Spirituality in an Age of Ecocide
Is the World Going Insane?
Maybe we are all a little, or more than a little, overwhelmed. Dealing with climate change will require such an enormous transformation of our economies and lifestyles that it will be comforting for many to leave their heads buried in the sand until the very last moment.
Politicians desperately need to raise funds, are hounded by the media, and live in a public space virtually defined by phrases meant to be emotionally affecting rather than descriptive of hard truths or actual moral virtues. Raising children in a world of rapidly changing culture, technological invasion of the family, and endless "things" that most of us don't need, not to mention the vastly diminished sense of community, is enough to drive most of us at least a little nuts. And being the world's only Superpower is such a grave responsibility that it's not surprising U.S. spokespeople are driven out of their minds by the sheer power they wield.
Almost a century ago, Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Russian Revolution who was subsequently hounded from the Party and then assassinated, made a stark prediction. Humanity, he said, faced a simple choice: "socialism or barbarism." A world dominated by mammoth corporations, and its flip side of violent religious fundamentalism, however, looks less like barbarian hordes than it does the inmates running the asylum.
It's at this point of the essay that I'm supposed to offer "the solution." Like the magician taking a rabbit out of the hat, I am expected to tell you that "if we all did such and such (meditated, did yoga, joined the Green Party, voted for Obama over the Republicans, became vegans, followed true meaning of the Bible), everything would be fine."
Sorry, no can do. The forces that created the present insanity—global capitalism, global techno-addiction, patriarchy in desperate retreat, rapidly spreading consumerism, and straw-clutching fundamentalism for those who don't get to the mall much—will be with us for some time. My only recommendation, for those of us who know that the madness is afoot, is to take care of ourselves and our loved ones as best we can, and to try to stay calm amid the madness.
Be kind, hug a tree, treat animals with compassion, remember that in the long run, honesty almost always makes you happier than lying. If, like the Egyptians, you can topple a dictator, by all means do it. Or if you can lessen violence against women, save the rainforest, or, like the students at my university, protest having a commencement speaker who represents (in their words) the "robber baron past," I wish you the best of luck. Just remember that finding a few moments of sanity won't end the insanity in other places, or guarantee that tomorrow or next month the craziness won't come back to where you cleared it away.
And hold on to your hats. We're in for a long, rough ride.