Evolution Through Catastrophy?

by Milo Clark

November 18, 2002


"What we need to search for and find, what we need to hone and perfect into a magnificent, shining thing, is a new kind of politics. Not the politics of governance, but the politics of resistance. The politics of opposition. The politics of forcing accountability. The politics of slowing things down. The politics of joining hands across the world and preventing certain destruction. In the present circumstances, I'd say that the only thing worth globalizing is dissent."

--Arundhati Roy, "Power Politics," South End Press, 2001, p. 32 [second and expanded edition published in 2002]

My personal sense has long been that this speck of cosmic dust called Earth has been through several regime changes over the millennia of millennia. Regime changes in this case involve whichever species was dominant at some point and then swooshed into the fecal matter of time. "Extinctions" is a popular word at the moment which captures the general idea.

Darwin and successors don't much cotton to this idea since the evolution of species assumes something gradual strung out over a very long hunk of time. Most of the scientifically dominant minds of the presently dominant species buy the gradualism approach.

Taken to politics, they would assume (I assume) that political parties would emerge, do their things and then morph into some other format. Federalists morphed into Whigs and Whigs morphed into Republicans (or is that Democrats). Recently we may have experienced a morphing into Republicrats in which the right became the middle and the left became the right. I along with many others became simply confused.

Way back a bit into the early 19th century, a French thinker, Georges Cuvier, came upon the set of ideas which would be called "Catastrophism." Evolution consists of jerks and bangs and blowouts which wreak Hades with species. Bang in a big asteroid and dust covers the earth for generations, blanking out the sun. All the big herbivore reptiles run out of green things to munch and go extinct pretty fast. Which lets a lot of little things capable of getting by on each other get bigger. Run that out to its logical extreme and you get humankind.

Cuvier's number one student, Alcide d'Orbingy, went off to South America for a few years and chased fossils up and down down there. Brought back over 100,000 fossils in the bargain. He observed in the fossil records collected that there were successive acts of creation. That general idea found favor with no one at that time or for a long time thereafter. Science tends to lag behind religions (of which it is one) about as much as Joe Sixpack lags behind Newton. Catastrophism and successive acts of creation pretty much disappeared until way into the 1960s.

Biologist Rupert Sheldrake along with Jim Lovelock (Gaia Theory), Lynn Margulis and others started to take a closer look at actualities more than dogmas and bang! successive acts of creation. Sheldrake called his insights "morphic resonance." A simple idea akin to the story of a butterfly fart in Japan resulting in an embarrassed look in Hoboken. Change occurs because a species has some other means of passing on information other than evolution or through DNA.

Jung played around with ideas of collective unconscious and others call the general idea race memory. Weirdoes talk about the Akashic Record on which all is written and all is available. Check it out and get on with life is the shorthand comment.

If we speculate that idealism is a state of emergency and then recognize that no one or no state can live in a permanent state of emergency, then we can join Danish author Carsten Jensen as he moves along a few parallel tracks.

America may be seen as a state of mind, in one sense, long overdue a catastrophe (again). With a twentieth century of successions of enemies from anarchists through socialists and on to communists now blended uniquely into terrorists to begin the twenty-first century, would all of this emergency be long overdue to become catastrophe?

Police, according to Jensen, generally see themselves as protecting those in power from the general public rather than the other way around. It follows as night follows day that politically motivated police violence and intimidation of civilians are natural parts of their work. Welcome back, Admiral Poindexter.

In terms of sheer physical force and military might, Predators on high, opponents likely will never again be successful in directly confronting American might, per se.

And, then again, for about four hundred years folks thought no one could successfully confront the Roman Legions.

What is to be learned, therefore, from the Vietnamese outcome culminating momentarily in 1954 and then in 1975?

Jensen suggests that a people may be able to remain tenaciously true to themselves absorbing power if needed and waiting for the power to run its string. This could be called a strength of patience.

Roshi Robert Aitken, a very old man with a resurgent mind, recently said we need to regroup yet again, once more, still, to challenge the dominant few with a possibly temporary political majority.

Statistics show that a little more than 18% of voters registered as Democrats voted in 2002. In contrast, over 20% of voters registered Republican did vote. Those who don't vote deserve what they create, no?

In 1989, many thousands of Czechs gathered in the main square of Prague and rattled their keys to suggest that their country be at last unlocked from the Soviet yoke. More than one way to vote, in other words.

I am adding keys in preparedness for a similar opportunity here.

Successive acts of creation, yes!

Morphic resonance hits America soon.

Do we need a catastrophe to evolve?

· · · · · ·


1.  Carsten Jensen, "I have Seen the World Begin," (trans. Barbara Haveland), Harcourt, NY, English edition 2000, Danish edition 1996, ISBN 0-15-100768-3.  (back)


Milo Clark, a founding member of Swans, comes from a classic Eastern Establishment background culminated by a Harvard MBA. Perversely, however, he learned to think. Applying thought, he sees beyond and tries to write about what he sees. He now lives in the rainforest of non-tourist Hawaii near the lava flows.

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Published November 18, 2002
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