Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Post-oil Dark Ages?

With oil skyrocketing, is it difficult to surmise that we will plunge into another dark age? Many Americans think this is not possible, but after the Roman Empire collapsed, Europe stopped building homes, writing history, producing art, and embraced Christianity to the literal detriment of its former faith's adherents.

There are people and countries already in a Dark Age. Countries that are allies of America and considered "enlightened" compared to other nations on their continent. Prime example: Kenya. This nation is an ally of America's, and is considered a stable nation. But their elections are based on tribalism. And anything except Christianity and Islam is seen as "evil."

Just as in America, Kenya has two major parties running for president. These are coalitions of different parties, based on tribal lines. There is a difference between rural and urban voters, as many in Nairobi chose to vote for another candidate than their rural tribe did. But when a similar situation to Bush v. Gore occurred, the nation fell to chaos. Few Kenyans participated in the disruption compared to those who were affected. As terrorism reminds us, it takes but a few extreme and organized people to bring a country to its knees.

In Kenya, witchcraft is illegal. Is anyone then surprised when women are burned after being accused as witches? This is 2008, and Monty Python could still make a modern sequel to the Holy Grail. Do we really need politics so intertwined with religion? Or can we choose a better world.

While I do see a Dark Age as distinct possibility, it is not inevitable. Humanity can embrace a more peaceful approach to this situation without succumbing to aggression. Various different ways of looking at the world are possible, if we give them a chance.

Oprah just finished her show on A New Earth with Eckhart Tolle. Rather than seeing the world in the competitive paradigm of the ego, seek the intuitive understanding of your own being. The biggest obstacle to this is living in the present moment. If you can not get a glimpse of this, it would be difficult to further go down this avenue. But Eckhart is quick to note that if humanity does not live more consciously, we will destroy ourselves. The fate of humanity is being held in the balance, and we cannot keep going down the same egoic path.

I also recommend nonviolent forms of communication. Simply by stating in a sane manner what you are feeling, you prevent and even dissipate conflict. You may not get instant results as you might think you would in a direct verbal attack, but you prevent long-term harm and foster healthier relationships with those you come into contact with.

And even if one dismisses or ignores these, it is hard not to imagine Americans coming together to face such a burden. We will unite in ways currently unthinkable. Getting to know our neighbors better, starting gardens, and starting businesses that allow for the economy to continue.

Before hydrocarbons made life much simpler and individualistic, we lived in more tribal settings. Many of these were around 150-300 in size and did not get much larger or smaller. Each member of a tribe had a niche that benefited their tribe, be it hunter, farmer, or water collector. I think this will also be a possibility, though not as much in urban settings as rural. These newer tribes will most likely occur organically through like-minded individuals coming together in creating intentional communities, that will morph into what needs to work rather than what was initially imagined.

What these world views have in common is one thing: trust in humanity. If you think humanity is incapable of anything but war and corruption, then peaceful means of living are alien to you. I certainly do not believe that any one person, organization, or political party will be able to move America through the perils of Peak Oil alone. It will take all of our collective ingenuity to face such an obstacle that man has never faced before.

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