The most important thing, without a doubt, to learn from dogs.
Last Tuesday, Learning from Dogs published the first of the three parts of Martin Lack’s essay From Environmentalism to Ecologism. It generated a fascinating discussion. One of the commentators was Chris Snuggs who writes his own blog under the name of Nemo Insula Est. Here is the essence of a discussion with Martin Lack and Patrice Ayme. (Without reading the following comments, my closing opinion will make little sense; assuming they do at the best of times!)
Chris: The problem with politics at the moment is that the choices come down to A) being socialist, moral and bankrupt or B) capitalist and immoral but at least with a chance of avoiding poverty and chaos.
Martin: I think I am very much in agreement with you, Chris. It says a l lot when a practicing Catholic can admit that his Church needs to ditch its anthropocentric bias and stop treating the Earth as if we are the only species that matters…
Chris: One of the big questions for me is this. Is the world of our perceptions ONLY what we see, hear, smell and touch or is there another dimension which we cannot sense? Personally, I believe the former, which is why I cannot believe in: God, aliens, ghosts, an afterlife, fairies or indeed a sensible socialist economic policy.
I sometimes feel this makes me boring (or if you like, it just another feature of my boringness), but on the other hand I feel more or less in tune with what I understand “The Enlightenment” to have meant. It would be much more reassuring to know that there is a God (caring if possible, though it is hard to see how he would be) and indeed aliens, as long as they were friendly. But until there is some sound evidence, I cannot. And there IS no evidence that would stand up in court, is there?
So, we are alone; the universe is as it is; how it came into being we do not know and it is perhaps unknowable; the planet Earth cares not a jot about us or our feelings; we have no particular right to exist: we just do, by natural accident (until proven otherwise). I am not a fan of the “There are billions of stars in the universe, so there must be other forms of life elsewhere.” argument. “must be” is not “is”.
So if WE do not ensure our survival by looking after the planet then nobody or nothing will. As for “ecology”, good people are trying to do a lot of things, but as far as I can see:
A) It is too late and too little. Even if we were doing all the right things NOW (which we obviously are not), the time lag before our actions start to correct othe damage done will be too great; we may well have died out by then.
B) Despite all that is being done, CO2 emissions are going up, countries have STILL found no economic model that does not insist on growth and you cannot have growth without increased energy use, which for the moment and foreseeable future means fossil fuel extraction. And THIS of course continues apace with many countries now desperately trying to frack their way to growth, in the case of the USA rather successfully.
Martin: All very interesting, Chris, although I am not sure why your atheism necessitates rejection of socialism. For many people the two are inextricably linked. However, this is all off-topic… All I wanted to point out was that anthropocentrism is a mistake that can be made by both theists and atheists alike; and that it is good to see the former admitting they have made this mistake.
Paul: Chris/Martin, To my way of thinking, there is a more fundamental issue at work. That is the corrupting effect of power. I’m certain you know the famous saying. Thus whatever fine motives propel a person to enter politics, that person seems unable to avoid the call of power and its corrupting effect. The only hope is that key countries, and none so key as the USA, evolve a better, more representative, political process. Otherwise, I fear for the coming years.
Patrice: I agree with Paul 100%. I saw the call of power. Unimaginable. People just get insane. There are also filtering systems to insure they get that way (it starts right away with one week retreats in extremely posh resorts; does not matter if you are capitalist, socialist, blueist, reddist, ecologist, independentist, etc.).
Chris: Agreed. It has been clear time and time again throughout history. Well, so much is obvious, but WHAT TO DO about it?
A) We must end the practice of having career politicians: you serve a maximum of TEN years, at the end of which you go.
B) Inherited wealth allowing the building up of immensely powerful family dynasties over generations must be ended. It is simply untenable. The rich-poor gap is getting obscene everywhere, and money is of course power. My “Abolish inheritance” idea will be wildly unpopular because we are naturally acquisitive and “greedy” and of course would hit those with most to lose who also therefore have the most power.
Patrice: With all due respect, Chris and Martin sound rather naïve… Huge wealth and power is where it’s at. And it attracts to politics first, foremost, and soon uniquely, those it attracts most, namely the basest sort.
A) All a question of balance: SOME ambition is essential; it is when there is too much that it is dangerous.
