January 17, 2020

The Dominion Cycle and A Possible End


Going by the evidence the humans of the economic civilization are committed to their omnicidal-suicidal binge of consuming and destroying all it can of the Earth. Like Hitler they never will make peace but will hunker in the bunker unto the inevitable apocalyptic end, destroying as much as they can in the process out of pure nihilism.
(It’s a proven fact by now that civilization has no affirmative goals, only negative ones. The best proof is how every possible value – ecological harmony, human well-being, health, community, freedom, happiness, just to name some of the most cherished values – have been fully consumed by Mammon’s maw and become demented caricatures of themselves. As I’ve often said, the single most insane idea in the history of the globe has been that it’s a good idea to put poison on one’s own food, in one’s own water. This is physically true, and it’s symbolically true of everything else which possibly could have been good in this world. Modern civilization chose capitalism as its mode of mustering, organizing, maximizing everything that’s bad and evil in the world and destroying all that’s good: Destroying it either directly and absolutely, or through co-option, corruption, caricature.)
There seems to be no way out of this predicament. All the evidence lines up to forecast that civilized humanity will do its ultimate worst as long as they can until Gaia forcibly stops them. How did humanity get into this predicament?
On the surface it seems the odyssey began with the hominid brain which evolved to become clever with tools and the body equipped with appendages uniquely suited to manipulating tools. (It’s impossible to answer chicken-and-egg questions about the development of the neurosystem, the hands, and the facility with tools; how “accidental” as opposed to “teleological” such development was. The best anyone can say is that these mutually reinforced one another.)
Then evolution selected for linguistic capacity, perhaps for the rudiments of culture. (Again we can’t know to what extent cave painters were “self-conscious” or “unconscious” artists, except that here too there must have been a mutually reinforcing development.)
At any rate self-conscious human sentience must have developed first as a side-effect of these practical developments, an evolutionary fluke. (Unless one wants to posit a Creator God, or what’s the same thing extraterrestrial tutors, sowing sentience, “educating” us to it.) Then this fluke messed with the practical wiring, became inflamed and bloated, and convinced itself that it was the real driver of the brain. No one knows what genome processes (informally and fake-formally called “genes”) combine to form this self-consciousness. Reg Morrison developed a descriptive theory of this brain inflammation and its characteristic extremism in his book Spirit in the Gene.
This self-consciousness often has been pegged as the “original sin”, the point at which hominids started to become sundered from their environment. (Sundered in mind and destructive action; of course it’s impossible for any animal really to separate from the ecology, in spite of all the de jure (Dominion, Heaven, Rapture) and de facto (scientism, technocracy, eugenics, space colonization) religious fantasies about doing so. The only reality-sunder the mind-sundered humans can perform is to destroy their ecological basis and thus commit collective suicide.)
This self-consciousness is difficult to assess since we lack good ways to understand the sentience of other animals and plants, whether these have any affinity with ours as well. Except for fellow primates and cephalopods, as a rule other animals lack the type of versatile appendages that could actually use the tools, even if they’re otherwise capable of conceiving them. Someone once wrote of the paradox of thinking about a “Raphael who was born without hands”.
And then what about the ancient Greeks and Romans, for example, who were aware of how to burn fossil fuels, conceived how to use this for steam engines and had the hands to actually do it, yet chose not to, at any rate failed to do so.
That example seems to prove that it wasn’t necessarily sentience in itself which enforced the radical Sunder, but that the fanatical expression of the “spirit in the gene” also had to undergo considerable development, mutually reinforcing through its fixation on Sumerian-Judeo-Christian-scientistic Dominion theology, and through the mutual development of Dominion thought, especially in Christianity, and technological development, culminating in modern scientism, technocracy, “Progress” theology. Cf. David Noble’s The Religion of Technology for the history of techno-fetishism on through modern scientism as a thread of Christian Dominion theology.
So there’s one incomplete* description of the human trap. How to get out of it? It’s impossible consciously to “engineer” a way out; this route can only double down on the pathology. All alleged solutions which remain entangled with the framework of the economic civilization, from de jure denialism’s advocacy of Business as Usual, escalating the Status Quo (Keep Shopping), to the climate-industrial movement’s utopia of green capitalism, Green New Deals, green cancer aka “growth” (IOW Business as Usual, escalate the Status Quo, Keep Shopping, just do it the fake-“Green” way), are no solutions at all, just expressions of the inflamed brain’s destructive and self-destructive fanaticism.
It seems there’s no way out of the trap which presupposes continued exaltation of the trap. Here’s an analogy I’ve found helpful: It’s long been clear that no Western intervention in the Global South is anything but destructive. Even the rare cases where sincere good intentions go into it, invariably it has an ulterior motive which overrides whatever was sincere going into the intervention. This was true of the “Green Revolution”, it’s been true of each and every war of aggression under the rubric of “humanitarian intervention”, it’s been true of every activity of the likes of USAID and the Peace Corps, and of every Western Big NGO and professional campaign such as Western botanists and others who loot as biopirates, anthropologists who slander and steal.
Based on this unbroken evidence record, it’s clear that the one and only thing the West can do to help the South is to Get Out. Completely.
In the same way, probably the best humanity (or, to be realistic, whatever small handfuls of humans care about anything but destruction and self-destruction) can do is to end its industrial and technological interventions and learn to live as a value in itself (the way all other creatures live) rather than to pursue the pipebomb-dreams conjured up the Dominion-obsessed inflamed brain.
Certainly modern civilization as a whole never will do this. Only the Earth itself will impose it by force.
And afterward, assuming humans have survived at all, they’ll have another chance to rebuild a communal life. The best we can say about the future prospects for subduing the inflamed brain is that at least the physical stimulants – the massive easy upfront capital in the form of deep lush soils, easy-to-tap oil gushers and huge mineral hunks just lying around – no longer exist. Anyone who wants still to dig for them will have to work very hard for very little gain. That physical fact finally may subdue the inflammation and bring an end to the Dominionist cycle.
*This piece discusses the phenomenon of human self-consciousness and its theoretical genetic root. There’s another realm of significance which needs to be included in order to have an integrated theory. This is the endosymbiotic origin of neural cells, the fact that like all other animals humans form a symbiotic organism with internal bacteria (the microbiome), and that there’s a particular faction of bacteria which especially are advantaged by human industrial actions. These – the botulins, salmonella and others advantaged by the massive deployment of pesticides, factory farms and similar practices, antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, Agrobacterium tumefaciens used in most genetic engineering – are by now in a mutually reinforcing process with human extremist action. Looking at it from an evolutionary point of view one can’t separate humans-using-them from them-using-humans.


