Editor’s Note: The brief piece reflects on the consumer-, expansion- and tech-centered world and calls for shifting our allegiance to the natural world. We thank the author for both the article and the poem.
By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III)
“Each and every new product is supposed to offer a dramatic shortcut to the long-awaited promised land of total consumption.”
“… consumer can only get his hands on a succession of fragments of this commodity heaven.”
– Guy Debord, from his book The Society of the Spectacle
The commodified society represents the abandonment of the promise of a religious heaven afterlife for the manifesting of that heaven on earth, a one-click materialized paradise replete with all the right appliances and just the right look, you know, the ones seen in television and magazine ads or glimpses of the lifestyles of the rich and famous. To paraphrase Nietzsche, “Heaven is dead” . . . but we’re gonna do our best to get a damned-close facsimile to you with same-day free delivery. But wait, read the fine print, it’s not “free.”
What’s also at risk is dead earth. Already agricultural practices have depleted the soil’s nutrients. Mining continues to wreak havoc:
“Ramshackle slums and makeshift villages spread out from the city center into the ever-decreasing habitable space. Mines occupy at least 80 percent of the developed land in Kolwezi. The green is gone. Arable earth is extinct … Kolwezi is the mangled face of progress in Africa. The hunt for cobalt is all”.
The once actual promised land is being sacrificed for a consumer promised land of shiny gadgets and electric vehicles whose batteries require cobalt. And as the one example of Kolwezi shows, we may actually be on the road to “total consumption,” literally destroying what’s left of the earth so as to be able to send a photo of that destruction via smartphone. What that phone can do may be smart, but the way the phone, laptop and car batteries are being made is cruel and stupid.
A brief look at history shows that the promised land was never really promised, rather stolen land. The God of the Old Testament promised the land of Canaan to His people but the problem there was that, the land “was already inhabited by indigenous peoples…” And, “The first task was to extirpate or “uproot” the non-Hebrew Canaanites from the “promised” land. The second task was to “replant” (repopulate) the promised land with the seed (offspring) of Abraham.”
This then became the template for the Doctrine of Christian Discovery and its patterns of domination and dehumanization spread globally, as explained by Steven T. Newcomb in his book Pagans in the Promised Land:
“During the fifteenth, sixteenth, and the later centuries, the monarchies and nations of Christendom lifted the Old Testament narrative of the chosen people and the promised land from the geographical context of the Middle East and began carrying it over to the rest of the globe. Genesis 1:28’s directive to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over all living things, for example, and Psalms 2:8’s mention of the ‘uttermost parts of the earth’ provided a cognitive basis for the globalization of the Chosen People–Promised Land model during the Age of Discovery.”
As the amount of actual land lessens, nowadays the promised land colonizers have already started planting chips, as in microchip implants, into human beings. The next level is brain chips, the what-could-go-wrong brainchild of Elon Musk’s company Neuralink. But “could” has already gone wrong: “The experiments involved 23 monkeys in all. At least 15 of them died or were euthanized by 2020…”
Meanwhile, the Bezos-owned Whole Foods chain is a land flowing with organic milk and local honey. You might as well call the supermarket Promised Land, since it is mostly the cho$en ones who can afford it.
You don’t need to sign a petition or write your congressman or senator (though maybe that will help), simply make a promise to care for the land (and while you’re at it, the water), and see what that promise does to your lifestyle.
Instead of just looking for what the best deals can “promise” you, turn the tables on the approximately 2,000 year old religio-business model and promise to care for the land.
- Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith, Zone Books, 1995, p.45 and p.43.
- Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo Powers Our Lives – Siddharth Kara, St. Martin’s Press, 2023, p.158.
- Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery – Steven T. Newcomb, Fulcrum Publishing, 2008, p.38 and p.43 and p.43. Also, the documentary film, The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code.
- “Elon Musk’s Neuralink allegedly subjected monkeys to ‘extreme suffering’”
Origin Story 2023
When The Powers That Bank want to raise hell,
i lower heaven.
When the Corporations want to commodify water
i raise rivers.
When the Environmentalists think solar panels are THE solution
i burn with truth and beauty
making their eyelids open to the Sunrise
as if for the very first time.
When the Developers want to destroy just another patch of trees
for just another warehouse,
i make money grow on their genitals
because it damn sure shouldn’t grow
from cutting down trees.
When the People fail to raise their voices
i rewrite the Origin Story.
How can we begin again
when the ends still justify the mean-spiritedness?
How do we change the trajectory
that wants the hardware
to run roughshod tax free
over the lands of the Burrowing Owl,
the Sagebrush and Sagebrush Sparrow,
the Pygmy Rabbit, the Jackrabbit?
When hearts go cold as Winter ice
i make The Powers That Bank weep
until there is no more need for me to raise the rivers
The word “sustain” is from the root:
—to support from below—
so who else but Earth does that?
In the end that is just another beginning
i will even the score
so that the birds sing again,
the trees stay put again,
and the wind move through again
as when they inspired
my first Origin Story.
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is a verbiage experiencer, in other words, he’s into etymology, writes about his experiences and to encourage people to learn from direct experiences, not just head knowledge; you know, actions and feelings speak louder than words. He’s also a publisher and enjoys gardening, talking, listening, looking… His recent book is Moving Through The Empty Gate Forest: inside looking out. Find out more at his website: www.allbook-books.com
As always, Mankh hits the mark – both the essay and the poem.
I’m grateful to think of him as my friend.
Mankh never surprises me always amazes me with his knowledge, talent, wisdom and conscience
Mankh not only makes you think, but care
The essay is a perfect example of one major thing that’s wrong with religion (there are many, especially the monotheistic garbage that came out of the Middle East). Live in the here & now, and don’t get sucked into BS like fantasizing about some “heaven” after you die. Better for the Earth and all the life here, and better for you too!
Thanks, Paul. And Jeff, too, to which i’ll add: applying “as above, so below; as below, so above”, it’s possible that as beings that we do similar things while in a body as while disembodied, which is another way of saying: do what you’re meant to do while in a body so as to make things “better for the Earth”.