I want now to reflect on my hope for a mature culture. For more than twenty postings, I have suggested my ideas for a mature culture, not as a blueprint, but as a point of discussion.
I strongly believe that, if we are to survive as a species, we must more towards maturity; we must more towards:
- the many features of justice and love that have been advocated over the centuries (the features that represent our greatness as a species), and
- the ability to have power over the processes of power (the nemesis that has plagued our civilizations for thousands of years).
If we do not learn to manage these issues, we not only are not likely to survive, but we probably do not even deserve to survive.
As I reflect on what I know of the human species, and of the characteristics of civilization, it is very easy for me to feel discouraged.
- We are at the brink of destruction of our world as a result of the complexity of global warming; we have knowingly been moving in this direction for at least 50 years, and we are only now beginning to mobilize our resources (probably ineffectively as yet) to combat these forces.
- And what we are just starting to confront are only the symptoms of the hubris and acedia that underlie the processes whereby we have created global warming. Especially, we have yet to begin the conversation regarding the two major issues of overpopulation and the management of power.
It is not easy to read about, or to write about, these matters. I began to look at them in a serious way about five years ago, and as a result, I was in major despair for a number of years. I am through that struggle now, and as a result, I choose to live into hopefulness. But I have major empathy and compassion with those who are in denial or who give up — it is not easy to live with ongoing concern of these issues.
So, to begin, I see many forces arrayed against this possibility of maturity.
- As a species, we are pain avoiders. We tend not to deal with issues until they are fully in our faces, such that we must deal with them.
- Given the laws of physics as applied to global warming, this tendency does not bode well for survival. We are reaching, if not exceeding, irreversible tipping points that will change our world in major ways.
- And there is the acedia of the general population, many of whom are almost certainly overwhelmed by the complexity of these problems. The difficulty here is to get others to respond; the problems are so complex and so difficult to prove, especially in the face of frequent disinformation. But silence maintains the Climate Lie.
- We are the world’s top predator, and we are deeply in denial of this role. David Suzuki, in “The simple-minded nature of human super predators” (2016 Sep 06) notes: “When judged by this dynamic of upholding natural balances, humans are failing terribly as predators” — as compared to other predator-prey systems which are symbiotic, human beings degrade the system rather than stabilize it. We interfere, often with good intentions.
- Between global warming and overpopulation, we are likely approaching Malthusian limits that will present themselves as famine, plague, or war, all of which have some basis in present reality.
- Famine: Lester Brown in World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse (2011) has written: “I had long rejected the idea that food could be the weak link in our twenty-first century civilization. Today I think not only that it could be the weak link, but that it is the weak link.”
- Plague: The emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs presents major challenges in disease management.
- War: The increasing numbers of failed states such as Syria, and the testing of nuclear weapons by North Korea, are potentially only the beginning of struggles over resources such as water and food.
- There is also the immense sabotage of democratic systems by processes that, for me, can only be understood as greed and evil.
- I think with horror and despair of the many political and environmental misadventures of the past forty years, ranging from the Watergate scandal and the Enron scandal to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster to the rise of the Tea Party movement and the current political scene with Donald Trump.
- Recently I read of The Court That Rules The World, a somewhat secretive legal system that allows corporations to impose their will on governments around the world, partly through legal means and partly through threat of the costs involved in litigation.
- Consistent with the adage “Powertends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” there is much in the modern legal system that does not reflect justice, but merely legal maneuvering — a sad state of affairs with respect to the possibility of a mature culture.
Given all of this, many give up. I have not. In the next post, I will look at the positives.
To be continued.