… what Amitav Ghosh calls the “great derangement”: this condition where “our lives and our choices are enframed in a pattern of history that seems to leave us nowhere to turn but toward our self-annihilation.” Yet if it is felt at an individual level, this “derangement” is, at bottom, institutional: the psychological response stems from the deep hold of petrocapitalist ideology over our lives. Far from being inevitable, it is produced by a system that devotes considerable resources to preserving itself, and to foreclosing other alternatives.
Numerous articles blame the public. My response is that "we" the public don't make choices in a vacuum. The current system of media ownership and corporate control of politics doesn't just allow the fossil-fuel-invested elite to manipulate public opinion and public perception of problems; but every choice an individual can make is constrained by system level possibilities and incentives. As climate destabilization ramps up, the current system will protect the elite and make life more unbearable for the public. There will be a breaking point, either symptoms of collective insanity or an emergent sustainable vision toward which people can reorient their priorities and reinvent their lives and our society. "We" are not a black box, responsible for everything. Acknowledging the extent to which we are being manipulated is the first step toward casting off that slavery-pretending-to-be-freedom.
At root of this tendency to self-blame, I think, is Dominator Culture, that internalized hierarchy mentality within which everyone defines self-worth in competition with others. Either we’re better than others (tribalism), or we’re worse than others. In this mentality, admitting that we’re destroying our entire habitable planet means our generation surely must be the most despicable humans ever. We must be monsters, who deserve the self-extermination we face. Which is, of course, unthinkable, so any crazy conspiracy theory or denial is better.
Reinventing ourselves for sustainability must begin with a Partnership Culture, including egalitarian, cooperative self-worth. Instead of “I’m OK, you’re not OK” or “I’m not OK, you’re OK”, or “I’m not OK, you’re not OK”, it’s time to emerge from our chrysalis as “I’m OK, you’re OK!” This means nobody is perfect, nobody is inherently superior, everybody can learn from mistakes, and we're all worthwhile. Just because Cambridge Analytica can predict how to manipulate us based on our “likes” and conversations, doesn’t mean we’re fools-and-tools. Now the planet's telling us that it's time for those in power to be stripped of their secrecy too, as the public has been stripped. No more fake-charity tax shelters, dark money, or nested shell companies hiding criminal behavior. The more power and money somebody has, the more right the public has to know every detail of their behavior. We face extinction if corporations and 0.01%ers continue to take control.
One-way information flow might have worked well enough at a small scale in preindustrial societies, but no global civilization can manage its planet without two-way information flow. Natural systems on a global scale are necessarily circular, like the carbon-oxygen system.
Lim said, “Global warming poses a powerful challenge to the idea that the free pursuit of individual interests always leads to the general good. [ Ghosh]" If that vision of freedom must be abandoned, what comes next?
The new meaning of freedom, in my view, is the public's freedom to know what others are doing to destroy civilization itself. Those who would destroy everything - literally everything everyone has ever valued - for personal short-term gain, we must be free to keep in check. That's the new checks and balances for those free to have a future.
Ruth, when you start cleaning house, aren’t you more happy than sad?
Think of it as Ma and Pa Nature starting a long-needed house cleaning.
Metaphorically, in my extended family there has been as much chaff as wheat.
In the Catholic part of my extended family there has been more chaff than wheat.
... Numerous articles blame the public.
I've seen that: it's "our fault" for driving, eating meat, using air conditioning, etc., while corporate pollution and greenhouse gas emission -- and corporations externalizing all the risks to life and health they create, passing them along to taxpayers and the public -- aren't mentioned. (Apropos: Sen. Elizabeth Warren just introduced the Accountable Capitalism Act (news article; summary; bill) that would regulate the largest US corporations, among other things requiring them to act in the interest of their employees, customers, and communities as well as shareholders.)
Also often ignored are large-scale societal assumptions and planning priorities, such as far-flung residential suburbs being for many the most desirable places to live, despite the fact that one can't practically get to work or college or grocery shopping or doctors or entertainment or recreation without a car.
Thanks, GC, for the info on Sen. Warren’s bill.
This Vox article has much more background and commentary, elaborating on Sen. Warren's plan to shift the US's largest corporations from focusing on shareholder profit at all costs to actually being good "corporate citizens":
Elizabeth Warren has a plan to save capitalism (Matthew Yglesias, Vox)
"She’s unveiling a bill to make corporate governance great again."