Life and Limb

Recently we were on a train in Portugal and shared figs and cheese with a man in the seat across from us. Turns out he is a professor of economics in Coimbra and we discussed the state of the world. He said that this century is so much better than the last one; more people with enough food and shelter, more security and much less war.

Truly, he has an important point; yet one always feels an urgency of impending and ongoing crises. A list of iniquities in our times is long. We are part of a family that includes all life on earth, plant and animal, and we understand that in some semi-conscious ways — just the fact that people who work in offices need plants as companions shows that we do understand more than we might like to admit.
So many members of our family are becoming extinct because of human actions.

But it is not fair, is it? Two hundred years ago thousands of whale were slaughtered every year, changing the oceans for the worse irreparably. Whale oil made machinery work, though, and that really was progress (no matter that progress always has its bad side).
Then petroleum was discovered, just oil in the earth – what could be more innocent, more of a blessing? Soon afterwards plastics were developed from petroleum, so that most of our clothing, our computers, cars, furniture and constructions are made from petroleum products, plastics. It was like a miracle. The down side is like a poison. Not fair. All we wanted was better, easier, safer life. Or maybe all we did was the delight of experimenting and knowing stuff…

What now might we say to the next generation? Well, maybe it is not a matter of this generation saying anything to the next. There are really not such clear distinctions at any time nor place. How can we all act now, is a more real question. There is an annoying tendency to imagine that the solution is for Leaders of countries to be held accountable. Annoying because then it all comes down to talk or at best working to elect better candidates (always a good idea, and talk is most certainly necessary).

Much more drastic changes are happening whether we like it or not. So much of the northern world is refusing to aid people from the south who are in great need and suffering. More and more policies that are economically bad for everyone are being implemented. Even though it causes much suffering it will not matter in the long run. The world is changing.

Many people in many areas are seeing that all of our urgent problems are interconnected, and come from a way of being, thinking, that has been called ‘natural’ by the men in power. Patriarchy, colonialism, racism, what is called intolerance towards people of different sexual orientation (who is in charge of ‘tolerating’?) and aggressive destruction of the environment all come from one destructive set-up that is on its way out.

As someone else recently wrote, the old guys are dying. It is a time for humility and willingness to be less.

New ways of thinking, acting, are happening. Yes, there is much posturing and psychological profiteering. Much banality, as usual. Let’s sober up.