Neoshamanism, Burning Man and Scorched Earth Tourism | Daniel Pinchbeck
Daniel Pinchbeck is an American author whose books include Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, and How Soon Is Now? From Personal Initiation to Global Transformation.
He is a co-founder of the web magazine Reality Sandwich and of the website Evolver.net, and edited the North Atlantic Books publishing imprint Evolver Editions. He was featured in the documentary 2012: Time for Change, directed by Joao Amorim and produced by Mangusta Films. He is the founder of the think tank Center for Planetary Culture, which produced the Regenerative Society Wiki.
On this episode, Daniel joins me to discuss his essay "Life and Death in Tulum," the evolution and diffusion of the Burning Man festival and community to other parts of the world in the form of tourism, Zizek's neoshamanism and neobuddhism ideas, the cultural colonialism of modern music festivals, and the logic of late-stage capitalism. Enjoy!
Introduction / New York City
Bhutan and the Contradictions of Modern Travel
Privilege and the Evasion of Community Building
Life and Death in Tulum Essay
The Commodification of Everything in southern Mexico
Burning Man Festival and Clean Up Crew
The Rise and Fall of Burning Man
Spiritual anarchism vs Hedonistic Libertarianism
Slavoj Zizek and Neoshamanism/Neobuddhism
The Cultural Colonialism of Music/Art Festivals
A Reason for Pessimism
The Logic of Late-Stage Capitalism
Daniel Pinchbeck - Neoshamanism, Burning Man, and Scorched Earth Tourism
Chris: Welcome to the End of Tourism, Daniel.
Daniel: Thanks for having me.
Chris: Would you do us the honor of telling our listeners where you find yourself today and what the world looks like, where you are?
Daniel: I'm in New York City. It's winter, but mainly been a very global warming, mild winter until the last week or so. It got, it got quite cold.
Chris: I'd like to begin by asking you a bit about your own travels. In your 2017 book, How Soon is Now: from Personal Initiation to Global Transformation, you wrote that quote, "many believe that our ability to descend on distant cultures, whenever we feel like it is somehow beneficial to the world. We don't see it as a form of colonialist entitlement or another addiction."
I'm curious how your own travels might've contributed to this understanding, and if so, how?
Daniel: Um, how my own travels contribute to that understanding. I don't think I can really answer that. But I mean, that understanding to me is like a fairly logical outcome of just thinking about the fact that we're very privileged to be people in the first world, developed worlds, who have an opportunity to sort of travel where we want.
And many of the people that I know have become, you know, quote unquote "digital nomads." So if they're doing like lifestyle coaching or marketing or tech or whatever, they can basically do that from anywhere in the planet. And obviously because they're wealthy and come with money to restaurants and buy goods, there's desirability for them to make a second home someplace or whatever.
But I mean, I love travel. I think travel is like a good, a great human activity. The problem is that in terms of bluntly, like CO2 emissions, flying around on planes is pretty much one of the worst things you can do along with eating meat or whatever. And also, I think that often we see in the world over the last decades kind of like homogenization, cultural homogenization.
And so the tourism which ends up taking Western first world values and spreading them everywhere acts as kind of a larger imperialist, colonialist kind of project that can lead to the deterioration of the integrity of local cultures and very few countries and cultures have had the capacity to kind of build the defense structure, recognizing the danger of this.
Like you have somewhere like Butan, where I've not been, where I'd actually love to go. Uh, it seems like one of the only countries, cultures that, you know, that was able to kind of organize this sort of coherent response, you know, making use of it for their benefit rather than being used by the system in a way.
Chris: Yeah, it's an extremely limited amount of people they let in each year. And it usually costs a pretty significant amount, just enter the country. And then I think most of the travel that people do is more or less organized by the state. To some degree, they can't just go off wherever they want and do whatever they want. necessarily.
Daniel: Exactly. I helped organize and was part of two retreats with the Kogi and the Arawak people in Columbia in the Sierra Nevadas. And they were able to kind of seclude themselves and villages high up in the mountains, but they actually don't really let outsiders come. There was like one film crew that got to make a film there once, but generally they will come down from the mountain to meet us.
