Japan’s predicament, at the edge of a precipice, is obviously tragic and a terrible loss of human and non-human life. However, it is a full-throated demonstration of what can happen when we – ensconced in our castles of concrete and steel, and under the influence of our own hyper rationality – mistakenly try to dissociate ourselves from nature, assume that we are better than her, and believe we can control her through the continual progress of industrialization and technological innovation.
Those of us in the “First World” have a bad habit of over-rationalizing what we are, and our relationship to the natural world; guided by our hyper rationality, we work to unearth its “laws” and thereby gain control of it. We make the fallacious assumption that the natural world is simply a set of mechanical processes subject to mathematical reduction, simplified and subsumed so that it can be manipulated and bent to our collective will. Generation after generation, the drumbeat continues unabated, so that we come to believe ever more firmly that nature is simply a backdrop, a slick marketing advertisement on a billboard, against which we paint our pretty pictures of a civilized and well-manicured life.
We believe we have tamed nature, showcased it for all of our compatriots and those anxious, visiting international tourists to see and enjoy. It has become just another notch in our belt of enhanced GDP – of growth and prosperity. All of it looks grand… until this happens! Or the floods in Australia, the heat wave in Moscow, the hurricane or the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico… the list this past year is a long one. Suffice it to say, they are all evidence of the problems generated by industrial civilization, cemented in its belief that nature is a pretext for life, not the inter-animating context within which we live and breath and have our very being. And capital is the driving force of this industrial machine.
Whether a tsunami, volcanic eruption and nuclear meltdown in Japan or a global financial meltdown initiated by USA “banksters,” they are two sides of one and the same problematic. There are not enough social or scientific laws, regulations, policies and procedures in the entire civilized world to insure against such eventualities. In fact, they are directly or indirectly a function of our own arrogance, our deeply held but unnatural assumption that we can and should conquer everything in the way of our earthly, planetary, indeed, our galactic dominance. This, we believe, is our manifest destiny. And the very idea of progress, of calculus and calculating the benefits, the very presumption of independence and mastery…these lie at the root of our fast converging global crises.