We are clearly, now, living in a time of transition. Our stories are crumbling beforeour eyes, but we don’t have new ones which we are yet prepared to believe in, and theold counter-narratives seem musty, old-fashioned, drawn from a different age. We cansee what the industrial economy is doing to the Earth but not many of us think it can be replaced by peaceful agrarianism or a return to hunter-gathering. We can see the path our machine-addiction is leading us down, but we can also see the time and effortour machines save us. We can see how divisive and disastrous capitalism is, but wecan also see the goodies it gives us, here in the bubble, and we are not likely to fightfor workers’ control of the means of production again any time soon. We can seehumanity’s utter degradation of the rest of nature, but we don’t know how to stopdoing it – or, rather, we know exactly how to stop doing it but we are not prepared toeven contemplate making the changes necessary, because they would break our stories open and leave them exposed to the wind.Times like this are hard to live through. People may respond in a panic by trying towrite instant, comprehensive new stories, but often they don’t have purchase becausethey have no depth and no connection to peoples’ reality; they have not had the timeto bed in. Or they cling resolutely to old stories – to both the dominant narrative andto counter-narratives that made sense once but don’t seem to now, however hard theytry to fit them around a rapidly-unfolding reality. They – we – do this becauseeveryone needs a story, and an old, worn-out story seems better than no story at all.In this issue of
we touch on many of these contradictions anddifficulties. John Rember takes a look at our civilisation’s meta-narratives, with thehelp of R. D. Laing, while David Abram examines the human relationship with therest of nature, and the problems of language itself. Matt Szabo, Catherine Lupton andRob Lewis all focus on the use and misuse of words, while Vinay Gupta and GlynHughes both come to similar conclusions about the need to face the reality of death,openly and honestly, with stoicism and even grace. Luanne Armstrong and MelanieChallenger engage directly with place and nature in an attempt to understand loss,change and disconnection – the unholy trinity of the modern experience.All of this is in the cause of what we called, in our manifesto of the same name,Uncivilisation. We chose this word carefully and used it deliberately, well aware thatit would be misconstrued. Uncivilisation is not a place or a goal, an ideal or a political position – it is a process. The process of uncivilising is the process of unlearning theassumptions, the founding narratives of our civilisation. Once we do this we can beginto walk away from stories that are failing and look for new ones. This process is perhaps something like Vinay Gupta’s account in this issue of the journey toenlightenment in Hindu meditation schools. It’s a lot of practice, discipline andattention, leading up to a realisation, which is quickly followed by another – thatemptying the mind of assumptions and distractions was just the start, and maybe eventhe easy bit.To uncivilise our minds, then, and our words: here is the challenge. To shrug off thefailing stories, with no guarantee of easy new ones to take their place – no promise of a soft landing. To give up control and the illusion of control, in exchange for seeingyour culture as it really is – or at least as you have never seen it before.