Mark Dery Interviews Rev. Chris Korda
MD: You remark, in the Spiegel article, that "there are simply too many
people on the Earth," which begs the obvious question: How many is too many?
In other words, at what point, precisely, did the Earth become overpopulated,
as opposed to merely populous, in your opinion? Your statement that there
"too many" implies that some human population might be acceptable to you,
as opposed to the far fringes of the Deep Ecology movement, where any human
population is seen as a viral infestation that should be eradicated. Is
humanity the problem, as the most misanthropic of the eco-radicals would
argue, or is the conspicuously consuming, solid-waste producing lifestyle
of the highly industrialized nations the culprit? If the latter, why don't
you specifically target the so-called First World in your "Save the Planet--Kill
Yourself" message? As well, why not call, like the Unabomber, for a return
to a pre-industrial lifestyle, rather than the eradication of humanity itself,
which is what your message seems to imply? Alternatively, if in fact you
are calling for the extermination of Homo sapiens in the name of salvation
of the planet, why frame the problem in terms of excess population--"too
many people on the Earth"--rather than population, period?
RCK: Unlike some of its sister organizations--the Voluntary Human Extinction
Movement, for example, or the germ-warfare advocates at the Gaia Liberation
Front--the Church of Euthanasia is not advocating human extinction, except
possibly as a last resort. The Church is devoted to restoring balance between
humans and the remaining species, through voluntary population reduction.
Modern humans are out of balance, not only with the world, and with each
other, but within themselves, in the sense of mass neurosis that Wilhelm
Reich described. The restoration of balance will require a leap of consciousness
within each individual; the day-to-day operations of the Church are a heartfelt--albeit
Quixotic--attempt to provoke that leap, using the propaganda tools of industrial
Paleontology tells us that humans have existed in a recognizable form for
at least two, and possibly as much as four million years. By contrast, the
world-view that now dominates 99% of humanity was almost unknown 5000 years
ago. The rapid expansion of the modern world-view follows not only writing
and symbolic culture, but more importantly the transition from nomadic hunting
and gathering to sedentary agriculture and its obsession with surplus. Daniel
Quinn has aptly contrasted the tribal and modern views as those of "leavers"
and "takers," implying that tribal humans, whatever their shortcomings, did
not imagine that they were the sole purpose of creation and that earth should
only grow food for them. Tribal world-views typically include a profound
reverence for wilderness, a belief in the rightness of the natural world,
and a marked preference for "being"--oral tradition, lore, ritual, shared
experience--over "gaining" of material things.
Unlimited population growth is the inevitable consequence of a society based
on "gaining", without regard for future generations, even of humans. The
question is not when the earth became overpopulated, but when humans became
unbalanced, and began to live in an unsustainable way. Most people agree
that "taker" culture evolved--or devolved--out of "leaver" culture, but the
change is almost always presented as a dualism, either as "progress" or "disintegration",
depending on your point of view. Only two directions are considered, forward--towards
progress--and backward, the "return to pre-industrial life" you mention.
Could humans choose to live in a sustainable way, at a greatly reduced population,
by rediscovering ancient wisdom, without abandoning their scientific advances?
Possibly, but only if the industrial nations set the example, by drastically
reducing both their populations and their consumption. This is why the Church
explicitly targets that tiny percentage of humanity who reap the dubious
material benefits of domestication: the technological elite, the users of
the internet--in short, your readers.
MD: You were affiliated with the Unabomber For President group, UNAPACK, and
have said that you're "very sympathetic" to his beliefs. Help me out: I'm
having difficulty reconciling your Unabomber fandom with your stated opposition
to "all involuntary population reduction." Thinning the herd through serial
mail-bombing strikes me as "involuntary," at least for the luckless wretches
who opened Ted Kaczynski's packages. Moreover, color me hopelessly humanist,
but I fail to see the political virtue in blowing away someone like Hugh
Scrutton, whose apparent crime against humanity was renting computers, or
Gilbert P. Murray, an official of the California Forestry Association who
wasn't even the Unabomber's intended victim. Don't you have some pause about
a man whose campaign of terror seems one part ideology, nine parts sociopathology?
