Unsustainable resource exploitation is stretching the ecological carrying capacity of our planet; exacerbated by rapid technological advancement, expansion of human population and excessive consumption. Our Biosphere is under severe strain. Global temperatures are rising faster than at any time since the end of the last ice age 11,000 years ago. A horrific reality awaits us. Once the heat extremes have begun, they cannot be stopped. There will be no second chance to return to normalcy.
As it always has been with all species that defy planetary order, ours will soon be facing a painful adjustment and even the possibility of extinction. How did we – you and I – get to where we are today? Historically throughout human history we see a certain archetypal pattern repeating itself over and over again. Can this give us an answer? Yes, it can.
We can observe continuity in a repeating paradigmatic societal formation. One small group exercises control over the minds of vast numbers below them. This is accomplished by a compact between those who interpret and enforce a belief system and those who own property. Acting in consort, the belief system enforcers and the owners of property are able to maintain control. Anyone in the general population who attempts to break their hold is punished or at the extreme eliminated.
But, you may ask; how does this relate to today’s problem Stay with me.
Reaching as far back as early Egypt, we saw this in the life story of the Pharaoh Akhenaten (1350 – 1334 BCE) and the murder of his son Tutankhamun. Akhenaten defied the established Priesthood. I describe this in my book: Chapter # 4 Human Civilization – The Future Part XII Egyptian reflections on our future. We also saw the same occur with the crucifixion of Jesus when the Romans (oligarchic control) in consort with Herod Antipas (Jewish Royalty) and the Second Temple priests (religious control) eliminated him. We saw it again during the Medieval Period in Europe. Those who would defy the church were silenced, some burned at the stake.
As in Egypt with the many monuments still standing and in Europe with the magnificent and pristine Cathedrals and Castles covering every corner of the land, we are reminded again and again of this religious/oligarchic control. In and on the European cathedrals we can see sculpture and other art work showing religious symbolism being used to keep the general population in subservience. The graphic mantels depicted in bass relief above the main door on nearly every large cathedral are particularly graphic; one group of individuals blissfully ascending into Heaven (with Jesus as the arbiter) and another descending into the terrors of Hell. Back in Egyptian days such pictorial depiction, although less horrific, served the same purpose. The ancient Egyptians believed that, when they died, their souls would be judged as to their thought-process during their lifetime before being granted a place in the Afterlife. This judgment ceremony was called “Weighing of the Heart” and was recorded in Chapter 125 of the Egyptian funerary text known as the “Book of the Dead.” It showed the soul of the departed being weighed on one scale against a feather on the other.
Now to our current age: Here we see the same archetypal representation. God and Oligarchy still fill the picture; however, beginning with the Enlightenment and then the Renaissance the power of Abrahamic/Christian religious belief was forced to take a back seat – as well as the weighing of souls. A new god entered the picture.
Fast forwarding to the Eighteenth and Nineteenth century; this new god took hold in the form of Adam Smith’s (1723-1793) hidden hand underlying the working of supply and demand – known today as the capital market system. (note should be made that god-direction of this hidden hand was a later add-on by his disciples)
Then, in the Twentieth century during the Golden Era with the Gatsby exuberance and Optimism bias in full swing, Americans were presented with the first “real life” evidence of that hidden hand. Materialistic fulfillment in the here and now had replaced the heavenly fulfillment of ages past. Heaven became attainable right here on earth. The power of Abrahamic/Christian god moved even further to the rear. Adam Smith’s supply and demand had become the hand of a new god with the potential of fulfilling the material needs of everyone on the planet.
