By Arjuna Seneviratne –
No.No one can justify saying that nature is unkind. In utmost kindness to this world of ours, it concentrated and hid from the regions of life on its crust, three things, namely, about 400 billion cubic meters of oil, about 300 billion tons of methane and most of its deposits of metals and silicon. In short, much of its potential and kinetic energy which, unleashed, could destroy the conditions required for life was sequestered where it can do the smallest damage.
In the habitable regions of the world, nature behaved in an opposite way. Instead of concentrating anything, it distributed everything, ensuring that the largest possible footprint on earth could sustain the continuity of life. Willy-nilly, life became and prospered, stabilizing, balancing and recharging the inhabited parts of the planet through incredibly complex systems of material and creature cycling.
Human beings who used this system in the not too distant past understood the fine thread on which this balance hung, clearly recognized the pivotal part that distribution and sharing of life resources played in it and engineered their own life-systems to highly sensitized engagement of the human-environment interface. Never letting human societies to get ahead of themselves, deeply in awe of and in instinctive recognition of the fact that they could not possibly fathom the interplays of nature, humankind managed the subtle task of harmonious-coexistence of ever growing populations with those of the natural world that they had to use in order to live.
Then, three things happened. We defined for ourselves some nebulous thing called “knowledge”, we discovered something positive in a hitherto highly frowned upon a human action-driver called “ego” and, using these two as a foundation, we set the human failing known as “greed” and its three henchmen “gain”, “fame” and “praise” at the apex of all things required to obtain that positive state of mind known as “pleasure” and its sidekick “comfort”.
To engineer this so-called comfortably pleasurable existence, we dug up and distributed all of the poisons that nature had hidden away and concentrated as much as possible, those resources that nature had distributed. In our folly, we decided that oil and gas were the only things that everyone must have in plenty and in pretty much the same quality and that the quality of food, clothing, shelter, water and land would have graded accessibility with the best of it and the most of it going to the smallest of groups which wielded the greatest of power. We believe that it is natural to aspire to be powerful, little realizing that such aspirations only rearrange the order of the powerful and not the percentage of gradations of power and all we actually do is end up being wasteful in the process.
Instead of allowing the great rivers of the world to water the multitudes, we dammed them in order to feed the power needs of a few urban elites. Instead of providing small plots of land to everyone so everyone can live, we took it away and gave massive parcels of it someone so that a few can live. Instead of allowing those who grow food to consume it, we gave it to people who haven’t planted even a weed in their entire lives. Instead of building dwellings that would last just a lifetime, we build mansions that last, uselessly, for many. Instead of allowing access to nature’s resources to those who use it, we gave access to those who abuse it. Instead of distributing money, we concentrate it uselessly in banks. Instead of using and releasing that which nature provide us with, we concentrate and horde it for no purpose except to massage our egos and credit our greed.
The nature of things as they have come to pass is such that we, as humans, have now come unstuck from the core edicts of nature that determine the continuity of life and we truly believe that it is good, natural and right that few users of the planet enjoy most of the things of nature.
So why do we do this? Why do we believe that we need three cars when we have just one backside to plant inside any one of them? Why do we need a forty room mansion when are bodies can only inhabit one? Why do we sequester millions in bank accounts when what we need to live on is so much lesser?
Fear. Primarily. Anyone who has played dice with nature would automatically become a very frightened human being. It (and I mean “it”) would have revoked its right to be treated kindly by nature and it knows when push comes to shove, that it will be one of the first casualties. It believes, vainly, that its horded riches will somehow give it a bulwark, a moat, a rampart that will protect it against the results of its own stupidity. It desperately uses those ill-concentrated gains to try, through some sort of magic to use its techniques of gathering to gain even more in order to fortify itself resulting in an even stronger and quicker backlash from nature.
It, simply, has angered order and balance by creating chaos and imbalance and it’s just reward for greed is just that… just.
Since the whole world seems to be hell bent (and I mean hell bent here) on standing nature on its head, this whole planet is awash in a very large percentage of very frightened people. Blindly and urgently attempting to shore up their security against snowballing uncertainty they go ungently, raging against the coming of their self-inflicted night.
We cannot unmake the dams but we can stop making new ones. We cannot change land boundaries but we can allow many more to live on it. We cannot stop gathering, but we can stop hording and redistribute unconditionally. Instead of running after material wealth, we can run after social wealth. We can, if we really want to, take a small cue from the social media networks where the most used icons are “like” and “share”.
But we don’t, right? We can’t, mmm? In our fear, we will die, smaller, meaner and angrier won’t we?
We will, like all who stare death in the face after a lifetime of self-servitude, try to buy our terrified selves a few more seconds of life at the cost of the lives of any number of others, eyes wide, nostrils flaring, mouth drooling, pores oozing…mimicking the hell beasts that we will soon become. Looking at ourselves, I am less angry and more sorry for what we have done to ourselves. Less hateful and more compassionate because, each day, as I step into the peopled earth, I see people driving themselves very hard towards death, convincing and re-convincing themselves that they are actually good people doing good things despite the truckloads of evidence to the contrary. I am not hard man but a hard look at our continued insult to life on earth shows me that we can expect just one, sure-fire outcome:
The loss of our right to it.
Here is Joan Baez, saying it all, much more elegantly that I ever could: