The Enchanting Falsenesses of True Romance, Jamming, 02/07/2018

When I was researching what would become Ecology, Ethics, and the Future of Humanity, I found a lot of very frustrating environmentalist literature and philosophy. Not that it was insufficiently environmentalist – oh no.

These were works that romanticized the non-human world. For one thing, such philosophical writing collapsed all the diversity of everything-that-isn’t-human-or-industrial into a single category – Nature.

This Nature had a single essence, which was inevitably described with images of goodness, purity, harmony, and love. Wading through this dreck was intellectual torture.

It's an old trope of dehumanizing indigenous people to consider
them part of a non-human nature. Just because you want to conserve
them instead of raze them like a forest in the way of a condo tower,
doesn't make the concept any less racist.
Worst of all were the works that conceived of the indigenous peoples of Australasia and the Americas as conduits of this pure Nature, vehicles for an ethic of harmony and balance. They perpetuated the same division of the world into cowboys and indians, but made sure the cowboys were evil and the indians were good.

Some of that stuff was so racist, I wanted to puke a little as I read it. The worst racism of all – validation through valorization. You just switch the valuation around on the old racism of colonial genocide.

Virtuous missionaries and brave settlers become the crushers of indigenous spirituality and prosperity, which is a very good first step. But the ignorant indians now become enlightened mystics. Problem is, you still treat them like savages. Now, you just think it’s good to be a savage.

Jussi Parikka does a solid job of quickly and clearly identifying the roots of this angelic racism in the first chapter of The Geology of Media. The central concepts that are used in this destructive, falsifying, idealizing understanding of nature come from the Romantic tradition of literature and philosophy.

I’m not going to go into it. Just read his book. Or mine. Whichever you prefer to buy or steal. If stealing, why not both?

Millions of years lie before your eyes, present for you.
An alternative – and I think the best one – is in materialist thinking. Just remember to be as thorough as you can – a materialism that subtracts nothing from the world. Account for everything that you always felt you needed the non-material for, by material means.

Parikka finds a means for people to engage with profoundly deep times, for example, by a thoroughly materialist analysis.

Romantic dualism about nature and technology can only conceive of nature as eternal, while technology is the force that introduces change and the flow of time into existence. That change is inherently destructive, just as a return to the eternal nature is good, the restoration of harmony.

But an eye on the geological roots of technology show how the material of our civilization has always been part of the Earth. Technology is a product of nature – geological flows lasting millions of years and ecological flows lasting hundreds of thousands. Our technology is the exploration and rearrangement of metals that exist on planetary scales of time.

Nature is a process billions of years long. Our ecological catastrophe of a few centuries is a relative instant.

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