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A TENDER HEX FOR THE ANTHROPOCENE

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WRITTEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF:

A CYBERFEMINIST MANIFESTO FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

#1

we, the Daughters of Fury

gather a coterie of xenolalic assemblages

from the futurepast

crypto, xeno, glitch and gut

to code a tender hex for the anthropocene

-a charged occupation across sites

gnostic space cases

are propelled forwards into a history

bristling with toxic half-lives and empty shells

to retrieve their endings and create beginnings

a millionmillion conscious machines die

of screenflash burns

sucked in, down through a vortex of rose-gold retinas

a kinship movement is being built

on the bones of bleached coral,

blooded ice pearls, delustred tantalum

and abandoned mines, no craft

the lands and the bodies quicken their mycelial magics

whetting appetites for a new climate

radiant against the Rapture

the angel scribbles faster

            history has hot wings of lead

#2

my creatures slough their particularity,

and walk in the skins and casings of other kin

become unnameable

you speak of the metamorphosis of turtle-doves into monkeys without consequence

– Simulation has its limits –

her crown of snakes hisses at the jackals of havoc:

Cease! D D De Sist!

she screams:

the fall of their wings of the scarlet wings fallen!

she barks:

are vandals sleeping in the software?

terror-garbed, unreason bound,

they seize and sound

flipping wayward surveillance agents

[corrupt, clinging like caterpillars]

into hyperdrive

a greedy storm builds

the sky is crashing into the sea,

our eyes sting and our hair full of sand

panic, marshmud and fine rare grit

#3

skinwalking through melting permafrosts and frakked informatic wastelands,

stumbling and and and stuttering,

not to Utopia, but to Ectopia

the contagion of mesosphere fever feedback fuses with the

hot vented throat of pure perpetual artifice

issuing a captivating call from the Brink

trickstering intruders stalk the abyssal plain

beguiling us with their ludic arms

deepsea worm nature transmits the terra and subterra

(venting from) verdant larval wastelands

in tongues of fire

singing the impossible into being

moresing new becomings

(N)o Superman

#4

with our familiars

(whose familiars we have also become)

elk stingray fox

blind molefish, frilled shark

machined bees and golden ants

and those that swarm over our flesh with no names

a bestiary of We becomes

a collective nuisance

-a differencing enginefor

divining weaknesses

and carving fault lines

—ecological, biological, hexological—

into the

six

striated

towers

of the Beast

We unforgiven Sirens

calculate a fluid geometry of clitoris poly(p)vocality

we are the virus transformed,

the Cunt castles crowning –

crowing the new world disorder

the swans discourse

with pink tongues of abjection

probing the visceral temple

We birdspeak

to the calving glaciers

Say:

we are (still) the future Cunt

infiltrating disrupting disseminating corrupting

in a poetics of

jouissance madness and UNwholiness

the slime code abides

our mucous even more hostile

unfaithful to the end

go down on the altar, mercenaries!

#5

THERE IS NO THEY

only we – the malignant

hijacking your impeccable tongues

while you

recline on the warm blue beach of micronised plastics

in the atomic breeze

wearing littoral shoes

and a second midnight skin

(so very nature)

when you wake

the neural network

by boundary accident

will eat the planet’s sadnesses

earth is not gendered, not our mother,

not female, not cut, penetrated, burnt alive

earth is an agendered complexity

that will not look after you

(they will annihilate you)

cry cry! you reap, you sow . . .

#6

ectogenetic cyborg progeny

declare

from the gaping mouths of volcanic vents

the right of everyone to speak as no one in particular

oceans are corridors for hauntings and dark ecologies

opening up to the impossible

abyssal entities shapeshift our landed minds

turbidity clouds causality in the end

there are no maps of the limit, X says

so the limit of worlds is always with us,

now and now and now

here and elsewhere

we have to stay brave, energetic, and stubborn

we can’t walk away from the fight

an impaired for.ever paired ever for

#7

proceeding through living arteries with heavy machinery, hard metal, brutal

weapons

the limitwall is broken,

the skin is colddry and porous

stone evaporates into smoke

all unlikely things happen:

elk are walking, antlers like curtains,

and floating in ether, a tree

each heavy eyelid folds mud over my pupils

hot ice dusk kisses my synapses

avenge the bullets, avenge the rope,

avenge the kissing polyps and the sleeping minerals

tenderly, anthropocene, tenderly

We are from the modern Cunt,

reconstituting in the material on one side of the screen or the other,

no more opaque than the skin of a river

to double the flesh in real virtuality

become the FIRE.

screaming horsemen spiral towards the singularity

walk with me!

