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Dark Mountain issue 2 editorial

Dark Mountain issue 2 editorial

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Published by paul8137

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Published by: paul8137 on Apr 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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What if there was more than one story?What if there was more than one story about you: about your life, about who you areand what you do and where you came from? What if you told one story to your  parents, say, and one to your boyfriend and another to your children? What if you toldone story to your employer and one to your secret lover and one to your neighbour and one to the doctor and another to the postman? What if there was a story you toldat parties and another you told at job interviews?And what if all of these stories were true, but all were partial – all were designed todisplay a certain, favoured aspect of your self to a certain audience? And what if thisselective communication was not conscious, not planned, not manipulative or cunning, but was what just seemed to happen when you opened your mouth?And what if everyone was doing it?This is what we all do, every minute of every day, whether we know it or not. Andwhat is true of our selves is also true of the culture we come from and have beenraised within.Which story do you tell about civilisation? Do you tell the one about humankind’slong, slow, steady evolution from idiocy to enlightenment, or the one about thecollapse of indigenous knowledge in the face of the onslaught of modernity? Do youtell the one about the wonders of modern dentistry or the one about soaring rates of clinical depression? Do you tell the one about the Clean Air Act or the one aboutclimate change? Do you tell the one about the death of the peasantry and the theft of common land or the one about the unbeatable yields of genetically modified crops?What do you like talking about? Poverty or poverty relief? Overconsumption or consumer choice? Literacy or language loss? Earth Day or ecocide? Democracy or corporate power? Twitter revolutions or children enslaved by Facebook? Do you telldifferent stories to different people? Do you tell different stories to yourself? What if all these stories are true – all of them, all at once? What then?Civilisation is a story. It is a story about where we have come from and where we aregoing. There are many ways to tell that story, but one version has been very much thedominant one in the West for the past couple of centuries. We know this story: it’s theone about modern, urban industrial culture’s ineffable superiority over all others; theone about human evolution leading inevitably to this point. It’s the one about winningthe war against nature, being the only species which thinks and loves and dreams; it’sthe one about machines and circuitry and ingenuity and progress. And it’s true, insome ways, at least as far as it goes. But it may not be going much further.
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 
 Dark Mountain
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.

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