I’m not sure why you mention the circus and homelessness as if they were the two alternatives offered in Beyond Civilization. Rennie and I were not homeless when we ran the East Mountain News. The members of the Neo-Futurist theater company aren’t homeless. Ben and Jerry weren’t homeless when they opened their ice-cream shop.

Rennie and I didn’t “have a tribe” before we started the East Mountain News. The members of the Neo-Futurist theater company didn’t “have a tribe” before they started their theater company. And Ben and Jerry didn’t “have a tribe” until they opened their ice-cream shop. The fact that you don’t have a tribe doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for you to have one.

I’ve found that people are quite remarkably comfortable with impossible solutions (involving, for example, evolution to a “higher” state), perhaps because there’s nothing they can do to make them come about (so they involve no effort). They’re also very comfortable with gestures that are largely symbolic (like recycling and celebrating Earth Day). And they’re comfortable with the notion that somebody else is going to make everything better. What they’re not comfortable with (surprise, surprise!) are solutions that involve personal initiative and imagination.

The alternatives explored in Beyond Civilization are really for people who absolutely can’t stand the idea of spending their lives as wage slaves dragging stones to some corporate pyramid. I’m afraid it’s true that most people are content with lifelong wage slavery, so long as they have a lifetime supply of drugs to deaden the pain—drugs in the form of television, booze, Valium, cocaine, and Prozak.

I wasn’t writing Beyond Civilization for people who “believe that they can find everything they need within our culture” but for people who already know that they can’t find everything they need within our culture. Diet books aren’t written for people who are satisfied with their weight, and Beyond Civilization wasn’t written for people who are satisfied with their life in this culture.

I’m afraid a lot of readers were disappointed with Beyond Civilization. Like Jack and Jill in the fable I told in that book, they were hoping I could find a way of translating them off the sinking ship directly ashore, without their having to get wet. I don’t know any way to do that. All I know is a way that worked for humans for millions of years (and still works as well as it ever did).

ID: 549
posted: 01 Apr 2002
updated: 02 Apr 2002

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