And you know, some of that is just not wanting our culture to pollute the integrity of their culture. You know, what they've built for thousands of years, you know?
Chris: Um, yeah. I wanted to ask you a little bit about the cultural myths around travel as well. You know, generally speaking, we have many competing this in our time.
Some of them more overt, some of them subtle, often invisible, and I wonder about the myths of travel and how they arise in our time. The ones that quietly sit at the peripheries of our days, the hero conquers of the old Greco-Roman myths and the exiled cultures of biblical times and more recent movements of European and African descendant ancestors of recent centuries.
How do you see these myths showing up today? These, these traveling myths in the escapism and touristic pleasure seeking of modern people, if they show up at all. What might you attribute this wanderlust to on a mythic level?
Daniel: In modern culture? I guess people don't feel fully satisfied by their local experience.
Like the exotic is associated with adventure, mystical experience, eroticism, transcendence, exoticism obviously. So yeah. I mean, those are all reasons why people feel the need to, and it's healthy. I mean, you know, I think it's healthy to a certain extent, but I mean, um, you know, my thinking in the book that you mentioned was more about, you know, recognizing that we actually are in this global ecological emergency right now.
And so, we should sort of question things that we've taken on as like assumptions or become cultural norms. And, it just feels that, you know, particularly if you're well off and you know, part of the first world culture, it's almost too easy to not, you know, contribute to local community building.
And it's just easy to go off and fall in love with the exoticism in another society, and maybe it's a way often of avoiding responsibility or something. And that's kind of what I meant by that initial statement. Also obviously now we've had several years of the pandemic, which has kind of impacted, it's sort of limited people's horizons in a way, maybe not all a bad way, but I don't see as much kind of crazy adventurous travel happening right now. It doesn't feel as much. So it's like even the, even the zest for it and kind of dampened down right now. And I could be wrong, but that's the sense that I get.
Chris: Well, I wanted to touch on your essay that you put out about a year ago entitled, "Life and Death in Tulum" because in this part of the continent a sense that that escapism is at an all time high. And so I'd like to speak a little bit to that, to that essay that you wrote. And, you know, I'd like to begin by asking you for the sake of our listeners, what you were doing in Tulum and what inspired you to write that essay?
Daniel: Well, I mean, I kind of ended up in Tulum, I don't know if "accidentally" is the right word.
I was in Austria when the lockdown started, I had a girlfriend from Vienna, a fiance at that point, and, um, we spent about five months in Vienna and then I, you know, had overstayed my US visa there. And so we had to leave Europe and she couldn't come with me to the US the US was also closed to Europeans at that point.
So then there were only about three or four countries in the world that we could go to. And, um, I had friends in Tulum, in Mexico, who were living on a beach hotel there and had been there since the quarantine, and it was sort of like only semi-open so they could offer a very cheap rate compared to what it normally was.
So it was actually kind of amazing. We got to be there and the beaches were very empty and giant sea turtles were coming back up to lay their eggs and so on. It's kind of like probably a little bit closer to the way that Tulum was, you know, 15 or 20 years ago before it became so... so I sort of fell in love with it and didn't really see any reason to go back to New York because, you couldn't do anything in New York and Tulum because everything most things happen outside
there wasn't so much, you know, masking and so on. So you could go to restaurants or cafes and work or whatever, you know, workshops or yoga or whatever. So, even though we broke up, I just decided to stay in Tulum, um, and ended up staying there for a year. And you know, in some ways it was beautiful and I had some good experiences, made some new friends, gave a bunch of talks to the hotels, but I began to get depressed by the situation in Tulum.
And essentially there's more cartels moving in, so there's more shootings happening. It's become more kind of a mainstream destination spot, maybe the level of American tourists is getting sort of more like Cancun tourists, just going to get drunk and kind of pillage, you know, and the environmental problems are exacerbating.
