Our Dying Spirit

Should we continue to hold onto the capitalist-materialist conception of the world?

Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) by John William Waterhouse

Our collective mental environment is in a pitiful shape. Bombarded with advertisements, jolted by commercial breaks and distracted by multitasking, our spirit is under constant assault by capitalism. And at a time when we face the confluence of unparalleled global crises -- climate change, financial collapse, war and widespread foreclosures -- we do not have the mental clarity to act. We do, of course, respond and react but that is precisely the problem. In our reactions we betray our inability to propose a fundamentally different course of history. We still believe that there will be a technological solution to the problems we face and by accepting this basic premise we insure that the corporations will continue to dominate the horizon. What we need is a movement of spiritual rebirth that rejects the capitalist-materialist disenchantment of the world and instead proposes a vision in which mystery has a place.

All that is wild about the world has been systematically penetrated, catalogued and destroyed. The explicit intention of the scientific mindset, to pierce the mysteries of Being, has led to a world empty of excitement in which not even endless consumption can fill the void. We are both cut off from the natural environment, enclosed in sprawling concrete cities, and cut off from any previous philosophical or religious conception of the world that celebrated possibility, contingency and mystery. How would it change things if we rallied in support of nature not because of climate change (an abstraction identified by science and therefore conceivably able to be "fixed" by science) but instead because the nymphs Socrates felt at the river are no longer with us.

Just look at the left's demands for a new world: we want "clean" energy, full employment, a middle-class standard of living for everyone and "green" corporations. To acquire these desires, we insist that more scientific research must be funded. All our dreams for the future rely on scientists, technocrats, capitalists and the highly educated. That is a fundamental error. Unless the revolution can be accomplished by us, each of us as we are right now, whether we be poor or rich, educated or not, literate or not, then we will continue to perpetrate the myth that only Western style progress is the way forward.

What we need now is a spiritual rebirth that grants the magic back to the world. Only then, through the development of a parallel culture, will we be able to see that the way forward may be to go back.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters magazine and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com

Attention: do you have a blackspot idea? I would like to print an occasional guest post on this blog and I am now looking for submissions, if you have something to share that will further the blackspot philosophy, write it up in under 500 words and send it to micah (at) adbusters.org.