The Final Choice

It is an outrageous proposal: that the materially wealthy and the politically powerful – those who dominate the processes and events of the human presence on the planet – would or could organize and implement the killing off of billions of “ordinary” humans rather than accept dramatic reductions in their privileged use of the earth’s capacity. Or, it would be an outrageous proposal if it were not so common place an observation in less universal contexts.

I was fortunate, near the beginning of my journeys, to be instructed on this distinction: Do not ask if this person or that group might do an action; rather, ask if the action is done at all and how commonly, then take that as the basis for your answers to the particular. I think that we would have to agree that humans have regularly killed off other humans, both indirectly and directly, who stood in the way of attaining or maintaining a preferred life style.

Of course, that something can, or is even likely to, happen does not make it a certainty – especially when there are many other options. I would only point out that the horror of an action has seldom been an inhibition for very long. Other factors, such as efficacy and possibility, tend to dominate our choices.

My intention in making the argument is to excite an increased and refocused observation of events. If the tools for such a mass murder are made available, then the condition of possibility is met. If the totality of our situation is hopeless, then so is the condition of efficacy.

As a species, with the capacity to project events into the unknown future and thus change the future from the grubby confines of the present, we are not fixed in our trajectory; this is one of the great lessons of the Consciousness System of Order. It is a bit like the silly rhyme: ‘I shot an arrow into the air. It fell to earth, I know not where.’ But, if we have some knowledge of the lay of the land, we can have, at least, some idea about where our arrows might land and their possible consequences.

One of the paths into the mid-century and beyond would have all humans living with a primary concession to the biophysical reality of personal biological need: every person would supply, by their own hand, some significant part of their personal needs. Such a standard could, with yet another ‘invisible hand’ determine population goals, energy use levels and, to some extent, environmental impact levels. The intellectual support for this possibility is largely lacking in our present moment. There are bits in the kinder parts of major religions. Various philosophers have for thousands of years spoken to the value in living in close contact with the land – this is such a common part of human thought that it has become cliché. It is cliché because it is so simply and completely true.

The diametrically opposed possibility is something with which humanity has more recent experience: an elite parasitizing a slave-based economy (wage-slave based economy serves the same function and only modifies some of the technicalities of economic design). We have the “intellectual” arguments around this possibility, from Locke, Hume, Marx, Rand, Hayek, Galbraith and many others, and only arguments of this form are allowed to be considered for our present troubles. The organization and manipulation of power in a Mad world structure where all things increase at increasing rates and Reality is denied as a founding principle cannot sustain, but can produce a great amount of bizarre, conflicting opinion.

Ultimately, it is a question of whether the great depth of our Madness will carry us into a final conflict with biophysical reality – a madman flaying at imaginary demons while being tormented by a disinterested reality to which he is blind – or will we come again into the wind and the rain, into the seasons, cycles and other realities of earthly existence?

My sensible reason answers that the Madness will dominate the final days of this iteration of my species, that over the next 30 to 80 years we will cling to the most misguided and defeating self-referenced notions of reality until a tormented and enraged environment indiscriminately smites the living world – and we will still behave badly even in the ruins of our world.

But my capacity of imagination and wonder believes, in the way that the consciousness order designs impossible ‘possibilities,’ that we can come to see the madness and demand its retreat; the way that smokers now have to hide next to the dumpster in the back of the building. We will no longer hear that we respect wealth and see its virtues, but that we respect the real “self-sufficiency” of community life, and not the pathological individualism of the sociopath. We will no longer praise as progress the life denying objects that separate us from the work of directly sustaining, and therefore participating in and truly understanding, our lives. We will no longer raise to adulation those who are willing to do the most harm to all things, but condemn their actions and require that they be part of the sanity of sustaining their own existence with their own efforts. We will no longer accept a machinery of societal, economic and political control that claims superiority of idea, power and personal omniscience, but see such claims as self-servingly insane.

Just as it is “impossible” to comprehend how billions of people could be intentionally killed to sustain the present Madness, it is impossible to see how we might come to see the Madness with increasing clarity; and in seeing it find and act on ways to reject it. But ultimately we will end up doing one or the other.