Like there's these algae infestations to see that make it unswimmable and incredibly stinky. And, um, the cenotes are getting polluted by human waste and by antidepressants. Yeah, the whole thing kind of feels like sort of it's still sort of masquerading as an ecological paradise, but actually it's sort of a catastrophe and I feel guilty about being there and contributing to that.
I wrote a book called 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl,, which talks about the Mayan calendar. And I was hoping to find maybe some useful way to interface with the local Mayan communities. And that's another thing. The way that workers are treated in the hotels. You know, a lot of the developments have took land away from the traditional Maya who probably just lived there, didn't really have legal contract, was just their indigenous place. So they were kind of booted out and developers, you know, move in and they pay local Mayan workers the lowest rates, and they're basically never promoted to higher levels of work where they can get compensated better. And meanwhile they're using the Mayan symbology and the Mayan names and everything for the hotels and the streets of the tourist district. The whole thing just began to feel really kind of depressing to me.
Chris: You referred to it somewhere in the essay as a "Las Vegas like bedlam." I haven't been to Las Vegas, but I can only imagine. Before we move deeper into that essay, I wanted to ask you a little bit about burning man, because, as you mentioned in the essay and for people who know Tulum, for people who've been there for people who live there, there's a whole lot of the Burner culture and Burning Man-esque, vibe in that place.
You know, I spent two years at Burning Man, about 10 years ago. And my own time there was a liberating learning experience, you know, generally for how it all could be and for a short time, I guess sometimes is, but at the end of the day, the, the vast majority of the festivals guests only spend a week in that place with very little regard often to what became of it afterwards.
And so the post festival cleanup is an example, for our listeners, the post festival restoration project is undertaken to ensure that the desert environment of Black Rock City is left without a trace of human trash or waste. And this process often takes months to, to complete cleaning up after an event that includes up to a hundred thousand people.
And so, it's hard not to see the parallels between the consequences of conventional tourism and the festival like that in regards to waste. You know, people take off for a week to paradise. And even though they don't have the amenities that you would at a beach resort necessarily, the consequence appears as enduring to some degree.
And generally only a fraction of people stay behind to witness that consequence with everyone else going home to resume their lives in the "default world." and so I'm wondering, what do you think the major limitations of the festival are in this regard? And do you think it's become a, a tourist event or attraction.
Daniel: Um, yeah, I actually think their, their cleanup situation is pretty great. I mean, I'm not only because they have the "leave no trace" model, which everybody kind of adopts when they're there, so nobody's like throwing like cigarette butts or cans around. It's actually amazing how well everybody follows that dictating and when they're, you know, high and everything. So, and then, yeah, I mean, it wouldn't make sense for everybody to stay for weeks and clean up, but you know, they have a volunteer cadre and I do have friends who've done it and they grid out through the whole desert and they go like square by square.
They remove anything, you know, every little bit of like feather, every piece of glitter that they find every bit of like, you know, cigarette remnant or whatever. And some of them talk about it actually being kind of like a spiritual kind of experience, almost like a Tibertan, you know, sand mandala, erasing the sand, but doing it incredibly slowly, like grain by grain.
Um, you know, and then thinking about how each of these objects was imbued with this kind of like experience. So, I think in terms of that aspect of the event, they actually doing that as you know? I can't really see how you can do better than that.
I had an arc, you know, when I first discovered Burning Man, I wrote about it for Rolling Stone. And that was back in like 2000. You know, my mind was totally blown. I mean, I was grew up in New York and I decided to write a book about psychedelics and started, you know, went to the Africa and the Amazon.
But I had no idea that there was such a healthy underground culture that was still, you know, fascinated by these experiences and altering people's consciousness and kind of developed an ethos around like art is like the center of a society. So yeah, all that stuff was incredible and the communities and, you know, so many, you know, we could speak an hour or whatever about that, but, um, you know, somebody asks for seven were incredibly minded.
And then I started going back every year and I wrote about it again and again, like I wrote about it for art forum and I wrote about it in my books and, um, at a certain point, something began to turn for me and it may have also just partially been me. I mean, I think I had some issues to work out but, I began to feel that the festival had kind of like two main kind of like streams in it.
