Western civilization is the product of the heroic attitude depicted in countless myths and fairytales of the past five thousand years. Greek and Roman mythology were replete with tales of the hero's journey-the overcoming of ordeals in order to prove one's faithfulness to the gods and goddesses and one's sense of integrity to the community. The Judeo-Christian tradition further perpetuates heroism in protagonists like Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus, St. Paul, Augustine, the crusaders, and the panoply of saints. The apotheosis of heroics in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the savior who brings salvation. Despite the Enlightenment and the rejection of the mythological, Western civilization has been profoundly and permanently characterized by a heroic attitude. In this country, our Puritan ancestors declared that their fledgling colony was a "city set on a hill", "a light unto the world", "a new Jerusalem"-hence the birth of the American notion of exceptionalism. Like it or not, their work-and-win ethic has permeated our culture, subtly instilling in us the belief that we must survive, conquer, and prevail. "Good" human beings, "morally responsible" Americans want to conquer adversity and win. In fact, to do otherwise implies a deficiency in character.
Heroism, a traditionally masculine, problem-solving perspective, abhors the emotional. "What good are tears?" it arrogantly asserts; "Stop sniveling and start fighting!"
I hasten to add that I am not excluding the need for problem-solving and resistance in the face of the plethora of adversities that threaten the earth and its inhabitants. What I am arguing is that the heroic approach is ineffectual given the fact that it is fragmented and incomplete because the natural human response to the death of the planet is nothing less than gut-wrenching grief.
Dr. Glen Barry, founder of Ecological Internet, states:
The Earth is dying and it makes me feel sad. Not just a bit tense or melancholy; but deeply and profoundly anguished, depressed, and angry. Humanity had so much potential that has been wasted. Our self consciousness, opposable thumbs, upright walking and ability for limited rationality has lead to great triumphs in philosophy, art, sport and leisure. But alas other aspects of our animalistic nature; libido, insatiable appetite, and desire to dominate, have won out.
Barry is mourning the loss of feeling and the triumph of heroics, and until any of us is able to feel our grief and consciously, viscerally mourn the loss of our planet, our civil liberties, and our humanity, we are ill-equipped to resist or make the changes in our own lives that will influence either microcosm or macrocosm. Certainly, it is possible to "get stuck" in grief, but from my perspective, that is hardly the most ominous pitfall in front of us. If anything, our inculcation with American heroics has facilitated ungrounded political organizing detached from our bodies and emotions which, like civilization, disconnects us from the totality of our humanity.
I'm well aware that the great labor organizer, Joe Hill, is famous for his adage, "Don't mourn, organize", but Joe's late-nineteenth and early twentieth-century world was quite different from ours. He and his comrades in struggle were not facing the death of the planet and the possible extinction of the human race.
What seems to escape Naomi Wolf is that humans are capable of feeling deep grief and demonstrating fierce resistance at the same time. Indeed, this reality is paradoxical, and being incredibly complex creatures, paradox is one of the most fundamental aspects of our human experience.
It appears that what Wolf, along with nearly all Americans is unwilling to face, is that not only is the American empire in a state of freefall, but so is civilization itself. What she fails to understand is that the paradigm of civilization has already expired, and that humanity is now navigating its way to an entirely new paradigm. That process will be increasingly painful, formidable, and terribly uncertain. What will not work is reversion to left progressive or green politics which refuses to acknowledge the reality of collapse and heroically struggles to keep a crumbling civilization and its old paradigm intact. But then what do I mean by "work"?
I do not mean "succeed" in the heroic sense of the word. I do not define success at this point in human history as preventing collapse and electing the right candidates who will kiss the catastrophe and make it all better. Rather, I mean refusing to succumb to the ferocious undertow of denial that permeates the heroic perspective and instead, telling the truth about the current reality. In order to do this, we must first grieve the incalculable losses in front of us, and at the same time, introspectively assess how we will respond to them.
