Progress is polar bears swimming hundreds of miles to ice floes that have melted
away, till finally they can swim no more.
Progress is nuclear weapons, depleted
uranium, and “drones” piloted from an office in Florida to kill people in Pakistan.
Progress is the ability of fewer and fewer
people to control more and more people,
and to destroy more and more of the
world. Progress is a god. Progress is God.
Progress is killing the world.
The evolutionary biologist Richard
Dawkins said that science’s claim to truth
is based on its “spectacular ability to make
matter and energy jump through hoops
on command.” Anthropologist Leslie
White stated that “the primary function of culture” is to “harness and
control energy.” Quite simply,
this culture is about enslaving
everyone and everything its
members can get their
hands (or machines) on.
What is another word for making
someone jump through hoops? Enslavement. In this culture, progress is
measured by the ability to enslave, to control, and to do so with ever-increasing
e;ciency. The ultimate goal is to control
everyone and everything.
I know, I know, I can hear the cry of
the cult members now: “If progress is so
bad, why does everyone want it?” Well,
they don’t. Nonhumans certainly don’t.
But they don’t count. They’re only there
for you to use. Many humans don’t want
progress, either. Or at least they didn’t,
when they still had intact social structures. That’s why so many indigenous
peoples have taken up arms in defense of
their ways of life. I often think of a line by
Samuel Huntington: “The West won the
world not by the superiority of its ideas or
values or religion (to which few members
of other civilizations were converted) but
rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this
fact, non-Westerners never do.”
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Part of the problem is that progress
can be not merely seductive, but addic-
tive. My compact OED defines the verb
addict as “to bind, devote, or attach one-
self as a servant, disciple, or adherent.”
In Roman law, an addiction was “a for-
mal giving over or delivery by sentence
of court. Hence, a surrender, or dedica-
tion, of any one to a master.” To be ad-
dicted is to be a slave. To be a slave is to
be addicted. The
heroin ceases to
serve the addict, and
the addict begins to serve the heroin. We
can say the same for progress: it does not
serve us, but rather we serve it.
Derrick Jensen is the author of many books,
most recently Mischief in the Forest, with