(This is last in a series of four essays that that look at the forms of the choices that face us as we look toward this new century.)

James Keye is the nom de plume of a retired academic and small businessman living with an Ecological Footprint of 1.6 earths. He can be reached at Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.

27 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. AaronG said on March 12th, 2009 at 3:32pm #

    A guy called Solomon wrote a prediction about 3000 years ago that “man will dominate man to his injury”. How true this has turned out.

    “and we will still behave badly even in the ruins of our world. ”
    Imagine this hypothetical (but not wildly fictional) scenario: the world is at the brink of environmental, social, economic and political disaster some time in the future (some think now). Let’s say that there is one barrel of oil or 1 ounce of gold or 1 gram of coltan left in the ground. What course of action would you expect a corporation to take?

  2. Don Hawkins said on March 12th, 2009 at 4:32pm #

    The President of the United States talked with business leaders today and after listening to this I understand why Stephen Hawking said, ” The Greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge”. And the real sad part what he the President said to these business people was about fifth grade level thinking maybe. So far my kids and there kids not much hope.

  3. bozh said on March 12th, 2009 at 4:37pm #

    if by now, wanting to be superior to other people, has become part of our genetics, then it cld take thousands of yrs to oust the harmful gene which wld be replaced by previous gene which we had for a mn yrs.

    however, if there is no corresponding gene regulating our enormous avarice, lust for power, feelings of superiority, murderous sprees, etc., then it means we have been conditioned to salivate like pavlov’s dog any time a flag, submarine, destroyer, jet fighter is shown; anthem sang, prez spoke of dangers to US, etc.

    thus, it wld offer us some hope that we cld learn not to react to symbols like a dog identifying a noise or sound as an object.
    wld the ruling classes everywhere opt to spend money on the task of learning not to identify, let’s say, a flag with what it actually represents?

    probably 200mn amers have identified a nice mien of a man; his verbal brilliancies, and ‘promises’ as the actualities.
    yet promise makings is always a swindle! and why? because no one knows the future; symbols are only valid for what we have seen or see at this moment not for any future event.
    in other words we cannot project events into future; we can only conteplate them.

    thus, no matter what kind of symbols a person uses, i always try to evaluate a symbol as symbol that may or may not stand for anything except person’s thoughts/feelings.
    the word “armageddon” is not a symbol; it stands for zilch.
    try it, and you will se how much more you wld thoughtful, nonjudgmental, peaceful, etc.

    change is only possible if there wld be a massive demand for deconditioning; let’s say, at least 80% in every land.

  4. Don Hawkins said on March 12th, 2009 at 4:52pm #

    Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.
    Stephen Hawking

    And let me add now is the time to do just that. A new way of thinking is needed. How about just thinking to start.

  5. Jeff said on March 12th, 2009 at 5:19pm #

    The corporate, after colonizing the moon and mars, will look to the last vestige of mining they have available. What this would be you may ask! Well, our atmosphere now seems to be the most valuable commodity in the future. The final rape will leave this planet totally depleted of any life sustaining quality as we know of it. Only the select elite few will be allowed to make that heavenly journey, while the rest convulse in what will no likely seem as a living hell.

  6. Brian Koontz said on March 12th, 2009 at 7:18pm #

    Quite possibly the beginning of the elite’s wanton destruction of the planet came when they dreamt of dominating the universe. This adds up historically, as the industrial revolution followed the major astronomical discoveries and the desire to colonize outer space.

    So the “endgame” for most of us may well be called New World 2.0 – outer space or more specifically some determined new homeworld for the elite and whichever human slaves they select to join them. Humanity at large will rot on whatever is left of earth.

    As the elite sail away on their “brave sailing ships”, valiant pilgrims all, they will weep sorrowful tears, but with gaze outward and hope filling their hearts, and arms locked with each other as they proclaim themselves the “special chosen ones” who will rebuild a new humanity (according to them, with superior DNA).

    There’s a deeply tragic irony here. Humans looked into space and saw themselves as meaningless specks in the “greater cosmos”. But in responding to that emotion, in their “quest for space”, they have destroyed the only meaningful thing in their reality – their own world.