One was kind of the spiritual anarchism side. And the other was more like the hedonistic, libertarian side. And it felt to me that more and more the festival embraced the, hedonistic libertarian side, you know, and those were often the people with the money to build huge art installations, like the tech bros, the crypto investors, and then all the big money from Europe, all the big Illuminati families, started to come to Burning Man.
So it began to feel that that kind of like anarchist mystical spirit got sort of co-opted and became another kind of consumer commodity spectacle where, you know, there's nothing to buy during the week. People would research how you're supposed to look at Burning Man and buy exactly those clothes and how you're supposed to act at Burning Man.
And so they would be like, okay, like 3:00 AM. I'm supposed to be at Scumfrog, Robot Heart. That's where the action is. So, you know, the original idea was to have this kind of spontaneous experience of like what Hakim Bey called a "temporary autonomous zone" where you can explore different types of, you know, creativity and self-expression.
And I felt that over time it formed the culture. I mean, Terence McKenna talked about how culture is our enemy and when you have a culture that are going to still conforms to that culture. And so to me, it became almost insanely conformist at a certain point. Like everybody knew.
I mean, although it was. Unlike clubs and bottles in New York, models and bottles in like New York clubs, there was a slightly different ethos. It wasn't really, you know, necessarily that different. It was just like MDMA and Ketamine and go-go boots and stripper poles, you know. And everybody kind of like pretending that that was some, you know, emancipatory experience, when it was still very elitist or whatever. So,
Um, yeah, there's still incredible art there and I'm trying to learn as I get older to watch my trajectory to tendency to become like extremely, um, you know, overly analytical and overly critical because certainly people still go to Burning Man and have the time of their lives.
And, you know, a lot of them, they didn't even imagine about how you can have a community that doesn't have money exchange for a week, where everybody's a participant and all that kind of stuff.
Chris: I think what binds the Burning Man community in places like Tulum and now places like Oaxaca as well is, is what you referred to via Slavoj Zizek's consideration of neo-Buddhism or neoshamanism as something that's become and you write, " the underlying ideology of contemporary post-industrial capitalism. You go on to say that " this allows people to continue to participate in the capitalist game with minimal guilt because they've connected to a separate realm of inner peace and detachment."
Could you elaborate a little bit for our listeners about this post-New Age condition and its consequences?
Daniel: Yeah, actually, I just read a really nice piece from what's his name? Alex Ebert, maybe who is the singer for Edward Sharpe on kind of the new age, religion of the self.
What you see like "The Secret," the law of manifestation. Joe Dispenza, you know, kind of hugely popular people go to all these retreats, spend thousands of dollars. It's basically this idea of like individual sovereignty that as an individual you can manifest anything, but it's very separate from, you know, collective responsibility or the idea of interdependence .
But yeah, I mean, so, there's some, you know, sort of capitalist rat race tends to make people a little bit miserable. And this whole mindfulness, new age movement has developed kind of as a result, but a lot of it has integrated entrepreneurial capitalism rather than seeing itself as a counteractive or antidote.
So, you know, Google will teach like mindfulness, or corporate executives will learn breathwork practices that can handle stress better. And also some of these practices can be used not only as non-attachment, but also as detachment. So, you know, if you're able to find the "power of now" and "the secret" and so on, you know, that basically means it's very much still about you and your individual experience doesn't really have the sense of interdependence or you could actually use that to feel less responsibility for the fact that your company profits so much compared to impoverished people in other parts of the world who make the raw minerals or stuff like that.
Chris: Oh, there's this next question I ask on behalf of some friends and, and people here in Oaxaca because the kind of individualistic detachment that you speak of has come to be sort of epidemic here in regards to the tourism and tourism development, both in the capital and on the coast. In Life and Death in Tulum, you, write,
uh "that some of the main hoteliers who brought the burning man crowd here to Tulum and started the current tourist frenzy are already scouting land in Oaxaca..." This is a year ago ..."and other regions getting ready to abandon Tulum as it becomes increasingly commercialized."
