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Robert J. Burrowes's blog
As we evaluate the outcomes of the recent UN climate negotiations in Warsaw, one lesson that we are invited to learn, again, relates to our strategy for getting effective action taken on the ongoing climate catastrophe and other critical environmental problems. Is lobbying elites to change their behaviour an effective strategy for change?
My experience, reinforced by decades of casual observation, is that lobbying elites is a complete waste of time and that a strategy that focuses on inviting ordinary individuals and groups to take action in the desired direction is far more effective. Why do I say this?
The pre-eminent problem confronting humankind is human violence. It is our own violence, in its various guises, including the ongoing possibility of nuclear war and the ongoing devastation of the natural environment, that threaten to consign us to the fossil record within decades, if not sooner. And yet we devote virtually no effort to trying to understand human violence and to developing strategies to end it. Why?
Every day, human adults kill 35,000 of our children. We kill them in wars. We kill them with drones. We kill them in our homes. We also kill children in vast numbers by starving them to death in Africa, Asia and Central/South America because we use military violence to maintain an ‘economic’ system that allocates resources for military weapons, as well as corporate profits for the wealthy, instead of resources for living.
What is the measure of a human being? Is it their wealth? Their wisdom? Their spirituality? Is it something that can be measured from the outside? What if it is something else altogether?
Each human being is genetically programmed with a drive to seek and find meaning in life and it will endeavour to do this throughout its life if it is allowed to do so. What constitutes ‘meaning in life’ varies from one individual to the next and is dependent on many factors (including the genetic endowment, social context and the natural environment) but the ultimate outcome would be what is sometimes described as consciousness or Self-realization in a form that would be unique for each individual.
Violence is the most pervasive and destructive human problem of them all. It has been present for as long as history records. We are mired in it, all over the world, every day of our lives. It now threatens to obliterate us from the historical record within decades, if not sooner.
What is violence? Let me define this phenomenon more precisely so that we might tackle it more effectively.
Violence is social interference in the genetically programmed feelings, thoughts, sensing and/or behavior of another organism. It might be inflicted by an individual or an institution.
As we approach the International Day of Nonviolence on 2 October, which recognizes Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, one challenge we face is to celebrate his life in a way that Gandhi himself would have found meaningful. Gandhi was not a man of token gestures. His life was dedicated to his search for the Truth and guided by his passionate belief that nonviolence was the means to reach it. He was a visionary who was profoundly aware of the damage human violence is doing to ourselves, each other and the Earth.
Despite his example, most of us are familiar with those horror lists that reveal the extent of our ongoing violence. Here is a sample just to refresh your memory.
While the history of the involvement of psychiatrists and psychologists in torture programs for political purposes is, tragically, extensive (see, for example, ‘Political Abuse of Psychiatry: An Historical Overview’ and ‘Psychiatry during the Nazi era: ethical lessons for the modern professional’), the tragedy, with more variations, continues worldwide as you read this article.
The common phrase is ‘law and order’ but does the legal system deal with dysfunctional social behavior in ways that keep us safe?
As our world continues to unravel in response to the impact of our uneconomic activities on ecological systems, it is obviously worth asking searching questions about the nature of modern society. By doing this we can make intelligent decisions about the direction in which we should move as we thoughtfully respond to the interrelated crises we face.
For many people, the central question is this: Will tinkering with human society be enough to get us out of this mess? Many people think not and I am one of them. For the moment, however, rather than focus on the nature of the economy, political systems or other aspects of modern societies, I would like to discuss the issue of education.