Robert J. Burrowes, New Age Islam
a recent article titled ‘Challenges
for Resolving Complex Conflicts’, I pointed
out that existing conflict theory pays little attention to the
extinction-causing conflict being ongoingly generated by human over-consumption
in the finite planetary biosphere (and, among other outcomes, currently
resulting in 200 species extinctions daily). I also mentioned that this
conflict is sometimes inadequately identified as a conflict caused by
capitalism’s drive for unending economic growth in a finite environment.
would like to explain the psychological origin of this biosphere-annihilating
conflict and how this origin has nurtured the incredibly destructive aspects of
capitalism (and socialism, for that matter) from the beginning. I would also
like to explain what we can do about it.
I do, however, let me briefly illustrate why this particular conflict
configuration is so important by offering you a taste of the most recent
research evidence in relation to the climate catastrophe and biosphere
annihilation and why the time to resolve this conflict is rapidly running out
(assuming, problematically, that we can avert nuclear war in the meantime).
an article reporting a recent speech by Professor James G. Anderson of Harvard
University, whose research led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate CFC
damage to the Ozone Layer, environmental journalist Robert Hunizker summarizes
Anderson’s position as follows: ‘the chance of permanent ice remaining in the
Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice
shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic
turns into a methane nightmare.’ See ‘There
Is No Time Left’.
if you think that sounds drastic, other recent research has drawn attention to
the fact that the ‘alarming loss of insects will likely take down humanity
before global warming hits maximum velocity.... The worldwide loss of insects
is simply staggering with some reports of 75% up to 90%, happening much faster
than the paleoclimate record rate of the past five major extinction events’.
Without insects ‘burrowing, forming new soil, aerating soil, pollinating food
crops...’ and providing food for many bird species, the biosphere simply
collapses. See ‘Insect
Decimation Upstages Global Warming’.
if we are in the process of annihilating Earth’s biosphere, which will
precipitate human extinction in the near term, why aren’t we paying much more
attention to the origin of this fundamental conflict? And then developing a
precisely focused strategy for transcending it?
answer to these two questions is simply this: the origin of this conflict is
particularly unpalatable and, from my careful observation, most people,
including conflict theorists, aren’t anxious to focus on it.
why are human beings over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere? Or more
accurately, why are human beings who have the opportunity to do so (which
doesn’t include those impoverished people living in Africa, Asia, Central/South
America or anywhere else) over-consuming in the finite planetary biosphere?
are doing so because they were terrorized into unconsciously equating consumption
with a meaningful life by parents and other adults who had already internalized
this same ‘learning’.
me explain how this happens.
the moment of birth, a baby is genetically programmed to feel and express their
feelings in response to the stimuli, both internal and external, that the baby
registers. For example, as soon after birth as a baby feels hungry, they will
signal that need, usually by crying or screaming. An attentive parent (or other
suitable adult) will usually respond to this need by feeding the baby and the
baby will express their satisfaction with this outcome, perhaps with a facial
expression, in a way that most aware parents and adults will have no difficulty
identifying. Similarly, if the baby is cold, in pain or experiencing any other
stimulus, the baby will express their need, probably by making a loud noise.
Given that babies cannot immediately use a cultural language, they use the
language that was given to them by evolution: particularly audibly expressed
noise of various types that an aware adult will quickly learn to interpret.
course, from the initial moments after birth and throughout the next few
months, a baby will experience an increasing range of stimuli – including
internal stimuli such as the needs for listening, understanding and love, as
well as external stimuli ranging from a wet nappy to a diverse set of parental,
social, climate and environmental stimuli – and will develop a diverse and
expanding range of ways, now including a wider range of emotional expression
but eventually starting to include spoken language, of expressing their
responses, including satisfaction and enjoyment if appropriate, to these
some vital point, however, and certainly within the child’s first eighteen
months, the child’s parents and the other significant adults in the child’s
life, will start to routinely and actively interfere with the child’s emotional
expression (and thus deny them satisfaction of the unique needs being expressed
in each case) in order to compel the child to do as the parent/adult wishes. Of
course, this is essential if you want the child to be obedient – a socially
compliant slave – rather than to follow their own Self-will.
of the critically important ways in which this denial of emotional expression
occurs seems benign enough: Children who are crying angry or frightened are
scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as
food or a toy – to distract them instead. Unfortunately, the distractive items
become addictive drugs. Unable to have their emotional needs met, the child
learns to seek relief by acquiring the material substitutes offered by the
parent. But as this emotional deprivation endlessly expands because the child
has been denied the listening, understanding and love to develop the capacity
to listen to, love and understand themselves, so too does the ‘need’ for
material acquisition endlessly expand.
an aside, this explains why most violence is overtly directed at gaining
control of material, rather than emotional, resources. The material resource
becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of
the emotional need. And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an
emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or
structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an
unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs. In
essence, no amount of money and other assets can replace the love denied a
child that would allow them to feel and act on their feelings.
course, the individual who consumes more than they need and uses direct
violence, or simply takes advantage of structural violence, to do so is never
aware of their deeply suppressed emotional needs and of the functional ways of
having these needs met. Although, I admit, this is not easy to do given that
listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who
have themselves been denied these needs. Consequently, with their emotional
needs now unconsciously ‘hidden’ from the individual, they will endlessly
project that the needs they want met are, in fact, material.
is the reason why members of the Rothschild family, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates,
Warren Buffett, Amancio Ortega, Mark Zuckerberg, Carlos Slim, the Walton family
and the Koch brothers, as well as the world’s other billionaires and
millionaires, seek material wealth and are willing to do so by taking advantage
of structures of exploitation held in place by the US military. They are
certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional
voids who were never loved and do not know how to love themself or others now.
however, this fate is not exclusive to the world’s wealthy even if they illustrate
the point most graphically. As indicated above, virtually all people who live
in material cultures have suffered this fate and this is readily illustrated by
their ongoing excessive consumption – especially their meat-eating,
fossil-fueled travel and acquisition of an endless stream of assets – in a
planetary biosphere that has long been signaling ‘Enough!’
an aside, governments that use military violence to gain control of material
resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this
dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote
materialism. Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this
dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material
acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This
also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to
maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of
non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.
summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only
the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this
fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.
you want to read (a great deal) more detail of the explanation presented above,
you will find it in ‘Why Violence?’
and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology:
Principles and Practice’.
what can we do?
I would start by profoundly changing our conception of sound parenting by
emphasizing the importance of nisteling to children – see ‘Nisteling:
The Art of Deep Listening’ – and making ‘My
Promise to Children’.
those adults who feel incapable of nisteling or living out such a promise, I
encourage you to consider doing the emotional healing necessary by ‘Putting
you already feel capable of responding powerfully to this
extinction-threatening conflict between human consumption and the Earth’s
biosphere, you are welcome to consider joining those who are participating in
the fifteen-year strategy to reduce consumption and achieve self-reliance
explained in ‘The
Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’
and/or to consider using sound nonviolent strategy to conduct your climate or
environment campaign. See Nonviolent
are also welcome to consider signing the online pledge of ‘The
Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.
the material simplicity of Mohandas K. Gandhi demonstrated: Consumption is not
you are not able to emulate Gandhi (at least ‘in spirit’) by living modestly,
it is your own emotional dysfunctionality – particularly unconscious fear –
that is the problem that needs to be addressed.
J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human
violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand
why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He
is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ http://tinyurl.com/whyviolence
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
and his website is here. http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com
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