What is the use to humanity of its measureless multiplication, its mad competitive haste, its production of ever deadlier weapons, the progressive deterioration of town dwellers, and so on. A closer view shows that virtually all these malfunctions are disorders of certain special behavior mechanisms, originally possessing survival value. In other words, the disorders are pathological. [p.4-5]
There is no lack of obstacles that have to be overcome if humanity is not to perish, and surmounting them is enough of a challenge to provide every one of us with adequate chances of proving our mettle and merit. It would be a rewarding educational task to make young people aware of these obstacles. [p.42]
Here is a link to a pdf (and other formats) of the book. I have highlighted some passages in a downloaded pdf and am happy to share...
Unfortunately, the last page is unreadable... and may contain the most important idea: "Might not these beginnings contain the empirical seed of a new social integration which will ultimately permit men to be truly creative in their community affairs as they have begun to be in their material world, therein producing new environments appropriate to the infinite process of differentiation -- and with this, the ever increasing potential for fulfilling association -- of the individual human spirit? [p.105]
...they [those who built cities and nuclear plants in vulnerable locations] were trained to break problems into smaller and smaller puzzles until a solution presented itself. This a way of thinking that deliberately excludes things and forces ("externalities") that lie beyond the horizon of the matter at hand: it is a perspective that renders the interconnectedness of Gaia unthinkable. [p.56]
I is certainly no coincidence that these were the very places where, as Guy Debord observed, the reigning economic system not only founded on isolation, it was also "designed to produce isolation." [p.79]
In short, as the historian Sanjay Subrahmanyam has long argued, modernity was not a "virus" that spread from the West to the rest of the world. It was rather a "global and conjunctural phenomenon," with many iterations arising almost simultaneously in different parts of the world. [p.95]
Here again is an instance of what I cited earlier as the one feature of Western modernity that is truly distinctive: its enormous intellectual commitment to the promotion of its supposed singularity. [p.103]
The Opium War of 1839-42 was the first important conflict to be fought in the name of free trade and unfettered markets; yet, ironically, the most obvious lesson of this period is that capitalist trade and industry cannot thrive without access to military and political power. [p.109]
And to imagine other forms of human existence is exactly the challenge that is posed by the climate crisis; for if there is any one thing that global warming has made perfectly clear it is that to think about the world only as it is amounts to a formula for collective suicide. [p.128]
As far back as the 1960s Guy Debord argued in his seminal book The Society of the Spectacle: "The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense collection of spectacles. [Think about the recent presidential election.] [p.131]
But they [future generations] may well hold artists and writers to be equally culpable -- for the imagining of possibilities is not, after all, the job of politicians and bureaucrats. [p.135]
In short, even if capitalism were to be magically transformed tomorrow, the imperatives of political and military dominance would remain a significant obstacle to progress on mitigatory action. [for more on this see Hans-Hermann Hoppe's Democracy: The God That Failed] [p.146]
In the text of the Paris Agreement, by contrast [with the Pope's Encyclical], there is not the slightest acknowledgement that something has gone wrong with our dominant paradigms; it contains no clause or article that could be interpreted as a critique of the practices that are known to have created the situation that the Agreement seeks to address. The current paradigm of perpetual growth is enshrined at the core of the text. [p.164]
I now define "moral behavior" as "behavior that tends toward survival." I won't argue with philosophers or theologians who choose to use the word "moral" to mean something else, but I do not think anyone can define "behavior that tends toward extinction" as being "moral" without stretching the word "moral" all out of shape.
