"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why Not?

As millions submit to to inevitable death, courtiers of power like Barack Obama will keep us politically entertained: "Being a courtier, and Obama is one of the best, requires agility and eloquence. The most talented of them can be lauded as persuasive actors. They entertain us. They make us feel good. They convince us they are our friends. We would like to have dinner with them. They are the smiley faces of a corporate state that has hijacked the government and is raping the nation. When the corporations make their iron demands these courtiers drop to their knees, whether to placate the telecommunications companies that fund their campaigns and want to be protected from lawsuits, or to permit oil and gas companies to rake in obscene profits and keep in place the vast subsidies of corporate welfare doled out by the state." Chris Hedges, "The Hedonists of Power"

Now consider what the neoliberalism espoused by Mr. Obama has brought to his fellow Africans in Haiti, "It was lunchtime in one of Haiti’s worst slums, and Charlene Dumas was eating mud. With food prices rising, Haiti’s poorest can’t afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies. Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country’s central plateau." - "The World Food Crisis Sources and Solutions", Fred Magdoff

Lunchtime in Haiti calls Christians to analyze the root causes which require the starvation of millions to guarantee the profits of a few. Neoliberal medicine, combined with charity to ease the pain of injustice can only extend the reign of this all-consuming principality and power.

The crisis in Haiti is part of a much larger ecological crisis that has been caused directly by the neoliberal policies Obama embraces so thoughtlessly. Humanity has reached a point in its relationship with the earth where incremental patches are blasphemously inadequate. Consider the observations of James Hansen, considered the world's foremost climatologist, "Our home planet is dangerously near a tipping point at which human-made greenhouse gases reach a level where major climate changes can proceed mostly under their own momentum. Warming will shift climatic zones by intensifying the hydrologic cycle, affecting freshwater availability and human health. We will see repeated coastal tragedies associated with storms and continuously rising sea levels. The implications are profound, and the only resolution is for humans to move to a fundamentally different energy pathway within a decade. Otherwise, it will be too late for one-third of the world’s animal and plant species and millions of the most vulnerable members of our own species." - James Hansen, 'Tipping Point,' in E. Fearn and K. H. Redford eds, The State of the Wild 2008 (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2008)

In the words of Jurgen Moltmann, "If the world is God's creation, then it remains his property and cannot be claimed by men and women. It can only be accepted as a loan and administered as a trust. It has to be treated according to the standards of the divine righteousness, not according to the values that are bound up with human aggrandizement." - "God in Creation"

Unfortunately for the majority of Americans and the Obamans in particular, adding a few new regulations and support for research on alternative energies will be seen as comically inadequate in a few years. The real motivating force behind the ecological crisis cannot be dealt with within the current reigning economic structure. This structure depends on ever expanding economic growth. Without continuous exponential growth, this type of economy will stagnate and decline. Yet such growth invariably requires more and more energy resources, which irreversibly damages the ability of the planet to sustain life. This economic system lives by degrading the ecology of the planet and thrives the more thoughtlessly it devastates its resources.

One hears much about "dematerialization" with respect to economic growth, the notion more efficient use of information technology and other aids can lead to a decreasing impact of growth on the environment. Yet the expansion of output, due precisely to these increased efficiencies, would overwhelm the gains of greater efficiency. The prize targeted by all our economic enterprises is constant expansion. It is the logic of the system that is at fault, not its operation.

Fundamentally, the economic operating system which we inhabit inherently favors the present over the future. The corporation that sacrifices ecological principles for immediate growth always prevails in the market place. Those willing to invest in the long term health of humanity and a flourishing planet are elbowed into bankruptcy. Those who ruthlessly pursue today and tomorrow's profit, pay the lowest taxes and exploit natural resources to the maximum extent possible, always win over those that pursue the responsibilities laid on us by God. We need an upgrade to a new operating system, one which privileges solidarity over competition, and energizes ecological responsibility, not mindless expansion.

William Morris, one of the first radical thinkers to confront the "organizers of filth", the degraders of the countryside in 19th century England, provided an alternative vision approaching the Biblical, "In rejecting all of this, Morris asked, was it not possible to create a more decent, more beautiful, more fulfilling, more healthy, less hell-like way of living, in which all had a part in the 'share of earth the Common Mother' and the sordid world of 'profit-grinding' was at last brought to an end? Why Not?" - John Simon, "Ecology The Moment of Truth - An Introduction"

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