Hugh M. Lewis
Early European explorers did not have a good conception of
the earth as a single spherical entity. The whole earth remained an
abstraction found only on world maps and scale models of the globe. It was not
until Humankind actually escaped the gravitational pull of the earth and had
the actual vision of the earth as a solitary planet in a vast and empty space
that its wholeness and roundness began to have special significance for us.
Before then, our vision of the earth was largely circumscribed by our
seemingly boundless local horizons and we lived under the spell of its
illusion of vastness and virtual unlimitedness.
Enlightenment of the earth as a global whole did not
suddenly burst into our imaginations like a sunrise. It emerged gradually,
embryonically and quite unapperceptively . but now it has coalesced into its
finished shape and we can see it and ourselves in relation to it more clearly
and we can no longer readily ignore it. The earth is round and its horizons
close upon themselves, is space is bounded in all directions, and its many
resources finite in amount. The vision of its wholeness present us with a new
sense of environment, one that is global in perspective, which our old
metaphors, our old sensibilities and conceptions, and our old sensitivities
hardly equip us to fully see. And we share an important psycho-geographical
relationship to this new sense of environment--our personal and collective
identities, our sense of experiential continuity and existential security, is
tied to our ability to envision and relate to it as a planetary abode, as our
earth home. But this new sense of environment is irreducibly wholistic,
pristine, primordial ecology of the natural earth, and has replaced it by an
artificial ecology of a scientifically organized humankind. What remains of
the earth's environment is the composite result of world wide interactions
between civilization and natural processes--a curious cyborgian mosaic of
synthetic and natural elements. Nature has become bound by our civilization
and our civilization has become bound by nature, and we cannot now return to a
natural ecology without doing undue harm to both ourselves and our natural
environments. The new kind of earthbound equilibrium which we need to
establish is a conservative one in which the benefits of civilized development
have to be weighed against the unaffordable costs to our remaining nature,
such that the safety margins of both may be protected and preserved.
We have always had other choices than those provided for us
by the world system--our collective failure has in part due to our individual
failure to recognize such alternative choices and to realize the changes such
choices would entail in our lives. Failure to make such choices has led to
choices being made for us by the great and impersonal forces of the world
Earthboundedness is a whole earth state of mind which
regards the entire earth as a single, solitary home for humankind; vast in
area but not unlimited; bountiful in raw resources but definitely
circumscribed in all ways. Earthboundedness also regards our only home planet
as a single, natural, well integrated orgasmic entity, enduring in its
complexities but not impervious to the depredations of civilized development.
But earthboundedness is more than this--it represents a
whole world view of a new earth environment, a philosophy and a new way by the
earth's boundaries, replete with all the many implications and significances
which living upon an inescapable island in space holds for humankind, human
culture, history, science, values and the ethos of everyday existence.
Earthboundedness is not a natural state, but a human state
of being bound in all thoughts and actions by the dimensionalities and
proportionalities of the entire Earth. Earthboundedness has begun seeping into
our everyday lives, influencing everything we say and do in contextual and
unconscious ways, informing our words and deeds with a new level of importance
and sense of order. Bringing the state of being earthbound to a heightened
level of consciousness, 'earthbound enlightenment' in both the individual and
collective mind is a way of dealing now with the new predicament and paradoxes
which confront humankind in the third millennium after Christ, and its
elaboration provides the common conceptual ground for cultivating a universal
sense of human identity.
As a word, 'earthboundedness' means several different
things. Most literally, it means the state of being bound by the
earth--environmentally circumscribed by the earth's gravitational field. We
always soon know when our feet are not firmly planted on the ground.
Metaphorically, earthboundedness provides the principle horizon of the human
mind which like the anthropological conception of 'culture boundedness' in
one's values, world view, attitudes, behavior, knowledge, perception and
experience, such that one cannot escape one's own cultural orientation in
order to assimilate or appreciate any other, makes its difficult to adopt any
other kind of comprehension about the world. It is a 'geo-physically'
orienting consciousness around a geo-physically limited and meta-physically
limiting set of environmental constraints--pervading every instance of our
collective experience, invading everyday of our personal existence, and
predetermining our capacity to adaptively cope with and adapt to new
environmental changes. A transition between world view, trading off one kind
of 'total' world view for another, and in the process transcending the
limitations of 'total world view' altogether. Finally the meta-physical sense
of earthboundedness consists of the many states of mind and being which are
informed by the awareness, however remote, of being earthbound in all ways.
There has been an awakening of awareness of the collective condition of being
earthbound, but there has not yet been self recognition of 'earthboundedness'
as a collective frame of mind, nor any systematic exploration of its possible
implications for humankind.
Earthboundedness as a way of relating to our world concerns
principally the human ecology of being on earth, rather than the natural
ecology of the earth's environment. It is concerned with human adaptation.
Unlike 'earth-mindedness' it is not primarily aimed at the relationship to the
environment of the earth, so much as the human mind and state of being which
is environmentally open and which allows for relationship with the natural
environment. The primary problems challenging humankind today are
environmental in symptoms, but the causes are rooted in human factors and
human causes which eventuate in environmental destruction and in turn
exacerbate the human factors and causes. Earthboundedness is also not about
the anthropological condition of modern humankind, so much as it is about the
philosophical, normative, historical and psychological aspects of the modern
human condition in its maladaptation to the earth environment.
Earthboundedness is a way of finding ourselves in our environment.
'Earthbound' can be used adjectivally in a number of
related ways. For instance:
'Earthbound Epoch'. Culture historically we are entering an
'earthbound' age in which earthboundedness, as the basis of human reality,
identify and humanity, is becoming the predominant theme around which
humankind is organizing itself.
'Earthbound Civilization'. The process of an emerging earth
centered way of life which shares a common earth history and a common sense of
human identity rooted to the earth.
'Earthbound Environments'. We live and act within local,
regional and global scales of context which are 'complete' environments in
their circumscription of our world and our lives, composed of numerous webs
and interlocking networks in which everything is related to everything else,
however indirectly and remotely. We are enmeshed inextricably in many webs of
interdependency which overlap and extend in every direction around the entire
earth. We are locked into long chains of interaction the other end of which we
rarely see or know about.
'Earthbound Ecology'. There is only one complete ecology,
the earthbound one, in which we find ourselves part of an important natural
processes of self organization, cyclical patternings of change, chaos and
anti-chaos, and in which there are no separate or independent or self
determining entities apart from this natural ordering process.
'Earthbound Synergy'. The many parts have come to cohere
jointly in many different patterns to make up the framework of the synergistic
whole, and the wholeness becomes manifest in the patternings and processes of
its many parts.
'Earthbound Indirection and Delay'. The former guaranteeing
us that whatever the immediate direct consequences of our local behaviors,
there will always be indirect 'damage' or 'avalanches' in regions of the earth
which may be quite remote from our own. While the latter guarantees us that
there will be some unpredictable delay in the total effects of long term
'Earthbound Existence'. Earthboundedness has come to
pervade every aspect of our day to day lives, and all our actions have some
cumulative consequences upon many other parts and eventually upon the whole.
It is the global framework orienting all regional and local actions and
considerations. The web are becoming more entangling, the chains of
interdependency stronger and longer. We need to know how earthboundedness
intrudes upon the many parts of our daily lives.
'Earthbound Imperative'. Earthboundedness imposes a kind of
existential imperative in our lives--the need to know and to act. Global
circulatory and environmental circumscription superimpose a grand Malthusian
dilemma which entails that we learn how to see and adapt to new global
environments in ways which lead to health instead of disease.
'Earthbound Karma and Dharma'. Whatever indirect damage we
do, its consequences must eventually, however indirectly, rebound back to
affect us in some way in our local situations--if not during our lifetime,
then during our children's lives. Nature will always lay upon our doorstep the
ills wrought by the errors of our ways until we mend our mistakes and repair
'Earthbound Ethos and Ethics'. Our earthbound imperative
demands that we adopt new styles of living and ways of being, and that we
learn and teach to our behavior which confer the rational and moral legitimacy
to lead our lives in new directions.
There is only one ecology, our own earthbound ecology, and
it is composed of the planetary fabric of life--we are but parts of the whole,
and all other environments or ecologies are but eco-niches of the earthbound
one. It remains in a perennial state of super criticality, at the edge of
entropy and complete chaos. We can no longer dump wastes into streams or
sewers, or raze forests or habitats without affect in some measure of all
other parts of the whole. We must understand a new earthbound 'ecology of
mind' which reflects our awareness and responses to our environments. We are
at the dawning of 'earthbound enlightenment' in which our earthbound ecology
of mind is coming into environmental self awareness, providing us with a new
macroscopic perspective of a natural humankind on earth. We are confronted
with a new point of view, an 'earthbound perspective' with its own
unprecedented complexity, completeness, comprehensivity, multidimensionality,
encompassing and encapsulating all other viewpoints and defining for us our
collective baseline and bottom line. Earthboundedness is demanding of us new
kinds of adjustments and accommodation with which we've had little previous
It is within the framework of earthboundedness that we must
come to terms with the most pressing problems of our era. These are primarily
human problems, and only secondarily environmental ones, except the human
problems are ones of environment as well. The human element is the cause, of
the environmental challenges we are now facing, problems which rebound in turn
and aggravate our human predicament. The predicaments imposing our earthbound
imperative are interrelated like the global ecology in which they are
situated--one set of problems cannot be understood without accounting for all
the other problems in the field of relations. Similarly problems are
processual and patterned, bound within complete contexts of interrelation
lacking many delimiting boundaries.
1. The first and most important problem is overpopulation.
Natural population increase has always driven many processes of state
formation, warfare, environmental circumscription, migration and other
religious practices and social customs. Environmental circumscription is
directly related to population pressure. Population increase is in equilibrium
with environmental adaptation--there is a feedback process such that adaptive
success begets population increase and population increase drives
environmental adaptation. The problem is one of local and global
overpopulation. There is enough food worldwide to adequately feed all five
billion people upon our planet--it is the uneven distribution of the surplus
which results in mass starvation and pandemic malnutrition in many regions.