It's kind of hard not to see this as, um, almost a scorched earth policy.
Build the hotels while displacing local people and wildlife. Invite the DJs and gurus who bring the people who search up the drugs and inadvertently invite cartel violence, prostitution, and constant fear in the lives of locals all in the name of overnight enlightenment, catharsis, and social media recognition.
And so when this, when this, when all of this shit becomes too dangerous and the profits dry up, uh, people move to another undeveloped paradise and repeat the process. And I think for a lot of people here, locals, especially, it's hard not to consider this as a form of conquest. And I want to ask you about this because the consequences seem to be the exact opposite of what the quote, neospiritual or neoshamanic or Burning Man communities stand for..
So I'm curious, why do you think these contradictions run so deep in these subcultures or counter-culture?
Daniel: Well, first of all, I totally agree that it is a form of conquest. And second of all, I think the neospiritual, neoshamanic, neoindigenous ideology of these burning man communities is, for the most part kind of surface level and because as I said, it's like connected to this more like libertarian entrepreneurial ethos, which is like part of the cancer that's eating through the planet. So, until that was like really embedded in like a systemic and structural critique that actually produced different types of communities and infrastructures then it's just a bunch of, you know, parasitic trash.
And I do have some friends who are seeking to think through what, you know, what they could actually create, that would actually point, that would actually embody, let's say the principles of an inclusive anarchism, you know, even recognizing that they have a level of privilege.
I have friends in Costa Rica who bought community there and they're creating like a sort of local barter system with other communities around them and indigenous communities and trying to share value. They're some of the most thoughtful people that I know.
And I don't think they're necessarily, you know, mean badly or, you know, mean evil, but they're just living according to the precepts that they've been brought up with. And success, you know, means a certain thing, and a bunch of investors and they like to party together in a certain way, you know, like Tulum had the festival, uh, art with me, "Art With Me." And not only was it a super spreader event that, you know, ended up spreading COVID like everywhere. They had like, um, you know, an art section, but you know, most of the art was like, white burning man artists, you know, very small representation of local art. Even the name was an English name, so it really wasn't very inviting. to it being a meeting of cultures, whatever. And I've even realized this more over the last year or two, these different like festivals, places that maybe invite me to speak also, they would have like a thin veneer of critique or of sustainability, but it really is just validating what they really want to do, which is more like the party.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. I saw a meme here the other day and it was, a cartoon of all the kind of tourist types that you would expect in a place. And then it said on the top of the caption, it said "ego tourism" as opposed to "ecotourism."
So, the thing here is that it's hard to, even in Oaxaca where this quote migration, you know, perhaps from Tulum and other places is currently underway. Even if we consider it as the beginning of something, it's really, really difficult to imagine, any escape from it. That the notion that it's just beginning, that it's already too late to enact real change.
One of the things I've always been really grateful for and impressed by in your work is kind of your reflexivity, your capacity to kind of interrogate your own assumptions over the years and over the decades.
And specifically in the context of a subculture and subcultures and countercultures that are, you know, often, very myopic in their way of proceeding in the world. And so, um, you know, following two years of pandemic fallout, what, if anything, has changed for you in regard to how you think we might proceed?
Have you become more critical or cynical of the subcultures or do you see . Hope or promise bubbling up from the murk?
Daniel: I think over the next five to 10 years, you know, we're entering a period of like economic dislocation and collapse and, um, you know, potentially that would allow for more experiments, like the one I mentioned to my friends in Costa Rica.
It could become a very chaotic and turbulent time. I mean, it looks highly likely that the authoritarian right will take power again in the US whether it's Trump or a Trump-like person. Yeah. I don't know. It feels like sort of a gloomy time. Because "How Soon is Now" was very much envisioning what a kind of system design approach to transformation would be like, but, um, that book was like, you know, hardly reviewed hardly made an impact. It just seemed like it was too far in advance where most people could go with their thoughts right now. So that, I guess left me with a little sense of pessimism.
I don't really, I know. I mean, it just feels like if we could collectively break the spell of the system now, we would have a chance of averting, some of the worst consequences and ecological destruction, but that doesn't seem to be happening. And within a few years, the effects will be exponential.
