LESSONS FROM THE LUDDITE S
principle by means of the low tools of destruction and fear, even i f the ends do seem to justify the means, and it is more difficult still i f one moves on to arson and assassination.
No imaginable amount of dissent and opposition, however dramatic and evocative, at whatever level of violence, can be expected to have any but the most temporary and localised effect against the citadel of high-tech industrialism and its protective state. Al l it can do - but this it must - is to try again and again to draw attention to the well springs of that dissent, the agony from which its opposition stems, so that somewhere in the collective memory of the society the essential truths are kept alive and the slow waves of erosion kept in motion. George Grant, the Canadian philosopher, has put the task this way: 'The darkness which envelops the Western world because of its long dedication to the overcoming of chance" by which he means the triumph of the scientific mind - "is just a fact... The job of thought in our time is to bring into the light that darkness as darkness."
6. Resistance to industrialism must ultimately be embedded in an analysis - better, a philosophy that is widely shared and carefully articulated. One of the failures of Luddism (if at first perhaps one of its strengths) was its formlessness, its unintentionality, its indistinctness about goals, desires, possibilities. Movements acting out of rage and outrage are often that way, of course, and for a while there is power and momentum in those alone; but for durability they are not enough, they do not sustain a commitment that lasts through the adversities of repression and trials, they do not forge a solidarity that prevents the infiltration of spies and stooges, they do not engender strategies and tactics that adapt to shifting conditions and adversaries, and they do not develop analyses that make clear the nature of the enemy and the alternatives to put in its place.
Now, it would be difficult to think that neo-Luddite resisIndustrialism, the ethos containing the values and technologies of Western civilisation, is the problem, and is not, nor does it contain, the solutions. tance, whatever form it takes, would be able to overcome all those difficulties, particularly on a national or international scale; commitment and solidarity are mostly products of faceto-face, day-to-day interactions, unities of purpose that come from unities of place. But i f it is to be anything more than sporadic and martyristic, neo-Luddism can learn from the Luddite experience at least how important it is to work out some common analysis that is morally clear about the problematic present and the desirable future, and the common strategies that stem from it.
All the elements of such an analysis, it seems to me, are in existence, scattered and unrefined, perhaps, but they are out there: in Mumford and Schumacher and Wendell Berry and Jerry Mander and the Chellis Clendinning neo-Luddite manifesto; in the writings of the EarthFirsters and the bioregionalists and deep ecologists; in the lessons and models of the Amish and the Dine and the Irokwa; in the wisdom of tribal elders and the legacy of tribal experience everywhere; in the work of the long line of dissenters-from-progress and naysayers-to-technology. I think we might even be able to identify some essentials of it, such as: INDUSTRIALISM, the ethos containing the values and technologies of Western civilisation, is the problem, and is not, nor
does it contain, the solutions. ANTHROPOCENTRISM, and its expression in both humanism and monotheism, is the ruling principle of that civilisation, to which must be opposed the principle of biocentrism and the spiritual identification of the human with all living species and systems. GLOBALISM, and its expression economically and militarily, is the guiding strategy of that civilisation, to which must be opposed the strategy of localism, based upon the empowerment of the coherent bioregion and the small community. INDUSTRIAL CAPITALISM, as an economy built upon the exploitation and degradation of the Earth, is the productive and distributive enterprise of that civilisation, to which must be opposed the practices of an ecological and sustainable economy of simple living and modest proportions.
A movement of resistance starting with just those principles as the sinews of its analysis might not ever have a chance of 'success', whatever that would look like, but at least it would know where it stood and what it wanted to do. It would at least be able to bring the darkness into the light.
7. The industrial civilisation so well served by its potent technologies cannot last, and will not last: its collapse is certain within not more than a few decades. The two strains pulling that civilisation apart, environmental overload and social dislocation, are both the necessary and inescapable results of an industrial civilisation. In some sense, to be sure, they are the results of any civilisation: the record of history suggests that every single preceding civilisation has perished, no matter where or how long it has been able to flourish, as a result of a sustained assault on its environment, usually resulting in soil loss, flooding, and starvation, and a successive distention of its social strata, usually resulting in rebellion, warfare, and secession. Civilisations, and the empires that give them shape, may achieve much of use and merit - or so the subsequent civilisations' historians would have us believe - but they seem unable to appreciate scale or limits, and in their growth and turgidity cannot maintain balance and continuity within or without. Industrial civilisation is different only in that it is now much larger and more powerful than any known before, by geometric differences in all dimensions, and its collapse will be far more extensive and thoroughgoing, far more calamitous.
It is by no means certain that the human species will survive that collapse. I f industrialism proceeds as it has for the last 50 years, with only the modest kinds of environmental reforms it has mustered thus far, it seems certain to destroy one or more of the species' essential life-support systems and condemn itself to extinction. But i f it happens that some numbers survive and the planet is not sufficiently inhospitable, they might well find use in that body of lore that instructs them in how thereafter to live in harmony with nature - how to serve Read's apprenticeship with nature - and how and why to fashion their technologies with the restraints and values of nature intertwined, seeking not to conquer and dominate and control nature, for the failure of industrialism will have taught the folly of that, but rather to understand and obey and love and incorporate nature.
That body of lore is what it is the task of the neo-Luddites, armed with the past, to prepare, to preserve, and to provide, for such future generations as may be.D Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of eight books, including Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and their War on the Industrialised Revolution.
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 5, August/September 1999