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A new message of what?

October 20, 2018

Environmental catastrophes have become more frequent and severe. Storms, floods, droughts, wildfires, extreme weather events like hail or dust storms, algae blooms, and mass extinctions are a prominent and expanding part of news reporting.

Human wellbeing is threatened by silent pandemics like diabetes, chronic allergies, skin cancer, diseases of lung, heart, kidney, and liver. There are lingering threats of heavy metal poisoning, neurodevelopmental disorders, swine flu, bird flu, SARS, MERS, drug-resistant bacterias (MRSA), Marburg, and Ebola. An airborne strain of Ebola would be hard to contain.

Unsustainable exploitation (overexploitation) of mineral deposits and of nature (forests, soil, fishing, hunting), together with steadily increasing emissions of pollutants cause the collapse of ecosystems and threaten the most basic resources fresh air, clean water, and healthy food. All other resources, needed to maintain our modern lifestyle, are also getting scarce and expensive.

People unsurprisingly are disturbed, confused, and don’t feel well. Public health is declining because of polluted air and water, unnatural and contaminated processed food (fast food), and a sedentary lifestyle. Mental health is declining because of sensory overload (over-stimulation) by electronic media, increasing noise and electric light, sleep deprivation, unraveling of social (family) support structures, individualism, and loneliness. Job insecurity, workplace pressure, and long commutes take their toll too.

People are brainwashed via advertising, which promises instant gratification by more and more consumption, they are lured into debt slavery by loans for unnecessary goods and tourist travels. They experience increasing exploitation and inequality, they feel the distain and neglect by the wealthy elites, they see the vanity and opulence of these elites, complemented by ubiquitous dishonesty, hypocrisy, corruption, and nepotism of political leaders.

Deliberately misinformed and miseducated, unsettled and frightened by declining living standards, declining health, and rapid social, cultural, economic, and ecological changes, they are a defenseless prey for the populist pied pipers. Confused and clueless, they grasp for easily understandable answers, and the pied pipers deliver.

The populist con men (and rare con women), competing with each others for attention, get more shrill, more extreme, more reckless. Their recipes to solve all ills are simple and brutal: Find scapegoats, exterminate them, solve conflicts by force, with weapons, with wars.

As disillusionment, distress, desperation, and aggression increase, the population falls for the daredevil pied pipers and embraces their programs. This is the unraveling of society, the end of the social contract. Self-interest, egoism rules, everybody is on her/his own. Compassion, cooperation, grace, tolerance are replaced by loyalty to a clan leader or warlord, blind ideology, religious fanaticism, ethnocentrism, hate against outsiders, against everyone who is different and who deviates from one’s own standards.

It feels good to be a part of the “developed world,” the “free West,” it feels good to be exceptional, to live in the “shining city upon a hill.” It feels good to belong to the “chosen people,” to the “master race,” to be an “uebermensch.”

Where will this end?

In fascist dictatorships with emergency rules, military tribunals, and extermination camps? In failed states where roque, out of control militias pillage, rape, torture with impunity and where warlords stake their claims? In World War III and nuclear armageddon?

Unimaginable but nevertheless possible, even plausible. Everybody with an intact brain has to do something against this mortal danger, search for solutions to the various crises, look for an antidote to the poison of the reckless charlatans, the evil ideologues, the prophets of hate.

The antidote would be: Tranquility, curiosity, generosity, openness, understanding, tolerance. And: Kindness, gentleness, tenderness, grace, sympathy, affection, love. And: Modesty, faith, hope, confidence, happiness, peace.

It seems easy and logical – but this is not the prevalent popular mood, not the spirit of the 21th century, not the “zeitgeist.”

What can we do to turn the tide?

1) Unify and organize the scattered and chaotic army of lonely warriors, who at the moment are tilting at windmills? 

One needs a plan, a program, a reference model (blueprint of an organizational structure).

The plan is to take over existing organizations (NGOs, State institutions, UN-organizations), and integrate them.

The program: Localize, downsize, simple and modest living, leave nature alone.

Reference models: The spread of Buddhism, early Christianity, and other peaceful religions, the labor movement of the 19th and early 20th century.

2) Become an ecological guerrilla and disrupt, subvert, obstruct, sabotage, monkey-wrench whenever and wherever it is possible (Deep Green Resistance)? 

This is not for the faint hearted and the guerrilla fighters will have to put their lives on the line.

Yet, widespread civil disobedience could not be easily suppressed. “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.”(Henry David Thoreau). Dropping out and making a modest living in the informal economy or moving to the countryside and starting subsistent farming and gardening is not a crime.

3) Hide in the woods or join a sleeper cell of ecological Davids, looking for weaknesses in the armor of the industrial Goliath, waiting for the right time to strike?

This cannot be publicly discussed and only hinted: Subliminal messages inserted into broadcasts and internet video clips, the art of hacking (disabling network servers, planting computer viruses, causing devices to self-destruct), genetically modified diesel bugs, disabling engines by micro and nanoparticles, invasive superweeds and bugs in urban areas and industrial agriculture, pandemics in factory farming.

Nature will do its part with storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires of until now unseen intensity and ferocity.

4) Grow spiritually to a larger-than-life person, become a teacher, preacher, sage, saint? 

People grow to the challenge, there are thousand examples for that. As the challenge is so steep and so highly demanding, talented individuals will be able to grow extraordinarily and they will make a difference.

They will be heard, they will inspire, will instill calm, hope, and confidence. They will open and warm everybody’s heart, they will pierce the armor of discomfort, mistrust, and cynicism with ease.

They will walk and move effortlessly in perfect harmony — just watching them will already enlightening their disciples and make all dreams of love, peace, and happiness come true.

They will be the keepers of the flame, will spark new movements with global reach, they will be the founders of new cultures, new religions, a new civilization.

The cultures and social standards will be based on kindness, equality, compassion, cooperation, ease, and joy. Cultural rituals will be artistic, with music, dance, painting, poetry, arts and crafts.

The religions may be animism, paganism, pantheism, or existing religions in radical new interpretations. The old religions will wither away.

The new civilization will be based on harmonic integration into nature, careful stewardship of resources, modesty, simplicity, and the avoidance of fancy, extravagant, or expensive technologies.

It ain’t necessarily so!

Three developments have shaped the discussion in the last years:

a) The scientific community and dedicated activist groups have become united about the  prospects of environmental catastrophe if business goes on as usual.

b) Casandra calls about environmental armageddon and the need for immediate action have become urgent and desperate.

c) Mass media and the broad public in response became disengaged, numb, denying scientific evidence or avoiding the issue altogether. Because calls for action inevitably include calls for drastic lifestyle changes, people switch off as soon as these changes are mentioned and think or talk about something more pleasant. There are not many good-hearted persons who are willing to sacrifice the amenities of modern life for the sake of future generations.

The fault for this development lies also with the messengers, who have become messengers of doom. The pleas for action and change shouldn’t be framed as sacrifice, but as a relief from the burden of consumerism, information overflow, distracting and annoying high tech gadgets, noise and hectic of urban life, the merciless rat-race for fortune and fame.

Furthermore, the accusation of fascistic tendencies should be used carefully because it can be easily dismissed and it can become a meaningless catchphrase.

The term fascism is not clearly defined, but usually applied to totalitarian one-party states based on nationalism and militarism. There are theories that capitalism inevitably will implode into fascism, though logical analysis and historical evidence are not conclusive. Fascists oppose laissez-faire capitalism, though Benito Musolini, Adolf Hitler, and fascist dictators after WWII (Francisco Franco, Antonio Salazar, Augusto Pinochet, Jorge Rafael Videla) were on good terms with industrialists. Capitalists may have been involved in genocide (IG Farben), but there were autocratic mass murderers also in pre-capitalist times (Roman emperor Nero, Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, Tamerlane, Shaka Zulu, Leopold II of Belgium, Mehmed Talaat).

Surely, present cultural, social, economic, and political tensions may culminate in civil unrest, subsequently in a police state, and finally in a dictatorship.

And yet

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Whoever coined this phrase (Yogi Berra, Niels Bohr, Robert Peterson, some Danish ancestors), she/he was deadly right.

To the messengers of doom: So many things can happen, unexpected, surprising, never thought to be possible.

What if the global financial system disintegrates and globalization ends?
What if new strains of microorganisms (viruses, bacterias, archaea, fungi, protozoa, algae) cause concrete to fall apart and electronics to fail?
What if science got it all wrong and until now undiscovered negative feedback loops reduce the impact of greenhouse gases and chemical contamination?
What if a volcanic eruption clouds the skies, like in 1816?
What if unprecedented natural disasters force governments to act?
What if a pandemic reduces human populations to sustainable levels?
What if scientists find a smart and not harmful solution to sequester CO2?
What if an accidental explosion in one of the nuclear rocket silos, bunkers, or vaults incites nations to global mutual disarmament?

Just to name a few possibilities. Some of them are terrible, frightening ideas which nevertheless would give humanity a chance to survive.

And even if nothing like that happens, there is still the power of hope, love, and joy. If you feel it, your message will be distinctive, and you will be heard.

You will make a difference!

One comment

  1. Ah! Such good and deep thinking here! And such a good heart behind the meditations ! This is the best post I’ve read on the topic . .. I’ll be returning to this !

    Like



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