I mean, people talk about the Amazon collapsing as a functional ecosystem within like 10 to 15 years and the Amazon is like the hydrologic logical heart of planet. So, you know, that means that, you know, water hydrological system, the clouds is going to circulate in the same way. Um, and we're already seeing with the dislocations that we've made, you know, massive effects, like, California ravaged by forest fires, Australia know ravaged by fire. The Arctic melting at a rate like beyond what scientists even projected like three to five years ago.
So, you know, and this is kind of all in alignment with my other books, my 2012 book, which kind of said that we were going through and sort of cataclysmic metamorphosis that would both be, you know, a physical event and an event in the collective psyche and unconsciousness.
I'd say the way it's unfolding a little bit slower maybe than I anticipated from 2006, 2007, but certainly fast enough. And, you know, what I'd hoped and writing that book and then starting this project Evolver is that we would see kind of a antidote emerging about somehow cooperative or collective antidote.
And something really doesn't seem to be allowing for that to emerge. I'm very interested in the work of Christopher Bosch. There's a lecture of his, that I put up on my, uh, "liminal.news" website, where he had a lot of kind of visions of the near future, where through a high dose of LSD, where he saw both kind of, um, collapse and then kind of like mycelial kind of reconnections and then kind of something totally different happening.
So, I mean, you know, maybe that we're all just playing musical chairs right now and at a time is going to come where, you know, things aren't moving anymore and you're just gonna have to figure it out, you know, where you're at locally.
I have some interest also in blockchain and, um, kind of the web 3 technologies, peer to peer distributed autonomous organizations. I have a lot of concerns about them also.
I've been studying this website that's organized by Evgeny Morozov called "The Crypto Syllabus," where he kind of looks at a lot of left-wing, academic critiques of the developments in crypto, whether it's like the smart contract or the ecological damage caused by them or the inflated claims made by them, or the fact that most of them are really just speculative kind of like scams but even so with all that being said, you know, it is the first technology that we've seen in our lifetimes that actually challenges the hegemony of a global financial system.
And by extension, the hegemony of the corporations and the nation state. And so I think, from the left, we need to like really study and think about what types of interventions are possible, because it's basically about programmable money. I mean, you could program a way of exchanging value and making decisions that distributes totally different values and principles and templates so that people could reorganize society along more equitable terms.
Chris: Mm Hmm. I wonder about this quite a bit. And uh, I mean, not crypto necessarily, but I guess the notion of global solutions, or at least I guess when we talk about the internet and when we talk about digital worlds and virtual worlds and things like that.
And so I'd like to ask you a little bit about this notion of global versus local solutions in the context of tourism. Most of the time tourists usually arrive in foreign lands because of their relative wealth and passport privilege. The invitation is almost always from the tourist industry, but as tourism ends up becoming the main economic vector for local people, the invitation ends up coming from them as well, in a manner of speaking. And so many of the top down or global solutions to the current crisis or crises might be for people to stop traveling, at least in the way they do through modern tourism.
But what happens when local people largely in the global south, uh, people who host tourism are at odds with these solutions because they rely on a tourist economy to survive financially. You know, in a roundabout kind of way you solutions can be seen by local people, in such places and tourist destinations as the continuation of a kind of entitled foreign imposition.
How might we contend with this notion that is as people Western modern people behold into a dominating culture, that the solutions to the problem often arise from the same globalizing ideology of the problem.
Daniel: I mean, there's lots to unpack there I guess, but, basically, you know, there was an earlier form of life where, people were, you know, self-sufficient, more or less and that's been obliterated. But now people are increasingly dependent, and, the sort of inexorable logic of capitalism is to kind of take things that people would just once did for themselves in groups, and then make it so that you have to buy it from some distant provider.
You know, whether it's water, bottled water or whether it's entertainment that we used to tell stories with each other around the fire, you know, certainly food that we would hunt and gather and then grow. So now with, you know, coronavirus, I mean, it could be the case that there's an implication that the pharmaceutical companies have actually orchestrated this outsourcing of the immune system itself as a new market.
