I first began to consciously question the value of Civilization in 1997. I was visiting Northhampton, Massachusetts, with a new lover. We were enjoying that early stage shortly after meeting when the intensity of sensation is so strong that your world is blown apart, making space for the new to enter and blossom, including the mystical. We went a book store I had never been in, and I found myself following my feet as they led me quickly down one of the aisles to a particular shelf. There, my hand reached up and picked out a book without my eyes reading the spine. The book was “My Name Is Chellis and I am Recovery from Civilization” by Chellis Glendenning.
I devoured the book in the days that followed, sating a hunger I hadn’t been aware of. Glendenning’s lucid text explained so much of the depression I had been experiencing in my life. Among many other salient points, she demonstrated how Civilization disconnects us from the natural world and how Capitalism appropriates our instincts in order to peddle us its wares. Glendenning turned on a light in my head that never went off again and has illuminated much for me in the time since as it has grown in brightness.
Four years later, inspired by the protests in Seattle against the WTO in late 1999, I moved to the West Coast and dove head-long into political activism. (The lover had become a partner and then an ex; as is typical, the magic was traded first for the mundane and then for the wretched.) In my new circles, I met forest defenders, anarcho-primitivists and rewilders, all of whom shared Glendenning’s disdain for Civilization, and some of whom took it much further, in both attitude and in action. This is when I first heard the name “Babylon” applied to Civilization in general and to Cities in particular. I’ve never been too fond of the term — Bible stories don’t inspire me much — but I’ve often shared the anti-Civ sentiments of those who use it.
Babylon, after all, has wrought annihilation seemingly everywhere: