My website and all its posts have always been permaculture-focused, but from time to time I like to explore what’s happening with society as a whole.
It’s hard to ignore the intensely geopolitical world we live in, and, for a permaculture farm owner, it’s potentially detrimental to do so. As you’ll read in the rest of this post, if you live in the West the shifts that are currently taking place in our geopolitics and society will be directly affecting your life.
But, as always, I see permaculture as a strategy for weathering the storm…
In the EU, where I’m based today, a hot and very controversial topic is the massive and ongoing illegal migration from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. In short, millions of people have entered the EU as refugees, either real or economic, encouraged by the open-door policies of some European countries.
Today a lot of these countries are experiencing some significant changes in their politics and their formerly pro-immigration sentiment due to the bad management of newly arrived migrants, the burden on the welfare system and the problematic integration of these people.
For a long time, I’ve been looking at this issue with disinterest, probably because my life on the farm wasn’t affected by it all that much. Better put, I would ignore the news and create my own reality bubble; that bubble being my farm, enjoying the nature around me, the birds, my trees and my family.
That reality bubble burst when I realized that my farm is directly on the path of one of the illegal migration routes, and potentially hundreds of illegal migrants were passing through the woods on the neighboring mountains. Given that, on one occasion, 10 of them were caught in the nearby village it’s a safe bet that it’s only matter of time when they end up on my farm for one reason or another.
Now I’m sure that if they turned up and were in need, I would wholeheartedly help them as fellow human beings. I would feed them, give them water to drink and wish them luck on their journey to a country with a better welfare system. I would care for a human being who needs help as much as everyone else!
But for me nothing can change the fact that I don’t feel safe anymore, suddenly ignoring the problem wouldn’t cut it anymore as the problem has come right to my doorstep, potentially literally.
What if someone started bashing on my door in the middle of the night? What do I do then? Open it, don’t open? If I see a dozen young Middle Eastern men heading towards me on my farm what should I do? Run? Keep things calm and see what they want? Call the police?
You can see that there is a new dimension to my life as a farmer, one that I never had to previously deal with. I understand that I might be overreacting and most of them are just passing by, they are refugees, they need help, I might never see any of them… I understand all of that progressive liberal pro-immigration stance a city dweller might have, but having a skin in the game and a family to care for makes me much more wary of the situation.
I believe that the problem is here to stay and, although in the future the route might change, it won’t simply go away. To fully understand what’s happening and why, we need to zoom out from these day-to-day details and look at the bigger picture…
From patterns to details: the clash of civilizations
As a permaculturist one of my favorite principles is working from patterns to details. I often use this principle, or at least my version of it; macro to micro thinking, in my life, as much as I can when thinking about everyday things.
So once you zoom out far enough and look at the Earth as a whole and its amalgamation of different nations that exists, you’ll realize that today, contrary to the belief of Francis Fukuyama, who thought that by now we would live in one relatively harmonious world because everyone has embraced Western liberal democracy, nothing can be further from the truth.
The complete opposite has happened, and rather than transitioning to Type I civilization and starting to colonize outer space, and utilizing unlimited renewable resources in the post-Cold War world we have reverted to the old habits of the clash between the civilizations. Today, significant conflict in global politics is the reality, not the euphoria and harmony Francis hoped for.
According to Samuel P. Huntington, we can divide the world into eight “major” civilizations: Chinese, Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, Orthodox, Western, Latin American, and African. Without going into too many details, that divide is cultural in its nature, with religion being the primary factor for that divide.
For a better understanding of this civilizational divide just think how alien it feels to be a Westerner in Japan, the culture, the religion, the history, the writing, the values, the beliefs, it’s all an entirely different world for someone from Amsterdam, Melbourne, London, LA… that’s because you’re in a completely different civilization.
Although all of these different civilizations have modernized, thanks to, in no small part, the technologies developed by the West, they haven’t Westernized to the point that they have lost their culture, and that culture is what distinguishes one civilization from other.
The West, which has been dominating the world scene since 15th century, is just one of the civilizations, albeit one that currently dominates the world with its ideas and values, like the already mentioned liberal democracy, free markets, dollar as a reserve currency, the SWIFT banking system that everyone is forced to use, to name but a few examples. But the West as a civilization is showing all the signs of an ideology in decline.
You see, coming back to those patterns and recognizing them, one of the most commonly repeated patterns of history when looking at societies a whole is a cycle. By this I mean a cycle of a rise and fall of different civilizations, empires, city-states…Since the ancient times, this cycle repeats itself and goes like this: conquest, ascendance to power, consolidation, expansion, degeneration, and conquest/foreign invasion.
Every great society in the past has gone through the same pattern of ascendancy to power, peak power, and then inevitable decline and eventually being replaced as a dominant power. The full cycle might last for a thousand years, and the decline might take hundreds, as it did with the Roman Empire, but it’s unstoppable due to human nature and changes within the society.
In this last stage of degeneration, the civilization in power shows some obvious signs of decay. It becomes politically corrupt, its institutions unnecessary complex and a burden to its citizens, inflation rises, environmental problems persist due to over-extraction of resources, and too much is spent on the military rather than dealing with the day-to day-problems of its citizens, migration pressures from outside the borders increase…
The population eventually loses its faith in their once mighty civilization, its culture progressively decays and, as it does, the civilization inevitably declines, collapses or gets invaded, conquered and absorbed into another one. The cycle restarts as another civilization becomes the dominant force …
Now circle back at what’s happening today with the EU and the West as a whole, maybe we can precisely translate the historical model to today’s hyper-globalized world, but, to my mind, the West ticks a whole lot of boxes of a civilization in decline.
Everything happening in the EU today is just symptom of that greater decline and loss of power, progressive cultural decline and migration/demographic replacement just being the last stages of the “decline” phase, as seen many times before in history. As the saying goes “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The US and its allies, the EU among them, have been expanding their empire, extracting resources from undeveloped countries, bringing democracy and a free market economy around the world, waging wars against anyone who challenges their power. As you would expect from a dominant civilization, but the age of relative “stability” for people living in the West is slowly but surely coming to an end as we’re seeing the decline of that power, the creation of an increasingly multipolar world and the remaking of the world order.
That’s the big picture, and as its power and culture progressively decline, in the coming years we’ll be seeing more and more tensions between the civilizations, namely Chinese and Arabs/Muslims challenging the West, and tensions between the different cultures living within the West itself.
Your daily life might not change much immediately as these are processes that last for decades but as they do, we’ll just keep on adjusting to the new normal. Stabbing rampages in Paris, London or Munich, well that’s just the way the things are now. The Chinese government covertly attacking democracy in Australia, well, that’s worrying but normal. Fining citizens of Canada for “mis-gendering” gender-neutral people, well that’s just outrageous but normal…
Yet again it all makes sense when we realize where we are in the cycle, we can’t do much about it except prepare for the various social/cultural/environmental/geopolitical disruptions that might be headed our way, whether you’re living it the West or not. Due to our global economy and interconnectedness, these potential crises far too easily translate to any place in the world.
As I said in the introductory paragraph, I see permaculture as a great strategy to weather this storm; specifically finding land and positioning yourself in a somewhat rural likeminded community, starting a permaculture farm, providing for your own food and energy needs, selling your produce and services as a way of making a living off the land…
That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s what I’ll focus on when creating the content for my website. In the coming months and years, that’s what you can expect from me.
Now if you’ve had the patience to read the whole post, I want to hear from you. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and had to put it in writing.
So, what do you think about the current geopolitical world we live in and the cultural decline of our society? Leave a comment below!