Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Schism In Our Isms - A Rant!

Click on photo to enlarge

The above knit cap (beanie), which illustrates and inspired this rant, is for sale at the corner liquor store and reminds me of the wondrous democracy we are trying to spread around the globe (The object in the embroidery, to my eyes, appears to have been designed to resemble some creature that is part human female and part wild animal, down on all fours, wrapped in Old Glory, and waiting for something to be done to it, doggy-style).

I saw it there the other day and found myself thinking about a certain young hotel-chain heiress and the fame her home-made porn-video brought her---especially among teenagers, about the graphic images of naked female porn-stars adorning popular hot-selling name-brand snowboards, about superbowl game half-time shows, and a female performers' “wardrobe malfunction”, about the pornography smeared all over the internet, about the name of my corner liquor store, ‘Liquor Junction’, and the t-shirts they once sold with the message, "Liquor Junction – Liquor In The Front - Poker In The Rear".

Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not prudish or puritanical, and I'm certainly not offended by nudity, sexuality, or humor. What I do find offensive is a culture where everything (including human beings), is seen as a commodity with a price. Our so-called democracy, and the capitalism it is based on, reeks of exploitation at every level (
American Heritage Dictionary-exploitation: 2. The utilization of another person for selfish purposes.), and yet many people can’t understand why there’s so much crazed religious fundamentalism in the world opposed to such a system.

Exploitation, enabled by elitism, has been utilized throughout "civilized" history, most obviously as racism, classism and sexism.

We are, at the moment, The Superpower Of The World, possessing most of the Weapons Of Mass Destruction, and hell-bent on having things done The American Way, whether the rest of the world likes it or not. Yet no amount of power, technology or dollars can save us from our own myopic narcissism, the human elitism that allows us to exploit and plunder every beautiful fragment of existence.

I argue below that only a fundamental change in our thinking, a complete ‘paradigm shift’ so to speak, will allow humans to continue for much longer as a viable species.

The Schism In Our Isms

There are no political voices that speak to my earth-centered non-anthropocentric, supposedly radical, ideas (
American Heritage Dictionary - radical: 1. arising from a root or source; fundamental; basic.).

The words that resonate in me come from nature-writers, deep ecologists, 'back to the land' self-sufficiency types, and indigenous people who still live off their land.

Capitalism, socialism and communism have all put human needs far above those of the biosphere. All this 'humanism' has fostered the concept that we are somehow different, above the laws of nature, and most absurdly, that we are the masters, 'the stewards of the earth'.

I believe this 'elitism' in our thinking is the root cause of racism, sexism, classism, ethnocentrism and nationalism.

Human elitism, in my humble opinion, has invented every religion, every political system, and every fundamental division between them, resulting in thousands of years of subjugation, torture, murder, wars and genocide.

But the elitism we use to divide, classify, subdue and murder humans only affects one species, and is nowhere near as destructive as the
anthropocentrism we employ in the appropriation and destruction of habitat required for the lives of every other species on earth.

This is
ecocide, and where genocide is the destruction of ethnic or religious groups, ecocide is the destruction of entire ecosystems. All of this stems from elitist thinking, and this elitism coupled with our human capability for tool-making (and weaponry), is likely to be our complete undoing.

But nature is my true passion, not politics or religion!

However, I believe that the greatest threat to the natural systems of earth (of which humans are only a part) comes from global corporations and their agenda of world domination, from corporate-sponsored
fascism disguised as free-market enterprise and democracy. Anthropocentrism, elitism, and greed have now brought us to a state of perpetual war, continual destruction over increasingly scarce resources, until the whole nightmare blasts reason to some cataclysmic oblivion.

Through our collective humanism we not only allow all this to proceed, we encourage it, by paying dearly with our labor, and our dollars for the false comfort of consumerism, for our prejudices, our wars, our weaknesses and our self-deceptions.

Tyrants exist only because we continue enabling them to exist. They do our elitist dirty work for us, in keeping the ‘undesirables’ (the poor, the hungry, the crazy, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the foreign, the different), from our doorsteps. They keep the goods rolling to Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and 7-11, the televisions blaring, and the infernal-combustion machines clogging the highways.

Meanwhile, someone pays for each bomb or bullet that claims a victim of elitism.

Someone, such as myself, who allows their tax dollars to be used for such atrocities.

We allow it because we’re selfish and afraid, fearful of death, of poverty, of imprisonment, or of finding ourselves hungry and homeless.

If we stop paying taxes to tyrants, for killing and destruction, we’ll no longer be the elite, with nice homes and cars. We’ll just be impoverished victims and we can’t have that can we?

So, in fear, we simply delay and worsen our fate, because finally, when all is said and done, the tyrants will fall and the empires will crumble.

And when the lovely world we evolved from is but a bombed-out toxic wasteland, it will be each one of us who was to blame. In our humanist ignorance and fear, in our weakness and insecurity, we are causing it all, and we will, eventually, reap our just rewards.

For me, humanism has revealed itself for what it truly is, and "You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train"
(Zinn), so I find myself compelled again to speak, at odds with my own species, for the rest of nature, for those who have little or no voice in the greedy temples of mankind.

I feel there is no sustainable future for humans through anthropocentricism, humanism, elitism, racism, classism, sexism, nationalism, fascism, capitalism, socialism or communism, but there is an 'ism' that might help us find our way out of this abysmal mess.


…a profoundly sustainable and democratic idea, and all we’d need to do is live under the laws of nature.

As Edward Abbey once wrote, “Where There’s Life, There’s Hope”.