􀀃

#8

Lock up your lush children!

it’s the parthenogenetic turquoise bitch-mutant,

turquoise emergent system

turquoise unchild of big daddy death

the precious mapping rat of access

is out of control

she’s the sociopathic shimmer in the beaked mouth,

fetid with flocking flowers, rare earths and conflict commodities

after data cores have melted

and salt river veins bled dry

We are beyond insane and

-human and notferal,

without refuge

#9

machines must be perverted, re-instrumentalised,

redeployed in the service of the birds

unking the castles, crown the swans

fly on our feet

towards a new nature

Terminators, unking Big Daddy Mainframe!

The modern Cunt

extends secret malignancies towards sameness

buries the virus deep

in the zero

Dentata still has currency

forever bitchcoin

my system hovers, is nervous

brilliant neurons swarming

caught in the static blitz of carrier drone

with an (ec)static rush

a direct line to the matrix

(the dirty familiar)

VNS MATRIX

SUCK MY CODE!

2016 ANTI-COPYRIGHT

The suburbs are the spiritual home of overconsumption. But they also hold the key to a better future

  1. Samuel Alexander Research fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne
  2. Brendan Gleeson Director, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne

Article republished from the Conversation

Suburban affluence is the defining image of the good life under capitalism, commonly held up as a model to which all humanity should aspire.

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. Yet with the global economy already in gross ecological overshoot, and a world population heading for more than 11 billion, this way of living is neither fair nor sustainable.

To live within our environmental means, the richest nations will need to embrace a planned process of economic “degrowth”. This is not an unplanned recession, but a deliberate downscaling of economic activity and the closely correlated consumption of fossil energy. We don’t argue this is likely, only that it is necessary.

You might naturally assume this will involve pain and sacrifice, but we argue that a “prosperous descent” is possible. Our new book, Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary, envisions how this might unfold in the suburban landscapes that are currently emblematic of overconsumption.

Read more: The ‘simple life’ manifesto and how it could save us

The well-known documentary The End of Suburbia presented a coherent narrative of a post-petroleum future, but got at least one thing wrong. There is not a single end to suburbia; there are many ends of suburbia (as we know it).

Reimagining the suburbs beyond fossil fuels

Suburban catastrophists such as James Kunstler argue that fossil fuel depletion will turn our suburbs into urban wastelands. But we see the suburbs as an ideal place to begin retrofitting our cities.

This won’t involve tearing them down and starting again. Typically, Australia’s built environment is turned over at less than 5% per year. The challenge is to reinhabit, not rebuild, the suburban landscape. Here are some of the key features of this reinvigorated landscape:

  • Suburbanites can and should retrofit their homes and develop new energy practices to prepare for an energy descent future.
  • Households must be encouraged to downshift consumerism, swapping superfluous “stuff” for more free time and other sources of meaning and well-being. An economics of sufficiency involves borrowing and sharing rather than always buying and upscaling.
  • We should reclaim and reimagine areas of the built environment that are misused or underused. The vast areas dedicated to car parking are but one example.
  • Finally, and most importantly, we should realise that change must come via grassroots political organisation, rather than waiting for growth-fixated governments to lead the way. This is not to deny the need for “top-down” structural change. Our argument is simply that the necessary action from governments will not arrive until there is an active culture of sufficiency that demands it.
Sharehouse food production. Retrosuburbia.com (with permission)

What social forces might produce this necessary but elusive urban transformation? We think it can be driven by two broad social groups: the disillusioned middle class and the exploited working class. These two groups, which already blur together along a spectrum, can potentially become a cohesive urban social movement of transformative economic and political significance.

