cul-de-sac of uncontrolled global capitalist growth and neoliberalism? Or will we find an alternative route that radicalizes the modern traditions of Enlightenment and democracy and is guided by the vision of a future that is just, egalitarian, participatory, ecological, healthy, happy, and sane? Will we move, in David Korten’s words, toward the “Great Unraveling” and plummet deeper into the abyss? Or will we undertake a “Great Turning,” where we finally learn to live in partnership with one another, other animals, and the earth? [24]

The only certainty is growing planetary crisis and the need for revolutionary opposition and change. We have no choice but to live in the twilight and tension of optimism and pessimism, hope and despair. As Italian theorist Antonio Gramsci wrote, “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned.”

Notes

[1] On this debate, see David Cameron, Bones, Stones and Molecules: “Out of Africa” and Human Origins (Academic Press: 2004).
[2] Nicholas Wade, Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors (New York: Penguin Press: 2006). p. 91.
[3] Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee p. 52.
[4] Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2005) p. 31.
[5] For the classic statement of the Pleistocene Overkill thesis, see Paul S. Martin, Twilight of the Mammoths: Ice Age Extinctions and the Rewilding of America (University of California Press, 2007). For excellent resources on the overkill controversy, see Peter Tyson, “End of the Big Beasts, Nova, March 3, 2009 (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/stoneage/megafauna.html); Evan Hadingham, “The Extinction Debate (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/clovis/debate.html); and the documentary, “Megabeasts’ Sudden Death” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/clovis/program.html). Also see Laura Boness, “Who Killed the Megafauna?” Cosmos (http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/features/online/4597/what-killed-megafauna); and Bjorn Carey, “Prehistoric Humans Wiped Out Elephants,” LiveScience, April 18, 2005 (http://www.livescience.com/animals/050418_elephant_extinction.html).
[6] Wright, A Short History of Progress, p. 37.
[7] Nils Eldredge, Dominion, Dominion (University of California Press, 1997), pp. 83-84.
[8] For a debunking of the various aspects of the “man the hunter” myth, see Donna Hart and Robert W. Sussman, Man The Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution (Cambridge, MA: Percus Books, 2005).
[9] For a dramatization of how 17,000 years ago, stone age Europeans crossed the Atlantic to inhabit North America and used spear technologies against megafauna, see “Ice Age Columbus: Who Were the First Americans?” (http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/aftermath-population-zero/).
[10] See Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War (New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1998).
[11] Andrew Bard Schmookler, The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press; 1995).
[12] On the concept of “global species” see Eldredge, Dominion.
[13] See Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin, The Sixth Extinction: Patterns of Life and the Future of Humankind (New York: Anchor, 1996).
[14] See Bill McKibben, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” Rolling Stone, July 19, 2012 (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warmings-terrifying-new-math-20120719).
[15] See “Animals `hit by global warming” (http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_19772.shtml) and “Climate change and pollution are killing millions, says study” (http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_19766.shtml).
[16] Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (New York: Random House, 2006).
[17] Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2010).
[18] “Planet could be ‘unrecognizable’ by 2050, experts say,” Phys.org, February 20, 2011 (http://phys.org/news/2011-02-planet-unrecognizable-experts.html).
[19] On the Anthropocene Epoch, see Mike Davis, “Welcome to the Next Epoch,” TomDispatch.com, June 26, 2008 (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174949/mike_davis_welcome_to_the_next_epoch). Also see Robert C. Cowen, Christian Science Monitor, “Have Humans Caused the Earth to Enter a New Decade?” (http://www.alternet.org/story/76497/have_humans_caused_the_earth_to_enter_a_new_epoch). Davis and Cowen note that the concept of the Anthropocene has been used since early 2000 and members of the Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London are pushing to give it scientific status and make it common coinage.
[20] Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Penguin, 2011).
[21] On early, pre-agricultural society tribal violence, see Lawrence H. Keely, War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage (New York: Oxford University Press, USA, 1997).
[22] Michael Boulter, Extinction: Evolution and the End of Man (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).
[23] On the theme of ecological regeneration in the wake of human demise, see Alan Weisman, The World Without Us (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2007). For imaginary visions of a new burst of speciation allowed by human extinction, see Dougal Dixon, After Man: A Zoology of the Future (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998). For vivid treatment of these issues in documentary film, see “Life Without People” (http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/life-after-people/) and “Aftermath: Population Zero” (http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/aftermath-population-zero/).
[24] David Korten, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler, 2006).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Award-winning writer, noted speaker, public intellectual, and seasoned activist with 30 years work in diverse social movements, Steven Best engages the issues of the day such as animal rights, species extinction, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media and culture, globalization, and capitalist domination. He is Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso. Best has published 13 books and over 200 articles and reviews (translated into numerous languages), spoken in nearly two dozen countries, interviewed with media throughout the world, appeared in numerous documentaries, and in 2007 was voted by VegNews as one of the nations “25 Most Fascinating Vegetarians.” He has come under fire for his uncompromising advocacy of “total liberation” (integrating struggles to emancipate humans, animals, and the earth into a comprehensive movement for systemic change), and in 2005 Best was banned from the UK for life for the power of his writings and talks. From Romania to Russia, from Poland to Paris, and from Slovenia to South Africa, Best inspires and agitates at a global level and shows what philosophy means in a world in crisis. Some of his writings are available online at his website (http://www.drstevebest.org) and his blog (http://drstevebest.wordpress.com). Currently, Best is publishing a new volume of essays in numerous languages, entitled, Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century.

An open letter to Norwegian politicians, by Per Eidspjeld (Norway)

In Norway, a National Commission has been considering legal reforms regarding prosecution for HIV exposure or transmission. The recent report from this Commission has fallen short of the goals set by Norwegian AIDS activists in their longterm fight to stop criminalization of transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus, and would – in the opinion of myself and many fellow activists – possibly rather serve to increase transmission because it could reduce openness amongst persons with the virus and scare others from testing themselves. The international reactions speak for themselves: we need to decriminalize, and not criminalize people living with the HIV/AIDS virus.

We need broad national debate before we move to implement a new law and penal code in Norway that would only serve to further stigma and fear. Such implementation is – in my opinion – a BIG step in the wrong direction. I also firmly believe that it would send a dangerous message to the world, and especially to homophobic countries that are looking to Norway and UNAIDS for political guidance. As a pathfinder in regards to equalization of human and civil rights for the LGBT community, Norway now risks blemishing much of the good it has done by sending a mixed message and creating possible conflict of interest, which can be difficult to come to reason with.

Persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHAs), friends and supporters of PLWHAs, gays, heterosexuals, politicians and human and civil rights activists alike need to work to counteract and void this law and any new law proposal aimed at criminalizing persons living with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B., and hepatitis C, and which is also against UNAIDS recommendations.

People need to wake up! Together we can gain better control over the further spreading of HIV/AIDS, and initiate greater healing, equality and humanity in our society. Criminalization is clearly not the way to achieve this.

For more information about this read HERE and HERE.

Please share…

– Per Eidspjeld, Norway, international AIDS activist and visual artist.

per1

(photo courtesy of Per Eidspjeld)

BE SURE TO WATCH NUMB BY NUMBERS, by Per Eidspjeld

as well as the following Norwegian presentation of some of his work:

An Open Letter to the American Family Association, by Rick Davis (USA)

An Open Letter to the American Family Association, National Organization for Marriage, Family Research Council, Chik-Fil-A and others too numerous to name:

Dear misguided Preachers and Pundits:

First off, I will admit that I am openly gay. I also live in the deep south, Mississippi to be precise, with my wonderful partner in a loving, monogamous, relationship. Daily I hear the vitriol of anti-gay hate speech on conservative and “Christian” talk radio shows. None are as vile and caustic as those broadcast by Mr. Fischer and Mr. Wildmon on AFR, but all are mis-guided, mis-informed, and apparently intentionally so. They do have common threads however. Apparently all believe that being gay is a “choice” that can somehow be “miraculously” cured through prayer, and the LGBT community as a whole cannot be “Christian” or even spiritual at all. They all seem to believe that LGBT people “recruit” or prey on your children. They all seem to believe that all LGBT people are openly promiscuous and want to “flaunt” their sexuality. Of course the most recurring theme is the so-called “gay agenda” that, if successful, will cause the downfall of humanity. By repeating these same lies over and over you seem to believe that everyone who hears them will agree with you and join in your hatred and bigotry.