    What does a priest who sees the glory of heaven do upon his “return to earth”? He shits on it, because he is forced to live on the dirty, filthy, horrible earth while God and angels get to be in heaven.

    The elite, who hold the only meaningful thing in reality in utter contempt, shit on that reality every moment of every day. And we let them.

    Much is said nowadays of The Rapture, about the “chosen ones” transcending the world and rising to heaven while the ones “left behind” suffer in eternal hell. It’s unfortunate that secular America so often treats this as a religious issue and with respect to “Christian America” – it’s most important analogy is with respect to colonizing space.

    We often wonder why “Christian America” is all about accumulating capital these days. Well, if only the rich can “transcend the world”…

    And prior to “transcending the world”, the elite will need to survive long enough on the rapidly-becoming-hell earth to enable their Rapture.

    Secular America typically explains the “death of the left” during the 1990s in America with the blow to the left dealt by the fall of Soviet Communism and the supposed “end of history” with the eternal condition of free market capitalism. But there’s another explanation – the 1990s saw the rise in consciousness in humans of the end of the natural world. In the face of this despair humans became more entrenched in distraction and entertainment, and more beholden to capitalism with it’s ethos of “looking out for #1”.

    Someone drowning doesn’t save the world. He lashes out at anything to grab onto to save himself.

    Something rarely spoken but true – solidarity requires *strength*.

  7. ddjango said on March 12th, 2009 at 8:07pm #

    “Ordinary people” are in the way. We are a drag on the elite and we are disposable.

    A month ago I wrote “Posthuman Resources” ( You have put some flesh on the skeleton I sprung from the closet.

    Thank you for an excellent piece.

  8. Jack said on March 12th, 2009 at 10:26pm #

    I would not count out near, and then further out, earth orbit as the practical liberator of persons and peoples.

    It’s real hard to enslave someone who can push an asteroid with little to no energy investment, if you push him too far.

    The future debate will probably resolve to this: pantropy or terraforming. If terraforming wins out, perhaps the fears expressed above will be more likely. If pantropy wins out, not so much.

    Anyway – for some speculative treatment of the liberatory potentials of space exploration, expansion and accelerando: KS Robinson, Iain Banks, Ken MacCleod, LE Modesitt and Alastair Reynolds

  9. Hue Longer said on March 12th, 2009 at 11:17pm #

    Maybe a giant kill off soon but for now from what I can tell, they want more and more people because capitalism is still alive and production needs to grow-not merely be sustained.

  10. mareta said on March 13th, 2009 at 4:44am #

    I, for one, would be very happy to be left behind as the chosen ones go whisking off into space. I would see it as my obligation to find a way to carry on and devote whatever time I had left to the rejuvenation of the planet. I’m not saying it would be pleasant 🙂
    I do not dream of “Boldly going where no man has gone before” if the motivation is simply more of the same that led to the destruction of my planet – domination, colonization and mindless resource extraction.
    If that’s what they want they can have it.
    There have been countless civilizations throughout time that have been cruelly dismantled by the elite when they found that their kingdom had become too costly to maintain. They closed-up shop and moved somewhere else leaving behind thousands of people to suffer with the loss of protection and assured food sources. Over and over, throughout the ages, ordinary people have had to find the resiliance and strength to start over again.
    This is nothing new.

  11. Ned Lud said on March 13th, 2009 at 5:42am #

    Bones of the dead~

    We should listen more frequently, more attentively, to those who have already died.

    Excellent piece.

  12. Don Hawkins said on March 13th, 2009 at 5:44am #

    Who is they? Just maybe there is no they.

  13. Jeff said on March 13th, 2009 at 6:52am #

    They are not US. I am not YOU. We are not THEM. YOU are not ME.

    Guess it is determined by what your vantage point at that moment in fleeting time actually is. Maybe it is determined by nothing at all.

    Ain’t this existence wonderful!

    Power to whomever wants to take it.

    We have them exactly where they want us.

    They have us exactly where we want them.

