While listening to the “talking head’ analysis of the Presidential election 2020, I am reminded about how severely misaligned modern humans are in regard to our relationship to the natural world – the environment within which our species and our ancient ancestors have evolved over the past six million years. We find ourselves engrossed, mesmerized, and seduced into this surreal world of politics where reality has been subsumed by attention to the apparently limitless details of the workings of an artificial and contrived reality. Within this realm the citizens of this country participate predominantly adhering to the human propensity towards their tribal natures. What has been lost, at a great price, is our connectedness to the natural world that represents the wellspring of our human nature. What has been lost is our intrinsic humanity. What has been lost is our appreciation of the Commons. We have come to behave as if life were akin to a giant potlatch. What has been lost is an appreciation of the very future of our species coexisting alongside the marvelous diversity of life on planet Earth – our only home. We have come to accept as normal a worldview that is responsible for an acceleration of the deterioration of the very natural world that sustains us even to the extent of modifying the global climate so drastically that it may no longer support us in the not-so-distant future.
The current President of the United States has clearly demonstrated time and time again his gross incompetence, his meager intellectual capacity, his mendacity, his insufferable cruelty and yet he appears to remain preferable as a leader in the eyes of his adherents. In fact, apparently over 70 million voted for him (many of them enthusiastically) – choosing him as the one who would guide and shape their collective destiny. This is possible; because he projects himself as a mirror where his followers see themselves in him and he likewise becomes them. In this way, he becomes their tribal leader. It is no matter that he could propel the entire country to ruin and devastation; that the next generation could suffer immeasurable harm. This all seems to be of little relevance when higher-order brain function that establishes us as sentient beings is thoroughly scorned and maligned. This kind of destructive collective behavior and corrosive mentality has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout the torturous history of human civilizations – a notable example in recent time was the fiery beginnings and apocalyptic ending of the Third Reich in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s (1933- 1945). After this twelve yearlong planetwide scourge, a large proportion of the human world was left in ruins and over seventy million perished.
Our real hope lies not in the leader of the moment, but rather in ourselves. Our hope lies in our capacity to dislodge and discard all the patently false notions of our supposed superiority within the human family and come to recognize and believe that all humans regardless of their place of origin, or the color of their skin, or their system of beliefs or their sexual orientation are essentially the same. Our hope lies in our embrace of all the wondrous diversity on this planet – to honor and act as responsible stewards of the fantastic wealth and wonder of the natural world, and not in our ability to exploit, devastate and control. It is incumbent upon all of us to live in a way that will help ensure that all humans have an equal chance at living full and enriching lives both now and into the future.
Our real hope lies within our ability and determination to transcend our tribalism and xenophobia and greed and absorption with self - if we are ever to escape the destiny of so many civilizations that have been consigned to the trash heap of history. Such a shift in consciousness may seem terribly remote and unlikely, yet it is certainly within our capacity as humans. We can and must incorporate our higher-order brain function within the ordinary conduct of our daily lives. In my mind, it is immensely sad and regrettable that so much human suffering is unnecessary; that the great harm we are inflicting upon ourselves, the natural world and upon all the marvelous diversity of life is completely avoidable. We can and should do better than this.
I am mostly convinced that I will not be among the living when and if such a transformation happens within the human psyche, yet it is not beyond the realm of possibility that it will take shape in some form within the human community. As humans, we are certainly equipped to undergo such a metamorphosis in our worldview and communal behavior. It may very well be up to the young to create and adopt a new paradigm for living in a way that is more compatible to our true humanity – it certainly will be in their own best interest to do so.