Let’s dispel these one by one. First being “gay” or homosexual desire is NOT a choice, nor is it a mental illness. This is the consensus of not only the American Psychological Association since 1975, but all leading doctors and scientists who have studied the question. I don’t know if we will ever find the “gay gene” or even combination of genes that explain it fully, but I will put forward that in 2008, a Swedish research group studied the brains (through new MRI technology) of LGBT people and found definite patterns and characteristics that differentiate them from heterosexuals. In other words, our brains are wired differently and develop differently in childhood. As I understand your disdain for modern science, I will put it in terms you understand – our Creator made us this way! Do you really believe that anyone would “choose” to be gay and subject themselves to the type of hatred and bigotry that you encourage? Of course since your opinions are not based on science, but rather your interpretation of words written nearly four thousand years ago in a dead language that has been re-translated dozens of times and taken out of context to boot, it’s easy to understand your confusion on this issue, but at least try to be logical.

On the issue of “curing” homosexuality through prayer, let me point out that all credible experts (psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, and clinical researchers) have concluded that not only does it not work, it causes more harm, and in some cases drives people to suicide. I would also point out that the founder of Exodus Ministries, Alan Chambers, has even renounced the practice as “harmful.”

Can a homosexual be a Christian? Of course he or she can, and many more than you think are, or at least celebrate their beliefs and spirituality in their own way as many are alienated from most “Christian” churches due to prejudice and bigotry. The only “requirement” to be a Christian is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I would point out that NOWHERE in the four gospels does Jesus condemn or even mention homosexuality or “men lying with men” although we know the practice existed even in old testament times. There is no mention of it in a single parable, sermon, or quote. Although many in the Christian community believe we should literally be put to death, (based primarily on a single verse in Leviticus taken out of context) why is there no mention of homosexuality in the Ten Commandments? The Christ I have studied preached a gospel of love, humility, acceptance, grace, and forgiveness – not intolerance, bigotry, hate, condemnation, and discrimination. Perhaps M. Ghandi said it best when he said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

Do homosexuals prey on children? The answer is that there are basically as many incidents of heterosexual child sexual abuse and exploitation as homosexual although the perpetrators are predominately male who simply prey on the most vulnerable in our society. Pedophilia is a mental disorder all unto itself and to believe that all homosexuals are pedophiles is akin to believing that all young black men who wear a “hoodie” are criminals. Wait… some of you do believe that, sorry, my mistake, but I hope you see the ridiculousness of your argument. To put it bluntly, you can’t just generalize about every gay person and assign them these mental disorders just because you want to do so without any evidence or proof. Even Jerry Sandusky is not necessarily gay as he obviously had a wife and family, but preyed on young boys. As far as “recruiting,” there is no need. There are plenty of LGBT children born to heterosexual couples every day to more than adequately supply the population without any help from the LGBT community.

Are all gay people promiscuous? The short answer is no, and that you are again generalizing against an entire population. There are “pride marches” and gay bars, cruise parks, and bathhouses that even I admit would lead a casual observer to this conclusion, but the number of heterosexual strip bars, sex clubs, and sex shops far outnumber the gay ones by an overwhelming ratio. Allow me to point out something else that maybe you hadn’t considered. Many gay people are closeted because of the stigma and hatred that people like you cause. Those that are “out” were probably in the closet as some time in their past, and are rejoicing in new-found de-criminalized freedoms they thought they would never see or enjoy. Most have little or no hope of ever having a devoted, loving relationship with a single life-partner like heterosexual people enjoy and even take for granted. That’s because you have passed laws that forbid it. So, they express their sexuality the only way they think they can – multiple casual relationships with little or no commitment involved. Homosexuals are human, and have the same basic needs, such as love and companionship, and yes, sex. It is my contention that when or if the LGBT community can enjoy the hope of a committed life-long bond much of the perceived promiscuity will fade away, or at least be no more prevalent than it is in the heterosexual community. The only true “threat” to heterosexual marriages is the one that exists today, that is a soaring divorce rate that has more than doubled in the last quarter century. But, no one is going to force a heterosexual to marry a homosexual any more than we as a society in this country force anyone to marry. You, on the other hand, would force a homosexual to marry someone of the opposite sex if they want to be married at all.

Now, finally, about this so-called “gay agenda” we keep hearing so much about. Well, if you call merely wanting (1) acceptance (not just “tolerance”); (2) the right not to be discriminated against in employment, housing, and education; and (3) the same right to have a single, monogamous, committed lifetime relationship with someone we love; (4) respect for who we are and the contributions we make to society, – an agenda, then yes, call it what you want. I call it fighting for equality. If my equal rights are “dangerous,” then perhaps we are failing as a society.

Respectfully,

Richard “Rick” Davis