B) I would have maximum terms for political service. plus:
C) Nobody should be allowed to be a public representative until they have fulfilled certain conditions, for example (but to be debated): worked in the private sector; some experience of life in a factory; nobody under 30; high achievement in some industrial, commercial, academic or social field, and so on
Ed Milliband grew up in a Marxist family, went to a posh school and then straight to university from where he went straight into politics as an “advisor”, thence to become a Minister and now leader of the opposition and possible OM.
THAT is not the proper background for a national leader, but the House of Commons is full of such people. The % of MPs from “working-class” backgrounds is going down and down and down. In the USA, Congress is over-represented by the rich, famous and/or connected. Where are the mailmen, bus drivers and burger-servers? “You need more intelligent Congresspeople than that.”
Sorry, I can’t take that argument from a country that elected Dan Quayle, George Bush and Sara Palin!!!!!
Patrice: Right. Glad to see every body agrees. It’s even worse than that. “Representative” politics is intrinsically demonic, as it vests great power in some individuals. That, per se is not just a crime, but absolutely corrupting.
Representative politics has got to be eliminated. Switzerland has eliminated it at the legislative level. Why can’t all other countries of the West do the same? Because the present plutocracy rules through the representatives, esp. in the USA? After we have done the legislative, the executive could be handled along Roman Republican lines and Athenian lines. Roman Consuls, for example, had full power only for one month at a time. In Athens enormous quora (say, 8% of the potential electorate) had to be found, before any decision.
Martin:Excellent synopsis, Patrice. All of the things you mention would be made possible by a return to localism and/or bioregionalism, which may well come to pass by default (i.e. as a result of those in power now being in denial about what is happening to our planet).
Now the reason that I offered up this lengthy transcript of the conversation was that it clearly showed to me that bright, well-educated people agree that there is much wrong with many, if not most, countries that offer a representative democratic form of Government. Bright, well-educated people are also not afraid to offer answers. Patrice went on to write a most engaging post over at his place under the title of Representative Politics Is Dictatorship. It opens:
Representative Dictatorship Is Not Democracy
I know a young lady who was elected for the first time in California. She is sent to a posh resort for a week to learn the basics of her new job, being a “Democratic” politician. Everything is wrong with this picture (not just the mansion she lives in and her million dollar family income, while claiming to be a leftie). Everything is wrong, but it’s typical: all elected representatives in the USA are treated very well, and get to meet who, it dawns on them after a while, can insure for them, and their families, much nicer lives. (The New York Times, to its discredit, just discovered this PACS trick in 2014.)
A gigantic manipulation industry has developed, with its own strategists. Barack Obama seemed to have come out of nowhere, but, even before he started to score big, he was viewed as the anointed one, by the highest powers in “Democratic” circles: Axelrod, a professional manipulator who had just led Kerry’s campaign, was sent to Obama, just a modest Senator. Obama then gave a keynote speech at the Kerry convention, etc. When he campaigned, Wall Street money started to flow, more than towards any other candidate, by orders of magnitude, etc. No wonder Obama has found so hard to bite the hand that fed him.
Let me draw this all together. Possibly in a manner that will cause readers to sigh and say the old fella is losing the plot!
Because what I am about to say strikes me as so obvious, so massively demonstrated day-in, day-out by the planet’s sentient, warm-blooded creatures (even man can do it!).
It is this.
We have lost sight of the fact that animals offer an endless set of examples of living in the present and offering unconditional love to those creatures, humans included, that do not threaten them. These are very difficult times for us and all the creatures on this planet. Unconditional love for the planet we live on and for all those that do not threaten us is the only way forward!
Let me close with three photographs that provide all the evidence that we need to embrace love and tenderness for everything in our lives.
My case rests!
6 thoughts on “Unconditional love.”
Thanks Paul! The current political divided has been… ever since the Roman Republic, more than 21 centuries ago, between the haves and have-nots. However, that does not reflect the deepest divide..
That’s acknowledged and, for sure, I could be accused of a degree of naivety in my conclusion. However, is it not the case that these present times represent a risk for mankind on this planet that has never been seen before? It was this that was in my mind when I proposed the above.
Paul: What you wrote is excellent, and I was not writing in anything against whatever you wrote. I am going to try to write something more, but after the New York Times censored my comment yesterday on Krugman’s “Paranoia of the Plutocrats”, I am a bit dispirited.