The kind of malnutrition that is the consequence of overpopulation is 'protein
calorie malnutrition'--the insufficiency of essential amino acids and minimal
levels of energy which increases susceptibility to disease, lowers
productivity and empowers many 'population control mechanisms'. It has been
the rapid rate of increase spurred by development and uncurbed by sufficient
birth control and family planning practices, which threaten to carry the
global population to overload the carrying capacity of the earth within one or
two more generations. Inspite many educated guesstimates, we have no firm idea
of the 'carrying capacity' of the earth. Scientific advances in the hybrid
grains, breeding and agriculture may increase this capacity in indefinite
ways, and the human capacity to tolerate and live with less remains
quantitatively incalculable. The human world will only continue rapidly
shrinking in relation to the increasing demand for land, resources, food and
spaces for living, to the point that much of the globe will soon become
essentially a very dirty, overcrowded little slum which most people will still
cal their homeland.
Most of the social disease related to slum dwelling will
also be pandemic--problems of mass poverty, underemployment, lack of social
mobility, increasing food prices. The quality of life will deflate in
proportion to the increase in the quantity of life and the human population
will quickly outstrip our system's capacity to adequately and evenly meet the
demands and basic requirements of earthbound existence--scientific technology
will not produce enough technical solutions to go around, except for the final
The problem of overpopulation is one of ticking time bomb.
By the time the global population reaches the critical carrying capacity of
7.5 billion, most of humanity will be children and youth who have yet to come
of age in an adult world. It will be these children, the next generation of
our earth, who will be hardest hit and most affected by the problems of
population. It will be a critical age group in which the greatest human
potential for development will become the most severely limited, frustrated
and deformed. There will be tragic reverberations upon future progeny of the
earth and in our collective capacity for adaptation in our earthbound
environment. The time bomb will soon explode very rapidly when the next
generation come of age to make normal, adult sized demands upon the
environment, just to find general social systems broken down and under
equipped to deal with them adequately. There will be systemic overloading and
breakdown in many unexpected and unplanned ways.
2. The political economy of our world system whose history
of development and modernization has been one of potentially unlimited
resource consumption and of human exploitation. We have created a global
factory in which resources and labor are bought cheaply in undeveloped zones
of exploitation and are sold dearly in overdeveloped regions of consumption.
Both globally and domestically within nation states there is an increasing
polarization between overdeveloped 'core' areas and undeveloped 'peripheries'
or hinterlands. Between core and periphery there is uneven distribution and
access to basic resources, vast differentials in the levels of consumption,
availability of goods and services, income levels, education and opportunity.
Peripheral areas tend to be the regions of greatest population increase as
well as the areas where there is the greatest amount of environmental damage.
3. Patterns of social mobility, mobilization and migration
within a structure of global stratification, 'mechanisms' of population
control, on one hand tend to destabilize the order and organization of the
world system, and on the other hand tend to increase the adaptiveness of the
system to the local, regional and global exigencies and emergencies. The
global factory is accompanied by global stratification between first, second,
third, fourth and fifth worlds, between five percent of haves who consume 95%
of the earth's available resources and 95% of the have-nots who control and
consume the remaining 5%, in a world where one billion over consumers are
counter balanced by one billion people living in hopeless, abject, 'absolute'
poverty without opportunity of escape, and the remaining 3/5's caught in a no
man's land of relative poverty in between.
There are occurring global patterns of international and
regional migration--labor flowing from zones of exploitation to zones of
consumption, 'brain drains' of educated elites from peripheral regions to core
areas, increasing numbers of displaced domestic refugees and international
homeless people who have been cast out by the wheels of modernization and
systematically excluded and prevented from re-entering the system.
To control and channelize the mobility of people and to
render the masses of humankind docile and obedient to the dictates of the
system, national and international bureaucracies have been established which
systematically encapsulate people of different status. Vast screens of
obfuscation and co-option quite systematically block or hinder either
geographical or social structural mobility within the global system.
4. Global media and systems of symbolization and
information reinforce and legitimate the progressive development of the world
system. The culture of consumption has established a global hegemony which
threatens to destroy the vitality and function of traditional local and
regional cultures. Values of consumption are being exported to periphery
regions without the availability of income which makes such consumption
Relative deprivation, group reference, cognitive
dissonance, frustration aggression, the revolutions of equality and of rising
expectations are frameworks of understanding the spontaneous rise of
radicalized mass movements and the political factioning of groups operating as
political economic special interest groups, as largely self organizing
processes resulting from the human response to systemic exploitation and
reflective of the super criticality of the world system.
With increasing radicalization of special interest groups,
organized around principles of race, ethnicity, nationality, family, religion
or communitas, there are increasing levels of inter-group friction and strife
and increasing competition for resources which eventuates in militarization
and increased levels of violence. Such groups threaten to destabilize the
world system and in turn require heavy handed measures of totalitarian
5. The extremely evolved state of militarism in the world
today, and the global militarization of many groups, increases the likelihood
of warfare spreading from one area to others and of escalating in levels of
violence. In a highly integrated system, minor perturbations are more likely
to eventuate in system wide reverberations and damage. War is most likely to
be started by groups that sense or fear some impending disaster such as
famine, and seek to preclude such disaster by coercive appropriation of
another group's resource base. Maintaining high levels of militarization and
the machinery for the mobilization for war, exacerbates the likelihood and
levels of violence. War is as likely to occur between trading partners or
allies as not--the more frequent the economic interactions between groups the
greater the likelihood of eventual conflict. Our recent world history has only
demonstrated that world wars have occurred repeatedly, have escalated towards
totality in levels of violence, are not controlled by the balance of power and
can be precipitated by relative minor events or the rise to power of
unpredictable irrational groups.
It is in context of these general human patterns and
processes that the interrelated problems of global ecology must be framed.
Rapid deforestation, the greenhouse affect, global warming, atmospheric
pollution, destruction of the ozone layer, depletion of fossil fuels and many
minerals, contamination and destruction of marine and aquatic environments,
upsetting of normal cycles of the hydrosphere, lowering of groundwater tables,
soil erosion and nutrient depletion, desertification and desiccation, loss of
evolutionary genetic potential with the extermination of many species of flora
and fauna, permanent loss of arable land to modern development, radiation
contamination, all of these environmental problems must be seen as caused and
aggravated by social circumscription due to world wide development and in turn
causing and aggravating the problems of social circumscription.
It seems that the world system must reinforce its order and
organized domination in ever more coercive and controlling ways in order to
maintain its dynamic stasis in relation to increasing levels of environmental
and social circumscription and in response to the rise of social movements
which continuously threaten to destabilize and damage its functioning.
By superimposed, coercive and manipulative reinforcement of
the global regime of capitalist order and organization, the whole system must
ossify into a generally inflexible authoritarian power structure in which
local conflicts are contained at local levels without spreading to other
areas. But with such rigidity and ossification and increased levels of
organization, management and integration, the system itself will become less
and less locally, regionally and globally adaptive to environmental changes
and which its own development imperative is inducing. The system must
eventually reach a state of super critical mass in which chain reactions
throughout will lead to its systemic 'deconstruction' and disintegration. It
will break down in depression and cease to function at all.
It must be understood that the system itself is not the
solution to the problems and predicaments of human development in an
earthbound environment. Such a system is great and impersonal and it is this
very greatness and impersonalness which prevents it from meeting human needs
on a local individual level, and which ultimately renders it environmentally
and evolutionarily mal-adaptive.
Earthboundedness pre-structures and pervades our entire
existence. Global contradictions are felt by every individual in many small
ways--defining our ultimate horizon predicating all other considerations. This
has fostered a new sense of pervasive anxiety about the world in the need to
know and respond responsibly in new earthbound environments. We live in a
world ridden by multidirectional, multidimensional pushes and pulls, forces
and lines of stress which disintegrates the individual sense of order and
control and undermines human identity. This anxiety has gone from neurotically
obsessive to psychotically compulsive, resulting in a kind of social
schizophrenia, a paranoid 'archosis' in a collective need to know which in its
frustration becomes environmentally destructive.
We are in an age afflicted by a basic crises of human
identity--of a need to find ourselves within the vast and impersonal system
and a need to reestablish a relationship with nature within ourselves.
This condition is characterized by the embodiment of the
principle of Absence, or of 'nonbeingness'--a general sense of meaning loss,
anomie, of purpose for being, of a feeling that something vague is missing or
misunderstood. It is associated with feelings of loneliness, anonymity and
deep seated alienation from our own natural sense of being. It fosters a sense
of self as if this were but an empty, flat reflection in a mirror or
projection upon a screen. We come to see ourselves in a 'derealized' sense as
if performers on stage separated from ourselves.
There is no longer a classic battle between the superego
and the id--self controls reinforced by the constraints of successful
adaptation in our system have been completely internalized to an unconscious
level. The system and its symbolic context has become our unconscious--the
system is within us, individually and collectively.
We sense critical absence of being because in the complete
internalization of our world order and with the identification with its role
models, status and values, in our lives, we have become cut off from the basis
of our own being, unreflexive and unselfconscious which predominates in the
most rationalistic way. We become out of touch with our own genuine self, cut
off from our own deep seated roots in nature. Though repressed, nature remains
as a prisoner deep inside ourselves, forever reminding us of its missing
presence, or critical absence.
The Self has become strongly, deeply divided between a
public ego of presentation and a hidden self of private fantasy. The two
worlds are disconnected and effectively sundered.
If there is a need to know, there is also a corresponding
need to unknow, and these needs work at cross purposes and lead to schism in
our personalities. Unknowing means avoiding symbolically those things which we
do not know and so fear, tuning them out of our environmental awareness,
acting as if they did not exist in our fields of view or relationships.
In order to cope in our daily lives we erect barriers which
have the efficacy of common sense and naturalness of folk psychology and which
block the flow of threatening or contradictory information in our lives. Our
world has become one inundated by information--information overload is a
common occurrence, while the effective and timely processing of information
has become critical to our adaptive success within the system. We avoid or
prohibit the unknown because we fear it and we remain ignorant of what we
fear. We create convenient conceptual frameworks by which to safely
categorize, channelize and hence sanitize the 'noise' emanating from our new
earthbound environments. We manufacture elaborate mythologies, ideologies,
sophisticated systems of rationalization and legitimization which allow us to
maintain a sense of complacency and control in our environments.