Just like poets and artists, bureaucrats are born, not made; it takes normal humans extraordinary effort to keep attention on such boring tasks. [p.47]
The exponential information age is like a verbally incontinent person; he talks more and more as fewer and fewer people listen. [p.49]
You want be yourself, idiosyncratic; the collective (school, rules, jobs, technology) wants you generic to the point of castration. [p.54]
Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone. [p.63]
People often need to suspend their self-promotion, and have someone in their lives they do not need to impress. This explains dog ownership. [p.67]
The four most influential moderns: Darwin, Marx, Freud, and (the productive) Einstein were scholars but not academics. It has always been hard to do genuine -- and nonperishable -- work within institutions. [p.79]
We should make students recompute their GPAs by counting their grades in finance and economics backward. [p.91]
[Footnote] *The best way to measure the loss of intellectual sophistication in the Internet age -- this "nerdification," to put it bluntly -- is in the growing disappearance of sarcasm, as mechanistic minds take insults a bit too literally. [p.110]
Hypocrisy alert: It should be noted that this author has a huge ecological footprint due to extensive travel as well as having two children...
... the business-as-usual [referred throughout the book as "BAU"] market will be relatively disadvantaged, because it is highly resource-intensive. [p.18]
To yield one ounce of gold, a mining company can excavate a hundred or more tons of earth. [p.43]
But in addition [to valuing natural capital], the plenitude approach argues that we need to rethink the scale of production, how knowledge is accessed, skill diffusion, the ownership of natural assets, and mechanisms for generating employment. [p.71]
In the McKinsey studies, the reigning assumption was to calculate emissions reductions without behavior change, which is deemed "difficult" to achieve. [p.86]
There's an ecovillage of a hundred homes in South London called Beddington Zero [note that residents still have a footprint of 1.7], operating since 2002, where many residents have managed to attain that goal [of one planet living]. They're aspiring to zero carbon, zero waste, and local sourcing of food, fibers, and products. [p.100]
Those in the vanguard of sustainability have found their purpose in helping to save the planet. But for the vast majority of us, ecological living is not the object of our passion. We will understand that it's necessary, and may enjoy it. But deep meaning is found elsewhere, in family, friends, personal creativity, religion, music and art, social justice, science, business, or helping others. [Note that all of these are dependent on healthy ecosystems.] [p.100]
[Frithjof] Bergmann's system had three components. First, radically cut hours in factories, to about twenty per week, in a bid to preserve jobs. Second, help under- and unemployed workers figure out their life's calling, that is, the type of work they most wanted to be doing, and support them to get going with it, irrespective of whether it would yield income. And third, promote a series of advanced or smart-technology methods for producing the basics of life without arduous labor. His term was high-tech self-providing. [p.118, for more see Bergmann's essay in The Consumer Society Reader or here.
We are circling back, and plenitude is a synthesis of the pre- and post modern. From the former, it borrows the vision of skilled artisans producing for their own use as well as for the market. It's a decentralized integrated production model with a less specialized division of labor compared with mass production. Total work hours are low (as they were in the precapitalist era), individuals retain more control over their time and labor, and work gives ample scope for creativity. From the postmodern period comes advanced technology and smart, ecologically parsimonious design. It's the perfect synthesis. Technology obviates the arduous and back-breaking labor of the preindustrial. Artisanal labor avoids the alienation of the modern factory and office. [p.127]
The next economic era needs to be devoted to restoring the capacity of the earth to support humans and other life forms. [p.158]
There's also a large sector of businesses [cooperatives, credit unions, etc.] that are not subject to the profit imperative on the account of their ownership structure. [p.171, My problem with these structures is that their payrolls support people who live highly consumptive lives. And the jobs are mostly boring. Picture tellers and cashiers.]
Vandana Shiva's Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth Citizenship) center in northern India combines an organic farm operating in community with nearby villages with courses taught by Indian and international sustainability leaders. [p.182]
Many profess to be determinists, but in practice they disregard it. p.xvii
"to proclaim that science is the search for causes ... is not to say that all events have them" p.xxiii
"...neutrality is also a moral attitude..." p.xxx
"...Hobbes, not Locke, turned out to be right: man sought neither happiness or liberty nor justice, but, above and before all,security." p.19
"Growing numbers of human beings are prepared to purchase this sense of security even at the cost of allowing vast tracts of life to be controlled by persons who, whether consciously or not, act systematically to narrow the horizon of human activity to manageable proportions, to train human beings into more easily combinable parts -- interchangeable, almost prefabricated -- of a total pattern." p.30, emphasis mine, this is exactly what I see when I observe college students at the local universities.
