Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Can "morality" exist apart from our daily habits of production, consumption and disposal?

It seems to me that in my particular faith community notions of morality and doing "the right thing" are always discussed in a disembodied way, and not grounded in the daily realities of our production, consumption and disposal of resources. As such talk of "tikkun olam" - fixing /healing the world - is rendered vitality-less, becomes self indulgent, "let's-try-and-feel-good-about-ourselves" (which anyway doesn't work) instead of a transformational empowerment to shape our reality in kepping with our deepest intuitions.

No matter how worthy the cause is - be it mosquito nets for Africa or  protesting coal reef terminals being built on the barrier reef or donating to some heart or cancer research  - when these activities are done as marginal activities, as  "guilt offerings" which then "allow" us to carry on with our daily lives which perpetuate all kinds of systemic imbalances - then 
we are somehow missing the mark, and the unattended business grows like a tumour in the dark, festering and manifesting as ever bigger dysfunction.

A conversation I really really want to have with others is how to bring the focus from "out there" to to the daily acts of shopping, eating, driving, working, travelling to and from the places we want or need to go, the way we move resources around, warming or cooling ourselves, the attire we wear, the ways we communicate and the devices we use (Facebook, computer, coal fired power statiosn, high voltage power cables across the landscape, open face coal mining), the size of the houses we live in and what they are made from, the way the items we consume are packaged and what is done with that packaging and our unwanted items...

The real battle lines, if you like, are where human convenience (and sometimes short term human survival) encounters the collective good, and this is perhaps the place hardest to look into. From the moment we were born or begin to think of ourselves as embodied, we begin a war for survival with other embodied beings, and the enhancement and perpetuation of our name and form often depend upon the destruction of the form of the other. (How many cows are raised and killed to feed the muscled bulk of all the Super 14 rugby teams...? And how were those animals reared and slaughtered? How were they transported and what was done with their excrement?). 

What happens when the world, arranged for our convenience, begins to backfire? When monoculture allows one species of so called "pest" to destroy an entire nation's food supply? When introduced species in Australia, such as foxes, camels, the cane toad cats and dogs decimate populations of indigenous animals, or others such as cattle prove unsustainable in this landscape ( with its droughts and floods, its sparse fodder and the salination of the soil from irrigated crops, some of which are grown as cattle feed). When the hypersterilty of unnecessary home cleaners cause new allergies? When refined foods suddenly produce things like Crones disease in populations which never evidenced this disease when they ate a simpler and less processsed diet? When our addiction to plastic packaging endangers sea life and creates a seemingly insoluble land fill problem? 
Historically wherever the needs of human convenience have encountered the "need" or desire to maintain bio-diversity, human convenience has almost always won out and bio-diversity has collapsed.
So I'm advocating for a kind of spiritualised environmentally aware neo-Marxism, but without the mistakes Marx seems to have made in his understanding of human psychology and what ultimately motivates and mobilises human beings... Human beings cannot be preached to, and every legislated change tends to create an equal and opposite anti...

The million dollar (or million tree) question is how to overcome the "out of sight out of mind" principle as applied to factory farming, plastic bags, air conditioning, single driver car usage, and all the other aspects of daily life which middle class entitlement has led us to assume are a birthright...I really really want this conversation to be had in my immediate community, but seem to / am afraid of encountering resistance when I introduce it, because it touches so personally on the questioning and modification of our daily habits, and I expect to encounter defensiveness and hostility when it is broached. Of course, I know that any sanctimoniousness I have when voicing this will not help, so a good starting place is to loose any judgements and see what becomes possible then...