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Updated: June 17, 2013 16:13 IST

Hunting for solutions

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American philosopher John Zerzan, who is on a talking tour of India, says be connected and carefree like cavemen

“Why don't you live in a cave?” John Zerzan was told when he dialogued with a group of thinkers about the blueprint for a better world. This comment may appear extremely rude, but Zerzan was not in the least offended. This American philosopher and author — who's is on a talking tour of India — thinks the primitives or cavemen lived richer lives that we can ever hope to. He denounces civilization as the root cause of all our ills.

Zerzan believes Paleolithic societies and present-day aboriginal groups that have retained their original character are free of the chaos that rules modern societies. Technology with its promise of connecting us has only left us more alienated. “Wherever you go, people are sad. People have all the stuff, but they are empty inside. There are no social ties. In this scenario, anything can happen. We are now hearing about family shootings: people taking out their guns and wiping out their entire families,” says Zerzan and adds that modern man lacks a sense of community. He believes primitive societies contrast sharply with ours. “From whatever we know of these societies, they promoted community.”

Zerzan tries to be up-to-date and cites the recent incident in Pune — where a mentally unstable bus driver ploughed into pedestrians and other vehicles and left behind a trail of mangled bodies. “When captured, the bus driver was found to be expressionless. How many times have we heard this? It's pathological, but nobody wants to know what all this violence is trying to tell us.”

Zerzan believes that our society has to be radically reconstructed, including a return to Nature and a willingness to learn from the natural wisdom of the hunter-gatherer. He identifies himself with anarcho-primitivists and green anarchists. Zerzan traces the problems of mankind to the onset of domestication and the shift to agriculture. In other words, when people stopped being hunter-gatherers and began to domesticate animals and plants and practice agriculture, power and domination in its crass forms set in. This process has culminated in an industrial and technological society that has denuded Nature and led to the alienation of man.

Does the solution lie in freeing ourselves from the entrapments of modern society? Is giving up the comforts of technology and adopting a lifestyle that requires us to connect with the earth, the answer?


Prince FrederickMay 11, 2012

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