Most of the Unabomber's victims were not, as you've asserted, "directly
connected to either genetics or computer science." In addition to one geneticist
and one computer-science professor, they included an advertising executive,
a timber-industry lobbyist, an engineering professor, an airline president,
a psychology professor's assistant, a university secretary, a school guard,
and two computer store owners--hardly the power elite of the Industrial
Society he railed against. How deep can the Deep Ecology run in a man who
wrote in his diary that he had "no regret" that the wrong man--married and
a father of two--was his accidental victim?
RCK: All worthy targets, when the goal is correctly understood. The Unabomber
was not attempting to assassinate the "power elite" of industrial society,
nor could he, since they are obviously too numerous and replaceable. The
Unabomber was fighting a guerilla war against the media system, represented
not only by the corporate fortresses of the New York Times and the Washington
Post, but also by thousands of lesser protectors of the status quo, such
as yourself. His strategy was to blackmail the media into publishing what
would otherwise be unpublishable: a 30,000 word indictment of every aspect
of the technological state, including specific advice on how best to destroy
it, in what may prove to be its only moment of weakness. He chose his victims
carefully for their symbolic value, leaving the media with little choice
but to publish his manifesto, footnotes and all. It can be argued that the
strategy was nonetheless a failure: the public largely ignored the manifesto,
having already been cleverly persuaded that its author wasn't a sanctioned
expert--despite his academic credentials--and could therefore be safely ignored.
From this point of view even the relatively incoherent efforts of the Church
of Euthanasia are more effective, because they are disguised as entertainment
and therefore sell themselves easily without the need for blackmail.
Personally, I have neither the skill nor the disposition to be a successful
guerilla, and in any case I'm already too well-known. I encourage voluntary
population reduction in my official capacity, but as a private citizen, I
applaud the courage and tenacity of those who do battle with the technological
state, and occasionally win small victories, against impossible odds. Our
global, industrial prison-state has six billion inmates, consumes unimaginable
quantities of minerals, plants, and animals, and vomits a toxic soup of death
into every remote cavity of this once-flourishing planet. American criticism
of the Unabomber's violence seems especially surreal at this moment, as our
B-52s reduce the urban population of former Yugoslavia to stone-age conditions.
To think that such monstrous abuse of power can be corrected by nursing
pacifist sentiments in the wilderness--or what's left of it--is simply naive.
MD: The CoE's rhetoric sometimes fudges the distinction between population
reduction and pedophobia. Flamboyant baby-loathing, from Evelyn Waugh's
revulsion at his own offspring to Debbie Goad's bilious Answer Me! screed,
"Babies Are Dirty" ("Babies are dirty. Babies are disgusting...When I see
a newborn, I feel nauseous."), is a tried-and-true vanguardist tactic for
outraging the bourgeoisie. Given some of the CoE's fellow travelers--the
career bad boy and Answer Me! publisher Jim Goad, the serial killer-worshipper
Randall Phillips, both of whom make fleeting appearance in Snuff It--it's
tempting to see the CoE as part of the venerable tradition of certifying
one's credentials as a subcultural badass by scandalizing the squares.
RCK: No, Mark, I think you are the one most concerned about "certifying your
credentials as a subcultural badass." I have no patience with smug academics
who masquerade as cultural revolutionaries, or self-styled "culture jammers"
who drape their feeble leftist sentiments in art-world jargon, the better
to be pimped in trendy galleries. While there are undeniably too many of
them, babies are natural enough. Pompous critics are truly dirty, and boring.
MD: Marvelous. I've only skimmed your last two responses, but they're every
bit as spirited as I'd hoped--especially that blast of buckshot directed
at "smug academics who masquerade as cultural revolutionaries, or self-styled
"culture jammers" who drape their feeble leftist sentiments in art-world
jargon, the better to be pimped in trendy galleries." Well worth the price
of admission! (But I'm confused as to which I am, since I'm not an "academic"--I
hold no degree loftier than a B.A., and have never taught--nor have I ever
styled myself a "culture jammer." For the record, the trendiness of CB's
gallery is right up there with short-sleeved suits and Whitesnake albums;
I've pimped my feeble, jargon-encrusted leftist sentiments in far hipper
cultural brothels, I must protest.)
Now, my last question; I look forward to a showstopping response, at least
the equal of your answers so far.