    [i think i’m going crazy!?!?]

  14. bozh said on March 13th, 2009 at 10:23am #

    will i be the only one to aver that we are OK. we do not have the type of intelligence that some people may refer to. we just are; ergo, OK.
    let’s forever drive the notion out that we are not OK.
    we got the intelligence that nature had endowed us with; it did best it cld; there is no more intelligence than what we have been given.

    and it’s astounding, beatiful, etc. however, it is entirely different phenomena, at least when it pertains to our intelligence [whatever it may be to each of us], that we have been deluded to a point that we are risking our and biota’s existence.

    one can only adapt to the reality and not a fictitious one that we are daily bombarded with by ‘eduators’, priests, reporters, pols, and even an odd scientist.

    and one needs only to omit one fact of import which pertains to present to us a fictitious reality.
    yet, the ‘illuminati’ and other elitists, omit daily many facts. it’s like a jigsaw puzzle one is solving but not knowing that some tiles are missing.
    and not being able to solve it, blames self.

    this is what the ruling class has been doing to us for at least 8-10T yrs .
    and because of that we ?all feel stupid, inadequate, out of it, etc. but it is not ‘gods’ nor nature which has done that but kings, nobles, clergy; both modern and ancient! tx

  15. Barry99 said on March 13th, 2009 at 1:10pm #

    Hue – I think the system has enough people for now. They have hundreds of millions of laborers to tap into in China and then India. They do have to hope they can grow the consuming classes. There in lies the dilemma – how to grow a middle class that will consume these products yet hold down wages on this middle class at the same time.

    The old Henry Ford model was to pay his workers enough so that they could buy a Ford auto. The new Walmart model is to pay the workers so little they can afford to shop nowhere but Walmart.

  16. John S. Hatch said on March 13th, 2009 at 1:35pm #

    “Depopulation should be the highest priority of the US Foreign Policy towards the Third World”. – Henry Kissinger

  17. kalidas said on March 13th, 2009 at 2:10pm #

    Psychopath or saint, rich or poor, big or small, smart or semi-smart.

    One thing is 100% for sure.. “we all got it coming, kid.”

  18. Hue Longer said on March 13th, 2009 at 7:12pm #


    Tell that to Australia…The models won’t die until there is nothing left. I may be wrong but I just don’t see engineering intervening with capitalism until it’s too late and too late for everyone-including the ruling class who still has to breathe the kind of air that’s left behind

  19. Garth said on March 14th, 2009 at 1:18am #

    Either we’ll free ourselves from oppression or we’ll free humanity from existence. Free in the end either way… Just keep doing your best and try to avoid the latter option.

    Really, the rest of nature might be better off if we just croak, but if we manage to get over our superiority complex over the rest of nature, we might be able to contribute to the direction nature takes.

    Actually, we ARE! As a part of nature, we may be contributing to the end of our own species. 😛 Nature naturally produces extinctions… We, with the help of the rest of nature, might just be running right off a cliff.

    I’m mostly worried that some big arrogant empire run from a tiny hypocritical country, facing resistance worldwide, might decide that their fall is inevitable unless they drop a whole bunch of nuclear missiles (from wherever they retain control) on the areas where their most troublesome resistance comes from… Because they already resort to extreme violence for absurd reasons in the face of resistance, and they don’t seem to care that the whole world (pretty much) knows they’re full of sh*t.

  20. Don Hawkins said on March 14th, 2009 at 4:54am #

    We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special

    Hubble’s observations suggested that there was a time, called the big bang, when the universe was infinitesimally small and infinitely dense. Under such conditions all the laws of science, and therefore all ability to predict the future, would break down. If there were events earlier than this time, then they could not affect what happens at the present time. Their existence can be ignored because it would have no onservational consequences. One may say that time had a beginning at the big bang, in the sense that earlier times simply would not be defined. It should be emphasized that this beginning in time is very different from those that had been considered previously. In an unchanging universe a beginning in time is something that has to be imposed by some being outside the universe; there is no physical necessity for a beginning. One can imagine that God created the universe at literally any time in the past. On the other hand, if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job! [Stephen Hawking}, A Brief History of Time

    As I was reading Hawking last night I had on Fox news and Bill O’Reilly was on and he had first Glenn Beck then Geraldo Rivera. After reading Hawking my mind was thinking about stuff and I watched Bill for awhile and my first thought was my God these people are nuts. Glenn Beck is starting something called 912 and was crying earlier on his show I mean actually crying and this 912 thing could be sort of a new religion for people to get there heads around. On the Bill show he said yes I am crazy, I agree. I think Bill is afraid Glenn is going to get better ratings. Then Bill was talking about the great left wing conspiracy and NBC and other groups that must be stopped. Then Geraldo was on and was talking about some murder case and called the people involved in that case trailer trash in so many words and drug addicts, strange. Now this case happens in America a million times but for some reason they talk about this one case over and over again. Why is it so important to them to do this? I guess they think people want to keep watching this over and over again the ratings thing and just maybe to keep people in kind of a prison for there mind. My son lives in a trailer and has a small farm and is making it the best way he can in this Mad Mad Mad World. My son and his son have more humanity and my grandson is only six then Beck and Bill and Geraldo combined. How do I know this well it’s kind of easy to see it doesn’t take a genius to know this.

  21. Don Hawkins said on March 14th, 2009 at 5:29am #

    Bozh I am starting to understand your thinking on many different levels and you are right on those different levels.

  22. bozh said on March 14th, 2009 at 8:52am #

    tnx for your comment,

    ‘my’ thinking is not solely mine. in fact, i do not know what is mine and what is ours.
    most or ?all of what i say is not mine; it belongs to world lore.

    the universal or panhuman knowledge is a forbidden fruit. that is one reason we have legalized schooling and delegalized drugs.

    the two wars, the war on a broad enlightenment and drugs may continue until people obtain an elucidation of what is realy going on.

    will it come one day from the top of the trapezoid structure? posssibly?
    let’s hope that we can educate first the ‘illuminati’ [priests, ‘educators’, pols] and the ‘litterati’ help us educate the middle and the bottom of the trapeze. tx

  23. Barry99 said on March 14th, 2009 at 9:44am #

    Hue – I agree that it is likely too late. Jimmy Carter had solar panels on the roof of the White House and was poised to further address environmental issues. Reagan had those panels removed right away – and threw his lot in with big business and big oil. So we lost more than a quarter century of research and development. Obama now wants toxic emissions in the year 2050 to be reduced to 1990 levels – and we know that this will not only be watered down by congress (and the 2500 industry lobbyists) but whatever measures they eventually do settle on will not be frontloaded. Big changes coming down the pike. And capitalists will fail to adjust because it only thinks about short term capital accumulation. I’m sure that holds for Australia as well.

  24. James Keye said on March 14th, 2009 at 10:03am #


    It may be too late to win, but it is not too late to try. And if you live in integration of specieshood, the ride will have been just fine.

  25. Barry99 said on March 14th, 2009 at 10:15am #

    Oh, I’m all for trying – in case I’m wrong about the pending apocalypse – which I may very well be. Yeah, we have to be trying.

  26. Hue Longer said on March 14th, 2009 at 10:31pm #

    Yeah to all that…I mentioned Australia because they are giving incentives for women to reproduce–It’s a crisis for development if populations aren’t growing fast enough.


  27. Barry99 said on March 15th, 2009 at 5:55am #

    Hue – Of course, Australia also has its racial history as well. Since almost wiping out its indigenous population it has perceived itself as underpopulated relative to its size, and proximity to densely populated East Asia. In recent decades immigrants from Asia have been arriving in greater numbers, While this is likely desirable by Big Business – its also sets off xenophobic responses. Thus giving incentives for larger families. Such programs, while officially ethnic/race neutral, can be targeted towards areas where whites are dominant (relative to recently arrived Asian populations). I don’t know if Australia is doing that, but it would not be the first time it’s been accused of racism. However, this all comes up against the gradual (rapid?) drying of the continent, the prospect of water supply catastrophes, and possible food shortages. Maybe Australia ain’t what it used to be.