The Megamachine as a Form of Social Organization

German Version of this article

Boris Forkel / Deep Green Resistance Germany

On July 10th 1985 the Rainbow Warrior, ship of the environmental organization Greenpeace, was sunk by agents of the French Service Action.

From the 1940‘s til the 60‘s, the US-Army had been testing atomic bombs on the Marshall Islands. What used to be a South Pacific Paradise, was now contaminated. The people suffered diseases and cancer, children were born with abnormalities. In 1985, the residents of the Island Rongelap asked Greenpeace for help. The Rainbow Warrior came and relocated 300 people to the Island of Mejato. From Mejato, the ship was supposed to move to New Zealand for a short stop and then to the Moruroa-atoll (French Polynesia), to protest against French atomic-bomb tests. While the Rainbow Warrior was anchored in the port of Aukland, New Zealand, during the night of july 10th two bombs detonated in the ship‘s hull. While the ship sunk, most of the crew were able to save themselves, except for the photographer Fernando Pereira, who drowned. 1 Tragically, he was a parent of two small children.

The investigations of the New Zealand police lead to the French secret service. Under growing pressure, the government under Francois Mitterand steadily admitted being responsible for the attack.

The people in charge of the French government were never held accountable. In 1987, the French government paid compensation of 8 million US-Dollars to Greenpeace, and more than 7 million to the New Zealand government. All of the people involved stayed in charge and kept their positions in the French government, some received the highest military honors.

In 1985, I was six years old. The pictures of the Rainbow Warrior were on the media everywhere. Since then, the Greenpeace-activists have been my heros. I would look at the Greenpeace-magazines, that shocked me deeply with pictures of baby crawls slayed with clubs, burning rainforests and dead whales, swimming in a sea of blood.

©Andrija Ilic/Reuters

If you take the perspective of a six or seven year old child, you see butts all around you and you hear the voices of grown-ups from above. In my memory, most times the grown-ups spoke about work. „How was work?“ „Well, ok…“ „I have to work tomorrow.“ „Will you go to work?“ „Yes.“ „I hear that you have a new job? How do you like it?“ „It‘s pretty ok…“ „work…“, „at work…“ „for my work…“ „in my work…“ „work…“, „work…“, „work…“

I felt there was a huge chasm between the conversations I overheard from the adults, and the pictures that stuck in my childish mind from the Greenpeace-magazines. They always wanted to know, what I wanted to be when I grew up. The question is hard to understand for a six or seven year old. What should I become? I‘m a human being already, and there is not much more I can actually become. Well, a grown-up human being, someday. But such a stressed out, worried human being, which is at the same time dependent and plagued by it‘s daily work, like the grown-ups around me, I certainly didn‘t want to become. Why is their work so important to them, when at the same time such horrible things are happening?

Later, when I understood better what they were up to with that question, I always answered that I wanted to become an environmentalist. This was very important to me. After I learned to read and write, I printed business cards, stating environmentalist as my profession.

Back then, questions evolved, that didn‘t change much over all these years. Why do these people, by all costs, want to kill whales? And crawls? And why do they want to destroy these rainforests everywhere? And why are the people from Greenpeace obviously the only ones who care and try to stop the killing?

I asked these questions as a child, but soon stopped, because I would never receive a satisfying answer. „You won‘t understand this, you are to small…“ They would avoid my questions. They didn‘t like these questions. They were unpleasant to them, and they had no answers.

As a child, one tends to think, that the grown-ups are very smart and know more than children. Unfortunately, this is a fraud. Most adults are very stupid indeed, highly indoctrinated, and don‘t know any answers to the really important questions.

Still, the questions stay the same. Why are the grown-ups always talking about work, while there is a horrible slaughter going on? Nowadays, I‘d boil all the questions of my childhood down to one: Why is our culture killing the planet?

When I asked my grandmother why all the Indians had to die, she answered that this had been God‘s will. The Indians, soon enough, would have built big ships on their own, sailed to Europe and would have exterminated us, she said. How great that God is with us…

Thanks to answers like this, over time I learned to forget my questions and hide my feelings, which after all arose from a very normal empathy I felt for our fellow beings.

I went through the mainstream-culture with severe depressions. I held myself together with books, which helped me to survive disturbing dreams, think deeply and question everything. I will always be grateful to the authors of these books.