Our system has engineered sophisticated technologies and
techniques which allow us to regularly cope and function with large quantities
of information. Techniques of mass production and marketing have been applied
via the media to the cultivation and development of the 'human mass' and a new
brand of mass mentality, the primary preoccupation and function of which is
the consumption of the effluvia of production and the elimination of its own
Part of the crises of human identity is that the human
being is increasingly identified as a member of 'mass oriented society'
characterized by numerical, statistical anonymity, social anomie, and the
habits and values of mass production/consumption, whose social role identity
is determined primarily by the relative position with the
production/consumption hierarchy. The modern modal personality is
characterized as a 'mass oriented personality' with needs, desires and
behaviors corresponding to the ethos of the system. Human beings have been
reified into things, objects of production/consumption which can then be
translated into quantifiables of time, money, man hours, man bits and man
We have created for ourselves a cultural hegemony
characterized by implicit denial of subjective experience. It is a culture of
circular deceit and delusion, of living our 'vital lies' rooted in conformity
to the ethos of the system. Complicity in our new world culture of denial has
its own complications--the vicious cycle of coping with systems of coping
which are fundamentally deceitful and delusional. Our system is controlled by
a blind ideological program in which many people are in charge but no one is
ultimately responsible. It is a secularized ideology of rationally whose
information is propagandistic in its distortion of our earthbound realities.
There is a new kind of authoritarian among us,
characterized by his/her competency in administering, managing, manipulating,
persuading, distorting and hiding information within modern contexts. In its
worst form our new archetypical model of humanity is a modern kind of
authoritarian who is quite rational, sophisticated, intellectual, multi-model,
characterized by a sense of completeness, lack of subjectivity, non-reflexive
invisibility and transparency. The modern authoritarian is a non-leaker of
information, whose principle function is the simplification and reduction of
the 'noise' of contradiction in our new environments. They are the new
professional elites who are specialized in processing, filtering and modifying
information for mass public consumption.
The modern authoritarian has become the model human
resources manager and mass manipulator and marionetter. She/he is a
professional performer and performing professional, guided primarily by
motives, through apparently liberal and symbolically altruistic and selfless
before the system are actually profoundly selfish, egocentric and self
The key feature defining modern authoritarianism is covert
and unconscious socio-pathy. It is no longer a battle between id and superego,
but the silent domination and control of the ego over a sense of natural
self--the completely internalized social ego and the totally projected sense
of self. There is a psycho social inversion as opposed to social psychological
conversion. If there is personification and personalization of social
conflicts, then there is also a process of socialization and characterization
of personal conflicts. The self is not an embodiment of contradiction and
conflict--it has become too deeply and internally divided and detached from
its own sense of being. It is merely the vessel of the ego.
In its best form, the new archetypical model of human being
is a globe trotting poly-ethnic personality whose primary function is the
brokering of boundaries and the mediation of differences.
Global peace is a primary concern of our collective future,
a peace which seeks solutions upon a local level of involvement and
interaction by individuals. Integration of world cultures, rather than their
homogenization or hegemonization or destructive assimilation or
marginalization, entails cultivating a multicultural continuum of a genuine
'third culture'. This requires the development of a 'post conventional'
personality whose primary identity, loyalty and involvement is at a global
level of concern, within an individually focused system which sustains and
maintains standards of universal human rights and promotes the development of
We also need a better comprehension of the problem of evil
in the world--an anthropology of evil which provides a ground for
understanding authoritarianism, power, violence and corruption and the causes
and consequences of these in our world.
We need to achieve a 'changing of Mind' in human beings,
collectively and individually. This is difficult to achieve in a system which
has mastered techniques of conversion, brain washing and behavior modification
in human beings. In any given random group of people, a certain fixed
percentage will tend to be highly resistant to external stimuli. A similar but
opposite percentage will be highly susceptible and suggestible to such
environmental influences. There will always be an intermediate majority of
people more or less resistant or susceptible. In authoritarian regimes, the
majority can be easily swayed, persuaded, intimidated, cajoled, induced, to
swing over to conformity led by the minority who are the complete conformists.
This simplifies the task of isolating, selecting out and eliminating the
opposed minority who pose a threat to the established order. Once conversion
of the human character is achieved, it remains relatively fixed and stable,
given regular doses of reinforcement. All people can eventually, effectively
be broken, given enough time, enough inducement. Learned dependency and
acquired helplessness are the primary results. And there are a variety of
inducements available designed to lower the human threshold of resistance.
Under the disguises of anonymity, mass humanity can easily be whipped upon
into states of madness and mass hysteria, and can be lead to do things they
would not normally in their 'right minds' think of doing.
Who controls the self, self control or other control, is a
critical problem of our age. Changing minds and hearts and changing human
character is a principal challenge of our new earthbound age.
Bringing the state of being earthbound to conscious
awareness, both individually and collectively, entails a completely new and
different way of conceptualizing and seeing ourselves, our minds, our bodies,
our families and our earthbound environments, whether locally, regionally,
globally or cosmically, in symbolic inter-penetration with or new
environments. We must find the source of this transformation in ourselves, and
implant it in the cultural germination of our children, and we must sow its
seeds and cultivate its grassroots until it takes hold and spreads to cover
the whole earth with healthy new growth. We must redraw the boundaries of our
imagination, vision, sensitivities and sensibilities and redefine the borders
which separate people from one another. Our challenge will become our
The way is clear, only the will power is lacking.
The human confrontation with new environments demands
alternative ways of seeing and relating. Successful adaptation depends upon
the ability to recognize these new environments for what they are, and then to
recognize ourselves situated within them. Encountering new environments
situates us upon the edge of our own existence, requiring vision instead of
We need to initiate a set of textual explorations, literary
'probes' into new regions of mindscape and new relations of ideas basic to our
encounters with new earthbound environments. We need to review the terms and
meanings long taken for granted as given in some of our most important
intellectual paradigms dealing with human reality. Many important insights
remain entrapped in esoterica, encapsulated within jargonistic idioms and
rhetorical designs purporting to allow the knowledgeable reader to do
virtually anything but to think and make judgments independently. We need to
deal not just with definitions of terms, but with the many relations which
cohere between words, concepts and ideas, and with 'meta-relations' which seem
to cohere between relations.
Opening our minds is a way of opening our eyes, to better
read the messages contained within our new environments.
A new world civilization demands the reformulation of new
commitments, new voices, a new collective consciousness and social conscience.
It demands new resolutions, new habits, new symbols and finding new pathways
to human development. It demands alternative possibilities within alternative
But what choices do we really have if no viable
alternatives are made available? The great and impersonal forces of evil are
better organized, better equipped, better trained and better armed than ever
before. They have great sciences, technologies, bureaucracies, academies,
societies and resources at their disposal whose solitary purpose is the
maintenance of the status quo of world wide class hegemony in the most
effective, efficient and economical manner possible.
The problem had become one not so much of prevention--of
not becoming something worse--but of cure, of learning to overcome
authoritarian repressions and internalizations which have already prevented us
from realizing our greater human potentiality. It is a matter of how to
unlearn how to unbecome the kind of unbecoming people we learned to be.
In this we must learn to work against momentous forces of
our own making, against the sense of history and destiny we have created for
ourselves, against the forces of great traditions which stand in our way. We
must fly in the face of many long established values, even against our own
experience and deeply ingrained common sense.
Children are the living symbols of our future. They are the
breathing embodiment of our hopes, expectations, concerns, frustrations,
strengths and weakness. Children are the creatures of our myths, the
caricatures of our civilization.
We are the amateur professionals and our children are the
professional amateurs. They are the ones with the inherent capacity for
challenging new environments.
Our future is a child's reality. Alice's innocent faith in
the reality of her language guided her successfully through the strange
landscape of Wonderland. Children are the 'natural' amateurs who 'see' the
world in and of itself. They come to know it in plain and simple terms without
the adult vanities of false preconceptions.
A child's natural approach to organizing the experiences of
its environment is to 'tear down' in order to 'analyze' its elements, in the
process 'unlearning' all that the adult perceives as appropriately ordered.
We must 'unlearn' how to see our new environments in order
to better recognize the alternatives before us and to reconstruct a different
sense of reality. By 'tearing down' our world we must unlearn how to perceive
the rhythms of its elements without the preconditioning of our tainted
traditions of experience.
Children are the complete anarchists. They leave nothing
alone that is within their reach, upsetting everything adults try to keep in
place. The saving grace in childhood is that children are not held responsible
for their liberties.
For our children nothing is too sacred. We will have many
important lessons to teach our children and they will have much to learn. But
we will also have important lessons to learn from them and they shall teach us
a great deal more.
Possibility is more than a state of human consciousness or
imagination. It is the prerequisite ground of our future becoming. Determining
the impossible, the duty of our science, is a gradual movement from the
imagination of possibilities through reasoning of plausibilities to the
determination of probabilities. It gives birth to the realization of the
present, the concrete, immediate factualities of the here and now. Our future
environment is a function of our imagination of possibility.
The future remains a mystery yet to be solved. It is an
unfinished field of infinite possibilities.
We are rushing headlong into the darkness of our destiny,
accelerating at every turn of events that brings to our vision new series of
encounters, new fields of experience, new kinds of expectations and new
environments. As we approach the edge of possibility, the state of our common
existence teeters upon a dark chasm beyond which all we have known will become
lost to all that we do not yet know. Standing upon this edge our traditions
and history becomes inverted into 'trends' and tendencies which are supposed
to guide us like a lantern into the darkness.
We have neither the pre-science to foretell future events
nor the ability to prevent our future becoming. Only shadowy outlines emerge
vaguely upon our horizon, and these bare forms give us a premonition of things
Now we can speak only of our common needs, our common
limits, the basic parameters of our common experience which will go forward
into the darkness with us. We have come to a grand juncture, and we have a
collective choice to make about our common destiny.
Our future will be shared in a shared world in which each
person's fate will be bound up in the collective fate of all humankind, in
ways never before experienced.
