Losing Illusions – Naomi Klein

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Naomi Klein:Gulf oil spill: A hole in the world

…the BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order fish species to survive, or brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks). No amount of money – not BP’s recently pledged $20bn (£13.5bn), not $100bn – can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing their illusions fast.

“Everything is dying,” a woman said as the town hall meeting was finally coming to a close. “How can you honestly tell us that our Gulf is resilient and will bounce back? Because not one of you up here has a hint as to what is going to happen to our Gulf. You sit up here with a straight face and act like you know when you don’t know.”

This Gulf coast crisis is about many things – corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it’s about this: our culture’s excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us.

Make the bleeding stop

Thankfully, many are taking a very different lesson from the disaster, standing not in wonder at humanity’s power to reshape nature, but at our powerlessness to cope with the fierce natural forces we unleash. There is something else too. It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to BP’s live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth’s guts gush forth, in real time, 24 hours a day.


Now it seems we are all learning about nature’s circulatory systems by poisoning them.

In the late 90s, an isolated indigenous group in Colombia captured world headlines with an almost Avatar-esque conflict. From their remote home in the Andean cloud forests, the U’wa let it be known that if Occidental Petroleum carried out plans to drill for oil on their territory, they would commit mass ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff. Their elders explained that oil is part of ruiria, “the blood of Mother Earth”. They believe that all life, including their own, flows from ruiria, so pulling out the oil would bring on their destruction. (Oxy eventually withdrew from the region, saying there wasn’t as much oil as it had previously thought.)

Virtually all indigenous cultures have myths about gods and spirits living in the natural world – in rocks, mountains, glaciers, forests – as did European culture before the scientific revolution. Katja Neves, an anthropologist at Concordia University, points out that the practice serves a practical purpose. Calling the Earth “sacred” is another way of expressing humility in the face of forces we do not fully comprehend. When something is sacred, it demands that we proceed with caution. Even awe.


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  1. upon which our lives are sustained.

  2. that we refuse to stop believing that we can ‘master’ it and view it as only a resource that translates into wealth and power, and ownership. This gushing wound transcends politics and makes us all face what we are doing to the earth we live on. Thanks for the Naomi Klein she knows what this is about. They say addictions are spiritual in nature and our society is built around the sickness. Seems crazy to believe that you can do what we do and that it only affects our ‘economies’ or the specific critters and life in one region.      

    • Wom Bat on June 20, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    who said Titanic was unsinkable. And everybody else? They’re the steerage passengers.

  3. It’s the same lesson we’re getting again and again, repeated so that, perhaps, we will understand it before we don’t get another chance.

    ~~~If evolution is now the evolution of consciousness, which it is, then evolution requires that the evolving species attain awareness of it’s own death, first on the individual level, then on the species level.

    ~~~When this ‘new’ awareness started to become strong in homosapiens on the individual level, the reaction was denial, and an attempt to find a way to avoid death was pursued.  We became a death denying, death defying  culture.

    Religion, science, glory, legacy, and money have all been tried as means to avoid death.

    Guilgamesh and Enkidu in Mesopotamia set out to find the ‘Tree of Eternal Life.’  Other myths and religious texts sought eternal life in some far off paradise in the sky.  Many scientific discoveries embarked on the attempt

    to dominate nature.  

    Fame and money combined with science to create kryonics so that, like Walt Disney, one can have one’s body frozen for perhaps eons until medical science finds a ‘cure’ for whatever it was one was about to expire from at the point of being kryon-ed, if one has enough money.

    But, as the psychologists say:

    Whatever is denied will come back to haunt us

    Yes, whatever we deny will come back~~~

        ~~~“WRIT LARGE

        ~~~“TO HAUNT US

    So we mastered the combustion engine.  We mastered nuclear fission.

    And with this we have created—


    And the gods of evolution say, “Deal with it, deal with death.  It is your denial of death which blocks your way forward, blocks your way into the future, blocks your evolution.  Now that you have gained these powers, you must use them with the god wisdom of morality, with the wisdom of the theoretical gods.

    Not to try to avoid individual, personal death, because that ego-centric drive is what leads to the large death of our species, or much of it, along with many other species on the planet.  

    It is seeing the larger death which is the evolutionary imperative and must lead us to the greater good.

  4. Naomi Klein wraps up, for me, our inner sensitivities and ESP,

    It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to BP’s live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth’s guts gush  forth, in real time, 24 hours a day.   (emphasis mine)

    Her understandings with that statement explains, at least for me, what so many of us have been trying to express with our remorse.  We know, intuitively, most likely, that we have “violated” nature in a manner in which we may well “suffer” for a long time to come — that even “nature” herself is not sacred.  

    Everything is “collateral damage.”  

    Wonder if we can get enough peoples to understand exactly the magnitude of greed and what it has done!  

  5. the energy source which would replace oil.

    The thing running in your basement producing all the power you need which you never have to look at.

    Richard Hoagland.

    • banger on June 21, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    … in so many ways. We are facing so many tipping points that could literally destroy us all. This may not be one of them–but it is symbolic–the earth is bleeding and go take a look at the media headlines everyday. We are fucked and there is no hope at all. I challenge you to see anything on the horizon that shows any tendency of the American public to wake up. I don’t see it. I see a rapid rise in escapism on denial and self-medication on deliberate and arrogant descents into the lower-brain by the majority of the public.

    I see that the only direction to go is inward for all of us. Only magic or God or angels can save us now. The internet has proven that we cannot do much with information and it doesn’t do squat for effective political organizing. No one seems able to organize any project that is meaningful, myself included–I’m just too busy surviving. God help us all.

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