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The Ishmael Companion
Beyond Civilization
 Study Guide


From Beyond Civilization:
Excerpt 2

Revolution without upheaval

Because revolution in our culture has always represented an attack
on hierarchy, it has always meant upheaval—literally a heaving up
from below. But upheaval has no role to play in moving beyond
civilization. If the plane is in trouble, you don’t shoot the pilot, you
grab a parachute and jump. To overthrow the hierarchy is pointless;
we just want to leave it behind.

As everyone knows (especially revolutionaries), hierarchy maintains
formidable defenses against attack from the lower orders. It has
none, however, against abandonment. This is in part because it can
imagine revolution, but it can’t imagine abandonment. But even if
it could imagine abandonment, it couldn’t defend against it, because
abandonment isn’t an attack, it’s just a discontinuance of support.

It’s almost impossible to prevent people from doing nothing
(which is what discontinuing support amounts to).

But won’t they try to prevent people from doing nothing? I can
imagine them trying (but I honestly need help imagining them

Revolution without overthrow

The object of ordinary revolution is to effect global change across
the board with a single, sweeping blow. Ideally, former rulers
must disappear overnight—en masse, along with all supporters
and minions—with a complete cast of successors ready to step
into their shoes the following morning to proclaim the new regime.
Scenarios like this one are meaningless to those who would move
beyond civilization.

In the first place, there’s no need for global change. Those who
insist on having nothing less than global change will wait a long
time, probably forever. There’s no need for everyone in the world to
go to bed one night living one way and wake up the next morning
living another way. This isn’t going to happen, and it’s pointless to
try to make it happen.

There is also no need for change across the board, for everything
to suddenly begin to be done differently. It’s unnecessary for
this to happen, and nothing in the world can make it happen.
Always keep in mind that there is no one right way for people
to live. There never has been and never will be.

Finally, we don’t want the ruling class to disappear overnight. We’re
not ready to see the infrastructure of civilization disappear (and may
never be). At least for the time being, we want our rulers and leaders
to continue to supervise civilization’s drudgery for us—keeping the
potholes filled, the sewage and water treatment plants running, and
so on.

The incremental revolution

I say again that, because we don’t expect to overthrow governments,
abolish world capitalism, make civilization vanish, turn everyone
in the world into walking buddhas, or cure all social and economic
ills, we don’t have to wait for anything. If ten people walk beyond
civilization and build a new sort of life for themselves, then those
ten are already living in the next paradigm, from the first day.
They don’t need the support of an organization.
They don’t need to belong to a party or a movement.
They don’t need new laws to be passed.
They don’t need permits.
They don’t need a constitution.
They don’t need tax-exempt status.
For those ten, the revolution will already have succeeded.

They probably should be prepared, however, for the outrage of their



More excerpts from Beyond Civilization

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