In the same way that the past demands a fair and hones
hearing, an accounting of actions and inactions, so also does the future
demand an audience, a witnessing and a troupe of actors ready to perform its
tragic comic dramas.
We will either orchestrate our future or fail to, having
made wise choices or having choices made for us. But our basic choices remain
Our future will either be collectively shared, composed of
common needs, limitations, aspirations and destinies, or else it will prove to
be a future of collective failure.
The environmental meta-themes of our future are always
mythical. The ability to envision possible futures requires a mythic
imagination, in this way imagination of new environments sets the stage for
the enactment of human dramas of struggle between man and woman, youth and
age, life and death, birth and dying, right and wrong, the beautiful and ugly,
the natural and supernatural. These are some of the fundamental antinomies
which constitute the fabric of our minds and the ground of our meaning. Thus
our reality becomes mythical and our myth becomes reality.
Our paramount meta-theme is that the human spirit will
struggle forward against the reactionary forces of evil. The essence of this
spirit is creative, life giving, born of survival against necessity. It is
always at odds against the powers of organized evil in which the authoritarian
character strives unrelenting to predominate.
The race to the Capitalistic finish line will have only a
few winners but there will also be many angry losers--people's dispossessed of
their basic rights and freedoms, disinherited of their children's franchise in
life's opportunities and dignities. The trickle down illusion of technological
progress will then not sustain the delusion of inevitable global prosperity
and participatorial equality that has been so cleverly fostered and foisted
upon uneducated masses by the image control engineers of the world system.
The permanently disenfranchised will refuse to remain
silent for very long in the face of their children's increasing hunger.
Hopeless in the deprivations of terminal poverty and choiceless in the
irreversible depredations of unforgiving exploitation, they will raise a cry
of battle and call out for equal justice. Their chorus will drown out the
empty voices of authority.
The apocalyptic vision of our environment is upon us.
Double crossed expectations and common feelings of unequal deprivation and
injustice, lacking even the false virtue of necessity will give rise to global
OUR COLLECTIVE FUTURE
In our never shrinking 'global village' we can no longer
afford to foster delusions of national, ethnic or cultural superiority, the
arrogance of narrow egoism or of blind ethnocentrism. No longer can we
consistently ignore in or protected affluence the plight of so many other
people. No longer can we cultivate effectively a selfish sense of distinctive
separateness and privileged prerogative.
The enlightened spirit of a private, disinterested,
literate soliloquy on the condition and fate of humankind will then become a
hypocritical anachronism of a shared future.
Becoming a collective future, it will become a future
collectivity--a new global social environment hitherto unexperienced by
humankind, consisting of the active sharing of common needs and aspirations
and concerns, and of exchanging different cultural values and elements.
But however common, however shared, our future will remain
preeminently a human one, composed by human actors in their daily lives.
A social collectivity of any scale is never a reality apart
from or independent of the people who together compose it. It is not an insect
colony or a wild herd dominated by instinct and necessity. It is not an
independent, empirically separable entity or organism. It does not breathe,
live or think independently of the collective will of the human constituency.
It is simply a shared state of being and wherever we search
for it we will only find a common collection of people talking and working
together toward a common cause.
The word collectivity of the future will be collectively
made up of individuals who are independently thinking and autonomously acting
and freely speaking out.
We cannot afford to promote a myth of a narrow, selfish
egoism or that social man is necessarily a social insect. Nor can we afford to
promote the illusion of the organiismic whole or of the social ethic founded
upon the anthropological misconception of man the pack animal, man the ape,
and the law of survival of the fittest. Greed and selfishness are no longer
affordable virtues, as neither are selfless devotion and altruistic sacrifice.
The lesson of our histories leave us little guidance and
less hope in these collective affairs.
Our world cannot any longer afford the luxury of
functioning for the good of the one and the few at the expense of the all and
In the long run, the world system cannot work upon the
principle of 'unlimited good' for a limited few for it will otherwise spell
collective disaster for all.
The collective ideologies and mass myths which sustain the
mechanisms of the world system are becoming obsolete as we fail to resolve
their inherent contradictions of class and power, affluence and poverty,
economic efficiency and exploitation, inequality and violence. The bubble of
promised expectations will burst in the storms of global crises and
Science and technology cannot always be relied upon to
create the solutions to or collective problems, but in the long way may create
more problems than they will be able to solve.
Technological development is not necessarily, unreservedly
beneficial and efficacious for the progressive future of human civilization.
Energy, harnessed in ever greater magnitudes does not
necessarily lead to greater efficiency, economy of effort, efficacy of design,
or more manageable waste. High energy entrapment systems become concomitantly
more wasteful and consumptive whatever the developmental rationale or
Information locked away in great treasures with privileged,
graded access by the high priests and super specialist of the world
technocracy, is no longer necessarily good for its own sake, nor does it
necessarily lead down the golden pathway to collective enlightenments.
….Bits and watts--which here stand for units of
information and of energy respectively--when packaged into any mass produced
commodity in amounts that pass a threshold, inevitably constitute
impoverishing wealth. Such wealth is either too rare to be shared or it is
destructive of the freedom and liberty of the weakest…(Ivan Ilich,
Buckminster Fuller's anti-entropy equation of energy plus
information equals something from nothing is not necessarily a valid design
for the future or unequivocally the wisest kind of formulaic rationalism to
apply like a band aid to our common existential dilemmas. More for less
formulism leads down the road to less for more social patterning of
Storing information, money or energy in ever greater
quantities is not necessarily the wisest strategy for meeting our collective
future, as it tends to promote social patterns of elitism, hoarding,
monopolism, class inequality, corruption and a false and pretentious idealism
of privileged superiority.
Nor is the ideology of communism the only necessary
alternative to a capitalist dominated world system, as communist societies
face the same basic dilemmas of developmental inequality. Marx has long been
dead. In facet, communism and capitalism as ideological doctrines have been
cut from the same basic philosophical cloth of the western tradition of
rationalism based upon the principles of progress and utopia.
AND THE NEED FOR A COMMON WELL BEING
The future of humankind's existence upon earth will not
depend upon advances in technology, in greater development, more
industrialization, mechanization, automation or professionalization or upon
amassing ever greater stockpiles of potential energy or greater mountains of
information. Our future health will not depend upon the development of
superior tank armor, more accurate missiles or even less costly military
The future of humankind will depend greatly upon our
collective ability to meet certain basic conditions of human existence:
1. The extent of the realization of human rights and
fulfillment of individual human potential.
2. Our collective capacity to live tolerantly, peacefully
and compassionately with ourselves and with one another.
3. The extent to which we can establish effective
population management techniques (i.e. birth control, health delivery systems)
on the basis of voluntary participation.
4. The extent to which we can systematically eradicate and
control common diseases and disorders which afflict humankind and the extent
to which we can improve life maintenance systems.
5. The extent to which we can establish educational systems
which teach effectively the values of equality, social responsibility and
which foster freedom of expression and cultivate human creativity.
6. The extent to which we are able to reestablish an
ecological balance and conservative harmony with our global environment,
instead of promoting a predominant economic order founded upon the domination
and destruction of the natural environment.
7. The extent to which we are able to put available
technologies, energy entrapment systems and treasuries of expertise, knowledge
and understanding, to pragmatic work in the reevaluation, reorientation and
redirection of the predominating world order to more efficaciously realize the
The future well being of humankind will be measured in
spiritual terms of our collective, common emancipation from the tyranny of
violence and necessity and the realization of basic human rights, freedoms and
Our future health will be measurable in real terms of how
well we eliminate hunger, alleviate human suffering and stress and effectively
control birth and death.
The future of our collective well being as both a global
civilization and as a common biological species will be measured in terms of
how well we will overcome our most pressing problems of global militarism,
economic imperialism, ecocide, pollution, over population and poverty.
Our collective destiny will be decided in terms of how well
we will be able to reestablish a new and better harmony of common well being
based on an alternative ecology of global culture and civilization not
predicated upon the domination and control and alteration of our natural
environments but in the reestablishment of a more natural symbiosis.
Furthermore, it is demonstrable that the common well being
of the whole of humankind will depend immensely upon the well being of the
autonomous individual. The future will thus pose a grand paradox between the
interdependence of the whole and the independence of the many parts--paradox
about our common existence upon the edge of our critical juncture which will
become our common problem to resolve.
GAME THEORY AND WORLDS OF GOOD
Some social theorists have sought to apply game theory to
the understanding of our social realities. The prototypical peasant world view
is one of a 'world of limited good'--it is a zero sum game in which one
competitor gains are always another's loss in the competition for ever scarce
and limited resources.
Some scientists have sought to discover evidence of
optimizing strategies, cost minimizing strategies or profit maximizing
strategies in different patternings of subsistence, foraging, food getting,
marketing, fishing, etc. It is always to be wondered whether or not people
actually plan their daily lives and moves in such a rational way.
Our world system of capitalism is founded upon an opposed
strategy of profit maximization, based upon world view of 'unlimited good'.
Capitalists are playing a 'non-zero sum game' in which the results of
interaction between competitors do not always evenly cancel one another out,
but produce surplus.
Such a framework has not come to terms yet with the
earthbound Malthusian view of the world which sees it as a world of
'diminishing good' played out in a 'negative sum game' in which one person's
gain is everyone's net expense and loss. In an earthbound world the strategy
to be adopted is one of minimizing losses through minimizing gains, rather
than optimizing or maximizing gains through minimization of losses. Rather
than a conservative, 'peasant' outlook, the predominate earthbound perspective
is one based upon rationing of limited, irreplaceable commodities in order
that they may be preserved for as long as possible. This leads us to a world
of 'unrestricted good' based upon principles of preservation and prevention.
In an earthbound world of diminishing good, there will be
no point in leveling on a global scale, as there will be nothing to level and
no amount of resources sufficient to distribute evenly throughout the world.
With a world of increasingly widespread deprivation as the
rationed reserves run out, there will be local patterns of hoarding, panic,
strategies of diversification, depression, followed by raiding, feuding,
social movements of all kinds imaginable, in confrontation with increasing
authoritarian power structures.
