“How globalization can save the planet”

A response to a very glowing review of Flannery’s new book on the state of the earth

(Toronto Star, Porter)


There is always hope. Life never ends: it just changes forms. Change is the only constant, which means that problems are always surmountable, sooner or later: nothing is permanent.

Every empire ends in dust. The present global neo-feudal corporatist empire is no different, and by all serious indicators and intelligent commentators, it is also on its last legs.

More important than hope, however, is action. When there is determination, hope becomes irrelevant. When a person is drowning, you jump in the water and try to save him or her – hope and fear do not enter into it.

Compassion requires action. Hope is not a prerequisite for action that is virtuous; and waiting on hope – deferring action until we are reasonably sure we will have the outcome we wish for – is ultimately unethical and irresponsible. We must act. Simply. If we fail, then we have done what needed to be done. If we succeed, we have done what needed to be done.

Of course we should strive to be effective, skilful in our actions, but we must not wait on hope. We must act, with or without hope: with an inner drive that comes from love and knows no surrender.

Compassionate action is the motivator, or should be: not the odds of success or failure. Yes, this is an ethical imperative – that is, if we are to uphold our true humanity, and not succumb to being lifeless, inert machines, or disheartened and dispirited consumer cogs.

I wouldn’t judge Flannery’s new book without reading it: it’s hard to tell if the reviewer misrepresented it unintentionally, and her review is so brief it’s hard to tell anything about the book.

As to globalization being the saviour of humanity and the earth, we’ve heard that before. It depends on what is meant by globalization, and more importantly, whose version we are subscribing to or deferring to.

If by globalization we simply accept the current model of unfettered global corporate rule, with rights and freedoms for the world’s financial elite, and subjugation and subjection to plunder for the rest of humanity and the earth, then we are on a collision course with a dark age, and almost certain ecological collapse.

If, by contrast, we subscribe to a very consciously chosen model of citizen-led globalization, in which the interdependence and preciousness of all life is recognized and upheld, and more importantly, a global network of truly democratic nations and communities which chooses to live together in basic sanity, cooperation and peace, then the future is bright indeed.

The two models could not be further apart. If we drift haphazardly with the current trend – and consciously manipulated thrust – toward fully ensconced and self-fortified corporate domination of the planet, then we can expect more of the same, and at an accelerating speed: more destruction of democracy, freedom, human rights and environmental protection; more power over the people, by the few who rule them, and less power of the people, by the people, for the people to govern themselves: culminating in its logical conclusion, of a full return to feudal orders, but with advanced technology and global reach. (See David C. Korten’s When Corporations Rule The World, and The Great Turning, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World Revisited, C. Wright Mill’s The Power Elite, or Erich Fromm’s Escape From Freedom.)

It is renaissance or dark age ahead, depending on which path we choose: democracy, or a thinly veiled new form of empire and oligarchic rule by a self-serving elite. Hope is reasonable, and warranted – even necessary: naivety is dangerous, if not fatal. (See Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, and Year 501: The Conquest Continues, Naomi Wolf’s The End of America, or Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.)

As to technology saving us, again, we have heard that line: it is not technology that will save us, but our own innate ability to intelligently and compassionately relate to our environment and one another. Technology will only empower our best or our worst tendencies and habits, whatever they may be at the time.

As to human intelligence being the salvation of the earth, this too we have heard before. It may be true, but a little humility would be wise now: our hubris, as the ancient Greeks called it, has brought us to the very edge of self-annihilation.  (For balance, see Ronald Wright’s A Brief History of Progress: the runaway train of presumed “knowledge,” combined with vested interests, leads repeatedly to abysmal results.)

To believe we can live harmoniously with one another and with the earth is demonstrable from any serious look into anthropology and human history. (Hobbes knew nothing of these subjects, and the view we have inherited from him and adopted as our own subconscious framework for viewing the world, is truly disastrous, as well as pathetic and misanthropic. As Jefferson said, “If you cannot trust people to govern themselves, how can you trust them to govern others?” See Rianne Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade, or better, Murray Bookchin’s The Ecology of Freedom.)

To presume that we are the masterminds and the benevolent masters of this world, is pretty risky, to say the least. And our record with regards to such imperial architecture of grand designs and infantile grandiosity have not shown much cause for celebration.

Let us be humble and dignified, and know that we are more than intelligent enough to live wisely and well on this small planet, without being arrogant enough to think that we can or should control it.

The future is in our hands. We are most certainly at a fork in the road – as never before in recorded history. The moment is momentous. We must be brave. We must act. And we must have confidence in our abilities, our basic goodness, the basic goodness of life, and our ability to live in peace and harmony, for our own benefit, for our children’s benefit, and for the benefit of all living beings on this small fragile sphere we call home.

J.Todd Ring,
April 18, 2011

P.S.: If Flannery is going to speak of co-evolution and cooperation in nature, I hope he makes due homage and reference to that other of greatest biologists, who was eclipsed by Darwin only for his political views: Peter Kropotkin, author of Mutual Aid.

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