I thought I felt a rant coming on…
…and many thanks to Denny at LJ for the loan of the obnoxious beanie for scanning.

This rant was simply another attempt at dialogue, hopefully with a less human-centered compromise in that dialogue, about what real change might require.

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Blogger I_Wonder said...

Jim, Personally, I'm not very hopeful for the future. I wonder if anything short of a collapse of human population and society will force survivors to change.

Have you read Biosphere Politics by Jeremy Rifkin? I'm considering ordering the book. In The Hydrogen Economy, Rifkin writes:

"Unfortunately, the redrawing of political boundaries into nation-states often bore little relation to ecosystem dynamics, making it difficult for human populations to live in a sustainable way. ... By creating an economic and social architecture that is a microcosm of the Earth's own diverse physiology, we bring our species into a world full of new possibilites that are both life-affirming and regenerative in nature. We finally end the long and barbaric reign of geopolitics and being a new pilgrimage to crate a lasting biosphere politics."

It appears Rifkin has a good idea that may be impossible to realize. How do we stop corporate evil and greed and gain enough support from people who will adopt a way of living in harmony with nature in a sustainable way?

7:43 PM  
Blogger lené said...

So very well said, Jim. Impassioned and honest -- and poignant. I was nodding with every line of the "ism" essay.

8:55 PM  
Blogger Ontario Wanderer said...

To use Martin Luther King's words, "I have a dream." I have a dream that the earth is the only real local superpower. I have a dream that the earth will survive. You and I, and the "superpowered" USA will only be a tiny bit of history, a small blip, in the earth's history. Humans may only be an eyeblink in the real history of the world. Too bad for us. The earth, and life, will survive. Perhaps we will leave a record?

2:31 AM  
Blogger madcapmum said...

"We allow it because we’re ... fearful of death..." I think you hit the nail on the head there, exactly. We put all this plastic, metal, shiny junk between ourselves and our coffins in the delusion that we're keeping the angel of death at bay.

5:15 AM  
Anonymous Alissa said...

I've just come across your blog Jim and I wanted to say how erudite I think you are and how much I've enjoyed reading your thoughts. You speak so much truth; it's very refreshing to hear. I think what you are doing is leading by example and that is great. All very best wishes from the UK.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Norene said...

that is one weird and sick hat. i'm glad you borrowed it to scan. it's just freakishly disturbing, and i see how it set you off. i'm set off the same way by the same types of things...

11:11 PM  
Blogger Tabor said...

Wow, that WAS quite a rant! And I agree with everything you said. I have a certain guilt about my materialism in building my house and scarring the earth, but I look upon it as my fortress against the social, cultural beast. My quiet space in the middle of four acres where I can finally hide from it all. Probably being a coward is not a good thing.

1:41 AM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

Thanks for writing it down, my friend. I don't think there is much hope for humans, but I do believe the earth will go on spinning and thriving long after we have been cast upon the ash heap of history.

8:29 AM  
Blogger roger said...

truly a hella rant jim. we have been attempting to live outside the laws of nature. in clicheland we say "nature bats last." and it is going to whup us upside the head bigtime, possibly sooner than later. i see zero possibility that humans will decide rationally to truly find and adhere to the laws of nature. the human enterprise has looked to me like a train wreck waiting to happen for most of my life. the weight of the many, innocently and naively living to survive, overwhelms the vision of those who stop to look around.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jim, I'm just back from a songwriting retreat. Earlier this month I considered cancelling my registration in that retreat, and another conference (not that I am always on the go - mostly just in February!). I'd been thinking on what I've read here and at Eleu's place, and a lot of my old habits just didn't make sense to me anymore. I've been planning garden expansion, and renovations for passive solar heating, and quitting my oilfield work. But I decided, since I got into this retreat (by audition), I might as well go and see how it sits with my new perspective, and get as much out of it as I can.

Well, I came away corrupted again. I want to write hit songs. I want to go to Nashville. I want...

Ahhh. Is there a balance? I bought a CD by one of the leaders, James Dean Hicks, and heard an anthem, "Somewhere in America," that I had never heard before - why? He sings:
Her daddy grants her wishes like a genie out of thin air
From a worldly perspective you could say she's got it all
But she's as empty as a midnight mall

Somewhere in America
There's a common ground, a place where all roads meet
Where everybody has enough
And a balance of
what we want and what we need
It's buried in the dust in the hearts of each of us
Somewhere in America

I guess I know why I haven't heard that song...on the radio...in between the jingles trying to sell me something...


7:46 PM  
Blogger the Contrary Goddess said...

Amen Jim. I'm hoping I equip my children to survive. Anyone else who wants to is welcome to join us.

And Laura, I'm from the coalfields. There was a song, written by a local songwriter in the 70s, that made fun of the excesses that were around in the coal boom of the 70s. It actually got played on the radio a few times before someone figured out it was making fun of the excess consumption! Writers name was Ron Short with Appalshop and it was pretty funny.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Gwyn said...

You have given me a lot to ponder on a Sunday morning. I watch the area near my own home being devoured for housing development after housing development, fragmenting the already fragile ecosystems I love to hike and explore.
On some level, I know that this destruction is more than a simple irritant to my enjoyment of nature, a sign of human greed gone wild.

On some level, I know that the arrogance of our country annoys the heck out of most of the rest of the world, and what amazes me, as you said, is that for the most part, we are clueless as to why this might be.

I really yearn to see us go back to more of a home-town economy, but have no idea how this will happen on a broad scale. Lots to ponder, how can I contribute to the change I'd like to see?

6:11 AM  

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