Essential Summer Reading | Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change


Industrial Civilization is likely to be the last great empire humanity will ever see. If it is allowed to continue in its ravenous way then there is no future for humanity, for the natural systems and processes that allow humans to exist on Earth are the very things that Industrial Civilization is destroying. In fact, no form of civilization has ever been sustainable nor ever will be. In order for humanity to continue on Earth then civilization has to stop, and people allowed to return to a way of living that is connected to the real world.

We are not able to do this. At least not until we become Underminers. The industrial system depends, for its survival, on humans being disconnected from the real world and mentally attached to the machine that we fuel with our civilized lives. The Tools of Disconnection keep us in that state, and the only way to prevent us from being responsible for our demise is to undermine those Tools of Disconnection. Once we are free from the grip of the machine and reconnected with the real world then the myth of Industrial Civilization will die, and humanity will be able to continue.

Underminers is the timely follow-up to Time’s Up! An Uncivilized Solution to a Global Crisis. It takes up where that book left off, with a detailed, highly practical approach to the process of undermining in all its many hues. At once entertaining, shocking and inspiring, Underminers draws on the author’s own experience dealing at first hand with the lies of the industrial machine, and that of a wide range of other people who have their own unique take on the swath of topics covered in the book.

From the reasons we are unable to act, to the nitty-gritty of keeping ourselves and others safe during the undermining process, the first half of the book is an invaluable guide to navigating the industrial system and becoming a fully-formed Underminer. The second half details, with surprising openness how the reader can utilize their abilities and new-found determination to be an effective Underminer; whether that be undermining the advertising industry or the political machine, turning symbolic protestors into real activists, building self-determined communities or simply being ourselves – connected, free human beings.

We are the Underminers, and this is our time.

“How incredibly helpful, that Keith Farnish has given me a new word to describe how I act in the world. Here I thought I was a crank, a doomer, a scold, a Cassandra, a downer, a bummer, a fearmonger, just because I want to help rid the world of a culture that is systematically killing off the life of this planet. That’s what that culture tells me, anyway. Turns out I’m an Underminer! Sounds like a noble profession to me. It even comes with an instruction manual now. How about that!” – TS Bennett, Writer & Director “What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire”


An introduction to possibly the most radical book in the English language

How can something so connected be so disconnected? I ask myself this question sitting in a library a few miles from my home in the borders of Scotland, wirelessly hooked up to the Internet providing me with access to just about every piece of information…that the civilized world considers to be of consequence. There was a pause in my writing there, because the phrase that so nearly reached my fingertips was “every piece of information of any consequence” – literally a much more satisfying expression, but so far away from the truth. What I am able to access via the corporate-controlled routers, switches and servers that comprise the Internet may be close to all the information Industrial Civilization has gathered in its short tenure on Earth, but it is a closed, self-perpetuating network; as disconnected from the real world as its individual components will be from each other when the current eventually ceases to flow.

It was nearly two years ago that what I thought would be my magnum opus was first published in book form. Not that I expected to sell a great number of copies of Time’s Up! but along with its online incarnation, and a slew of related articles both from me and the friends (and some enemies) accumulated in the subsequent time I did expect something to come of it. Maybe it did; maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places, or perhaps the work that came about as a result is hiding in the cracks and beneath the floorboards of public awareness. There is no doubt that anything that has the potential to destabilise the Culture of Maximum Harm, as Daniel Quinn so accurately calls Industrial Civilization, needs to be protected. Nevertheless, the question that has come back to me by email, letter, word of mouth and, indirectly, through the comments and thoughts on so many blogs and forums, is one that suggests I am far from finished in my writing. That question is: “What can I do?”

This book is a response to that question.

It is not the definitive response; it’s barely an adequate response given the level of emotion with which some people have phrased the question, but it is the best I can do for now. It is also a big personal risk on my part, and on the part of anyone who is associated with the distribution of this book, in whatever media it makes its appearance. Over the last year my life and that of my family has changed: we have moved to a place where connections with the real world, with fellow human beings and the rest of nature abound; so it has changed for the better. We would love things to stay this way, but know they cannot and will not, as the environment nature created and nurtured crumbles under the boot of civilization, and the energy that feeds the machine begins to trickle rather than gush. The publication and distribution of this book’s content is a risk to our personal circumstances, but reflects the nature of the situation we are increasingly going to experience. It is also something I have to do. Undermining is something we are all going to have to take a part in if we are once again to take control of our own destiny.

And that raises the question of what undermining is. The simple definition is as good as any: removing that upon which something depends for its strength. If you want to make a house fall down then start removing bricks from its base; eventually, if you remove enough bricks, the house will tumble to the ground. If the house is tall or top-heavy then you will need to remove comparatively fewer bricks. If the house already has weak foundations, or substandard construction, then you might not have to remove very many bricks at all. The same principle applies to anything you wish to undermine: a wall, a political party, a corporation, an entire set of principles by which a population carries out its daily life.

The way in which Industrial Civilization keeps us attached to its principles – such as the belief that economic growth is a good thing or that it is necessary for a few people to tell the majority how to live or that having a well paid job is a natural human aspiration – is by ensuring civilized people are kept disconnected from anything that might provide them with an alternative view of what life is really about. This disconnection from the real world is achieved through what I have called the Tools of Disconnection. If we stay attached to the underlying principles of Industrial Civilization then we stand little hope of surviving the next century as a viable species; but as long as we remain disconnected from the real world, then that is a very likely outcome indeed.

The way to return civilized humanity to a state where long-term survival is a real possibility is to reject the principles of Industrial Civilization and live as though we wish to have a future. The way to achieve this is by undermining the Tools of Disconnection. That is what this book aims to do: not merely in words, but by fostering an entire generation of people who are willing to go beyond the superficial rhetoric of the mainstream environmental organisations; a generation of people who are ready to take risks in order to return humanity to a connected state.

We are the Underminers, and this is our time.

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