34 Ways that Tolkien was right . . .

We are trying to build a new conscious economy. The old suicide economy isn’t working.

But in making something new – we must always be careful to not just recreate the old one.

And I think J.R.R. Tolkien has some important words about this.

“We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie may blast and burn its own world before it finally leaves the stage of history. We are not afraid of ruins. We who ploughed the prairies and built the cities can build again, only better next time. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute.”

The core thesis of Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series was that the centralization of power was the problem. That the question was not ‘could we find someone nicer to rule Mordor?’ but that the ring and Mordor had to be destroyed.

We are faced with a Circle of Destruction that is destroying the Web of Life.

Here are 34 thoughts I have about the Circle of Destruction . . .

1. The concentration of power is the problem.

2. The more you help the Circle to expand the greater are your rewards. The more you thwart the Circle’s expansion the greater is your punishment.

3. The goal of the Circle is to be in the absolute center – to be on top.

4. The power of those in the center comes by creating the illusion of legitimacy in their authority and their right to rule.

5. While you’re inside the Circle you have two basic choices of how to live: you can submit or you can rebel.

6. The closer you get to the center the more you are convinced that the circle you are spreading is not, in fact, a circle of destruction but a circle of virtue

7. For the Circle to continue to spread those inside it must see the Circle as not only normal but natural:

8. You must never question how the goal of expanding the circle – or the process of it.

9. Violence is allowed to flow from the center out but not from the margins back inside.

10. Those on the margins experience incredible violence.

11. Because of this structure, the power will never be equally distributed.

12. Because of this structure, the Circle will never achieve its stated goals of just, thriving and sustainable communities full of healthy and happy people.

13. The closer you go inwards – the less diversity there is.

14. The closer you are to the center the more “important” you are seen as.

15. The closer you are to the center, the more valuable your property becomes. The reverse of this is also true: the closer you are to the periphery the less valuable your life becomes

16. The most efficient way for those at the center to expand their power is to grow the circle

17. The closer you are to the center – the less of any real idea you have about what is going on at the margins.

18. The larger the Circle becomes the harder it is to see.

19. The closer you are to the center of the circle the more spoiled you become.

20. The longer you are in the Circle the less human you become.

21. The longer you live in the Circle – the more you lose.

22. The closer you are to the center the safer you feel.

23. On a finite world – there’s a point where those in the center will have exhausted all of the frontiers – then they turn their eyes back on the Circle.

24. The center is a bottomless pit.

25. In order to slow the growth of the circle you may use the avenues provided to those within the circle (e.g. letter writing, voting, demonstrating, writing books, signing petitions, building groovy eco villages etc.).

26. In order to stop the growth of the circle you must use avenues that are not provided (or permitted) to those within the circle

27. The Circle can’t be redeemed.

28. The Circle cannot be used for good.

29. The Circle of Destruction and the Web of Life cannot peacefully co-exist. Those in the center will stop only when they must.

30. It is okay to defend ourselves.

31. Violence is not the problem. Violence is used as a synonym for: abuse, exploitation, theft, rape etc. There are forms of violence that are none of these things.

32. The goal isn’t the end of violence (impossible) but the establishing of right relationships with each other.

33. The Institutions of the Circle of Destruction (as well as the actions of those who act on its behalf) are inseparable from the mindset.

34. The goal is not the destruction of the Circle of Destruction but the resurrection of the Web of Life, the rebirth of community.

What do you think about all this?


If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.

About Tad

  • Lishui

    this is good stuff. it reminds me of Derrick Jensen’s premises, itemized in his book “Endgame.”

  • lucas Coffey

    Good reminder. So easy to drift towards the circle without a constant check of intentions. I think I will read this more.

  • I think this is very thought-provoking… now I want to re-read Lord of the Rings and see if there’s a similar “positive” list!

  • hey lucas. it IS so easy to drift isn’t it. i’m constantly amazed at how easily i can slip into patterns that don’t serve myself or anybody else.

  • hey aaron. perhaps you should be the one to create such a positive list. yes.

  • Dear Tad, Tolkein saw through the veil so clearly. He and C.S. Lewis (who were dear friends) understood the essence of power.

    He knew that the path to genuine power (in French power means ‘to be able’) requires humility and love. Frodo and Sam represented these qualities; they accomplished something heroic which all of the other characters (including wizards and elves) could not.

    When power and love are combined you have the antidote to the ‘forces’ that are yielded by the 1% or fewer who control the majority of the world’s financial wealth. That is, ‘to be able, to love.’It is this renewed consciousness that, within each of us, is this genuine power which will overcome all that e-vil (or the live spelled backwards).

    Indeed, Tolkein speaks truth!

    “The goal is not the destruction of the Circle of Destruction but the resurrection of the Web of Life, the rebirth of community.”

    The resurrection of the Web of Life will require a profound admission that even the ‘green economy’ isn’t enough.

    We will require great humility in admitting that we cannot accomplish this shift to an economy of love and reciprocity without understanding that in a circle of shared responsibility will come the rebirth of genuine community.

    And what is community? From the Latin communitatem meaning fellowship of relations or feelings.

    The alternative to the suicide economy is the co-creation of an economy of love. Afterall, economy in the Greek relates to the stewardship and wellbeing of the household.

    I am increasingly convinced that when we sit in circle (as our indigenous friends did before we came to this place, called Edmonton known as the ‘pehonen’ (of ‘the waiting place’), parking our egos and honouring our anxieties. To share relations and feelings, with active and genuine listening of our hearts to the longings, joys, dreams and frustrations of one another… that the solutions to all that we worry about now will be found.

    This is what Tolkein was talking about.

    Humility is greatly under-estimated as a power greater than fear. For what is f.e.a.r… but false evidence appearing real.

    Thank you Tad for all you do.


  • Mark. That was gorgeous. And everyone reading this should know that Mark authored a gorgeous book called ‘The Economics of Happiness’. Go and buy it here: http://www.newsociety.com/bookid/3965

  • Karen

    There’s also the trap of believing that noticing one part of the Circle (usually the Government) is the whole thing, and that opposing it on a superficial level is the Only Answer. The number of desperately dysfunctional people I’ve met whose only answer is that we need “small government” (the US) or to “get rid of the Nanny state” (the UK) worries me. They’re stuck fast in the deeper Circle, and they can’t see it, and the idea that there might be more levels, layers, and circumstances in which the Circle operates so scares them that they flail and freak out all over the place. It is upsetting, frustrating, and – in my more mature moments – really sad.

    I keep noticing how I perpetuate the Circle left, right, and centre in my life – always after the fact, might I add. It’s slowly, slowly shifting me along, though sometimes I really wish that I could go to sleep and wake up all enlightened so life would be easy for me and people around me, instead of perpetuating my own irritation and self-centredness and hurting people I love.

    Oh well. Baby steps!

  • Karen – I love your acknowledgment of how your perpetuate the Circle of Destruction. Yes. I do this too. We all do. Here’s to healing.