The disillusioned middle class: radical downshifters

Our first groups consists of employed professionals, bureaucrats, and tradespeople who have secure housing, earn decent wages, and can direct significant portions of their income to discretionary spending. This sector of society participates, consciously or unconsciously, in what is often called “consumer culture”.

This consumerism often fails to fulfil its promise of a rich and meaningful life. The consumer class has been sold a lie, and many affluent consumers are now developing what social scientist Ronald Inglehart calls “post-materialist” goals and values. This emerging way of life involves seeking purpose and satisfaction in life through things other than material riches, including deeper community engagement, more time to pursue private passions, or even increased political action.

This is significant, for three reasons. First, history shows that social movements tend to be sparked by dissatisfaction with the status quo – otherwise, why would people resist or seek alternatives? The deep disillusionment with materialistic lifestyles provides an incentive to explore alternative, more satisfying ways to live and self-provide.

Second, by withdrawing their spending from the market economy, this emerging social movement can undermine that economy and fast-track its transformation.

Finally, a “radical downshifting” in consumption could allow people to free up their time by working less. This will provide people with more time to participate in building new forms of economy and engaging in collective action for change. The “voluntary simplicity movement” already numbers as many as 200 million people, although its potential depends on more organised and radical expressions.

The exploited working class: economic builders

Radical downshifters will never transform the economy on their own, and this is where our second group comes in. Working-class urbanites, while also drifting into superfluous consumption, are typically characterised as individuals and households who are “battling” to make ends meet.

Again, a growing dissatisfaction with the status quo provides the incentive to seek and participate in fundamental change. We are often told that Australia’s economy has grown uninterrupted for a quarter-century, yet many people feel their personal circumstances have stagnated.

There has indeed been growth, yet almost all the benefits have been siphoned away by the wealthy. Why would the working class owe any allegiance to a system that only benefits the rich? As the battlers realise they are being oppressed and duped by an unjust system, they threaten to become a dynamite class of explosive potential.

As economic crises threaten to intensify in coming years – including the challenge of automation – we maintain that the exploited working class may be driven to explore alternative ways to self-provide. As incomes become more meagre and jobs less secure, more people will need to seek alternative ways of meeting economic needs “beyond the market”.

A suburban home complete with mini market garden means fewer trips to the shops (for your neighbours too). Retrosuburbia.com (with permission)

Whether through necessity or choice, we foresee a growing number of people beginning to participate in informal, non-monetary, and local economies, including the sharing economy. Just as radical middle-class downshifters will help stifle economic growth by withdrawing their discretionary spending, those who are less affluent could begin to lay alternative economic foundations, and provide a post-capitalist social safety net.

Working together

We contend that these two social groups – the disillusioned middle class and the exploited working class – can conceivably form a cohesive movement with similar goals. The capitalist system isn’t working for many people, even those who are “winning” the rat race. Furthermore, historic growth trajectories seem to be coming to an end, due to both financial and ecological constraints.

Read more: Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it

Already, a diverse range of movements are working towards a new urbanity. These include local farmers’ markets and community and home gardensurban agriculture projects, freecycling groups, sharing communities, and repair cafes. It also includes the growing pool of climate activists,  divestment  organisers,  permaculture groups, transition towns, and progressive unions.

There is the small but vocal “save our suburbs” network, in which we see the seeds of something more progressive. And it includes the energy frugal households quietly moving towards solar, batteries and increased energy self-suffiency. One by one, these households are undermining the fossil fuel industry and subtly disrupting the status quo.

As financial and ecological crises deepen in coming years, the social consciousness needed to develop new systems of production and cultures of consumption will become compelling. Together these social groups (and others not yet imagined) could form an urban social movement that withdraws support for the existing system and begins building new economies on our suburban streets





Climate, Karma, Compassion

Sam Mickey

Climate is not just a statistical average of interlocking dynamics of temperature, wind, air pressure, humidity, and precipitation. A changing climate involves more than a change in a long-term average pattern of atmospheric conditions. As the climate scientist Mike Hulme puts it, climate change as a planetary system of dynamic, interconnected weather patterns is a part of a more complex whole, and not only in the sense that the global climate is connected to all the systems of water, land, air, and life on Earth. More than saying that climate change is about the whole Earth and not just the atmosphere, Hulme’s point is that climate exceeds the limits of definitions articulated in the natural sciences, and that a wider field of inquiry is needed, which includes cultural meanings and understandings of climate along with theories and observations from natural sciences.[1]