There were those who disagreed. The system had brought about wide disparities in the distribution of wealth. This led to the anti-capitalist theory of Carl Marx questioning of the humanitarian validity of market capitalism. But after the implementation of Communism in the Soviet Union failed, this humanitarian validity by way of Marxism lost its rationale. (note that the division of wealth and privilege even held there, with the “apparatchiks” in control)
After the fall of communism, in the advanced free market economies of the world, material wealth was far exceeding that of ancient Egypt or Medieval Europe. Belief in this hidden hand of the marketplace was becoming in effect a “religion.” Heaven as shown graphically in the large European cathedrals was being transformed from an after death possibility to an earthly here and now reality. This served to raise the divine status of the new marketplace god to new heights. In the name of this god, the oligarchic billionaire super rich and their progeny could now, without impunity or conscience, move around the world in their private jets from estate to estate and from their five, ten, to twenty million dollar penthouses and drive their Maserati, Bentley and Rolls cars. They could also buy political privilege. Unbridled capitalism had produced a wealth disparity that was even approaching the wealth disparity of Egypt and ancien régime France.
And as for the business schools and their professors; the PhD free market economist mentors to the students had become the new priests. For the newly minted MBA’s, the investment banking houses had become the new cathedrals. One could even go so far as to say that Milton Friedman had become the new pope, Alan Greenspan the devoted acolyte, the Chicago School of Economics the new Vatican. So it was much the same as we saw in Egypt and in Medieval Europe except with greater material exuberance. The religious/oligarchic societal paradigm remained in place.
Recently, haunting questions about this capitalist god of the marketplace have begun to form: Will we all end up like Egypt – or worse? Is this new hidden hand god of the marketplace as flawed as were the ones of the past? There is mounting evidence that this god is terribly flawed. Irreparable ecological damage is now clearly visible. Consumption is increasing at a rate that cannot be sustained by the planet’s limited resources. An exploding world population – the old god told us to multiply – is demanding a higher and higher standard of living. Some are saying that we in our modern age have put together the perfect free market Laissez-Faire formula for our own self-destruction.
We are learning that this hidden hand of god has no recognition of what are now being called; “negative externalities” (those future costs not priced into current market prices). As a result, evidence is rapidly accumulating showing that we are diminishing our planet’s capacity to sustain future generations. To quote from my book in Chapter # 7 The Sumerian Problem Part II Beyond Scripture:
“As these thoughts are passing through my mind, I find myself thinking; is this more than just a philosophical issue? Are we not also talking here about the survival of our own species? Isn’t the issue far larger than just the wasps at my home in the Appalachian Mountains? I am haunted by the last sentence of a paragraph on page 22 of Larry Rasmussen’s book; Earth – Honoring Faith (underline mine)
‘So the Tree of Life lives within us, as well as we within it, and the old fourth century Cappadocian theologians got it right: Each human being is a little universe, a microcosm of a macrocosm. We’re at home in the cosmos; the cosmos is at home in us. We’re creatures of the planet on which the planet’s creatures inhabit and sustain us, inside and out.’”
As I think through the meaning of that last sentence, I find myself haunted by the “wasp” remembrance recorded in my book. Without a second thought, taking my wasp sprayer in hand I was randomly killing all of the wasps in their nests around my mountain home. The lifeless wasps one by one in their death were dropping from their nests to the ground. This vision now leaves me with a sinking feeling. I have been lured into a deception. Those wasps are a metaphor for the millions upon millions of other creatures on our planet that, as Larry Rasmussen and the Cappadocian theologians remind us; “sustain us, inside and out.” I find myself thinking; in my extermination of those wasps – and all else that I am destroying by my own consumptive twenty first century lifestyle, am I not in reality destroying myself and the future generations beyond?
In the Book of Genesis the deceiver told Eve that we can be like the Gods. The followers of Adam Smith are telling us the same. And they are saying that we can have dominion over the earth.
This is a deception. This new god of the hidden hand is a deception. The serpent from the Garden of Eden still lives among us.
Those paying the price for this deception will include the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Koch brothers, the climate denier Senator from Oklahoma, the climate denier Senator from Florida, the one from Arizona, the Governor from Texas, the Russian Chinese and American Oligarchs, the billionaire oil rich Arabs – and members of The American Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the US Chamber of commerce – and most sadly; yours and mine too.
(also see Global Warming Is Melting And Burning The Planet By Jon Queally) http://www.countercurrents.org/queally210514.htm