Finally, I found myself realising, that the decision I had made when I was six years old was still right and valid.

Within a culture that mistreats it‘s fellow creatures like ours, resistance is a moral imperative. I understood this as a child. Actually, it isn‘t very hard to understand. All we have to do is to look around us. Foolishly, we have built a whole culture based on not looking around us.

It also has to do with the form of social organization this culture is based on. Which might be the most destructive invention, that humans have ever made. Gunpowder, for example, is surely a very destructive invention, especially if you use it, like our culture does, for firearms. It is symptomatic for our culture, to use all technological inventions for destructive purposes, most times for ever more destructive weapons. Without firearms, it would have been far more difficult to drive big animals like bears, bisons or siberian tigers to the brink of extinction. Without firearms, the conquest of the Americas and the genocide of indigenous peoples worldwide would have been far more difficult. Firearms therefore, take the second place on my list of the most destructive inventions.

The plow and the combustion engine compete for the third place. While the wheel, which is often mentioned as one of the most important inventions, isn‘t very destructive, the car, with all the surrounding infrastructure like roads, is one of the most destructive inventions one could think of. It is an extreme waste of energy, to move a machine of about two tonnes of weight, most times only to transport one single human being. Car culture is the most energy intensive form of transportation to ever exist. We can only afford this unbelievable decadence, because we learned to use fossil fuel for combustion engines. Apart from the waste of energy, it is also not very intelligent to poison the air that we need to breathe. This is a crime we commit to our future generations.

Martin Prechtel says:

„Technological inventions take from the earth but give nothing in return. Look at automobiles. They were, in a sense, dreamed up over a period of time, with different people adding on to each other’s dreams — or, if you prefer, adding on to each other’s studies and trials. But all along the way, very little, if anything, was given back to the hungry, invisible divinity that gave people the ability to invent those cars. Now, in a healthy culture, that’s where the shamans would come in, because with every invention comes a spiritual debt that must be paid, either ritually, or else taken out of us in warfare, grief, or depression.“2

The plow stands for monocultural agriculture. I like to describe agriculture as the blueprint of colonialism. They take a piece of land, drive away or kill all indigenous living beings, animals, humans and plants, and replace them with a monoculture of one species, with individuals entirely brought into line.

The most destructive invention that humans ever made is not a technological innovation, but a form of social organization (indeed one which is very technological). It is the megamachine; a form of social organization, that makes is possible for a hundred thousand people to spend the majority of their lifetime happily working for the goals of a company like Daimler-Benz, BASF, Bayer, Deutsche Bank et cetera. Hundreds of thousands of employees, working strictly organized and brought into line within a hierarchical organization. Often, there is a very strong identification of the employees with their company. This is the modern version of what made it possible for the ancient Egyptians to build the giant symbols of their civilization. In ancient Egypt, the slaves already formed an organized caste, that used strikes as a way to fight for better food, housing or working conditions. Even back then, people had already accepted their fate as a working class, as part of the machine, and tried to ensure slightly better conditions within it. Derrick Jensen talks about dismembering, and about how suppressors bring their victims to identify with them in this video: Deep Green 014

Ultimately, slavery is the cradle of civilization in the same way as agriculture. Both are related, because large-scale monoculture is only possible with slaves. Initially, slaves must be hold in captivity and forced to work. Nobody volunteers to be a slave. At the beginning at least. Over a few thousand years, our culture perfected the machine more and more. With a permanent combination of organized violence, lies and propaganda, alongside powerful institutions like state, church and school, the original forms of social organization were destroyed, and replaced with a breed of totally isolated human beings, who by themselves identify as workers and do not resist any more. These are the happy slaves, that serve the machine. Without them, factories are unthinkable, there would be no industrial agriculture, no machines, no industrial production. Nothing of this would be possible without the innovation of the mechanical social organization, which in the ancient civilizations began as massive slavery. About 80% of the population in ancient Greece were slaves.

