Observing the wreckage of the Second World War from his high tower on the Californian coast, Robinson Jeffers wrote in 1938, “Look, you grey stones: Civilization is sick: stand awhile and be quiet and drink the sea-wind, you will survive civilization.” Jeffers adamantly opposed American involvement in the Second World War and the poems he wrote during this period were so critical of American policy that Random House was compelled to issue a letter from the publishers stipulating that Jeffers’ views did not represent the position of the publisher.
In Jeffers’ fatalistic vision of humanity, this war was no different from those that had come before, no more than a petty blood-fued on a global scale, for all the grand rhetoric of the demagogues. Humanity would continue its hysterical march toward oblivion and it certainly would not be deterred by more wars and bloodshed. Nothing would be gained through these wars, Jeffers understood. A victory for America and its allies would not ensure less suffering or destruction. On the contrary, as more and more nations were drawn into the conflict, it only meant that the horrors would expand and grow. Meanwhile, Jeffers wrote, the earth was unconcerned with all this bloody squabbling, what the earth “watches is not our wars.” For Jeffers, what was needed was an attempt to gain a planetary consciousness, to see the world and ourselves not as humans but as unremarkable particles of dust, though forged in the furnace of the cosmos. This is what it comes down to for Jeffers. In a biocentric world view, human life just isn’t all that important.
Now again, we are faced with a conflict that challenges the way we think, albeit on a much lesser scale. The rise of fascism in Trump’s America is troubling to many. But the question is: why does it trouble us and how are we to respond, if at all? As more and more individuals are drawn to antifascist action and the rhetoric intensifies on all sides, I believe it is vitally important for us all to reflect upon what it is we are about as enemies of techno-industrial society.
Many individuals and groups will be targeted and will suffer because of their skin color, gender, political beliefs, religion, or cultural affiliation. This is certainly the case. Indigenous Americans, their communities and homelands, will continue to be attacked and eroded. These types of attacks and hostilities are not new, though it does seem true that recent political events have emboldened those who are inclined to commit them. One thing is clear: those who are attacked will be forced to respond. They must respond however they are compelled to respond. For those who are not attacked themselves but find themselves sympathizing with the victims of those attacks, they choose whether or not to stand up in some way to oppose what they see as injustice.
Humanity is a petty thing, it is governed by irrational desires and hatreds that rise up suddenly like primordial crocodiles from the murky lagoons of the unconscious. (And madness awaits those who dive into those dark waters). Those who seek power and domination will naturally attempt to harness these subterranean currents for their own ends.
The earth knows nothing of justice or fairness. Nor are these things known to the dao. They are ragged tatters of things blown about by the shifting winds of human ideology. Even Laozi, the most benevolent of all daoist sages, wrote: “When the great Dao [Way] is forgotten, kindness and morality arise.” One can easily insert justice, fairness or any other such specters into this passage. There is only the earth and the gods of the earth. And they are above our absurd moralisms. Nor does our suffering have meaning to them. The universe will not answer our pitiful cries for succor, unless perhaps we properly address them to the forces and powers and spirits, in full reverence and humility. Understanding, of course, that it is likely we will receive no response. After all, we have been ignoring their voices for a long time and they might have just given up on us. There is nothing more boring than a one sided conversation.
I suggest that we are right to be disgusted by what we see because the fascists, racists, and bigots are odious and distasteful. Their prejudices are crass and their vision of the world is unsophisticated and ugly. In short, they are hateful because they are repulsive, they are displeasing to us. They are ugly and stupid and they have strayed from the path (though they are not the only ones). This is all and this is sufficient.
Even more importantly, I suggest that like Jeffers, we de-humanize our vision and recognize that human suffering and death is no more than the suffering and death of so many fruit flies. This does not mean that human life has no value or beauty but its value needs to be put in a biocentric perspective. Thus for Jeffers “It is easy to know the beauty of inhuman things, sea, storm and mountain; it is their soul and their meaning. Humanity has its lesser beauty, impure and painful; we have to harden our hearts to bear it.” If there is meaning in the life of a human being, its a kind of meaning that we have to work harder to find and it is acknowledgedly of a fleeting nature. Our orientation is toward the meaning of the world that will remain long after humanity has ceased to crawl upon the earth.
This is not a denunciation of those who are compelled to fight fascists. I revile fascists and do not support them or their ideas in any way, shape, or form. This is an attempt to assert the primacy of a biocentric world view in the face of an acknowledged rise in fascist activity in this country.