Entry: Thoughts from Asia Sunday, May 09, 2004

Since mid-April I've been backpacking through China, Tibet and Nepal. All through the trip, in the back of mind I've thought about how it relates to the discussions we're having. Here are some quick thoughts - quick because we're about to leave the cybercafe and go to dinner. More to follow eventually.

BTW - pete, great stuff. Thanks for all the comments, and keep 'em coming.

The hell with an afterculture

The more I travel in Asia, the more I see people who have lived the sort of "afterculture life" discussed on here. And you know what? Rice farmers have cell phones. Children receive educations. People don't starve in Nepal and China - and it's because they said "funk this", and got a working infrastructure that sustains them, their families, and their nations.

You know what's interesting about Asia? Like pete has pointed out, many people work their butts off in the fields so they don't starve in winter. Hunting and gathering might sound lovely in principal, but there's a point at which it becomes unsustainable. Unless you decide to murder the people in your tribe, village, whatever, you grow food, you conduct trade (either in barter or cash) - or you die. China has a population of 1.3 billion people, and it sustains them with a massive land base (about the size of the US), of which only about 15-20% is fit for growing food. Not too shabby.

Tibet provides a good example of where aftercultural ideals also fail. Tibetans require livestock (yaks) and farming to live. Farming requires infrastructure of some form or another. The staple of the Tibetan diet is tsampa, a flour made from barley. You don't gather barley. You grow it. If the Tibetans did not grow barley, they would not be able to live, end of story, because barley is just about the only edible crop that will grow on the "roof of the world".

Quit blaming the US for everything

When reading Jensen's hate rant "Culture of Make-Believe", I kept asking, "What about Asia?" Nearly 900 pages, and the closest Jensen gets to Asia is saying that Thais die of cancer because they build computers. Hell, to read what he said you'd think the entire country of Thailand was a just one big computer manufacturing center.

Or maybe Jensen just doesn't care about Asia; goodness knows he doesn't like people at all, so it wouldn't be surprising. America gets a massive bad rap - and the majority of the world's population gets ignored.

Dig, you mentioned in a comment something about Americans trying to make everyone American. Go to Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore - just about anywhere in Asia, really - and you will likely hear similar complaints about the Chinese. Not that they want to make everyone Chinese; they just like to follow opportunity, and have a tendency to gain massive political and economic power relative to their population numbers in the countries where they go.

No one gets to decide what's best for the world

These past weeks have also helped me see what really pisses me off about afterculture, downfall of civilization, the murder of most species on the planet to accomplish it, etc. -

No matter what Jensen's books may say, no matter the romanticized bullshit of aboriginal life, what "destroying civilization" boils down to is a bunch of trigger-happy, guilt-ridden white boys deciding that they know what's right for the world's 6 billion people. Not once does Jensen quote an Asian, a Native American, a Maori, or an Australian Aboriginal. He did a bunch of reading, and now he's pissed off, but he knows what's best for the world. Dig, I love you mate, but get a passport and go to Asia for a while.

An afterculture is actually the worst form of cultural homogenization that could be imagined. It's not an attempt to encourage or preserve diversity. It's murder and rampant destruction, and anyone who survives, in order to fulfill the ideal, must be restrained in a set of cultural mores that cannot be deviated from. In short, it's shite.

To put it another way, the main arguments against current cultures are this: They use violence to impose their way of life on other people, and aren't concerned about the body count or whether or not there is one. Their methods and practices may well wipe out most of the life on the planet.

When I think about what has been discussed about "destroying civilization", I see the above. It's not salvation, it's just murder. It's some wanker deciding that he knows what's best for the world, and if you don't like it? Fine, you can die too. The afterculture's mission statement does not leave a need to be concerned with blowback, after all.

This is overlong, poorly written and badly edited. Sorry. It's been a long few weeks, I'm hungry, and have stuff to do. Like be very, very glad for the world I live in - instead of being consumed by a destructive, pointless guilt.


May 9, 2004   08:25 AM PDT

Exquisitely put!

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