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The problem with the European Enlightenment and its Industrial Revolution


David Anderson writes: About eight thousand years ago with the beginning of the bronze, iron, agricultural age we decided to pursue a life of separation and alienation from the planet. This dualistic mindset, further strengthened in the seventeenth century during the European Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, is at the root of the present crises.

David Anderson, Countercurrents.org

An assumption we humans make about our planet is that we exist separate from it. It is here for us to enjoy and to use for our own comfort. We are above and beyond it.

We will not accept the fact that we always have been and are now an evolving part of it the formation of all life and nonlife on it and subject to the same universal laws of construction/deconstruction that have been involved with our evolution from the first cellular moment.

As a result of our incomprehension, we stubbornly refuse to accept that we have in this Age mechanistically decoupled ourselves from the evolutionary source of our being.

Why? How did this happen? About eight thousand years ago with the beginning of the bronze, iron, agricultural age we decided to pursue a life of separation and alienation from the planet. After millions of years of hominid evolutionary progression, the idea of mutual inter dependency was abrogated.

This mindset was further strengthened in the seventeenth century during the European Enlightenment and then afterward by the Industrial Revolution. The thought of the great philosopher Rene Descartes expressed it. He was known for his idea of dualism. Only the mind of man had ultimate importance. Animals and plants and the earth itself were unimportant; mere matter.

Then, in the nineteenth century Charles Darwin said that we are a product of biological evolution, an evolving progressive part of nature. For some this opened the door marginally to a re-thinking of nature. But for most the old Cartesian mindset remained.

Where does this leave us all today? In our universities and in our culture in both East and West we find ourselves struggling to understand the relationship between our planet and ourselves and the Cosmos. Our thought process remains as it was with the European Enlightenment; detached from nature. Even in our modern social and the physical sciences we remain in a Cartesian mechanistic mindset, holding on to the reductive position that a complex system is no more than the interactive sum of its parts, and that an account of it can therefore be reduced to accounts of its individual constituents.

This detachment is not without consequence for the survival or non-survival of our species. We need to understand; we are no different than any other life form on the planet in that if we oppose nature, it will oppose us.

An example is the planetary destruction that has come about from the development of a capital market system now energizing ecologically destructive forces of a magnitude never before been seen in the history of human life on the planet. Resource allocation is being misguided and misappropriated on a massive scale. Irreparable planetary damage is being done.

Our capital market system must take primary blame. It is a system that needs to be transformed into a constrained yet incentive directed market system emphasizing the equitable and humanistic provision of both the material and psychological needs of all humanity. The long lasting functionality of all the earth’s resources to meet these needs must take on the highest priority. Every element of today’s energy intensive market driven consumerism must be made to meet this planetary survival/functionality test.

This is not occurring. In fact, for many the “Hidden Hand” described by the Adam Smith has become for all of civilization, East and West, the hand of a new God. As a result, a terrifying danger is now looming over the horizon. At issue is the extinction of our species and end of our human civilization.

Is there a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, there is. Many in the world are beginning to recognize the centrality of our planetary interdependence. The healing process may be beginning. A ground swell is forming calling for humanity to reinvent itself in the context of a new planetary awareness.

This reinvention is borrowing from hominid evolutionary precedence as seen in the thought process of past indigenous communities that existed as recently as ten thousand years ago. Their metaphysical wisdom was in place well before the rise of industrial Age or even the thought coming out of the early East. It incorporated what we all abandoned; a veneration of both life and nonlife on our planet.

The late American mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote and spoke about this veneration. Following is a quote from a letter sent by Chief Seattle of the Dwamish Tribe in the state of Washington in early America. He often used it in his lectures and in his books. The words reflect the understanding of nature brought to the Americas 15,000/12,000 years ago by Homo sapiens as they traveled from Europe north east and then south across the Beringian (Alaskan) land bridge and then all the way down to the most southern part of what we now call South America. Those travelers missed our bronze/iron agricultural Age—as well as the European Enlightenment:

Chief Seattle gives us a glimpse of another mindset, one that could save our species and our civilization.

Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays.

David Anderson brings together a wide range of interests in his writings, namely; theology, history, evolutionary anthropology, philosophy, geopolitics, and economics. He has written three books. A fourth is near completion. (seehttp://www.inquiryabraham.com/new-book.html ) It is about a necessary geo political, social, religious, economic paradigm shift for human survival. David is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Hawaii (Harvard Asia Pacific) Advanced Management Program. Over his career he was an international risk manager and senior executive at several of America’s premier multinational institutions. During that period he became increasingly aware of the underlying cultural, institutional and religious causes of past and present civilizational dysfunction and conflict.

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