As I understand it, the CoE's holiest commandment, "save the planet, kill
yourself," is founded on the neo-Malthusian article of faith that the Earth's
population is exploding exponentially, thereby straining the planet's presumably
already groaning carrying capacity to the breaking point. The next millennium,
the story goes, will witness environmental apocalypse and social breakdown--"suffering
on a scale we can't even imagine yet," as you put it, Population Bomb nightmares
that will make some wish they "had killed yourselves, because this planet
is going to be a very grim and frightening place." The Church concedes the
disproportionate environmental impact of highly industrialized societies--the
exploitation of nature as an infinitely renewal raw material for capitalism's
vicious cycle production and consumption. Nonetheless, the Church focuses
almost exclusively on what it sees as the dire, almost apocalyptic need for
population reduction, championing abortion as a social good and contraception
as a global obligation. In so doing, it lays the full burden of social responsibility
at the individual's doorstep.
The CoE's emphasis on individual choice, rather than corporate
power and capitalist ideology, strikes me as a strategic error that leaves
it tilting at windmills. Moreover, the misanthropy that lies just beneath
the surface of the CoE's baby-loathing and breeder-bashing aligns it with
the unhappiest of bedfellows--naked apologists for the power elite like
Ehrlich, whose Population Bomb reels with Hieronymous Boschean visions
of the overbreeding underclasses, like the swarming, locustlike masses glimpsed
during a taxi ride through Delhi: "My wife and daughter and I were returning
to our hotel in an ancient taxi. The seats were hopping with fleas....
The streets seemed alive with people. People eating, people washing, people
sleeping. People visiting, arguing, and screaming. People thrusting their
hands through the taxi window, begging. People defecating and urinating.
People clinging to buses. People herding animals. People, people, people,
people." Here, then, is Dorian Gray's true face, the racism, classism, and
misanthropy that are too often hidden behind the dream of a pre-industrial,
nay, pre-human Paradise Regained, a wilderness world emptied at last of the
eating, washing, sleeping, visiting, arguing, screaming, begging, defecating,
urinating masses. And the masses, naturally, are always the teeming, undifferentiated
others--everyone, that is, but me.
RCK: I can certainly be described as misanthrope--or more correctly as an anti-humanist--but
that doesn't make me racist or classist. In fact I oppose both on the same
grounds that I oppose nationalism and humanism. Racists imagine they are
superior to other races, classists imagine they are superior to other classes,
nationalists imagine they are superior to other nations, and humanists imagine
they are superior to other species. Globalists imagine industrial society
is superior to all other cultures, hence the need to export it to every corner
of the globe. The common thread through all of these, obviously, is superiority.
Personally, I remain unconvinced of my superiority, despite years of expensive
conditioning. I tend to view humans the way a being from outer space would
view them: as a species, housed among many other species.
Overall, as a species, since, say, 500 B.C. or so, humans have been behaving
oddly. They started by cutting down all the trees in their places of origin,
often in order to make boats to spread themselves everywhere else. They
have been amazingly effective at turning wilderness into human biomass, but
until recently appeared oblivious to the long-term consequences of this strategy.
Now that the consequences are abundant--in the form of climate change, topsoil
loss, and toxicity--changes are being made, but for the most part they are
half-hearted reforms, far short of the about-face that is so urgently needed.
The tool-wielding apes--again, viewed as a species--are either sucking as
hard as they can on the tit of industrial society, living in flamboyant denial
of the limits of their environment, or seeking to do so as soon as possible,
usually by going to war with their neighbors.
Thus the most prominent characteristic of the human species appears to be
a lethal combination of arrogance and stupidity. The underlying problem
is that humans think they are superior to everything else, when in fact--from
the point of view of long-term survival--they are the least well-adapted
social creatures on the planet, unlike the ants, who are much more likely
to inherit the earth, as Paul Erlich has observed.
As you correctly point out, the Church of Euthanasia focuses primarily on
population rather than consumption. It is also true that our message is
only received by the elite of the industrial nations, who are leading the
charge, in terms of consumption. So the question is, since most of the industrial
nations are approaching population stability anyway, why do we focus on population?
