One Crazy World
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 24 Sep 2018
Emanuel E. Garcia, MD – TRANSCEND Media Service
20 Sep 2018 – As someone who has worked in psychoanalysis and psychiatry for the past three decades, I suppose I may be considered to possess some expertise in ‘madness’. This is not to say that I have devoted my life to determining who or who is not ‘crazy’ – the true work of a mental health clinician is not to impose totalitarian judgments but rather to accept the diverse variety of humanity in all of its manifestations and to alleviate mental and emotional suffering.
That we all suffer goes without saying. Defining ‘madness’ is a very tricky thing, so I prefer to avoid such terminology altogether. One person’s eccentricities may be another’s wisdom, to vary a saying, depending on time, place and social context. And it is equally tricky to define ‘reason’ or ‘the rational’, words which have their etymological roots in measurement – itself a very revealing indication of the deep association between knowledge and power, knowing and manipulation.
But I didn’t intend, fascinating as it may be, on an etymological discursion. I wished instead to call attention to something human occurring on a grand scale which deserves to be appreciated for what it is: a vast, devious and destructive insanity. It is no one thing, incidentally, but rather an aggregate that has accumulated over the brief centuries of our species’ existence and congealed into its current form. It is the sum total of where we are today: on the brink of destroying the good sustaining earth we inhabit while feeding the seemingly limitless societal need for strife and warfare.
I am not discounting the bright and even magnificent capacity of the individual for love, ill-defined as this much-used word may be; for kindness, for helping one another, for care. These graceful characteristics seem to be dwarfed, if not obliterated, when complex and large human associations occur and the power of such giant organisations – nations and corporations and their combined interconnected entities – shows its hand.
Let’s take a brief look at how healthy our human world is. There are over fourteen thousand nuclear weapons in existence, and four hundred and fifty reactors, one of which is actively leaking radioactive waste into the oceans. There are scores of armed conflicts occurring. Fewer than ten persons own as much wealth as half of humanity’s population.
Let’s leave aside global warming or overpopulation for now, and concentrate on what civilisation, in its evolving aggregrate forms, with their exponential increase of computational advances, has achieved: nearly total surveillance, the near extinction of privacy, and the limitation of individual human liberty – or, rather, the enhancement of the liberty of the privileged few at the expense of the very very many without such means.
And it – this ‘it’ being our global network – does so by fashioning narratives or, as I prefer, fairy tales, whose content and hypnotic power induce a kind of cheerful agreement with the System, the status quo, with the glories of Capitalism, War and Celebrity. Plato’s famous cave endures.
While physicists, mathematicians and cosmologists represent the ‘point men’ for the advancement of knowledge and carry on their fascinating debates and intricate measurements and researches about the origins of the universe and the substance of the atom, much of the world languishes in poverty. Be assured that this quest could not occur without the subsidy of governments who hope to gain the practical advantage of yet another foothold for weaponry and dominance by dint of further discoveries.
Knowledge for the simple sake of knowing doesn’t warrant much attention, or much money for that matter.
I have long held that the most pressing philosophical question of our time is this: what would we do if no further technological or practical knowledge were possible, if there were a limit to what we might learn, discover and use? Would we be compelled to direct our collective wit and imagination towards solving the problems of hunger, poverty, pollution and pacific co-habitation?
Or is that just too crazy to imagine?
PS: I am indebted to Dave Ratcliffe of ratical.org for pointing out to me my use of the term ‘resources’ in the earlier version of this essay, and for directing me to Oren Lyons’ remarks at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro:
“As we go through the world and we observe life, the western civilization of looking at life as resources, and as long as they use that term for life as resources you’re never going to gain anything. When you recognize life for what it is: a tree as a spirit, a tree as a living being, a tree as a grandfather that we call; when you recognize that there is a reason for all of these beings and that these beings are interlocked, that we depend on one another; if we can change the definitions, if we can have people speak about life for what it is—as life with equal value, as life is necessary for survival and not as commerce and not as resources then we may have a chance. But as long as we look at forests as resources, as long as we look at these things as board-feet of lumber or we look at the fish runs as resources for people, we’re going to continue to use them without restraint and without guidance.”
Dr. Emanuel E. Garcia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an American poet, novelist and physician who now resides in New Zealand. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 24 Sep 2018.
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