Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Mythology of Ownership

Okay let’s face it for a change.  We need to look squarely at the way we really are - the truth, plain and simple.  Let’s stay away from all our usual habits of mind, namely, delusional thinking, half-truths, obfuscation, outright fabrications and absolute nonsense.

To put it plainly, humans as the dominant species on planet earth have done an abominable job at managing our home world.  In just a few hundred years since the invention of the first industrial use of the steam engine, we have done a masterful job of significantly altering the natural environment that sustains us.  In spite of the known consequences of our collective behavior, we continue on this reckless course that will ultimately prove catastrophic.

In fulfilling our seeming unquenchable desire for ownership, for convenience, for comfort, for wealth, for status and the inexhaustible pursuit of fun, we have successfully polluted the air we breathe, the water we drink, denuded the forests, ravished the earth for resources and, worst of all, we are dramatically and inexorably changing the climate.  We have accomplished this with stunning efficiency.

Another skill we seem to be remarkably adept at is procreation – the current estimate for 2016 is 7.5 billion individuals and we are currently growing at the annual rate of 1.1% (82.5 million individuals per year).  We are filling the planet with real and potential consumers all demanding and clamoring for a greater share while, in fact, the control of human destiny rests in the hands of a vanishingly small population of the powerful that control most of the wealth.  According to a report from the Institute of Policy Studies, “Nearly three-quarters of the world’s adults own under $10,000 in wealth. This 71 percent of the world holds only 3 percent of global wealth. The world’s wealthiest individuals, those owning over $100,000 in assets, total only 8.1 percent of the global population but own 84.6 percent of global wealth.”  In addition, the 10 top billionaires have more wealth than the gross domestic product of many nations.  This data translates into an unavoidable reality -many of the world’s people are suffering needlessly on account of the fact that a prodigious share of the world’s resources remains in the hands of a very few even though this amount of wealth has been accumulated as a direct result of the labor and industry of the many.  This reality demonstrates exploitation on a grand scale.  The very few who seem to hold all the cards are, in effect, parasites off of the energy and productivity of the many.  It is a senseless game with brutal and devastating consequences all for the purpose of sustaining a delusional state of being, for wealth and power do not bring real and lasting fulfillment to those who strive for and attain them – they are merely affectations. 

We are but transient passengers on this remarkable living planet and we do not own anything.  We might possess within our records all manner of paper documents that establish our legal ownership of all types of properties and devices and we might claim possession of a multiplicity of assets, but we do not own anything.  We might be as deluded as the Pharaohs in believing that somehow our possessions stay with us in perpetuity, but we do not own anything.  It is a mindless and vacuous game that will bring us grief in the long run.

Earth will not be seriously impacted by the consequences of our behavior, for it has gone through repeated cycles of catastrophic upheavals.  However, this will be first time in all of earth’s history that worldwide environmental devastation has been caused by living beings infesting its surface.  This is a colossal accomplishment on our part.

There is yet another hallmark of human behavior that has not heretofore been addressed and that is regarding the sheer stupidity and calamity that is the hallmark of war – that human propensity to willingly inflict destruction and death upon ourselves.  The use of unrestrained military force with every imaginable variety of weaponry in order to achieve political, economic, cultural or religious goals against a perceived threat whether real or imaginary is a grand testimonial to the absolute stupidity of the species we call human.  Nonetheless, human civilizations have been engaging in war over the millennia.  We seem to have indefatigable penchant for chaos as readily evidenced by historic data and an apparent inability to learn from our own past.

The idea that we actually envision ourselves as stewards of this magnificent planet is, to my mind, symptomatic of severe delusional thinking.  Attempting to paint a rosy picture of human activity in the face of the extent of our global perversity is a “brilliant’ exercise in Orwellian logic.  Homo sapiens has become the dominant species on account of a serendipitous evolutionary process that has endowed us with self-consciousness, extraordinary cognitive abilities and opposable thumbs that has allowed us to convert innovative ideas into transformative objects – a process that has brought revolutionary change.  We are now harvesting the fruits of our collective and cumulative endeavor. 

If we want the generations of humans that will follow us to live on a hospitable and benevolent planet we need to painstakingly analyze our own collective behavior, consider its inevitable consequences and come up with a sane and viable alternative paradigm.  In essence, we need to wake up.

No comments: