Anybody else notice this confluence? There were two articles in this week’s Sunday edition of the NY Times, both are on the topics that are the largest challenges of our time. What is interesting is that these two gigantic challenges are somehow viewed as two separate issues, even though they are caused by the same thing.
(Pictured above, Paul Kingsworth, founder of Dark Mountain movement, and a big sissy who thinks it is time to give up the fight.)
The articles I am referring to are one on the Dark Mountain movement. A group of former activists and ecologists who have thrown in the towel, and given up, it is too late, we can’t save nature and the planet. Let’s give up. The other article is on the new book on economics by french professor Picketty called Capital in the Twenty First Century. I haven’t read it yet, but it deals with the huge rise in inequality between the super wealthy and everyone else. We have two landmark moments here. A group of people, many of whom have long been the radicals and activists fighting to save the planet have given up hope. It is a bad sign when that happens, it likely means that the only reason more people haven’t given up all hope is because we are naive and don’t fully appreciate the direness of the situation. the other landmark moment, is that not too long ago saying that wealth inequality was a big deal problem was seen as radical, as the kind of talk you’d expect to hear only on a the campus of a bohemian college, maybe after a couple of puffs of reefer. But not this message: that the inequality of wealth is getting worse and worse and soon it will threaten the fabric of democracy . . . this is the message of the day in what is being lauded as THE big watershed book on economics. It is being touted as the agreed upon thing in Academia and journalism.
We are destroying the planet by not caring for it, we are also damaging society with mind-boggiling $ inequality. These seem to be the two biggest challenges we face right now. Why I am bringing this up here is because I think it is crazy that no one has thought to point out that these, the two biggest challenges faced by humanity now, are caused by the same thing! Capitalism. Commercialism. The power of money, and uncontrolled greed left to run rampant over everything else.
This is actually good news! It means that rather than facing down what might look like two evil, nasty giants, we only face one. Like the Dark Mountain people I agree that our situation is bleak. Unlike them I don’t think it is time to throw in the towel. That’s a sissy move. If there is one thing I have learned from playing chess it’s not to give up, ever, but to keep fighting even when you are down a piece and it looks hopeless. You can still win, even when you are way behind as long as you don’t give up. If you give up you can’t win at all, of course.
Professor Pikkety suggests that progressive taxes which help redistribute wealth are a solution. I think they are a great start but not nearly enough. It seems to me that what is needed is a much deeper change. A change in values, in the way we see things, and in the ethics of what we value. We need to acquire a vision that allows us to see nature as precious enough so that we as a species will make whatever sacrifices we need to in order to save it. And a vision that teaches us to see unchecked greed and wealth accumulation for what it is: merely a sad, and gross disease. Not something to be envious of. In short, policy changes are not enough, we need to work on a new vision. A change that happens not just on the level of policy and legislation, but on the level of the heart. It is while looking for this new vision that I came up with the thoughts and ideas, and way of looking at things that became my book DIY Magic. Yes, I think what is needed is a magical way of seeing things, a sort of soul vision.
Is this even possible? Many would say no. It is time to give up, and stop fighting. Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow the world dies, in fact what else is there to do but get all the cash you can and enjoy yourself. That is the battle cry of those who have given up. Folks feel overwhelmed, they feel that we face too many enemies to overcome. But what if the challenges we face are really a part of the same common cause? And therefore can be tackled with a common solution? A new way of seeing? I say that this battle has only just begun.