[Book, paradigm shift] Living beyond the "End of the World"

hombredelatierra, Lundi, Août 29, 2011 - 15:15

Review: Margaret Swedish, Living beyond the 'End of the World', a Spirituality of Hope

published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2008

This tight, concise, well written essay on the state of the earth and its future can be divided in two sections with varying appeals to different readerships.

The first two thirds provide an admirable synthesis. This part is reccommended to young people who want to get their feet wet on environmental / social justice issues and their interactions. Activists who work with the young would be well advised to check it out too.

The last third, the core of the text, moves into territory where academics and most greens fail - fear? - to tread: the "philosophical" (existential / ethical) dimension of our relation to the earth. Teckies and geeks might see "emergent complexity" here; the artist and mystic, the "metaphysical" or "transcendental"; the religious, the "spiritual" or "religious"..

Semantics aside, the author is boldly - "prophetically" - claiming a redefinition of the place of wo/man on the earth and in the cosmos, a vision that simultaneously respects emerging scientific cosmology AND the integrity of planet's life support systems.

The false, addictive - ultimately suicidal - "values" of the consumer society must be layed aside as cheap fossil energy sources deplete. The natural resilience, autonomy and conviviality of human communities must be rebuilt, beginning with the one we live in. All this must be done in as equitable, just fashion as possible for never before in history was the solidarity of the human race(s) required as it today!

We must, in effect, simultaneously convert the non-renewable energetic and material resource bases of our economies to renewable bases while raising per capita consumption in the poorest regions of the world. Never before was need for cooperation greater..

This great transformation of society - the "Great Turning" - will be lived in constant crisis, this is simply the nature of the age we live in - "karma" if you wish..

"Religion", "spirituality" - in their non-perverted forms - provide the self with a greater context within which its actions are to be evaluated, within which to discover meaning, purpose, value and self-expression. An expanded frame of reference from which to judge the trajectory the world is now following and the probable consequences of following that path for future generations and for all life.

At the end of my reading, I caught myself wondering, "what is truth?". Fundamentalists often speak of truth in absolute terms, with capital "T's": The Truth or, even - arrogantly - God's Word, God's Truth. But to my perception they often seem to be, at best, fools and madmen / vilains, at worst. They seem caught in a web of delusion: ecological crises are interpreted as "signs of the Endtimes" send by God, expressing "His Will" and NOT the product of human stupidity / greed / folly / hubris. I can't help - spontaneously / reflexively - but see than as "mad as hatters" (In my defense: I have crazy ideas but at least I RECOGNIZE they are crazy - most of the time..)

At root, author Swedish is correct in demanding that people must "own up", TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for the state the world is in. WE did it, NOT God! Even if we admit that mass media exert corrupting influences on public opinion, values and aspirations (Chomsky et al.), we find ourselves obliged to re-affirm that, in democratic regimes, THE PEOPLE ARE THE RULERS. We must take back our democracy! We can't have our cake and eat it too. Either the people ASSUME THEIR RULE or they reneg, quit the field, leave the game (democracy). "Taking back our democracy" will be a very painful process, I suspect. It will require admitting that we were had by conmen (the neoconservatives, conservative "christians", Free Marketeers..) Worse! we LET ourselves be had. We let madmen / psychopaths / fools call forth all that is venal / animalistic in man and we supported them in this work. We did all this to the detriment of the health and stunning natural beauty of our world. We denied future generations the opportunities we enjoyed for we leave them a diminished world. These are painful searing admissions once we let them rise to consciousness. Passing through this painful point is a necessary step in our healing, though..

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