Tag Archives: modern life

Our natural environment is under serious threat

Today there was important news on the latest and perhaps most comprehensive study thus far about the poor state of our planet’s natural environment. Earth’s diversity, beauty and balance is being marred at the hands of ever-expanding and ambitious human systems. There are many titles for this dangerous revolt against nature: modernism, imperialism, westernization, globalization, capitalism, humanism, industrialism, materialism and Protestantism*. But let words be as they may; the essence is in what is happening and how it can stop. The study goes into dreadful detail such as the loss of 100 million hectares of forest from 1970 to 2010, the endangerment of 25% of all animal and plant species, the explosion of urban population/middle class and the consumption that goes along with it, the pollution of global waters with 300-400 million tons of industrial waste (including plastic) every year, and the decline of natural ecosystems by 47% on average. The authors, who penned a summary for politicians and leader, warn that a transformation in our way of life and thinking must occur before the decline can be controlled. More particularly, they advise that the notion about what constitutes a “good quality of life”, usually is determined by quantity of consumption, must change, as also related notions about the “limited paradigm of economic growth” that seeks to elevate everyone into an equal level of supposed prosperity. The authors add that “Then we must restore nature and drive innovation. Only then will we leave future generations a healthy and sustainable planet.”

This is a document desperately needed to alarm and propel the world to action. And yet, in spite of earlier warnings, the world still seems to go its own way. Then there is a hidden truth: the West, which consumes most of the world’s resources, is doing  well to protect its own natural environments, while causing other poorer nations to destroy their natural environments either to provide for Western consumption or to compete with Western standards. The high Western demand for Palm oil that is destroying many forests in Indonesia is an example of the former and the Chinese obsession with economic growth and the middle class is an example of the latter. How will this end? I doubt that “innovation” will help; it sounds like a decorated excuse or a expedient means to maintain the status quo and avoid serious reduction of comfort. Even worse, I am afraid that more innovation will lead to more complications of the original problem. Far better is changing the mentality about what a “good quality of life” means and instituting serious policies that go beyond the short-term ambitions of political parties and leaders. And surely the spreading of polytheism, along with its inherent veneration for the natural world, can greatly contribute to the effort. I hope this futile wrestling with the Gods ends, because it will only cause our own misery, if not extinction when things go too far. I had rather have myself, my progeny and all other people live on for many thousands of years to come, in harmony with nature and at a basic level of subsistence**, than to enjoy everything we desire for a few centuries or decades. To ensure this legacy must become our foremost duty and priority. The Earth, with all its manifold divinity, is eternal and can bring forth other life if we rebel and threaten her well-being continuously.

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* Monotheism would be too general a term here, especially considering that the earliest Jews and Christians held views that opposed civilization. The story of the Tower of Babel, though unknown in polytheistic tradition, matches with the shared story of the Deluge. Utnapishtim is the Mesopotamian equivalent of Noah. Later monotheism took on an imperial character, chiefly at the hands of the Christians and afterwards the Muslims. But it was the species of Protestantism that did the most harm precisely because it was driven by the middle class what with all its innovations and energy. Hence the “Protestant work ethic”. And yet we have the irony that the revival of polytheism owes a great deal to this Protestant diligence.

**Which was consistent with historical conditions. Nowadays it is called “poverty” with heavy connotation in order to encourage the wealthy to allow others “less fortunate” to share their high position. Perhaps the opposite direction is wiser? Or even better, meeting at the middle somehow. In any case, great (uncomfortable) action will be needed.

Polemical topics for polytheists (part 2): Modernity

First view: “Modernity is a blessing that should be embraced, because it has made us advance”

Second view: “Modernity is a curse that should be shunned, because it has ruined the world and nature”

Balanced view: “Although tradition is by far preferable, part of modernity is important to use for the time being”

The best way to describe modernity would be to consider Western Civilization*, which is in effect a synonym, as well as to look at the world as it stands. The systems of capitalism and globalism prevail; there is excess in everything and everywhere, because everybody tends to imitate the Western way of life. There is comfort to the degree of decadence, and satisfaction (much less true happiness) is hard to find, because society is no longer cohesive and communal. A great deal of imbalance threatens to turn a world, which has seemingly been reformed and improved, into a monster. Meantime, being trapped within this system, we polytheists can only hope and act to the best of our ability. At least modernity, through advancements in archaeology, provides us with the means to rediscover our ancient heritage, and through technology, to connect with one another quickly. It could even be said that the subversive and imbalanced qualities of modernity have allowed us to exist freely again, through the decay of monotheism. In an ideal world, the aforementioned second view would be best, but according to reality, we must carefully make use of some of the advantages of modernity (at least for the time being), if our intention is to rise again and compete successfully with our rivals. But careful we must be: modernity does not distinguish between monotheism and polytheism in its subversions and imbalances. For that reason, we’ll need to treat it like a tool and acquaintance, rather than a master or friend. When it falls to a choice between polytheism and modernity, there should be no hesitation to choose the former. And when modernity is no longer absolutely necessary, we should be the first to lay it aside in favor of an older, happier, and humbler way of life that is more balanced and more traditional, putting nature and culture above money and machine.

 

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*A very suitable acronym would be WC

The Himba people of Africa endangered by modern life

This story, published by the BBC today, illustrates much of the writing and reflection I have undertaken so far. The end of the article, however, is rather sad and unfortunate for all those endeavoring to preserve their native customs and distinct tradition. It is necessary for all polytheists to reflect on this point in regard to themselves and the future generations they will provide for. I still maintain, as I did before, that polytheism and modernism (in principle and practice) are incompatible and contradictory, and therefore one must inevitably choose either the one or the other.