"For in the past there were conflicts of ideas; whereas what characterizes our time is less the struggle of one set of ideas against another than the mounting wave of hostility to all ideas as such. ...ideas are considered the source of too much disquiet..." p.32 Again, this is the attitude that prevails in all of our institutions.
"Has not every authoritarian institution, every irrationalist movement, been engaged upon something of this kind -- the artificial stilling of doubts, the attempt either to discredit uncomfortable questions or to educate men not to ask them? Was this not the practice of the great organized churches, indeed of every institution from the nation state to small sectarian establishments? Was this not the attitude of the enemies of reason from the earliest mystery cults to the romanticism, anarchistic nihilism, surrealism, neo-Oriental cults of the last century and a half? Why should our age be specially accused of addiction to the particular tendency which formed a central theme of social doctrines which go back to Plato, or the sect of the medieval Assassins, or much Eastern thought and mysticism?" [p.35-36]
"Where there is no choice there is no anxiety; and a happy release from responsibility. Some human beings have always preferred the peace of imprisonment, a contented security, a sense of having at last found one's proper place in the cosmos, to the painful conflicts and complexities of the disordered freedom of the world beyond the walls." [p.111-122]
I'll stop here as this book should be read in its entirety and all excerpts should be taken in context... Please note that there is a later edition with an additional essay...
Karma was mentioned to me by an acupuncturist in the last couple of weeks. After "surfing" through the above links, it occurred to me that many people who would profess to be concerned about karma live well above the "footprint" that will enable all live to thrive in the future. It seems to me that there ought to be something that could be labelled as "practical karma." A way to learn and live that allows for maximum life... Many of us are hypocrites and non-karmatic (new word?) without knowing it...
In the story that the modern world repeats to itself, the belief in progress is at odds with religion. In the dark ages of faith there was no hope of any fundamental change in human life. With the arrival of modern science, a vista of improvement opened up. Increasing knowledge allowed humans to take control of their destiny. From being lost in the shadows, they could step out into the light.
In fact the idea of progress is not at odds with religion in the way this modern fairy tale suggests. Faith in progress is a late survival of early Christianity, originating in the message of Jesus, a dissident Jewish prophet who announced the end of time. For the ancient Egyptians as for the ancient Greeks, there was nothing new under the sun. Human history belongs in the cycle of the natural world. The same is true in Hinduism and Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto, and the older parts of the Hebrew Bible. By creating the expectation of a radical alteration in human affairs, Christianity -- the religion that St Paul invented from Jesus' life and sayings -- founded the modern world. in practice human beings lived much as they had always done....
It was not long before a literal expectation of the End was turned into a metaphor for a spiritual transformation. Yet a change had taken place in what was hoped of the future. Many transmutations were needed before the Christian story could renew itself as the myth of progress. But from being a succession of cycles like the seasons, history came to be seen as a story of redemption and salvation, and in modern times salvation became identified with the increase of knowledge and power... [p.8-9]
The overthrow of the ancien régime in France, the Tsars of Russia, the Shah of Iran, Saddam in Iraq and Mubarak in Egypt may have produced benefits for many people, but increased freedom was not among them. Mass kinllings, attacks on minorities, torture on a larger scale, another kind of tyranny, often more cruel than the one that was overthrown -- these have been the results. To think of humans as freedom-loving, you must be ready to view nearly all of history as a mistake. [p.58]
[It can be imagined] that human beings want a life in which they can make their own choices. But what if they can be fulfilled only by a life in which they follow each other? The majority who obey the fashion of the day may be acting on a secret awareness that they lack the potential for a truly individual existence.