The only reason they censored my comment is that it would have made the readership realize that Krugman just parroted me.
Patrice, forgive me if my earlier reply to your first comment implied you were writing against me; that was far from my mind. It’s just that I wasn’t clear as to what you were implying when you wrote “that does not reflect the deepest divide.”
Paul ….. thank you for the compliment in reposting the ramblings of an ageing brain (mine, not yours!). I do find myself rather verbose, for which I apologize. However, it is a privilege even to be included in the same conversation as Patrice, Martin and yourself.
One thing struck me about this: “These are very difficult times for us and all the creatures on this planet.”
Nobody would deny this, surely, but I am worried about the phenomenon of “egospeciality”. I made this word up, as I am not sure if there is an existing term: maybe “egocentricity” does the same job.
What I mean is, the danger of thinking that today’s events are somehow special and different in kind than throughout history, a feeling generated by the fact that WE are living NOW. However, is it not true that ALL ages of Mankind have seen disasters, wars, dangers, catastrophes, including natural ones? How must those have felt who lived through the 30 Years War, the plague, the Great Fire of London, Stalin’s purges and of course the holocaust?
Yet while it is true that we are obsessed with the economy, resources, insane nationalism and even insaner religious wars, as far as Europeans are concerned, we have now had nearly 70 years of peace – excepting the break-up of Yugoslavia.
The French have an excellent word: “relativiser” – trying to get things into proportion, and there is a danger that we older people may think we live in special times, whereas Man’s history is riddled with misery.
I’m not saying that we are wrong (And I am one of the biggest sinners in the doom-mongering field) – only that it is a danger of which I am conscious.
WHAT then is special about OUR era? Well, Patrice is and rightly very concerned about the kleptocracy. The staggering statistic that emerged the other day about 85 individuals having as much wealth as 3,5 BILLION people was yet another wake-up call, especially as history seems to tell us that A) there have ALWAYS been kleptocracies and B) they ALWAYS end in revolution, dictatorship or social collapse. But the point is, this is nothing NEW. On the contrary, it has in many societies been the normal progression of things for millenia.
The second major thing of course is Global Warming. There are two principal aspects to this it seems to me. Firstly, there have have – as with man-made disasters such as wars – ALWAYS been terrible natural catastrophies: the city of Pompei, the Lisbon earthquake, the recent Asian tsunami. There have always been terrible fires, famines, floods: you name it; it has happened – we were lucky that the Tunguskan meteor didn’t land on London for a start..
The only question is whether the current weather patterns are substantively different; whether this period really DOES mark a new paradigm in the fragility of Man’s physical existence?
I am not sure the jury has yet returned on this one: we may only have to adust to a mean rise in global temperature of two or three degrees – uncomfortable, but manageable. But in any case, even if they come back with a “Guilty” verdict, I think it may be too late to reverse the damage. The problem, however, is still in the word “may”. To me, nothing in political events is really new or surprising: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”, and there is as Patrice reminds us too much power in too few hands. What is amazing is that this is all known, and yet somehow we seem unable or unwilling to CURB this power and truly democratize wealth and decision-making. But here we get into the realm of “socialism”, which seems to me like a really taboo word at the moment, especially in the USA. And this reminds me of the very bad PR work for socialism that most socialists do!! I mean, Stalin was enough to put one off communism for ever! And even “good” socialists often end up bankrupting a country.
No, all my uncertainties lie in the area of GW. It’s pretty clear that there Is global warming, but A) Is it our fault? B) What should we DO about it? and C) Is it too late anyway?
I personally favour a massive return to people to work on the land growing organic crops and using horses and bullocks instead of tractors. We’d secure our food, and better food; e’d get fit and healthy and do country dancing in the evenings; we’d feel more in harmony with Nature, BUT the city-dwellers and politicians would feel superior and steal all the money as usual!!
This was a totally unsuccessful attempt to be less verbose!!! HAVE A GOOD DAY.
Chris, I have just read your powerful evaluation of these present times. It is 05:50. Firstly, an enormous thank you for contributing your thoughts. Secondly, they deserve a reflective reply rather than something immediate and, thirdly, the morning’s demands means that such a reflection won’t be from me until later my morning.