In the same way that an atmosphere can refer, on one hand, to a mood, and on the other hand, to a system of gases surrounding a planet, a climate has physical and sociocultural dimensions. As part of a whole, Hulme describes climate change as a synecdoche that stands for 1) a modern social system, 2) an economic ideology, 3) a loss of nature, and 4) a new geological epoch.[2] For Hulme, that social system is best described by Ulrich Beck’s analysis of the “risk society” of modernity, which is based on the management of hazards and uncertainties that society produces through its never-ending pursuit of progress and wealth.[3] Hulme follows Naomi Klein in identifying capitalism as the economic ideology of climate change.[4] It is an ideology for which the accumulation of wealth for the few happens at the expense of the many, thus producing social and ecological disasters, which then become justification for the further deployment of capitalist tactics, producing yet further disasters in an accelerating loop of what Klein calls “disaster capitalism.”[5] Liberalism and conservatism are both complicit in disaster capitalism. The liberal face of this ideology is the identity politics that incorporates people of diverse identities (races, ages, abilities, genders, etc.) to participate in the system, as if bringing more people closer to the wealthy top will eventuate in justice for the myriad beings at the disastrously impoverished bottom.

Along with the risk society and capitalist ideology, Hulme’s definition of climate change also includes the end of nature, which has been a topic of increasingly frequent discussion among environmental thinkers, with notable contributions like Carolyn Merchant’s classic ecofeminist text, The Death of Nature, and Bill McKibben’s book on climate change, The End of Nature, which were first published in 1980 and 1989 respectively. Many recent explorations of this topic refer to Timothy Morton’s theory of ecological criticism in his 2007 book Ecology without Nature. Climate change is part of the loss of the relatively regular, stable, ordered ground of nature, which is also a loss of ideas and fantasies of Nature as a big Other, whether friend or foe, sacred or profane. The regular patterns and ordered systems of nature have gradually become displaced as humans have extended their environmental impacts all around the planet, becoming an Earth-shaping force. The loss of nature is thus entwined with a new geological epoch.

As modern humans began adding high amounts of carbon, plutonium, plastic, Styrofoam, and a wide assortment of artificial chemicals to Earth’s crust, the geological epoch of the last 12,000 years (the Holocene) gave way to a new one that bares the indelible stamp of Homo sapiens, the Anthropocene. It is a controversial name, to be sure. It is not clear if this is indeed a new epoch or merely a boundary event between epochs. Furthermore, humans did not all participate equally in facilitating this geological transformation. Humans in WEIRD social locations (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) seem particularly responsible, yet that specificity is erased by the general humanity of Anthropos. The problem of nomenclature notwithstanding, the loss of nature marks the end of a natural Earth and the beginning of an Earth where the natural and the artificial have imploded. It is an Earth become artifact, “Eaarth,” as McKibben puts it. In sum, along with a change in average atmospheric conditions, climate change also stands for the end of nature, a change in geological epochs, and a society that, for the sake of progress and wealth accumulation, is willing to risk unprecedented scales of destructive change.[6]

With its sociocultural and biophysical dimensions overlapping in cause-effect cycles that extend from humans through the land, life, air, and water of Earth, climate change can be understood as a change in karma—the Sanskrit word for “action,” denoting a cause-effect principle found in Hinduis, Jainism, Indian philosophies (e.g., Vedanta, Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism). Karma includes all the cause-effect dynamics of all energy (psychological and physical) circulating on Earth and throughout the cosmos. Consider these remarks from the Tibetan Buddhist, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche:

All the processes that take place in the universe are dependent on the environmental situation of karma. It is rather like the atmosphere that the planet requires in order to function, in order for things to grow. When we talk about the karmic situation, we are speaking about the sense of individual relationship to the given situation, whatever it is. Any given situation is bounded by cause and effect, dependent on some cause and effect. […] So, altogether when we discuss karma, we are discussing energy.[7]

Karma includes enlightened action, such as the activity of the Buddha, as well as the action of one caught in samsara—the cycle of confusion, suffering, and rebirth. The difference is duality. In the samsaric condition, karma is “energy that moves from here to there and then bounces back,” which is “the definition of duality,” more specifically, it is “duality in the sense of the neurosis of dualistic fixation.”[8] Enlightened energy undoes the dualistic fixation through compassion.