As we run out of room, out of food, out of resources, out
of water, in our earthbound world, we will be confronted with certain basic
existential dilemmas--on lifeboat earth that has overreached its carrying
capacity, who shall be cast overboard and who has the responsibilities for
making such decisions, or is it really a 'problem' in that there is 'always
room for one more' as the rest of us whose security and safety is assured are
constrained to 'tighten our belts' a little more.
So far we have history of casting out the poor, the
dispossessed and the weak.
Lifeboat dilemmas are a consequence of life control
mechanisms running into death control mechanisms--those agencies which
protect, preserve and prolong human health by preventing death and disease.
Immunizations compete with birth control drugs, hospitals compete with
military machines, schools compete with penitentiaries, old folks home compete
with heart lung machines.
We do not yet know what the final 'solution' to the
'problem of population' will be, if there is one. It may be that there is in
fact no real problem at all, or is not as immediately pressing as we now
believe. Science may save the day, or find the final solution, or else the
population problem will resolve itself for better or worse. As a collective,
we have a choice of pathways, between Hitler's and Gandhi's solution to the
problem of 'people'.
SELF ORGANIZED CRITICALITY
Natural systems maintain a level of equilibrium according
to principles of conservation. This level of equilibrium within a system
determines the criticality of its self sustained growth, beyond which systems
tend toward 'supercritical states' resulting in predictable chain reactions
which lead to major events which eventuate in restoration of conservation in
the system at the previous 'supercritical' level. The chain reaction maintains
the criticality of the system.
Such systems are characterized by internal
contradictions--they are unstable in many different directions but the
critical state is absolutely robust. Local features are continuously changing
due to events, but the statistical properties of the whole and of the size of
the events, remains stable.
Criticality is a global property of the whole system--local
dynamics may vary unpredictably, but they are a function of the total history
of the whole system and critical events would persist with a merciless
frequency that is an erratic 'flickering' which is nonrandom and implies a
connection of the dynamics of events with past events of the system. Such
flicker noise is a superimposition of signals of all sizes and durations
produced in a dynamic system in a critical state composed of chain reactions
of all sizes and durations.
Such self organizing systems are chaotic but nonrandom
systems. Small initial amounts of uncertainty grow exponentially over time and
prevent long term predictions which would require correspondingly exponential
increases in information. Weak chaos generates uncertainty not exponentially
but by a power law--it grows with time but much more slowly and predictably,
on the border of chaos. Fully, strong chaotic systems have a time scale beyond
which it is impossible to make predictions--weakly chaotic systems lack such a
time scale and so allow for predictions. All self organized critical systems
are weakly chaotic.
Such complex systems are governed by relational values or
'boolean functions' in which each component is a function of two or more other
components of the same system and everything is related to everything else.
There is a cycling of different possible patterns over a duration which fall
into certain states. Minor mutations can precipitate 'damage' throughout such
systems. Some such systems exhibit a remarkable capacity for falling into very
stable patterns in which a majority of its relational patterns become fixed
into stable clusters. This stability prevents widespread systemic damage by
restricting the region affected to small areas of the whole. This is referred
to as the evolution of 'anti-chaos'.
Natural evolution exhibits features of such critical
systems which evolve and 'adapt' themselves in a self organizing manner at the
'edge' of chaos. Such systems are likened to fluid states, in which the number
of 'fixed' stable components of the whole are relatively few and far between,
as opposed metaphorically to 'fixed' and unchanging states of solids and the
completely chaotic states of gases. Such an explanation of critical self
organization may explain the saltational 'punctuated equilibrium' observed in
the fossil record, related to rapid speciation events following long durations
The conservation of the number of elements is an important
feature of many systems which naturally evolve to a critical state.
'Throughout history, wars and peaceful interactions might have left the world
in a critical state in which conflicts and social unrest spread like
avalanches.' (American Scientific, Per Bak and Kam Chen, Jan. 1991)
It is not unreasonable to suggest that symbol systems and
the social systems they represent and the dynamic political economic behavior
of such systems within a global framework, are systems of self organized
criticality which naturally develop toward supercritical states by the natural
increase in population which the functioning of such systems promote. Social
movements are like 'flicker noises' in such systems, which chain reactions may
precipitate major events like 'avalanches or earthquakes'.
It is estimated that the whole world will become
structurally integrated into a single hierarchically ordered political
economic system. Some see it happening now, others forecast it within a
century, others believe it will take a couple of hundred years and yet others
believe it will happen by the year 4850A.D. if such political economic
integration is inevitable, then the questions of when, how and why are
critically important. But it is also to be wondered whether such world order
will be desirable--can it be achieved by peaceful cooperation or only through
imperial conquest and domination? And will such a single world order
necessarily be an Orwellian or Huxlian dystopia of the absolute and arbitrary
rule of Great and Impersonal Organization of Evil, or may the characteristic
millenarian vision of utopia be realizable by the progress of scientific
technology which will result in a better world for everyone. Estimates based
upon computer projections of current trends suggest that the present political
economic disparities between global core and periphery are relatively stable
and 'fixed' given the persistence and pressure of the political economic
status quo of our Pax Amerikana.
It is possible that such global order, if it is achieved by
the conquest of war or the threat of violence, will depend upon the military
organization of societies which must socialize its citizenry for the
mobilization for war. Such socialization for the mobilization for war, or for
'economic competition' which seems to be the 'pursuit of war by other means'
has negative consequences for the realization of human potential and humanity
upon earth. If this hypothesis is correct, then the system which promotes
uncontrolled capitalist expansionism and exploitation must have negative
consequences for a world order based upon an organizational ethos promoted by
the threat of violence.
Political and military fascism has always been the dark
underbelly of capitalist imperialism.
It seems necessary that any world order, if it is not to be
founded upon the evil tyranny of the threat of violence must be founded on the
rule of peace and the devaluation of violence. If such an alternative 'rule of
peace' is possible, one which would minimize the threat of violence then a
groundwork must be lain down which would demonstrate how global political
economy can be effectively achieved in a non-capitalistic manner.
OVERSPECIALIZATION AND ADAPTABILITY
Our present world system is no longer adaptable to the
unexpected and unplanned. It does not respond in adaptive ways to the
relinquishment of the motivation for social power. It cannot deal in any other
terms than those upon which it was originally founded in a previous period.
The earthbound environment is confronting the world system with a set of basic
survival imperatives which the system is unable and unequipped to effectively
deal with. The challenge is unmet and all attempts at adaptation are
systematically frustrated. This inflexibility to natural change, the promotion
of outmoded ideologies and commitments to lost causes and false organizational
ideals, is occurring at all levels of the world system, as it becomes bogged
down in an entangle political economic web of its own design. Our system has
become in its structural hyper coherence, 'overspecialized' in its functional
compartmentalization. Such overspecialization is a measure of its
maladaptability in local contexts, and is a precursor to sudden, catastrophic
events and eventual extinction of the system.
In its progressive quest for power, for control over
change, for stability, it has become crystallized and solidified by too many
constraints--it no longer balances flexibility at the edge of chaos, and must
soon fall into its abyss.
A NEW AGE AND AN OLD ONE
We are at the dawn of a new age, and at the dusk of an old
one. We stand in a twilight of transition as one sun sets and another rises.
The new age will bring with it new sets of problems to be solved, as well as
solutions to some old problems which have remained unresolved. The new age is
an earthbound age, one characterized by new adaptations in new environments.
The new age is the post scientific age--one that will no longer depend
exclusively upon the workings of scientific technology to solve every problem
challenging human survival. The new age will not be any better or worse than
the old one, it will only be very different in very fundamental ways. Science
will still progress and be important, but it too will have changed in
THE PROBLEM OF POPULATION
The Malthusian dilemma of the exponential growth of
population beyond the carrying capacity of the natural system upon which it is
based is coming to pass within our children's generation. Population is the
'key' problem of the earthbound perspective, but it is connected ecologically
to another problem of the environmental degradation of the very natural
substrate which supports the population. We are witnessing a point of critical
convergence between population increase and ecological destruction, a
threshold to explosive cataclysm which our science and technology cannot long
forestall or prevent.
It is estimated that our earth will soon overreach its
optimum carrying capacity, beyond which further increase will only eventuate
in further ecological degradation. The consequences of this will be measured
not just in relative qualitative terms, of the loss of the quality of life for
the majority of the world's people, but in 'absolute' quantitative measures of
infant mortality, gross income, net nutritional intake, disease prevalence,
life span, etc.
It is theoretically speculated whether population increase
'drives' systems of social complication or is the result of the adaptive
success of social systems. It is, as a 'natural system' one which passes from
sub-critical through critical to supercriticality in that in its overloaded
state it generates a process of fracturing breakdown. Population growth
eventuates in the formation of social chaos, which results in the entropic
breakdown of the social system which generates it and is generated by it.
Population increase will eventuate in other unforeseen
consequences as it stresses and breaks down the system upon which it is based.
The ecological dilemma of global overpopulation and environmental degradation
becomes a 'biological time bomb' in which there is a built in time delay
between the ignition of the fuse and the final release of its potential
energy. Also in a hyper coherent, supercritical system , minor fluctuations in
parts leads to major reverberations in the whole resulting in systemic
destabilization. Things may happen spontaneously in one part and indirect
resonance to causes in other parts.
Population increase begets mechanisms of population control
which attempt to brake and slow down the snowballing growth. Such 'mechanisms'
may be family planning, birth control, abortion, infanticide, marginalization
or exclusion, migration or warfare. Some methods are more 'cost efficient' and
effective than others--the elimination of the fetus represents less loss of
investment of energy than the elimination of adults. So far, family planning
is the most efficient 'mechanism' available, but the promotion of its
effectiveness has faced serious and social obstacles.
The 'problem of population' leads to certain ethical
dilemmas of 'lifeboat realities'--on lifeboat earth that has overreached its
carrying capacity, who shall be thrown overboard and who has the
responsibility for making the decision, or is it really a 'problem' in that
there is may 'always be room for one more' as the rest of us whose security
and safety is assured are constrained to 'tighten our belts' a little more.