Hence, industrial civilization is the most extreme and by far most destructive form, because it combines this form of social organization with actual machines. Actually, these two have merged already. The humans, who are functioning as part of the machine, are themselves handling machines all the time. They identify more with their car, their computer or their smartphone than they identify with other living beings –including humans. This is why the people of our culture don‘t care about the mass extinction of our fellow beings. The extinction of the insects and songbirds doesn‘t lead to an uproar, unlike, say, driving restrictions due to increasing air pollution. The parts of the machine can‘t imagine a life without cars and other machines; the machine belongs to them as they belong to it, and they are absolutely loyal to it.

Unfortunately, neither the machine nor it‘s parts are intelligent or know any kind of morality. It is not intelligent to poison the air we need to breathe, the water we need to drink and the soil we need to grow food.

People who strike, fight for better working conditions or against cutbacks of jobs are already perfectly oiled gears of the machine. These people identify as working class, as parts of the machine, they have been born and raised as parts of the machine; the gainful employment, the profession, is in our culture a very important part of individual identity.

Being part of the machine is all they know. The limits of their perception are already very restricted. They don‘t know real freedom. As part of a machine, you don‘t need to think, but to work. This is our dominant industrial culture.

If humans exist as parts of a machine, they forget how to be responsible for their own lives and the lives of their children. This is why so few people are resisting against the slaughter of our fellow beings and the destruction of the planet. The liability for the machine is never carried by its parts, but it‘s inventors. It is a strictly hierarchical system. Only with a system like this, it is possible to build institutions like the police force, the giant bureaucratic apparatus of state and government, or huge corporations, with people simply following orders without taking any responsibility for their actions. The responsibility is always up in the hierarchy. There is no humanity within a machine.

A machine has no empathy. It works exactly like it has been built. Some call that structural violence, or, like Samuel Huntington, organized violence. “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion […] but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.“ 3

This form of social organization made it possible for Europeans to conquer almost the whole world. The machine made the brutal extinction of most of the life on the American continent possible. Propaganda and rationalizations, like the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, served as instruction manuals for the machine. It is actually needless to say that the Third Reich, with the industrial mass extermination of unwanted human beings, exactly worked according to the principles of the megamachine. Of course, the IG Farben knew what their products would be used for.

For the few people, who are still able to think clearly, this culture is long since a dystopian nightmare. For the indoctrinated, this nightmare is the bare reality.

„If a creature learns, to completely accept captivity and slavery, it can drive out the pain. But to be free, one must look at the pain; one must go through all the terror.“

Jack D. Forbes

If people can‘t get out of this nightmare, because they think this is „the way things are“, they are trapped in a life-long horror trip. It‘s a horror trip to believe, that we must sell eight hours per day or more of our lifetime, to work and do things we would rather not.

Institutionalized religion works as another instruction manual for the machine. Christianity plays an important role for the indoctrination by teaching us for thousands of years that life is full of privation and a vale of tears. Later, the evangelical christians declared the morale, the work ethic, to a new religious doctrine, and therefore created the basis for capitalistic ideology.4

The reward comes after death, if we behaved well and obedient during our lifetime. Thus, institutionalized religion has proven to be one of the most effective tools for suppression. Due to almighty belief systems like this, people don‘t have to be suppressed by brute force; through faith, they will suppress themselves, others and their own children. Says Robert Combs: „Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of a culture“. Nowadays, parents raise their children according to the religion of capitalism and the believe in an almighty market, in order that they will have a chance to be successful in this culture.

Our culture is based on institutionalized lies, that have been erected as barriers to truth. One of the most obvious and thus most propagated lies is, that we can have industrial civilization and a living planet. The bare truth is, that we have to decide. As things stand, most people in our culture made their choice in favor of the megamachine and against a living planet.

After all, humans are animals. The wild packs of wolves, being the enemy of civilization, have been exterminated nearly everywhere; nowadays, all that is left are state-owned, domesticated dogs. Dogs can be raised to be the most loving and caring creatures, like guide-dogs who take care of blind humans with a highly developed social competence. But they can also be conditioned to become terrible monsters, like the Spanish conquistadores with their fighting dogs that were fed with butchered Indian children.

Violence has always been the most effective tool of our civilization.

  1. „Pereira died, because the French Secret Service sunk a ship with people who where engaged in protecting the environment“ (Katja Iken in Spiegel,
  3. Samuel P. Huntington: The Clash of civilizations and the Remaking of the new World Order
  4. Max Weber: „The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism“, 1920
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