Woman Walking in an Exotic Forest
(Image by Heri Rousseau -- in the commons (wikimedia)) Details DMCA
The Doomsday Clock fluctuates slightly in its estimate of how close the world is to nuclear annihilation. (See yurl.com/y57w4ujw>). How ignorant the current president might be, and whether he or she is a Democrat or Republican are not factors of great importance with regard to this fluctuation. The overall direction of the clock remains towards annihilation. Yes, Trump is probably making it a bit worse. But Hilary would not have turned it around. Unfortunately, this march toward our annihilation is largely due to factors that are outside the current range of political discourse.
If we ask what are the factors that are actually threatening our species with annihilation, the answer is surprisingly simple: technology and capitalism. Technology, as practised everywhere in the world today, is about replacing the natural order with a humanly engineered one. Capitalism, as practised, with variations, by all the major powers, is about expecting greed to motivate our leaders to do what is needed by humanity. In combination, technology and capitalism will inevitably lead to a cataclysm. The only question is whether there might be a remnant that will be capable of reinventing society on a more solid ideological foundation. Probably not, but that may be our best realistic hope.
We should note, in passing, that the deadly synergy that operates between capitalism and technology is the core cause of several other major threats to the continuing viability of the human race:
a devastating plague (originating either in biological war laboratories or our meat factories),
the assault on all our ecological systems by the sheer quantity of civilization's waste,
It is unlikely that our leaders will abandon their commitment to the current ideologies of capitalism and technology. Unfortunately, even ordinary folk are deluded by the mass media into believing that their salvation from meaninglessness, despair, ill health and poverty depends on our commitment to capitalism and technology. So even real democracy, though it would surly be welcome, would be unlikely to turn back the clock.
More realistic economic and technological thinking might require, among other things, that we accept a simpler life-style, and few people are likely to accept that. Therefore the prognosis for humanity is not good.
Perhaps it is worth our time to consider what ideologies would facilitate a viable future for our species. It's an interesting thought experiment if nothing else. With regard to what is needed in the economic sphere, we already have a clear theory, and to some extent an example of what is needed. Words are tricky, but it would have to be some form of what is generally called socialism. By socialism I mean a political/economic system in which BOTH goods and resources AND decision-making are equitably shared. It's a simple idea, though its implementation would be complex. I think it has never really been tried. Certainly not by Stalin or by Mao. To put it mildly, they were not strong on the sharing of decision-making. The political and economic systems developed by the Scandinavian countries in the last century were probably as close to what I mean by "socialism" as we have ever seen on the planet. By all objective measures, they produced the happiest societies in the world. A Wikepedia article on the World Happiness Report, yurl.com/p7py5l5> points out that Finland is the happiest country in the world, with Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland "holding the next top positions." These nations are not perfect, but do provide us a direction a jumping-off point.
But what needs to replace our current thinking (or lack thereof) regarding technology? The Greens have addressed this issue, though their ecological activists are probably not radical enough and they are too ready to compromise with the establishment. The Anabaptists (Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites) exhibit a hostility toward creative thinking that is undesirable, but they do have something to teach us regarding technology. They are the only societies I know of who actually evaluate the probable consequences of new technologies before permitting their use in their communities. Also, some important thinking and experimentation has also been done by "natural" or "organic" farmers. So we have some partial answers.
Essentially, the mainstream policy toward technology appears to be something like this: use it all and hope for the best. I have no clear overall blueprint as to how we should regulate technology. Even if I did, this brief essay would not be the place to present it. This much, however, can be said: rather than blindly worshipping technology, we need to subject it to critical discourse. That is not happening.
I would like to close with a word and a poem. The word is "gardungle." It's a word you won't find in the dictionary. That's because I made it up. As is probably apparent, the word is a combination of "garden" and "jungle." It refers to any complex social system in which the natural order and the humanely created one mutually sustain and support each other. I have one in my back yard. I think perhaps it needs to be attempted on a larger scale. The goal of a gardungle is to combine the reasonable degree of control that one sees in any garden, with the wildness and creativity of the jungle.
The poem is one I wrote about the gardungle surrounding my house and my connection to it.