Lifeboat dilemmas are a consequence of life control
mechanisms running into death control mechanisms--those agencies which
protect, preserve and prolong human health by preventing death and disease.
Immunizations compete with birth control drugs, hospitals compete with
military machines, schools compete with penitentiaries, old folks home compete
with heart lung machines.
The 'problem of population' is also a 'problem of hunger'
and a 'problem of disease' and a 'problem of poverty' and a 'problem of
prosperity' and a 'problem of education; and a 'problem of inequality' and a
'problem of authority' and a 'problem of responsibility'. The last problem is
perhaps the most important, because it may very well be the case that in the
global system, no one is really in control and no one is really responsible.
The 'problem of population' is beyond control, and decisions made or not made
in relation to its final solution. This is more than just the social diffusion
of responsibility, and even if everyone miraculously wake up one day in the
near future and decided to assume earthbound responsibility in their own life
in the world, the momentum of the population snowball and the consequences of
environmental degradation will still carry all of us to the critical point of
We do not yet know what the final 'solution' to the
'problem of population' will be, if there is one. It may that there is in fact
no real problem at all, or that the problem is not as critical or pressing as
we now believe. It may be that science does find the final solution, or it may
be that one way or another the population problem will simply resolve itself
for better or worse. As a collective, we have a choice of pathways, between
Hitler's and Gandhi's solution to the problem of 'people'.
The biological time bomb may have a longer delay than we
know, or our bomb experts may defuse it in time. From our privileged position
of first world affluence, we tend to 'blame the victim' and put the burden of
guilt upon poor people who have many children and large families, even though
it is not scientifically understood whether population drives the system or
the system drives the population. Poverty seems to beget overpopulation, but
overpopulation also begets poverty. It is a vicious cycle that must be broken
before it breaks us.
OUR EARTHBOUND ECOLOGY
From an ecological standpoint, the 'problem of population'
is tied critically to the 'problem of environment'. If there were unlimited
space, unlimited resources, unlimited water, unlimited forests, unlimited air
and unlimited food, then there would be no environmental or population
problem. In vain we look to the distant stars as a way out of our predicament.
But the facts remain that the earth is being denuded of its last stands of
forests, stripped of its mineral resources and its atmosphere, biosphere and
landscape are being permanently altered by 'man made' processes. We are
'developing the earth' to a premature death--the growth of world civilization
is resulting in permanent and irreversible alterations of the global
environment, from destruction of the atmosphere, global warming,
destabilization and contamination of the hydrosphere to mass extinctions of
many species and the permanent loss of biological variability on the earth.
The entire problem of global ecology remains debatable, as
it is not yet known exactly how large our energy reserves or mineral resources
are, or how our atmosphere or hydrosphere will become adjusted in the long run
to our presence and growth and development. Many still believe that science
will still be able to solve all our problems if given enough time or if it can
act in a timely enough manner. But the point remains that the earth is a
limited sphere and its resources, once bountiful will eventually dwindle. The
atmosphere cannot forever sustain itself in relation to the continuing
increases in technological development.
Global ecology is not a disconnected set of variables--it
is itself a global system in which one set of 'problems' is interdependent
with all other sets of problems in some important way. We do not know well how
deforestation affects the atmosphere, or how atmospheric contamination will
affect life on earth. Burning of fossil fuels affects the atmosphere and the
biosphere. We have both a set of interrelated ecological problems, and a
single problem of global environment.
The environment is rapidly being eroded and the ecology as
a system degraded. This degradation and erosion follows a long series of
incidences of human destruction of natural environments in the process of
creating 'cultural' environments. The global environment is rapidly becoming
transformed from a 'natural system' into a 'cultural setting' and this
transformation has both bad and good consequences. But it seems as if it is an
irreversible, inevitable and runaway process that has been beyond anyone's
capacity to control.
Environmental consciousness has become popular--there has
been an 'awakening' to the 'problem' and a sudden proliferation of literature,
media and public/private interest and investment in the 'problem'. While this
is an optimistic sign of the times, its hard not to notice that this is a
'cultural' rather than a 'natural phenomena'. Such consciousness remains a
privileged prerogative of first world societies that stand the most to lose
and the least to gain from the kinds of changes which might lead to real
solutions to the problems at hand. As a symbolic mode of representation, it is
to be wondered whether this rather fashionable interest is not a part of the
very consumption industry which seems to drive the whole problem in the first
place. It is easy to point fingers at the policies and patterns of third world
societies, but might they not be a symbolic scapegoat for our own repressed
sense of guilt for being the cause of the problem'
The cultural elaboration of ecological themata, as part of
an 'ecology industry' represents not part of a solution to the problem of
ecology but a prevention of the possibility of such a solution. Consciousness
awakening and a high profile interest in ecological problems are not bad
things, but neither does their industry provide the solution the problems it
feeds upon, and even may hinder such solution by fostering collective
illusions that money being spent on elaborated illustrated coffee table books
devoted to global ecology will help in the effort to find solutions.
This points up some basic dilemmas about the problem of
ecology which we must learn to recognize and resolve, as they prevent our
acquiring practices, habits, attitudes and objectives which might genuinely
contribute to the solution of the environmental problem. In promoting symbol
system which promote and preserve the status quo of social relations in the
world, or by promoting the 'tokenization' of symbol systems which would
otherwise threaten the status quo of political economy, we fail to face
squarely and honestly the earthbound realities of which we are a part.
The global ecology movement has remained a 'molish'
grassroots ground swell. The greening of global consciousness remains for the
most part 'underground' as it must come into headlong conflict with the great
and impersonal forces and interests of a global political economy founded upon
technological development. It is apparent that the powers that be cannot be
entrusted with the responsibility of caring for the earth in a way that will
promote long term survival.
The dilemma of the problem of global ecology is that those
who have the most power to decisively effect the kinds of changes which would
have decisive consequences for life on earth are precisely the special
interests groups who have the most invested in the status quo and the most to
lose by such change. Most of the rest of us merely follow suit for the
interest of our short term social survival. But we are leaving our posterity a
THE BIOLOGICAL TIME-BOMB
The biological time bomb is an ecologically volatile system
of resonance between social circumscription of overpopulation and related
problems and environmental circumscription due to degradation, destruction and
irreversible alteration of natural ecosystems. This 'supercritical system' is
approach to a point of 'critical mass' of an inherent potential systemic
instability which may suddenly but not unexpectedly 'go off' in a cataclysmic
'explosion'. We are running out of room and out of time, and out of the very
things which sustain our being on the planet earth. Yet it is to be wondered
whether it is in fact a 'time bomb' ticking to a 'global climax' or it is just
a wound up alarm clock which will eventual just 'run down'. To a large extent,
the understanding of our earthbound ecology is a big black box and we are not
exactly sure what is inside of it. We are not sure whether the ticking coming
from within is a bomb or just a clock.
But population, the environment and the interrelationship
between them on a local, regional and global scale, poses a very real
ecological problem. It is a problem which also has broader evolutionary
consequences, not just for our own species, but for all of life on planet it,
and for the whole planet as a living entity.
The biological time bomb is in fact not a natural,
biological 'climax' of life on planet earth, an inevitable outcome of
evolutionary development. It is in fact a man made problem, and can therefore
be called the 'cultural time bomb'. Human cultural development, an historical
and non-evolutionary process, has been the main driving mechanism. But it is
the biological consequences and the effects measured biologically, which make
the bomb primarily a biological problem of global human global culture.
The primary experience of the time bomb are those of
'future shock'--of the exponential increase in interrelated phenomena which
are the result in the supercriticality of the global system approach its
threshold. 'Future shock' is in fact a form of 'culture shock' in that it is
experienced as a cognitive and perceptual disorientation and feeling of loss
of identity, in the encounter and adaptation to a rapidly changing global
environment--one which is rapidly transforming from a natural to a cultural
orientation. The consequence of this is the loss of our cultural capacity to
cope with and collectively adapt to a changing global environment. We are
quickly losing our adaptive abilities, and this reverberates in our personal
individual lives. We are suffering paralysis from fear in our ability to deal
with change at the very moment in our history that we must confront the most
change. Fear of the bomb has frozen and unnerved us.
HISTORY OF THE WORLD SYSTEM
The history of 'modernization' of the world system is not
to be confined to the industrial era of the rise of capitalism. The history of
the world system is a history of the gradual rise of human civilization as a
global phenomena with political, economic and socio-religious implications. It
is in other words, the history of the political economic and socio-religious
integration of the human population on earth. Capitalism and communism had
precursors far back in ancient pre-history and classical history. The only
thing 'modern' about them was not their political economic or socio-religious
aspects, but rather the development of scientific technology and its social
consequences. We cannot clearly separate out the political influence of
conquering imperialistic armies from the economic influences of foreign
markets and commerce from the socio-religious 'civilizing influence' of world
religions. The history of the world system is one of gradually increasing
integration of the global population into a single system based upon
political, economic and socio-religious principles of organization.
The contemporary period of this history with which we are
most concerned is one which is characterized by global 'capitalism' that
contains political economic domination/dependency between 'core' metropolis
regions, on global, regional and local scale and outlying 'peripheral' areas.
Power and wealth are focused at the 'center' of this capitalist system and
relations between core-periphery are predominant in that they determine the
life ways and life chances of all individuals within the system. It is a
system which is characterized between gross inequalities between the core and
the periphery, in which the function of the center is primarily consumption as
a symbolically legitimating the materialistic values of the capitalist mode of
production, while primary production is the primary function of the periphery,
as the material base which supports the core.
The process of development/underdevelopment characterizing
this capitalist world system is basically one of 'class polarization'--of
separating people out into two polarly opposite classes, at local, provincial,
national, regional and global levels, characterized by their unequal access to
commodities of the global market. These two classes may be lumped into the
consumers and the producers, the function of the former being primarily
symbolic, the function of the latter being mostly physical labor. These may
also be separated on the basis of parasite and host classes or exploitative
and exploitable classes. It is largely a class phenomena because its social
relations are focused in the exchange relations of the market place.
There is a third, in-between class, referred to in the
global sense as the 'semi-periphery' and in a domestic sense as the 'middle
class'. The political economic function of this class is to intermediate the
social relations between the core and the periphery, or the upper and under
classes. Bureaucratically mandated and empowered from above, from the
standpoint of the core they resemble the periphery, while from the point of
view of the periphery they are part of the core. Their function is to serve as
a buffer to interclass conflict and to provide a central ideological prop for
the articulation of the whole system. Extreme polarization tends to pull this
middle class apart, to disintegrate it between the two extremes, whereas
increasing systemic integration tends to pull the two extremes towards the
shared middle ground.
It is this class which is most characterized by
inter-positional ambivalence and therefore cognitive dissonance of status
ambiguity. It is for this reason that the world view of this class is said to
suffer the most class/status consciousness and to have the greatest sense of
'false consciousness' or a collective illusion of its identity. This
in-between class is also characterized by its structural heterogeneity--it
comprises the greatest diversity of social interests and orientations, being
at once the most conservative and reactionary supporters of the status quo and
simultaneously the most fertile element for revolution and challenge. It is a
class by virtue of its 'anti-structural' relation to either extreme. It is
usually difficult to clearly identify the boundaries of the middle class, as
they tend to grade off into the upper and lower classes. The 'middle class'
therefore is largely a 'fiction' which maintains the boundary between the two
extremes, by fixing a relative distance or difference which the middle class
must bridge. It is not surprising then that the primary preoccupation of the
middle class is that of social mobility and the symbolic representation of
Besides an international division of labor and
international patterns of labor movement, the capitalistic world system can be
characterized by the 'global factory' as an index of the degree of political
economic integration of the world. Production and consumption become complex
international systems in which materials produced in one part are manufactured
in another part, to be assembled in yet another, to be packaged in another and
finally to be marketed and consumed in a final, separate part.
The key characteristic of the capitalist world system is
the degree of disparity and inequality between the core and the periphery.
This becomes the primary symbolic determinant of ones structural position
within a global context, translated into ones level of consumption or distance
from primary production.
THE GLOBAL CONTEXT
The world system is defined by its global context, and its
history from its earliest beginnings has always been a world history. There
are several levels of analysis of this context, the local, provincial,
national, regional and global levels. These levels, subsumed by higher levels,
or expressed by interconnections between lower levels (global is
'interregional or international', provincial is state or county or
sub-national). These levels are characterized by economic markets of exchange,
bureaucratic levels of administration and socio-religious symbols of identity.
There is reverberation and resonance between the levels
such that what predominates at the global level is predetermining at all the
other levels. There is a sense of 'domestic analogy' of the global paradigm
such that 'core periphery' relations expressed regionally and internationally
are reflected in core periphery relations sub-nationally, locally and
provincially. Core periphery relations within developed and developing nations
are reflective of the same core periphery internationally and globally.
This is also reflected in rural urban, core periphery
patterns of diffusions and migration. Migrations from outlying provinces to
built up city areas for work opportunities is a reflection of the larger
international process of migration from peripheral nations or regions to core
nations or regions.
In the political economy of the world system, it is no
longer appropriate to separate definitively economic migration from political
refugees--but the world system is characterized by 'political economic
migration' in which most migrants have mixed 'push pull' motives which are
both political and economic.
To the extent that 'refugees' are characterized by the
state of 'homelessness' as political migrants, they are the international
equivalent of the domestic problem of 'homelessness'--domestic refugees from
bureaucratic exclusion and persecution, to a large extent, the 'refugee'
problem of homelessness, internationally and domestically, globally and
locally, is the problem of 'political economic migration' within a world
International stratification between first, second, third,
fourth and fifth worlds become domestically recapitulated in provincial,
national or local class stratification between upper, middle and lower,
marginalized and excluded classes.
THE PROBLEM OF COMMUNISM
It is a shortcoming of the political economic ideology of
capitalism that anything which is anti-capitalist must be construed as
'communist' and that anything which is anticommunist must necessarily be
capitalistic. This 'either or' dichotomization between capitalist/communist
world orders reveals a critical dialectic between the two political economic
ideologies which makes them cut from the same cloth. That point is that an
alternative political economic philosophy can be simultaneously
anti-capitalistic and anticommunist transcending the limitations of both and
their dialectical entanglement.
Communism as a social revolutionary movement is a
secularized form of political economic chiliastic, millenarian movement
predicting a perfect time and a perfect utopia based upon equality and no
conflict. All such movements have an ontology of development in moving from an
idealistic prophetic stage into a realistic bureaucratic and authoritarian
stage. Any such attempt at the realization of an ideal utopia is bound for
failure because it entails forcing human diversity and social variability into
a single mold under a single social paradigm for appropriate behavior. It
results in the tyranny of the rule of the proletariat by the communist
party--an exclusive, elite membership of a minority of individuals who have
power to control all other people.
Such tendencies can be observed in the early formation of
communist movements, in the demands and expectations and the power ambitions
individuals have, usually frustrated by their own failure in the larger
society, over other members or initiates within the movement. These true
believers have a 'heart of darkness' which reveals, behind their total
commitment to a superhuman social ideal, a totalitarian interest in power and
the corruption which power can bring.
This is not to deride the value of Marxist political theory
in its historical application to the rise of capitalism and the understanding
of exploitation, but only to proffer the reality that such theory is not less
ideological when it is promoted as a program for social revolution than the
capitalist ideology which it contradicts.
Being both anti-capitalistic and anticommunist, then are
there any other alternatives which lack the problems of both and which in its
own realization would not suffer corruption in the world. Any such answer
depends upon the reasonableness of its aims and the appropriateness of its
means applied to achieving its ends.
World society has become stratified into the first
developed world, the second socialist world, the third underdeveloped world,
the fourth marginalized world and the fifth homeless world of political
economic refugees. This class stratification occurs at all levels of analysis
and is restricted domestically as well as internationally.
Global stratification can be characterized as 'diagonal'
class caste stratification, combining skewed vertical and horizontal forms.
The characteristic of this form of stratification is the formation of
segmentary 'ethno-nations'--politically economic ethnicized groupings of
people focused around occupational specializations or administrative niches
which crosscut the loyalties and solidarity of nation state identity. Global
society is a 'plural' multiethnic society whose ethnic divisions are
reinforced from above, defined by unequal access to resources and social
structural discrimination based upon ethnic identity. Political economic
co-option from above is a kind of colonial strategy of 'divide and conquer'
and of alienating minority groups of their own leadership who are placed into
middle class management positions. This is a form of bureaucratic
encapsulation from above, of bounding groups and reinforcing inter-group
boundaries under an ideological umbrella of pan ethnic national solidarity.
The military, the media, educational institutions and public offices all
reinforce the ideological norm of inter-ethnic solidarity and equality,
whereas in the marketplace and in the political structure the actual situation
is predominant one of inter-ethnic competition and the promotion of
infra-ethnic exclusiveness and solidarity. Ethnic organizations become as if
'castes' which have their own internal stratification and which feature ethnic
mobility as a group. The result is a complex social structure of multiple
Within this system of global stratification, national
identity and loyalty are undercut by ethnic allegiances formed around the
organization of power and money and an individual's overall status position
within the world system is predetermining of that person's interrelationships.
These ties may cut cleanly across ties of national citizenship or even of
ethnic identity. In other words, members of the same class cross culturally
share more in common political economically and socio religiously than the
same people may share nationally or culturally with people within their own
society but of a different class caste status position.
The is overall system is characterized most by its fluidity
and flexibility and its overlapping inter-positionality rather than its
rigidity and between group boundaries. Movement of people and resources, a
jxtapositioning and interposing of multiple status and a 'network
multiplexity' are common features of this system. Mobility is neither purely
social or vertical nor horizontal and geographical, nor is it unidirectional,
but it has become lateral or diagonal mobility in which geographical mobility
for jobs will entail as well social mobility. It is multidirectional in that
individuals usually to and fro and the ties between homeland and host country,
though long distance, are not really cut off. Refugees politically severed
from their country of origin may nevertheless maintain quite extensive
economic ties with people back home. Economic migrants living with secure jobs
and investments and family in a host nation, may nevertheless maintain a sense
of political loyalty and economic investment in the land they left behind.
Modern society is becoming a complex mosaic of multiple
ethnic communities which may have local points but not be 'ghettoized' into
enclaves. Living in core regions is characterized by its ethnic diversity of
different groups which either live separately but share a common marketplace
and a common administrative authority or live proximately with one another but
lead quite separate lives.
Another characteristic feature of this global
stratification is the gross disparity between haves and have nots and the
political economic inequality between members of different class castes.
Globally there are one billion people or approximately one fifth of the
earth's population who are characterized by over consumption way above the
basic requirements of their biological sustenance. There are also one billion
people who live in 'absolute poverty'--a death trap in which an individuals
basic biological requirements are not met and from which there are very few
opportunities of escape. Between these two groups of the worlds most and least
privileged, there range a three fifths of the worlds population who lead lives
of less rather than more wealth. In our own consumer oriented nature, 20
percent of the population control 80 percent of the resources, while the
remaining 20 percent of the wealth is to be divided unevenly between the
remaining 80 percent of the population. Our nation constitutes only 5% of the
global population but it has been estimated that it consumes 95% of the global
resources. Though exaggerated these figures illustrate the degree of disparity
characteristic of the world system. Nations become ranked on a scale of
consumption/production, as ethnic groups compete for positions of advantage
within an international arena, and individual's juxtapose themselves for
greatest strategic advantage, whether nationally, ethnically, individually or
both or neither.
