Making a society is a biological imperative of humanity. As primates we require and are programmed to invent society. Historically all modern societies, of the last 10 to 12 thousand years, have claimed a God or Gods as the bedrock of their existence. This has, arguably, served us well. All modern human thought, philosophies and technologies have their roots in this history. In the absence of a mature human, like orphans, the dictates and revelations of a mutually agreed to Deity have given us structure and provided us with a code of ethics.
Politics, as we understand the term, has two parents: The biological imperative to create society, and the need to create a system of governance that can accommodate that imperative. The most primitive political system was simply the application of brute force against all contenders. The King would be he who had vanquished all contenders, in a one to one battle to the death. Rule by Divine Right elevated us beyond the tyranny of brute strength, only to impose a different sort of tyranny. The Anointed Ruler, the chosen of God, had at his command an army of believers whose combined strength would vanquish both the individual or the nation that opposed his rule.
For a time in our youth as a species, this was the only form of politics.
Human intellect, our innate capacity to wonder, to imagine, to create, has given us other forms of religion and other sorts of politics. We fail to understand that, even today, at the supposed height of human evolution, politics of any sort are a hold over, a vestige, of religious belief. For so long both were one, so much so that the passing of the one was filled by the dominance of the other. The history of political belief has given humankind centuries of war after war. Belief in a religious ideal was seamlessly replaced by belief in a political ideal. Martyrs became heroes, and to die for political expression is still hailed and revered. If we are to grow up, if we are to survive as a species, we must force ourselves to question if a political ideal is so sacred that it demands the loss of human life, not only of nonbelievers, but of our entire species? Democracy is, at best, a poorly understood concept. It has as many personal meanings as their are personal believers. It has become a faith, shared by many, but a faith that has seemingly endless interpretations, all of which represent another nebulous concept: Freedom. For some, freedom means complete and unquestioned individual sovereignty. A life wherein the wants and needs of the individual are supreme and each human owes allegiance only to the dictates of the self. For others it is the the belief that the needs of the many are best met by expression of the many- the will of the majority will see to the needs of the individual.
Concurrent with the invention of faith and politics has been the invention of economies. Economies are the expression of political ideals, of belief. It is impossible to replace an economy without replacing it’s political foundation. For better or worse, whatever this undefinable concept called freedom is, it has at it’s heart placed capitalism as the ultimate expression of it’s ideal. Here, we see that the accumulation of wealth is the ultimate expression of the sovereign individual. The wants and needs of the individual are limited only by the freedoms granted by wealth. All the resources of Earth, including the labor of millions and the environment itself are available to the individual with enough wealth. Ownership reigns supreme. It is so much a part of our culture that it remains unquestioned. It is this unquestioned “right” which has brought us to the brink of extinction. The machinations of profit and technologies and consumerism have devastated our environment.
We live in an age of poisoned land, water and air.
We live in age of never ending war based on the idea of ownership and control and distribution of resources such as oil, and land and water.
Should we die as a species rather than to ask the simple question: What is ownership? What rights does ownership carry with it? Is ownership an ideal so divine that we will go into extinction rather than to redefine the concept? Ultimately, if we are to survive, we must ask, and accept whatever the answer is.
Does the Earth belong to all of us? Are concepts of faith or politics or economies so superior that we must cling to them, even though we know it means our extinction?
If there is to be one last revolution, it will be a revolution based on asking the simplest questions, and accepting the answers, no matter how revered or divine or correct we believe our current beliefs to be. Shall we take our first step into maturity as a species, or shall we perish because our current beliefs are worth more than life itself? We stand at a crossroads. We can grow up and put aside man made concepts whose very existence now threatens all of us, or we can all die.
Photo from Damian Gadal licensed under Creative Commons