mardi 19 février 2019

Our toxic civilization

 OurToxic Civilization

There is nowadays a lot of talk about the danger we are facing because of climate change, pollution, loss of biodiversity, extinction of species and ecosystems. Sometimes, although rarely, overpopulation is mentioned too: it is somewhat risky to talk about it, to say that there are too many of us. There is a lot of talk about the threat these processes pose to the civilization. But very little talk about the threat our civilization poses to our planet, to Nature. And a lot of what we are trying to do to avoid the danger we are facing, consists of attempts to preserve this civilization, making it less wasteful, less destructive. But not put into question its basic values, it aims, its essential features. Although these are precisely the root causes of the present crisis. Our civilization has become a destructive force that is endangering ourselves, other living beings, life on the planet Earth.

Our civilization is based on some values that are usually not (yet) called into question. We are taught to believe that new is better than old, better is better than good, quick is better than slow, more is better than few. These values are essential components of other ones, including our official values, as e.g. freedom of choice, standard of living, development, economic growth, innovation, progress... And, intimately connected with them – liberal individualism in its simplest form meaning simply the right of everybody to do and get what he/she wants as far as this does not infringe on similar rights of other people. Among the values of our civilization there is no place for anything sacred except human life. And, of course, human needs, wishes, desires, interests...Although it is somewhat mauvais tone to tell it straightly. But the cult of our desires is one of the most essential features of our civilization, it is our true religion. Its priests are businessmen, industrialists, merchants. Its missionaries are the publicists, PR specialists, lobbyists. One of their main tasks is to convince us that we really need something that merchants are willing to sell us. That there is something we really want, and then – need. They convince us that our desires and wants are the same thing. That everything outside us is our resource, it is our right to use us to satisfy our needs/desires. The only problem is sharing of these resources.

One of main products of our civilization is dissatisfaction. We are taught, conditioned to want more, more things, more comfort, more entertainment, a higher standard of living, etc. In fact, we have been conditioned to become children who want more and more toys. Indeed, we are children, and people who are teaching, conditioning, lobbying us to buy more, to want more, are children too. They find their satisfaction in inventing, producing and selling more, and more rapidly. We find brief satisfaction in what seems new to us, things, stories, scandals, sports, news. But sooner and sooner this new becomes old, and we, both buyers and sellers, are looking for something newer. Unknowingly, we have built a machinery that is maximising the flow of „resources” into products tha can be sold and bought. Which means the real aim of this machinery is to maximise both the speed and volume of this flow of goods. To change more and more „resource” into money. But money is partly waste, ashes that cannot be used, sold and bought any more. Our civilization is a machinery that works to increase in entropy. Thus, it works against the evolution of life on our planet, is a destructive force. Due to the increase in entropy in the universe, the evolution (or God, if we want) has created a refuge, an island where this process runs much more slowly, and is partially even reversed, giving birth to life, complex organisms and ecosystems. Now we, our civilization is destroying this. We act as an unconscious agent of the second law of thermodynamics with the aim of abolishing our local island of decrease in entropy, as an agent of cosmic disorder, chaos. In the Christian paradigm, we must say that our civilization works against Creation, against the will of God.  Our civilization is fundamentally anti-Christian. 

We are caught in this machinery, in this economy, and are most often unable to escape it, even to understand our situation. We are becoming more and more stupid, more and more childish, because the world, the machinery we are caught in, becomes more and more complex, and our understanding becomes more and more limited. This machinery happens to have discovered that we are born pedomorphic, child-like, and it exploits it, transforming us into even more childish, less adult beings. This is also changing what we call democracy into something infantile and corrupt. Politicians are becoming sellers, publicists trying to lure us to their products, their ideas, their slogans. What counts more and more here too, is novelty, new ideas, new persons, new slogans. It can well mean that, being tired of this democracy, liberalism and freedom of choice, we turn to dictators as we turn from science to conspiracy theories, oppose vaccination and believe that Earth is flat. This would also be something new and interesting for a while.

We know, or are supposed to know more than our ancestors, in fact we are less intelligent than they. Our ancestors knew how to live, and with this knowledge lived for tens of thousands of years. We have no guarantee that we, that mankind and life on our planet will exist in a hundred years. The astrophysicist Sir Martin Rees thinks there is a fifty-fifty chance for us to survive this century.

Most of us do not want to live as our ancestors thousands or hundreds of years ago. But would we prefer death? If we want to survive, we must change our civilization, return to the age-old wisdom of our ancestors. This wisdom is preserved in folk tales, legends, but also in the teachings of the Church, in the Christian tradition as in some other spiritual traditions too. In folk tales the wise man was content of a handful of coins, the stupid man grabbed a lot and perished. Jesus warned us of the danger of riches. For Christians, being poor is better than being rich. Both the old folk wisdom and the Christian teachings admonish us to lead a simple life, to subjugate our desires, to turn to spiritual things instead of material ones. Nowadays we can say that we could well find more satisfaction in arts, philosophy, in science, if it is not too wasteful. We could turn to St. Francis, whom the Catholic Church has declared the patron Saint of ecologists. St. Francis wore the same robe for many years, mending it, if needed. We too could keep our old things, not throw them away. We could learn something from the „heathen” Maris (Cheremis) who put used, worn-out boots on fence saying that they could not throw them away as they had served them for long time. The Orthodox Christians in Northern Russia, before going to confession to the Church, asked repentance for their sins from Earth, rivers, forests, wind, darkness, Sun, Moon and stars. This a repentance we would desperately need.

We need to turn away from our toxic civilization, from its false values. In some important aspects it means returning to our roots, to the simple, humble way of life of our ancestors. Of course, preserving some important achievements of our own that are not too wasteful, too dangerous for Earth. It not difficult to find out how mankind should live, if it wants avoid destruction of the biosphere. And survive itself which is impossible without preserving the great web of life whose part we are together with other living beings. We, at least many of us know the goal, but we don't know how to reach it. Is it possible? Is it possible to avoid the Apocalypse? Despite the efforts of ecologically enlightened people it seems nearly impossible. And my sad conclusion is that the best we can hope is that a catastrophe comes earlier: then more of the web of life will remain intact, and perhaps then humanity will have learned how to renounce the present wasteful way of life with its destructive ideals of economic growth, consumerism and productionism, its belief that everything around us is our resource we can use, turn to products that we soon throw away. Thus, the policies of Trump, Bolsonaro and other enemies of ecological thinking will, paradoxically, be a good thing for the Earth. Thus I sincerely hope that the efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions or to capture them from the atmosphere will not succeed. I hope that in future there will be much less human beings on the earth. I hope the efforts to preserve our civilization are doomed, and a real catastrophy will teach us a lesson.That it will teach us that in order to save the Earth and ourselves we have to renounce our present toxic civilization. Not to save, refurbish it. After all, the Earth does not need us, we need the Earth. And if we do not understand this simple truth, the Earth will sooner or later get rid of us. The Earth does not belong to us, as Christians we can say it belongs to God. In any case, it is sacred. Perhaps it is not too late to recall what this means.