THE GLOBAL VILLAGE
The world system and its society has two contradictory
forces which collectivize and relativize global identity. On one hand there is
a concept of the 'global village' in which the modern 'media environment' of
'secondary orality' leads to a global communal outlook which tends to unite
individuals internationally and cross culturally by a common modern world
view. Part of this notion is the cultural hegemony and media imperialism of
the world system of the acculturative and symbolic influence from the West to
the Rest--a kind of global pan-westernization. Part of this process is the
'intellectual imperialism' of the colonization of non-western world views and
the domination of western forms of rationalism and western modes of
This predominant trend is contrapuntal to an opposing trend
towards 'ethnization' and diversification of multiple symbol systems which are
a synthesis of acculturative syncretism. This antithetical trend is tending to
'relativize' the global village into its ethnic neighborhoods. Characteristic
of this trend are the formation of social movements based upon ethnic or
religious or special interest parties which are seen as competing with other
such groups or with corporations or governments, for political economic
advantage. Part of this process is that as peoples are drawn into the webs of
interdependency of the world system, and a push pull toward the center, they
confront the dilemma of relative deprivation and a revolution of rising
expectations which , in inter-group competition, becomes expressed as a
revolutionary movement of political economic equality. Relative deprivation
and rising expectations in comparison with peer polity groups leads to
cognitive dissonance and to 'frustration/aggression'. Symbolism of ethnic
group solidarity are created ideologically and in group/out group
consciousness is fostered for promoting projection of aggression upon out
group members. These groups form their own separate hierarchy. Often such
groups are co-opted within a larger bureaucratic framework, or become
manipulated by larger interest groups.
Competition may turn into inter-group conflict, especially
as one group seeks to dominate and control another. Conflict resulting from
such social movements can be very destabilizing for the larger social system,
and can arise unpredictably. Ascendancy of one group over another may lead to
implantation of mechanisms of population control, either of enforced
marginalization or segregation, or of ethnocide or genocide, as with the Jews
and other Europeans by the Germans in order to create Lebensraum and to
eliminate political economic competition. But there have been numerous more
recent examples of the very same phenomena.
In the world system of the modern age especially, it is not
possible to clearly distinguish politics from economics, nor to say whether
the hen or the egg comes first. Economic monopolization entails political
domination and vice versa, and capitalism and colonialism have always gone
hand in hand in political economic imperialism. There is also always an
associated socio-religious component, of integrated symbolic systems of
collective representation which ideologically reinforce and promote political
economic interests and motivations.
It is not possible to distinguish the pure economic migrant
in search of job opportunities in the big city or abroad from the political
refugee escaping discrimination and persecution, but it makes more sense to
think of political economic refugees who are a mixed bag of economic motives
and political aspiration/fears. Where there is structural poverty, there is
some form of political domination and persecution.
Nor, in social movements is it possible to distinguish
revolutions of rising expectations based upon economic interests from
revolutions of equality based upon political inequalities, from religious
syncretistic movements predicated upon the coming of the perfect age. There is
only political economic equality, sought in the marketplace as well s in
There are no longer purely economic or purely political
interests--political decisions may be guided by economic motives and economic
choices may be dictated by political interests. Class caste ethno-nations are
political economic groupings organized on political economic principles. There
are no longer purely political parties or purely economic corporations. Nor
can we speak of purely economic 'achievement' motivations which do not also
have socio psychological overtones of 'power' motivation.
Boundaries, identities and differences are political
economic boundaries, identities and differences.
The history of modern civilization has been in part a
history of modern world wars. These wars have occurred periodically and have
been characterized by their increasing international involvement and
destructiveness. There has been global militarization of peacetime vertical
escalation of destructive force potentials and horizontal proliferation of
modern weapons of increasing lethality. The international arms industry and
its markets have become one key sector of the global economy. For the past
forty years the entire world has existed beneath the shadow of M.A.D., the
umbrella of the threat of nuclear holocaust, alone the single most dangerous
threat to the ecology and life on earth.
The cross cultural study of warfare reveals that most
peoples go to war out of fear--a social hysteria--of 'expectable but
unpredictable' disasters which will threaten food resources--warfare is an
attempt to conquest and appropriate the resources of the defeated peoples in
order to stave off or cushion against possible future famine. Warfare feeds on
fear. Furthermore, international alliances increase the likelihood of war--the
balance of power is easy to upset. Warfare is related to trade, conflict of
interest and disputes between trading partners escalate to war more frequently
than between nations which do not trade much with one another. Also, military
equality, especially when there is rapid military buildup, increases the
likelihood of two or more nations going to war.
Warfare, like migration, discrimination, segregation and
other practices of birth control, has been looked at as a population control
mechanism, not very 'cost effective' but quite 'efficient' in times of
scarcity. This is linked to protein calorie malnutrition which is
characteristic of conditions of underdevelopment and local regional
There is a sense of looking at global wars and its
occurrence as 'supercritical events' similar to earthquakes, avalanches and
perhaps famines. Social movements are also 'supercritical events'. Like
earthquakes it is known that they will eventually happen, but not exactly
when. They occur with a random frequency which is expectable but
unpredictable. They are a function of the supercriticality of world political
economic systems, of hypercoherent integration which may breakdown or
destabilize under its own weight, triggered by minor, unpredictable events and
reverberating into major cataclysms.
Every world war, major and minor has been the result of
some ethno-national social movement which triggered a rapid mobilization of
military machines culminating in conflagration with always unforeseen
THE FREEDOM OF CAPITALISM
The dilemma of capitalist economic doctrine is that it is
founded upon a world model of unlimited good, or unlimited economic growth in
a world of ever increasing profits and ever growing markets. It is a system
which is sustained by growth and development as much as it sustains the same
growth and development. Its success has been largely due to its marriage with
science the technological spin-offs of which have lead to the illusion of the
realization of a world of unlimited good.
A part of this dilemma is that, though it is a world of
unlimited good, it is also a world of 'survival of the fittest' in a
competitive marketplace, where one person's gains is another's loss. This
imposes a contradiction in the capitalist world view which generated cognitive
dissonance and a set of double standards leading to a compartmentalization or
dichotomization of the capitalist world between public and domestic spheres of
interaction. The illusion of that increased consumption becomes rationalized
and that there is a 'trickle down' effect in the increasing standards of
living of producers and consumers alike as a net consequence of economic
growth. This fits the utilitarian ethic of the 'most good for the most people'
understood in terms of 'units of pleasure' which can be easily 'commoditized'
as 'values of consumption'. Competition in the marketplace promotes
integration but also entails systematic 'exclusion' from the entire
process--it sets up a system of consumption priorities which privilege few
'haves' from many 'have nots' which results in a 'consumption' hierarchy
reinforced politically in that those who produce the most with their labor
consume the least, and those who consume the most produce the least by their
Besides generating inequalities and exclusion from the
system, capitalism in an ecological orientation is 'anti-ecological' in that
its promotion of unlimited production/ consumption entails eventually
degradation of a globally limited and finite earth and its spin-off of wastes,
pollution, planned obsolescence lead to contamination and accelerated
depletion of resources. Part of this process is the adoption and promotion of
a 'convenience' lifestyle, measured in terms of material appliances, based on
the principle of the cultural control and domination of natural forces and
their harnessing for a facilitation of the human production/consumption
The anti-ecological and developmental consequences of the
promotion of capitalism or the production of environmental degradation and
social circumscription and inequality, have the result of producing the
biological time bomb--the historical convergence of the overpopulation of the
impoverished and the destruction of the natural environment in the
construction of the man made.
A WORLD OF DIMINISHING GOOD
The classic hypothesis contraposing the world view of
'limited good' which views the life of the peasant mentality as a 'zero sum
game' and the bureaucratized world of the middle and upper classes as sharing
in a world of 'unlimited good' in a 'non-zero sum game' is rooted in a very
ethnocentric framework of modernization which attempts to explicate how and
why tradition bound peasants should be so resistant to developmental
'processes' which promises a world of improvement. Such a framework has not
come to terms with an Malthusian earthbound view of the world which sees it as
a world of 'diminishing good' played out in a 'negative sum game' in which one
person's gain is everyone's expense and loss. Decidedly, an earthbound world
view is a 'post modern' perspective of the world which, antithetical to the
optimizism of the development oriented scientific modern is a portentously
pessimistic outlook upon the human future. The local peasant perspective from
this alternative point of view does not seem any longer as pessimistic as it
is merely conservative in scope--it promoted a certain social egalitarianism
which hindered the rise of parasitic bureaucracies and tended to provide a
certain village centered sense of security. It was a world view oriented to
the worst case scenario of hard times of drought, famine, pestilence, warfare
The peasant has never been an entirely independent spirit,
though he/she may have had strongly independent value orientations, they were
inevitably feeding or paying taxes to some one else.
Hard times are returning again and for the most part the
important people have forgotten how best to cope with them. The critical
difference between the village bound local world view and the earthbound
global world view is the scale and scope of the significance of the terms, the
peasant is no longer safe in his village, nor is the bureaucrat necessarily
any better off.
A world of diminishing good has certain theoretical and
philosophical implications of attitude and adaptation. A negative sum game
means that the no matter how well it is played, surplus gains will entail net
overall loss. A zero sum game pits two opponents against one another in a very
primitive way--neither mutual competition nor dominance of either one over the
other eventuates in gain--only mutual cooperation begets success. In an
earthbound world, the strategy to be adopted in one of minimizing losses
through minimizing gains, rather than optimizing or maximizing gains through
minimization of losses. Rather than a conservative outlook, the predominate
perspective will be one based upon the principle of 'rationing' of limited,
irreplaceable commodities in order that they may be preserved for as long as
possible. This leads to a world of 'restricted good' based upon principles of
preservation and prevention. Rationing strategies will be diverse given
various local circumstances and will lead to patterns of local hoarding, panic
and to strategies of diversification as the number of alternative resources,
no matter how basic or inefficient, become substituted in a world of scarcity.
It will become a world of increasingly widespread deprivation, socio economic
regression and extreme political economic polarization which will tear asunder
the world middle class and increasingly marginalize the bureaucracy upon which
it has been founded and flourished. Hoarding will be followed by increasing
incidences of 'raiding' which will in turn generate a vicious cycle of revenge
and punishment and 'feuding'. Social movements of all imaginable kinds will
proliferate in confrontation with increasing authoritarian power structures
which will attempt to preserve the status quo of extreme polarization, a
minimal regressed form of social structure. In an earthbound world of
diminishing good, there will be no point in leveling on a global scale, as
there will be nothing to level and no amount of resources sufficient to
distribute evenly throughout the world.
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of
this text governed by fair use policy--permission to make copies of this text
is granted for purposes of research and non-profit instruction only.
Last Updated: 08/25/06