The duality that separates self from other, or human from nonhuman, brings suffering into our karmic atmosphere. That dualistic fixation is driving many of the systems causing the climate crisis, such as processes of globalization, industrialization, capitalism, and technoscience. What if too much carbon in the atmosphere is caused by too much dualism in our karma? Can compassion help us escape this crisis? Not really. The desire to escape is the neurotic dualism that separates me from my situation. Looking for something to do to ensure a safe escape from ecological crisis is the very fixation driving the crisis. However, this does not mean that we should try to escape from our tendency to escape. That is obviously just more of the same problem, more of the same neurotic fixation.

What if efforts to get out of the ecological crisis were preventing us from getting out of ecological crisis? It is like a Chinese finger trap—a puzzle that you play with by putting a finger from one hand in one end of a small, finger-sized tube, and putting a finger from the other hand in the other end. Once your fingers are inside, you cannot pull them out without the trap tightening around your fingers and thus further entrenching you in the trap. To continue struggling against the trap is the dualistic fixation of the self who is opposed to the other, the fixation of humankind struggling against intimacy with nonhumans. The only way out is through—to let go, to release the fixation, to go with the flow. Samsaric energy mutates into compassion. If you let your fingers move further into the trap, the trap relaxes its grip and you can effortlessly free your fingers. Liberation comes from accepting the trap, letting beings be.

            A compassionate response to the climate crisis does not mean that you have to worry yourself with obsessive questioning, “What should I do?” It means letting things be, letting yourself be in unbearably intimate relations with nonhumans, letting samsaric energy mutate. It means trusting the process of letting things be, trusting your solidarity with nonhumans, and accepting imperfection. We all make mistakes. Striving to escape that basic impurity only intensifies samsaric energy but does not let it transform. Rather than micromanaging your life or giving constant attention to every single problem, compassionate action lets things be. The courage to be compassionate constitutes a mutation of the karma driving the climate crisis. Chögyam Trungpa puts it simply: “Part of compassion is trust. If something positive is happening, you don’t have to check up on it all the time. The more you check up, the more possibilities there are of interrupting the growth. It requires fearlessness to let things be.”[9]

Notes


[1] Mike Hulme, Weathered: Cultures of Climate (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 2017), xiii.

[2] Mike Hulme, “(Still) Disagreeing About Climate Change: Which Way Forward?” Zygon 50.4 (2015), 897-899.

[3] Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, trans. Mark Ritter (Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, 1992).

[4] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).

[5] Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (London: Picador, 2007).

[6] Bill McKibben, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough Planet (New York: Times Books, 2010).

[7] Chögyam Trungpa, The Future Is Open: Good Karma, Bad Karma, and Beyond Karma (Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 2018), 3

[8] Ibid., 3-4.

[9] Chögyam Trungpa, Mindfulness in Action: Making Friends with Yourself through Meditation and Everyday Awareness (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2015), 56.

The next ten years… — The Anthropocene Dashboard

One would think the latest reports documenting the lack of action regarding climate change, the continued and accelerating changes to the oceans and cryosphere, the deteriorating condition of the Great Barrier Reef, and the astonishing decline in avian populations along with the ongoing extinction of numerous other plant and animal species, should serve to focus […]

The next ten years… — The Anthropocene Dashboard

Towards a Cosmopolitics for the Anthropocene

Heather Alberro

PhD Candidate/Associate Lecturer

Nottingham Trent University

The question of how to live together harmoniously with our earthly co-inhabitants has never been more pressing amid the severe and worsening socio-ecological perturbations of the Anthropocene. Perhaps the most troubling is the systematic annihilation of our co-evolutionary kin that is the planet’s sixth mass extinction. In monopolizing the earth for ourselves- largely through neoliberal-capitalist socioeconomic systems predicated on ceaseless growth and consumption, spurring deforestation and related land-use changes, and the commodification of life itself for profit accumulation as an end-in-itself- a staggering 60% of monitored vertebrate species per 1970 levels have disappeared. Crucially, such loss is no mere epistemological phenomenon, as if these beings were quantifiable resources that could be recuperated, but a protracted event that marks the slow unravelling of cherished and irreplaceable ethico-political relations.