  1. Dear Russ,
    Your essays, while not usually an encouragement to optimism, are nonetheless consistently intelligent and of interest.

    Having truncated my formal education after high school, I occasionally “enjoy” the somewhat contradictory experience of “discovering” works of great interest to me, whether literary or otherwise intellectually compelling. Such a book of late has been “The Origin of Consciousness In the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind,” by Julian Jaynes. Published in book form in 1976, I realize that its hypotheses must be, more or less, dated. Likewise, I surmise that you and numberless other, better educated and better read citizen ponderers, have long been acquainted with Jayne’s works, regarding them perhaps as either contributive or bogus. Regardless, it has so far opened me to a different psycho/historical perspective.

    Recalling Jung’s use of the term “synchronicity” I find that I cannot help being at least a bit intrigued to follow your most interresting and well written discussion of human consciousness in the above essay, its origins and implications for life, human and otherwise, upon this beleaguered gem of a world; your essay, that is, coninciding with my first acquaintance with this delightfully composed (in a literary sense) book. Jayne’s great pains to make his hypotheses transparent enough as to be understood and followed by such middle brow readers as I, puts me in mind of Einstein’s efforts to do the same with his theories of relativity etc.

    All the best,

    Joseph Patrick Quinn

    Comment by Joseph Patrick Quinn — January 17, 2020 @ 2:14 pm

    • Thanks Joseph. I’m glad you find it interesting. Actually I’m not familiar with Jaynes, and one of the gaps in my knowledge which I’ve been wanting to fill is the state of neuroscience. I do know that the evidence for an endosymbiotic bacterial origin is accumulating there as with many other bodily systems.

      Just because something was published in the 1970s doesn’t mean it’s dated. Take the example I just gave – Lynn Margulis first published her theory of endosymbiosis in the early 1970s. At first it was pretty universally rejected and didn’t start gaining respectability till the late 80s. By now it’s near-universally accepted for mitochondria, chloroplasts and some other organelles, and the evidence for its broader truth is mounting.

      Comment by Russell Bangs — January 17, 2020 @ 3:44 pm

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