On why things are the way they are


commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Martin_Luther_King,_Jr_-_NARA_-_559202.jpg (Public Domain)

Saw this on the ‘net today, and it hit a nerve:

After four little girls were murdered in an Alabama church, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King had this critical, and very insightful comment:

“…we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderer.”

This was originally about some kids getting murdered, and it encompasses the crazy situations we seem to have with people shooting up synagogues and the like.  But it can also be applied to the larger world, and that of the the three E’s (Energy, Environment, Economy).

We can lament the fact that we are running out of cheap energy, our environment is being trashed, and our economy is built on quicksand and easy money.   But without asking why, without asking about the philosophy that got us here in the first place, it won’t be possible to change things.   You may not agree with Guy McPherson on his timeline of how things will go, but he hits the nail on the head when he says (paraphrasing here) that the essence of our (especially American) culture is ‘Go faster!’, without any thought of the consequences.   Our culture’s philosophy, as Edward Abbey put it, is absurd; “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”  This is madness.  A philosophy that says, “Grow forever!” is unsustainable, and can’t be sustained.   Even ‘smart growth’ is impossible, because eventually, you outgrow a particular set of conditions, no matter how you slice things.

It is a shame to see things go so predictably bad in our world.   Telling people about peak oil, arctic ice melt rates, financial scams, and environmental issues points out the problems, but without addressing the core philosophy of our culture, these things (after a helluva cultural hangover) will continue to repeat, destroying ecosystems and possibly (probably?) our own species.

Perhaps, instead of calling out the facts, it is time to start asking the harder and more philosophical questions – why are we doing what we are doing?  


  • Can this world view be changed? (Over at Decline of Empire, Dave Cohen says no…)
  • Might bringing this more ‘meta’ issue up do better in trying to ameliorate climate change, etc.?    Or should we concentrate on the actual technical issues (rising sea levels, declining wildlife habitats)?











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