Introspection does not mean self-absorption. It means evaluating how one wishes to live in the face of collapse and who one wishes to share one's life with. It means scaling down not only one's lifestyle, but one's problem-solving perspective. That is, instead of looking for political heroes who will solve problems for us on a national or global level, we focus on our community and work with trusted others to address issues in our place. As the crumbling of governments, financial systems, and other institutions exacerbates, collapse itself will compel us to implement local solutions. Thus, even in the face of such a painful demise as the collapse of civilization, we may be able to surrender to and celebrate the opportunity for rediscovering our own humanity and that of the other individuals who inhabit our community. Perhaps what we most need to discover and experience is not heroics but transformative defeat-the defeat of the paradigm of civilization.
Kahil Gibran in "Madman" wrote:
Defeat, my Defeat,
my deathless courage,
you and I shall laugh together
with the storm,
and together we shall dig graves
for all that die in us,
and we shall stand
in the sun with a will,
and we shall be dangerous.
Naomi Wolf states that the time for tears has to stop, and the time for confronting has to begin. Yet only our tears give meaning and dynamism to our resistance. Could it be that the most effective means of being truly "dangerous" and revolutionary is to accept the defeat of civilization? Could it be that what is most needed now is not heroics but American tears?
20 Oct 2007 @ 02:19 by a-d : The arrogance stated right here
in this one statement (alone ) by Glen Barry is exactly one of thee KILLING attitudes humans have adopted about themselves vis a vis all the other Sentient Beings on Earth: " Our self consciousness, opposable thumbs, upright walking and ability for limited rationality has lead to great triumphs in philosophy, art, sport and leisure. But alas other aspects of our animalistic nature; libido, insatiable appetite, and desire to dominate, have won out."
Animals and Plants do know to MUCH higher degree how to co-operate, live in symbiosis (with ALL the rest around them), how to share etc than we humans, who at least for the last 5-6000 years have approached our daily life from COMPETITION - attitude!
I dare to say that what ever you see of competitive nature in Animals/Nature over was somehow in one way or the other forced upon them by us -as a sheer means to survive despite humans disrupting their original harmony with all (around them).
I don't see any logic in Barry's "feeling" and his arrogant misplaced humanity!
I do agree with you: " Could it be that what is most needed now is not heroics but American tears? ".... So very long overdue!
21 Oct 2007 @ 06:18 by : Thee?
Going TOPI on us are ye A-d? ;) The thee refers to? ;) In the sacred halls of the mountain king I met Juliette of the roses. She sang a song of gathering gloom and pink muffin mixes to me early in the morning as the Sunna was rising through the foggy mists of memory. It was then I knew, that she loved me true. She was sixteen, my village queen, down by the old mill stream.
Say hi to Doc Holliday if you see him and greetz, little sister, how ya doin?
There is plenty of money to eradicate the ten high-level threats. What has been lacking is transparency of all budgets. Secret earmarks, and the corruption of US political leaders, have allowed both the looting of commonwealths all over the planet, and the hijacking of the US Government, which is both insolvent, and a vehicle for taking income from the poor and transferring it to the already wealthy. That ends now.
21 Oct 2007 @ 06:25 by : Intel Minutemen
The fastest way to restore the Constitution and the sovereign power of We the People is to take back the power over all information pertinent to public policy in the public interest.
Save your Commonwealth--
become an Intelligence Minuteman!
22 Oct 2007 @ 04:24 by : educating women
I keep telling my daughter.. stay in school.. don't get married or have kids lol .
22 Oct 2007 @ 06:36 by : Skookum!
Good idea. But what school? That's the problem. With the Status Quo "Elites" running the fraudulent 'banking' industry I'd suggest she become an international lawyer! Hear, hear!
The Plamegate Smokescreen is something you should read as Vallery, of course, is a woman. Sufferage anyone? (Not that I am duped by her, in the least, or her husband 'killer Joe!')