What is wrong, and why we can’t seem to fix it

Throughout most of my life I have been living under conservative governments, and the nicest way I can find to describe political conservatism is to say that it embodies the popular phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. However, as we all know there are many things wrong at present, and they need fixing. No amount of ignoring them will make them go away. This blog is about those awkward facts of world that won’t go away and which political conservatism won’t make go away either.

What I’m going to aim to do is post a blog once a week, on a Friday, so you can digest it over the weekend. The next week’s blog will either be the next in my series, or a discussion of issues that have arisen from the comments.

I’m going to have a very strict comments policy, comment will only be accepted if they are intelligent and polite contributions to discussion around the topic of the post. Everything else will be moderated.

If you find a blog here sympathetic, you might consider reading the blogs from the beginning, as they are supposed to be a more or less continuous argument.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


This is the final piece in the The Calyptorhynchus Blog. I began the series in February 2010 and soon decided to write one piece a week for year and then stop.

There are quite a lot of arguments in these pieces, but probably only one important one: that because globally we are living beyond our ecological means we cannot have a normal or peaceful existence, nor do we deserve to. And because we are living beyond our ecological means our way of life will soon end, leaving us to face the consequences. We can either start facing these consequences now, and perhaps have an orderly transition to a praeter-modern world, or continue to ignore them and face disaster.

The most important corollary from this recognition that the best thing we can do to try to bring our society back within reasonable ecological bounds is to begin advocating for a lower global population. If this transition is achieved it would enable humanity to survive at lower levels of population for hundreds of thousands of years into the future, rather than a high-population global society facing disaster in the next century or so, and humanity possibly not surviving.

In his 1904 novel Nostromo Joseph Conrad has one of his characters say:

There is no peace and no rest in the development of material interests. They have their law, and their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is unhuman; it is without rectitude, without the continuity and the force that can found only in moral principle.

And this is an excellent voicing of the Romantic/socialist view of capitalism. This view has, of course, since the 1960s been supplemented by the ecologically-informed view that whatever capitalism’s achievements, the assessment of them must be modified by the knowledge of the essential unsustainability of the modernistic enterprise after a certain point.

The fact that the Romantic view of capital arose so soon after the beginnings of modernity in the late C18 (amongst the German Romantics, Blake, Wordsworth &c) is, I believe an unconscious recognition on the part of artists and thinkers that the modernistic project was unsustainable in the long-term, although, because the necessary scientific work had not been done, this knowledge was not explicit and a critique of capitalism had to be couched in moralistic terms. This is my Daoist-inspired view that people, as part of the natural world, the Dao, have an instinctive feeling for how their lives should run, and it is only a very specious ideology that can divert them from this.

This is my hope—that as soon as a general recognition of the ecological dire straits we are in happens, then the necessary societal changes that this entails will become obvious and perhaps even welcome, and then begin. ‘The Dao does nothing, yet there is nothing that is not done.’ (Daode jing 37)

Thanks for reading.

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