Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Resolving a World of Trouble with Green Ideology

There is a world of trouble out there, global problems looking for global solutions.

We have:
  • Dictatorships  in North Korea, China, Burma, Zimbabwe,  Syria, Egypt, Bahrein, Saudi Arabia &c
  • Wars and conflicts
  • Global economic problems with debt, austerity and recession.
  • Rich Poor Gap within nations and between nations
  • Anthropogenic Global Warming and other man caused environmental degredation
  • Human Population Growth
and many other problems and difficulties.

All these problems are capable of being resolved by determined political and economic reforms based on logical  reasoning from sound starting points. 

Why are they not solved or even addressed with any realistic determination? 

Because there are two sides to human nature - the competitive side and the co-operative side.

The competitive side is based on individualistic ideology. It is self-centred, self-seeking and self-serving. 
The co-operative side is based on the knowledge that humans are a social species, and on the certainty that in many situations, collaboration to attain some common goal of benefit to all is better than a multiplicity of unrelated individual actions.

Both have evolutionary advantages, and both can be operated simultaneously in the same system.

The dominant ideology of our age is based on competition between individual persons (remember that corporations are legal persons). It is claimed that competition for profit gives people the motivation to work harder and produce more, and thereby create more wealth. That is the strength of the individualistic ideology, even though the final flourish, trickle down economics, is an illusion.

The weakness of socialist ideology is that in its fullest manifestation, after a socialist revolution or even a democratic socialist victory, there is a distinct tendency for a personality cult to form. We see this in North Korea and Robert Mugabe today, and in a long and ignoble list going back through Said Barre of Somalia, Kwame Nkruma of Ghana,  to Stalin himself. It should be noted that the Communist Party is supporting the government of Bashar Assad of Syria.

This is not to say that socialism has a monopoly of dictatorship, because it certainly does not. Any long-lived period of rule by one person or one party tends to become controlling and self serving. That is why democratic elections, even in weak and imperfect democracies like the UK, are effective in holding back dictatorship simply by preventing any one person or party from staying in power for too long. Even if the change is from one party to an almost identical party (as from Republicans to Democrats in the USA, or Tories to New Labour in the UK), it is beneficial and salutary to be able to kick someone out of office.

This is a pitifully dismal consolation in view of the magnitude of problems that the world faces. The reason is that both of the main ideologies on offer - individualism and socialism -  are both anthropocentric. Both aim to improve the lot of the class that identifies with the ideology. Individualism aligns with the plutocrats, and socialism aligns with the proletariat. Both have attained their goal when they have attained power. Power is the goal, and clinging to power by suppressing dissent and controlling thought becomes the main purpose of government.

That is why the Green approach is so transformative. It is not anthropocentric but eco-centric. It starts not by considering humans as some kind of self-existent being, whether as individuals or as societies, but by considering humans in their ecological context. We look at how the planetary environment sustains our existence, it looks at how our activities can undermine the security of our existence, and how we can change our ways so that we can achieve a sustainable global economy.

In short, instead of looking at one detail of the picture - the individual or the society - we look at the whole picture. This is a rational approach. In looking at the whole picture, we are able to resolve the differences and contradictions that arise from starting with a partial view. It is going to take both individual action and social action to achieve sustainability.

Given the strength of our intellectual position, the weakness of the Greens as a political force is somewhat surprising. True, green thinking is percolating slowly - too slowly - into mainstream thinking. True, we have been excluded from the public debate by an unholy alliance of the old philosophies. But some of it is due to our own cognitive errors.

The old Green slogan was "Think globally, act locally". This is a good slogan, but evidently not good enough. We also need to think globally and act globally.

As a global community the Green Parties of the world - and all other green and social movements - need to come together and agree the kind of reforms that need to be put in place.
We need to evolve ways and means of preventing dictatorships from forming, and of isolating and disempowering them wherever they are found.
We need to find ways of preventing Wars and conflicts, starting with the most common cause - separatism
We need to find ways of resolving global economic problem and reducing  the inequalities  within nations and between nations that cause so much misery.
We need to address Anthropogenic Global Warming and other man caused environmental degredation.
We need to address human population growth.

All of these problems are capable of resolution by rational thought, discussion, agreement and political will.

We seem a million miles from resolution because of selfishness, self interest and wilful blindness to the facts. It is the old clash between our cerebral cortex and more primitive parts of our brain. At present, the primitive part is in the ascendant. It seems that stupidity rules everywhere, and always will rule.

This is not necessarily so. Just as the political pendulum swings between Right and Left in a country's electoral history, so also the pendulum can swing between narrow self interest and enlightened rationality that looks at the whole picture.

It is easy to give way to despair and cynicism. But if we look to the greater picture, it is like looking at a map. We can see which way to start moving. And once we can see, we can start discussing and spreading the idea that mankind is not irredeemably stupid.

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