And they talk about the vaccines as platforms where you can introduce different models, like upgrades or something. So that's the horrible, you know, kind of inexorable logic of capitalism, which is inherently unstable it's based on debt and requires constant unsustainable growth. So, you know, I guess you'd have to do a teach-in with local communities and they'd have to take them to sort of consciousness raising to the point where there was a realization that this direction was just futile.
And that actually, but you know, there, but then they're kind of stuck because they've already been incorporated into these sort of global supply chains. So the anthropologist, Helena Norberg-Hodge, you know, her Institute for Local Futures, you would love it, should check it out.
A lot of things connected to what you're talking about, but when she was young, she was an anthropologist who really believed the West was the best. And she was sent, she studied the Ladakh in India, which was like a Tibetan Buddhist culture and after spending a couple of years with them, she actually realized in many ways it was a superior culture.
Like they, um, you know, took care of each other. They've been living in these houses for many generations, so nobody had a legal contract. If somebody's house burned down and would come together and rebuild the house. They would come together and sing their traditional songs together.
You know, they have their traditional spiritual practices. Um, and they were happy. Like the kids were laughing and smiling all the time. Then she watched over the next like 10 or 15 years as India went in the direction of capitalist production and suddenly the whole thing down there changed.
She said it was like, it was like an acid that ate through all the traditional, you know, web of social relationships super quickly. And suddenly the kids were wanting to buy Michael Jordan sneakers and sniffing glue, and they didn't want to sing their own songs cause their voices weren't as great as Beyonce's voice or whatever.
So, capitalism has this an inexorable thing where, you know, dissolves the old relations, the webs of connection that people have with each other and substitutes for it sugar, fast food, glamour glimpse and these dependencies.
Another great film, another great cultural artifact to look at is "Life and Debt," is about Jamaica and the international monetary fund, the structural adjustment programs, basically ruined the local economies and Jamaica. So, for instance, they had a very healthy, local dairy industry but they were forced by the structural adjustment programs to import powdered milk from the US which of course was far cheaper because the US subsidized farmers. And then once the powdered milk became more popular and the dairy industry, you know, was ruined, then the price for the subsidized powdered milk would go up.
And I think a lot of people do have an intuitive understanding... In Mexico, for instance, obviously Mexico should be a very rich culture, an incredible heritage, resources and so on, but it was these IMF orchestrated structural adjustment programs.
Like first you give these countries debt knowing that their governments are quite corrupt so a lot of the money gets pulled into corruption and then you're like, okay, "you didn't pay back the debt. Now you're fucked. I'm going to like force you to do structural adjustments where you have to privatize a lot of your industries."
Like in Tulum, the power would go out all the time. It was like a French company that didn't give a shit. And you have to reduce your social services. You can't take care of your people anymore. Uh, one thing I noticed that Mexico is a lot of times when I met younger people, they were suffering from a lot of environmental toxicity, like diseases that are affecting their immune system.
It's just the system, you know, and the logic of the system is extremely powerful. The system is backed by guns. The system is backed by nuclear bombs. The system is backed by banks and it's very tough, difficult. I mean, you know, we have to hope that the whole system breaks down without consuming, you know, all life on earth, you know, or more or less, but, uh, it's uh, you know, we don't, we don't, we don't see a clear way that that happens.
Chris: Yeah. Wow. Well, uh, Daniel, I have two more questions for you if you have time.
Daniel: Okay. Let's do it.
Chris: All right. Thank you. So, at the end of life and death in Tulum, you write, "it would be amazing if we could find a way to stop the destruction of Tulum for the benefit of future generations and protect it as a natural paradise."
Do you think this includes simply not going there? So, you know, so much of what this podcast asks is whether or not the real work lies at home in our own communities and not those of others. If the end of tourism meant the beginning of something else, what might that look like for you?
