We were going to watch another episode of The Life of Mammals featuring Steve’s hero, David Attenborough. Somehow, despite a huge allergy attack and the resultant stuffed up head, Steve’s critical mind was able to detect something nagging at him. The media, entertainment, and complacency: is this a distraction from what we really want to pursue? Sure, it’s about animals and nature, but is it likely to help us get closer to saving our desperate planet? Are we sinking into a kind of complacency and pacifying our outrage by convincing ourselves that we’re doing the best we can just by appreciating nature through the media? What is the best we can do? How about coming up with solutions to systemic problems? Why would that be impossible? It’s no more impossible than writing a dissertation or an 800 page book on the life of Henry VIII. It takes energy and research and time and focus. That’s all.
Okay, at 9:30pm, I am not up to solving systemic problems, or even thinking about them. I had a headache and a backache, and I started crying. So I took a couple of ibuprofen and suggested we talk about it in the morning.
So, this morning I wake up with this phrase in my head, “If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem.” Well, of course I’m part of the problem. I drive a gasoline-operated vehicle. I contribute to an economic system that is full of gross inequalities. There is plenty on that side of the list. I would like to be part of the solution. I would like to know what the solution is first, though. That seems rational to me. Steve counters that in order to be motivated to find a solution, we need the energy of emotion. My British heritage and upbringing say, “No way. You can’t motivate me by appealing to emotion. I want to be rational. I want to do the right thing for a rational reason.” Is there a rational reason to do the right thing? Why do you want to do something beneficial? Because it’s good to do good. Ah, but that is a tautological argument. Good = Good doesn’t prove anything. It’s like saying, “Because I said so.” Okay, fine. I do want to be part of the solution for an emotional reason. And the minute I say that, I want to back away from it. “Emotion never got anything done; it’s so uncivilized.” Wow, does that sound British or what? Ah, but the energy that comes with emotion can be very useful. Are we ever going to make drastic changes in our destructive trajectory if we don’t get angry or scared or fed up or sad in some way about how things are?
Okay, so how about striking a balance and coming up with a both/and approach? Rationally, polluting the planet and alienating ourselves from all life around us through exploitation and indifference is not wise. It may lead to our ultimate destruction. Emotionally, the defacing of the original cathedral of our adoration, all of life, makes me sad, angry and scared. I want to put energy, research, time and focus into finding ways to live differently. Recognizing that “all life” is interconnected, this will involve looking critically at economic systems, ecological systems, biological systems, psychological systems, political systems, sociological systems, philosophical systems, religious systems, etc. A complete overhaul. Why not? What else have I got to do with my life? I could just sit back and be complacent or sneer and be cynical or throw up my hands and despair, but I think I’d rather just get to work. I don’t expect the first attempts will be perfect or even adequate, but we may as well point the canoe and start paddling.
Is this nuts? Is this manic? Is this taking responsibility? What do you think?