Suppose you're a "good consumer." Let's say you recycle, buy "green" products,
donate to environmental causes, and so on. You even limit yourself to one
child, and you're determined to raise the child with values similar to yours,
ensuring that he or she will carry on the good work of saving the earth for
future generations. Now let's just say, for arguments' sake, that your child
rebels against your middle-class, intellectual, politically correct conditioning,
and winds up swilling beer in a trailer park, with three kids. It happens.
And what guarantee do we have that those three kids are going follow in
the noble footsteps of their grandparent? None whatsoever. Let's say one
rises above his humble roots and becomes an investment banker, with a Porche,
a house in the suburbs, and two fashionably dressed children. Another elopes
with a biker, sets up shop in a nearby trailer park, and produces some less
well-groomed specimens. The third becomes a priest and only has sex with
boys--a partial success anyway.
Guess what? You just wiped out all the gain from your recycling, "green"
consuming, and tax-deductible contributions. Not only did you wipe it out,
you reversed it, many times over. How did it happen? It happened because
individual consumption affects the future linearly, while procreation affects
it exponentially. The impact of a single child on future generations can't
even be approximated, because there are too many variables. It should be
obvious by now why the Church is advocating massive voluntary population
reduction in the industrial nations. We're advocating it because it's the
only way the current generation can affect the distant future. It's just
too late--way too late--for cutting back on consumption and hoping for the
best. We can no longer afford to gamble on something as tenuous as the transmission
of values from parents to children. We need to reduce the number of Americans,
Europeans, and Japanese, as soon as possible, by at least a factor of ten,
no matter what.
I also believe it's unreasonable to demand that people abandon all of their
social conditioning at once. It's not just a question of giving up convenience.
The people I'm reaching have, by and large, learned only the skills that
are useful to industrial society--mathematics, logic, reading, writing, analysis,
and so forth--and have absorbed the esthetics of industrial society--such
as they are--in the process. I'm no exception to this. I identify strongly
with technical culture, because it's all I know. If I were suddenly transported
to the wilderness, even given friendly tribal neighbors willing to tolerate
my ineptness, I would almost certainly go crazy. No amount of wishing would
make me a tribal person, raised by oral tradition to love wilderness and
survive in it easily. Deprived of usefulness, my experience would be similar
to that of elderly people confined in nursing homes.
By comparison, not having children is hardly even a sacrifice, for me, or
for most members of the technical elite. The decline of birth rates in the
industrial countries only proves this point. Most people I know are much
too busy answering e-mail and updating their web pages to raise children,
even if they were willing to give up so much of their disposable income.
The very rich continue to breed, in part because children have become status
symbols, but more importantly because they can afford to pay others to raise
their children for them. Leisure time is the holy grail of technological
society, and is unlikely to be increased by procreation. It's possible that
the elite will prove self-eliminating, in a kind of reverse Darwinism: population
reduction via hedonism and sheer selfishness. From this point of view, the
Church of Euthanasia is simply encouraging an existing trend, a reasonable
strategy in any situation.
MD: As a "protector of the status quo" and gutless stooge for the manufacturers
of consent, I usually fabricate my so-called "facts" outright, of course.
But I'm feeling GiGi tonight, and have decided, just this once, to report
empirically verifiable facts. Please assist me in my campaign for fairness
and accuracy in mass mind-control by nailing down the following details:
1) What's your relationship to UNAPACK? Did you found it?
Unapack was founded and run by Lydia Eccles. I was merely a loyal campaign
worker. I wrote some of the campaign literature, dealt with the media on
numerous occasions, and accompanied Lydia to the New Hampshire primary and
the Democratic Convention in 1996. I was also the Unapack poster girl.
2) Are you "Chris" or "Chrissy?"
3) Randall Phillips is listed as a "contact" in Snuff It #4. Why? What's
the connection between him, or his thought and writings, and the CoE?
Randall's descriptions of humanity as a "Martian invasion" have much in common
with my view from outer space described above. Humans are behaving like
bacteria in a petri dish, and if nothing is done their fate will be similar.
The main difference is that while he identifies "intelligent", aryan, male
humans as superior, and presents himself as an example thereof, I don't share
his optimism, and regard him--and myself--as part of the problem.
4) So are the Goads. Again, what's the connection?
The Goads have a flair for expressing the pervasive ugliness of modern life,
and for linking the ugliness to neurosis and sexual abuse, in the most shocking
and personal way. Again, we agree about the problems, but not about the