Daniel: Um, that's a good question. Yeah. I mean I tried to build this infrastructure years ago called the Evolver network. In 2011, we had maybe like 60 local groups posted in the US but around the world, that was my best effort to create like an alternative and it was instructive. Why it didn't continue to grow, which was, you know, some of it was my fault or my, my learning, I wasn't really organized or a business person..
Some of it was the other issues, projection, monetary issues, difficulties in raising the money for it and so on. But yeah, I think we would need something like, you know, grassroots, social movement which is very difficult to do particularly in the US because all these sort of community structures have been dissolved over time.
But yeah, I don't know. I mean, I don't have a clear answer to whether traveling has to stop. I mean, I think as soon as you say should or must, you're probably talking about things that don't matter anymore. I don't think people are going to stop going there unless planes stop flying or they become so expensive people can't go there. So that's the situation.
I mean, as we're saying, we don't really see the intervention possible, you know, particularly when you have corrupt governments that need the revenues that are already connected to the cartels. I mean, it's a mess.
Chris: So one of the things you mentioned in "How Soon is Now,", and I think, you know, generally speaking that's really, really important is, the constructing of regenerative society as a multi-generational task. And so in that book, you write quote, "That doesn't mean however that we can leave it to our children. We must undertake this mission ourselves out of devotion, reverence, and universal compassion."
So, you know, if it did happen, if there was any kind of rehoming or rewilding of the domestic world, finding ways to court and create community at home, what effect do you think that that would have on future generations?
Daniel: Well, I mean, I think if you can create kind of local utopias then there's no urgency for people in, relocating all the time. Because if you're happy where you are, you love the people you're with, and when you're all doing shamanic work together or whatever, then you want to settle in, and I've been interested about a community in Portugal called Tamera, which I thought was a really fascinating example.
I mean, one of their ideas is that you can't have like a peaceful human culture, unless you wrestle with or deal with this sort of gender issue and the love and the eroticism issue. They kind of put that first and kind of develop a community-based model for open relating where people have, you know, mostly like multi-partner relationships and people even trained to kind of become kind of like priests and priestesses.
in what's called the Temple of Love there. So, it's like totally kind of like seeing intimacy, communion, connection as like the basis of community and then rebuilding, you know, healthy human structures that are not like locked into kind of a monogamous marriages, patriarchal structure.
That was an interesting, you know, I don't know how scalable that is. I think it's a really fascinating attempt. And you know, the kids there don't leave. Like they maybe go outside for a couple of years and they realize that it's actually, there's a lot more going on back home.
So if you had, you know, a billion Tameras where the local culture was so beautiful and the people really felt invested in staying, then we wouldn't have this conversation right now.
Chris: Yeah. Well, it's a beautiful project. I'll make sure that Tamara and the other books and essays that you mentioned today are online for our listeners. And as well, all of your work, uh, all of your books and essays.
I'd like to close with a quote from "How Soon is Now" that I think is more pertinent than ever despite having been written few years before the pandemic.
There you write, "we keep running away from the heaviness and sadness of this world, the senseless suffering and unnecessary misery of multitudes, the global sex trade, the destruction of rainforests to produce McDonald's cheeseburgers and Doritos, the cynicism of CEO's and hedge fund managers.
We must turn towards it and confront it, but we also must realize, as DMT and other mystical experiences show us, that the entire drama is designed to bring about our illumination and awakening. We can find the joy and lightness, the divine play in all of it."
So on behalf of our listeners, Daniel, I'd like to offer you a deep bow of gratitude and thanks for speaking with us today. And how can our listeners get in touch with your work? How . Can they follow you online and how might they purchase your book?
Daniel: Well, the most active enterprises for me right now is a newsletter on Substack, danielpinchbeck.substack.com, I guess, and a platform for online seminars and also sell some books and audio books there, which is www.liminal.news. Other than that, I have all the usual stuff like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, books on Amazon. Yeah, the Substack is really become a great mode for me just to communicate.
Yeah. So let's stay in touch. Thanks for having me.
Chris: Yeah, it's a great, great pleasure and great honor. Thanks a lot, Daniel.
Daniel: Alright, have a great day.
Chris: You too.