Liberalism...teaches that everyone yearns to be free. Herzen's experience of the abortive European revolutions of 1848 led him to doubt that this was so. It was because of his disillusionment that he criticized Mill so sharply. But if it is true that Mill was deluded in thinking that everyone loves freedom, it may also be true that without this illusion there would be still less freedom in the world. The charm of a liberal way of life is that it enables most people to renounce their freedom unknowingly, Allowing the majority of humankind to imagine they are flying fish even as they pass their lives under the waves, liberal civilization rests on a dream. [p.62]
For Festinger [the psychologist who developed the idea of cognitive dissonance] and his colleagues, this [UFO "event"] was an opportunity to test the theory of cognitive dissonance. According to the theory, human beings do not deal with conflicting beliefs and perceptions by testing them against the facts. They reduce the conflict by reinterpreting facts that challenge the beliefs to which they as most attached. As T. S. Eliot wrote in Burnt Norton, humankind cannot bear very much reality. [p.72]
The most important feature of natural selection is that it is a process of drift. Evolution has not endpoint or direction, so if the development of society is an evolutionary process it is one that is going nowhere. The destinations that successive generations of theorists have assigned to evolution have no basis in science. Invariably, they are the prevailing idea of progress [hopeyness] recycled in Darwinian terms. [p.78]
For Schopenhauer as for Freud the world is an arena of unending struggle. But Schopenhauer offers a possibility of redemption, and it is here that Freud parts company with him. while believing that human autonomy was an illusion, Schopenhauer at the same held out the prospect of liberation of illusion. Salvation lies in shaking off the ego, making possible a way of life based on an 'oceanic feeling of oneness'.
Freud did not share this dream of salvation. The possibility of escape from illusion that Schopenhauer held out was itself an illusion. The oceanic feeling was real enough, but it could not be the basis for a way of living. Whatever moments of release they might experience, humans were fated to a life of struggle. 'Where id was,' Freud wrote, 'there shall ego be.' The sense of oneness had no magic for him. Human life may be a meandering road to death. But, until we reach our destination, we are at war. [p.89-90]
For Freud the pursuit of happiness is a distraction from living. It would be better to aim for something different -- a type of life in which you do not need a fantasy of satisfaction in order to find being human an interesting and worthwhile experience. [p.108-109]
Haeckel's project was the creation of a new religion grounded in scientific materialism and evolutionary theory, which he called Monism. [p.113]
But the idea that human possibilities are unbounded has also been promoted by rationalists, including enthusiasts for science who think the growth of knowledge enables the human animal to overcome the limits of the natural world. So it is not only in Romanticism that a view of humans as being able to transcend their nature has spilled over from Christianity. By the logic of Hulme's argument -- and this is true as a matter of fact -- rationalism is also spilt religion. [p.135]
The freedom that nature-mystics look for beyond the human scene is like the spiritual realm of the religious, a human thought-construction. [p.168]
Contemplation an be understood as an activity that aims not to change the world or to understand it, but to simply let it be....
Like that of religious mystics, contemplation of this kind involves nullifying the self. But not with the aim of entering any higher self -- a figment left behind by the animal mind. God-seeking mystics want this figment to guide them in a new way of living. They are right in thinking that a life made up of action is the pursuit of phantoms; but so is life passed on a fictive frontier between two worlds. The needy animal that invented the other world does not go away, and the result of trying to leave the creature behind is to live with its ghost.
Godless contemplation is a more radical and transient condition; a temporary respite from the all-too-human world, with nothing particular in mind. In most traditions the life of contemplation promises redemption from being human; in Christianity, the end of tragedy and a glimpse of the divine comedy; in Jeffers's pantheism, the obliteration of the self in an ecstatic unity. Godless mysticism cannot escape the finality of tragedy, or make beauty eternal. It does not dissolve inner conflict into the false quietude of an oceanic calm. All it offers is mere being. There is no redemption from being human. But no redemption is needed....[p.207-208]