A Big Hang Over

If you dream alone, its just a dream.
If you dream together, its a reality.
- Brasilian folksong

Life on this planet isnt't as agreeable as it could be. Something obviously went wrong on spaceship Earth, but what? Maybe a fundamental mistake when nature (or whoever it was) came up with the idea of "Man". Why should an animal walk on two feet and start thinking? It seems we haven't got much of a choice about that, though; we've got to copewith the error of nature, with ourselves. Mistakes are made in order to learn from them.
In prehistoric times our dealseems to have been not so bad. During the Old Stone Age (50, 000 years ago) we were only a few, food (game and plants) was abundant, and survival required only little working time and moderate efforts. To collectroots, nuts, fruits or berries (dont forget mushrooms) and kill (or easier still, trap) rabbits, kangaroos, fish, birds or deer, we spent about two or three hours a day. In our camps we shared meat and vegetables and enjoyed the rest of the time sleeping, dreaming, bathing, making love or telling stories. Some of us took to painting cave walls, carving bones or sticks, inventing new traps or songs. We used to roam about the country in gangs of 25 or so, with as little baggage and property as possible.We preferred the mildest climates, like Africa's, and there was no "civilization" to push us away into deserts, tundras or mountains. The Old Stone Age must have been a good deal - if we can trust the recent anthroplogical findings. That's the reason we stuck it out for several thousands of years - a long and happy period, compared to the 200 years of the present industrial nightmare.
   Then somebody must have started playing around with seeds and plants and invited agriculture. It seemed to be a good idea: we didnt't have to walk far away to get vegetables any more. But life became more complicated, and toilsome. We had to stay in the same place for atleast several months, keep the seeds for the next crop, plan and organize work on the fields. The harvest also had to be defended against our nomadic hunter-gatherer cousins, who kept insisting that everything belonged to everybody. Conflicts between farmers, hunters and cattle-breeders arose. We had to explain to others that we had "worked" to accumulate our provisions, and they didn't even have word for "work". With planning, witholding of food, defense, fences, organization and the necessity of self dicipline, we opened the door to specialized social organisms like priesthoods, chiefs, armies. We created fertility regions with rituals in order to keep ourselves convinced of our newly choosen lifestyle. The temptation to return to the free life of gatherer-hunters must always have been a threat. Whether it was patriarchate or matriarchate, we were on the road to statehood.
   With the rise of the ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, India, China and Egypt, the equilibrium between man and natural resources was definately ruined. The future break-down of our spaceship was programmed. Centralized organisms developed their own dynamics; we became the victims of our own creations. Instead of the two hours per day, we worked ten hours and more, orn the fields and construction grounds of the pharaos and caesars. We died in their wars, were deported as slaves when they needed us for that. Those who tried to return to their former freedom were tortured, mutilated killed.
   With the start of industrialization, things were no better. To crush the peasant rebellions and the growing independence of craftmen in the towns, they introduced the factory system. Instead of foremen and whips, they used machines. They dictated to us our work rythms, punished us automatically with accidents, kept us under control in huge halls. Once again "progress" meant working more and more under still more murderous conditions. The whole society and the whole planet was turned into one big Work-Machine for anybody - outside or inside - who dared oppose it. War became industrial, just like work; indeed, peace and work have never been compatible. You can't accept to be destroyed by work and prevent the same machine from killing others. You can't refuse your own freedom and not threaten the freedom of others. War became as absolute as Work.
   The early Work-Machine produced strong illusions of a "better future". After all, if the present was so miserable, the future must be better. Even the working-class organizations became convinced that industrialization would lay the basis for a society of more freedom, more free time, more pleasures. Utopians, socialists and communists believed in industry. Marx thought that with its help, man would be able to hunt, make poetry, enjoy life again (Why the big detour?) Lenin and Stalin, Castro and Mao, and all the others demanded More Sacrifice to build the new society. But even socialism only turned out to be another trick of the War-Machine, extending its power to areas where private capital couldn't or wouldn't go. The Work-Machine doesn't care if it is managed by transnational corporations or state bureucracies, the goal is the same everywhere; steal our time and produce steel.
   The industrial Work- and War-Machine has definately ruined our spaceship and its predicable future: the furniture (jungles, woods, lakes, seas) is torn to shreds; our playmates (whales, turtles, tigers, eagles) have been exterminated or endangered; the air (smog, acid rain, industrial waste) stinks and has lost all sense of balance; the pantries (fossile fuels, coal, metals) are being emptied; complete self-destruction (nuclear holocaust) is being prepared for. We aren't even able to feed all the passengers of this wretched vessel. We've been made so nervous and irritable that we're ready for the worst kind of nationalist. racial or religious wars. For many of us, nuclear holocaust isn't any longer a threat but rather a welcome deliverance from fear, boredom, oppression and drudgery.
   Three thousand years of civilization and 200 years of accelerated industrial progress have left us with a terrible hang-over. "Economy" has become a goal in itself, and we're about to be swallowed by it. This hotel terrorizes it's guests. Even when we're guests and hosts at the same time.

From the book Bolo'bolo  by  P.M. (published 1983)


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