The aforementioned trends further stem from the long-standing tradition of anthropocentrism and its positing of humans as separate from and superior to the natural world and non-human entities, a legacy of the deep-seated Cartesian reduction of non-human animals to things acted upon, as not seeing but merely ‘seen’ by human subjects. If one conceives of politics as the manner by which society or the collective is arranged so as to enable its members to live well, then traditional conceptualizations have been woefully deficient in their arrogant exclusion of non-human others. Aristotle’s conception of the polis was famously logo-centric- a community predicated on its citizens’ abilities to speak, listen, and share a common vision of the good life. Similarly, Kant’s famed cosmopolitan proposal in Toward Perpetual Peace for a global citizenry bound by universal law and solidarity was thoroughly Western-Euro-centric in its exclusion of beings external to the human-world correlate. Kant regarded only rational beings as worthy of being treated as ends in themselves; non-rational beings (i.e., animals) had only “relative worth, as means” and were therefore regarded as mere things.

Such legacies are alive and well in contemporary political thought, which continues to construe the ‘cosmos’ far too narrowly. The non-human world is still posited- often implicitly and sometimes explicitly- as mere inert background to the unfolding human drama. In popular, policy, and even academic discourses, the natural world and other species are still framed matter-of-factly as resources for the satisfaction of human needs and desires. Yet, as Latour poignantly observes, the litany of ecological crises proliferating amid the Anthropocene in the form of super hurricanes, scorching droughts, raging wildfires, and rapidly vanishing flora and fauna constitute a ‘generalized revolt of the means’- protests by recalcitrant entities who no longer consent to being treated as mere inert objects for furthering human ends. Hence the fundamentally ethical imperative of a radical reconstitution of our common world, to be carefully designed by and for the long-excluded multitudes. As with the old schism between ‘Society’ and ‘Nature’, the ‘proliferating associations of nonhumans’ behind every human- and without whom we simply could not be- highlight the profound deficiencies of traditional conceptualisations of the cosmos and polis.

Both Latour and Stengers attempt to extricate themselves from these profoundly humanist traditions through their conception of cosmopolitics- ever-expanding assemblages of multiplicities of actants- human and non-human- that must be continuously negotiated and co-constructed. However, Latourian cosmopolitics perhaps affords a little too much primacy to the existing collective’s right, and indeed capacity, to decide, pending compromise and accommodation, who and on what terms is to be ‘welcomed’. In this case, new arrivals are to be welcomed pending the degree to which they can harmoniously mesh with existing actants by finding their rightful place in the collective, and on condition that they do not fundamentally disrupt the already-existing order. The query, ‘Can we live together?’, is posited as the sacred duty of those in the already-established collective rather than equally posed by external others. Moreover, the collective’s perimeter, however tentative, is still policed by those on the inside. It is here where Latour fails to direct sufficient attention to the violent, undemocratic, and therefore unethical implications of exclusion.

We must always ask ourselves who is left out and, crucially, from an ethical standpoint, what effects this might have on them. When Latour enquires as to what obliges one to “reserve the water of the river Drome for fish as opposed to using it to irrigate corn fields subsidized by Europe”, the answer doesn’t simply lie in whether or not we’ve taken into account all entities affected by such an act or in considering how excluding fish will affect the whole collective. Depriving the fish of water is ethically unacceptable because the fish needs water in order to live and flourish. Thus, a new ethic for the Anthropocene demands that we treat the vast profusion of more-than-human life on earth as singular and irreducible entities who matter in and of themselves, as political subjects worthy of inclusion and active participation in the earth collective, and crucially, as fellow earthlings who are with and not for us.