If You Dare To Think About Climate-Change, Then You’re Better Than You Think. If You Don’t, Then You’re Not.
An edgy essay by Robert Whyte
People have responded to my recent essay, “You Can’t Kill Real Philosophy,” and in particular to the climate-change part, which is about the need to dare to think critically, especially on the topic of climate-change denial and inaction, by feeling guilty and telling me they know they are not doing enough personally to combat climate-change in their own lives.
Sorry to be a guilt-trip party pooper. Personal action is good, but it is not the answer. The answer is not about you, it’s about the big end of town, aka global corporate capitalism.
We are all going down the gurgler because of the actions of a few hundred thousand fossil fuel magnates and supporters who are failing to grapple with the need for immediate, huge-scale, urgent action. I can assure you, society is not to blame. If you are one of those trying live less wastefully and more sustainably, you are a saint compared to the wilful, evil, self-interested deniers with their corporate appetites.
Political lies, inertia and sheer greed are parts of the problem. Human nature, that is. It’s a bastard. It would be easy for all humans to live manageably and sustainable with grand lifestyles were it not for the wanton will to win. When it’s there for the grabbing the grasping, power-addicted grab it with both hands. Of course, they lie and cheat to win. Naturally! Whatever it takes. When the going’s good they ride the gravy train at full speed and make sure to cut the cables on the emergency brakes.
When things go bad, they scurry off to avoid jail, of course. After the big crashes, recessions and wars, they hide in dark corners, knowing they are not welcome, but with every generation they rise again, sneaking up through the cracks of progressive pluralism and tolerant altruism. Orwell’s Animal Farm plays out again and again. And it has been ever thus. How to you fight aggressive despotic force with hearts and flowers? Not effectively. Petals don’t hurt. Hearts just bounce around and grin goofily. Not much world change there.
In terms of addressing the issue, the greatest practical problem we face globally, which we can actually do something about, is fake news and false thinking. The ability to dare to think for oneself has been squandered and suppressed. A critically-aware, informed, politically-and-scientifically-literate community is part of the answer, simply because a critically-aware, informed, politically-and-scientifically-literate community is less likely to let evildoers get away with it.
James Anderson (Harvard) made the point that it will take a World War II level collaborative project in the next five years to prevent self-annihilation. As an ordinary person you may agree and say you’ll help, but ordinary people don’t steer countries, despite the promises of democracy. The rich and powerful steer countries. Stop Madness, Evil and Greed, aka SMEG. Stop laughing. This is serious. That’s a good name and acronym for a political movement that should immediately arise. Then we can tell the global corporate capitalists to SMEG off.
It’s certainly a better path than the futile schmozzles we’ve seen with Brexit and Trump. They just straddle the gap between “We’re all right, pull the ladder up” and digging a hole in which to hide your head. These ersatz anti-political-class movements will only make the problem worse by breaking things, voting for un-doable calamitous change and tweeting like ADD babies. Brexit simply isn’t feasible and if people knew the facts, they would have stopped fixating on it.
Believe it or not, some people are highly literate in the arts, humanities and sciences, and are able to dare to think for themselves about climate-change. These people have no reason to feel guilty. We don’t want to make sustainability an obsessive-compulsive disorder. There is great wisdom in the Wildean remark, “moderation in all things including moderation.” Don’t beat yourself up. The people in charge of steering this ship are not even trying. If they don’t wake up and smell the fire and brimstone, we will all go to hell in a hand basket, no matter what ordinary people do.
Now, call me a silly old duffer, but if the inequality index is getting sharply higher for affluent countries, with economic gaps rising as the very richest amass unprecedented levels of wealth, then it stands to reason that wealth making, wealth-concentrating tricks, either by spin, suppression, ignorance, greed, regressive taxes, tax avoidance, manipulation or other deliberate or unthinking malignity, are all in play. Things should be slowly getting better, not rapidly worse. The evidence shows that we have socially institutionalised evil, aka institutional sociopathy.
I can’t see a way out other than the inevitable erratic wobble and dying spluttering spiral of a spinning top about to go into https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precession and even that will be very complicated and not the simple global catastrophe people expect by recalling the recessions of the past. It will not be simple. The world is different now.
Worry, but be happy. You are entitled to live a meaningful life. Travel is a given, as is caring for your family and loved ones and pursuing your true human interests.
We don’t know if what you do is useless. You might be making ice sculptures or composing cryptic crosswords or other apparently not-world-saving tasks. It might help! We just don’t know. The future is a strange and unruly place. An intelligent life gives you insights that may very well provide the perspective that’s needed. But we don’t know. If people are not given the opportunity, skills or encouragement to dare to think for themselves and pursue meaningful lives, we are short-changing our chances to live more wisely. We don’t know how, yet, but at least we know that.
What we can do is speak clearly and intelligently about what’s happening with regard to climate-change and inequality, and call out evil and institutional sociopathy when we see it.
And use less plastic.
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 301
Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Saturday 20 July 2019
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