The Ecopsychology Issue

What Does It Mean to Be Free?

The question that world wars are made of.
Photo by Juan Medina - Reuters

Photo by Juan Medina - Reuters

The post-World War II American dream was a strange, fleeting moment in global history – an opulent and optimistic 50 years when the world was our oyster and individual freedom reigned supreme. Now we’re beginning to realize that this dazzling celebration of individual autonomy begat some very dark consequences. It gave birth to entire generations of hyper-individuals plagued by a bottomless hunger for MORE. Despite footprints five times larger than they should be, they still want MORE. And when they don’t have the money, they turn their backs on reality, max out their cards and get what they want anyway.

Over the space of only 50 years, consumption in America went up by 300 percent and the American dream devolved into an insatiable colony of hungry ghosts. If you scratch just beneath the surface of our ecological and economic crises, you’ll find a crisis at the core of consciousness — a diseased way of life and sense of self — a cultural crisis of freedom-without-responsibility run amok.

Now with the world’s natural capital largely consumed and the climatic tipping point approaching fast, we’re in for a massive reappraisal of what individual freedom and the pursuit of happiness are really all about. Is every person on the planet entitled to glide around in a ton of metal — air conditioning blasting, gasoline burning? Does every human being on Earth have the right to a fridge, a flush toilet, hot running water and a car?

ONE STANDARD FOR ALL

Here’s the $64-billion apocalypse-now question that Copenhagen failed to answer: Should the right to emit greenhouse gases be shared equally by all people on Earth? Known in diplomatic circles as the “per capita principle,” this universal, one-standard-for-all principle has long been insisted upon by China, India, Brazil and most other developing nations. Applying this principle would allow each of the planet’s seven billion people an annual emissions quota of 2.7 tons of carbon dioxide. That’s harsh news for Americans and Canadians, who currently emit 20 tons per person, Europeans who emit 9 tons, Australians who emit 18 tons and Japanese who emit 9 tons.

So will we, the rich and powerful nations, abide by this principle? Do we have the self-discipline and spiritual fortitude to radically shrink our footprints? Will Al Gore move into a hut … will Bill and Melinda Gates move out of their 70,000-square-foot mansion and learn to live frugally? Will a new set of cultural heroes emerge to lead us? Or, as the pain and sacrifice mount, will we suddenly throw down the gauntlet and fight to keep what we have?

That’s the stuff that world wars are made of.

For the Wild, Kalle

38 comments on the article “What Does It Mean to Be Free?”

Displaying 31 - 38 of 38

Page 4 of 4

Anonymous

Buddhas and bodhisaatvas will never be involved in the massive charade that is politics. Buddhas and bodhisaatvas will never prey on the fears of others like so many politicians on the left and right do. Adbusters itself is one big fear parade. If you want to preach generosity then preach generosity, but don't start with the fear mongering and claim that you're doing it out of love and the desire to liberate people. The fear mongering gets you nowhere. It makes you no better than the people you oppose.

Anonymous

Buddhas and bodhisaatvas will never be involved in the massive charade that is politics. Buddhas and bodhisaatvas will never prey on the fears of others like so many politicians on the left and right do. Adbusters itself is one big fear parade. If you want to preach generosity then preach generosity, but don't start with the fear mongering and claim that you're doing it out of love and the desire to liberate people. The fear mongering gets you nowhere. It makes you no better than the people you oppose.

Poetic Licencia

There is a movement in America and the world to accumulate massive amounts of hope and prosperity. It is called love; and it is broadcast from your temple shoulders to the bright halls of the eyes of people. Love has many opponents in this game for the final battleground: ignorance, apathy, aggression, and violence, of which fear, and hate are the progenitors. Guard yourself with the light of ages past. One day maybe this movement will take shape and use its force of strength and wisdom to rid the world of evil.

Poetic Licencia

There is a movement in America and the world to accumulate massive amounts of hope and prosperity. It is called love; and it is broadcast from your temple shoulders to the bright halls of the eyes of people. Love has many opponents in this game for the final battleground: ignorance, apathy, aggression, and violence, of which fear, and hate are the progenitors. Guard yourself with the light of ages past. One day maybe this movement will take shape and use its force of strength and wisdom to rid the world of evil.

ken vallario

fear is like freedom, it is conditional...
even an enlightened person feels fear...he/she just understands that it does not necessarily prescribe action...
although i agree that passionate activists can sometimes lean too heavily on the use of fear for arousing interest, it is not possible to live in a world as complex as ours without some concerns about human cohabitation....these concerns represent our ideals...and threats to our ideals are those things that create fear.
we all fear...
the real question is whether or not opposition is an inevitable part of living 'for' something...if commitment to any opinion, such as the one that prizes love over fear, if such a thing puts us into conflict...
'the charade that is politics' is the acting out of human destiny...and so, mixed in with the comedy, the tragedy and the unknowns, is this, this moment, this repetition, this hall of mirrors, this reaching out with our words to create miracles in this virtual political doppelganger...we are the actors...and we all oppose something, and this is our shared humiliation...

ken vallario

fear is like freedom, it is conditional...
even an enlightened person feels fear...he/she just understands that it does not necessarily prescribe action...
although i agree that passionate activists can sometimes lean too heavily on the use of fear for arousing interest, it is not possible to live in a world as complex as ours without some concerns about human cohabitation....these concerns represent our ideals...and threats to our ideals are those things that create fear.
we all fear...
the real question is whether or not opposition is an inevitable part of living 'for' something...if commitment to any opinion, such as the one that prizes love over fear, if such a thing puts us into conflict...
'the charade that is politics' is the acting out of human destiny...and so, mixed in with the comedy, the tragedy and the unknowns, is this, this moment, this repetition, this hall of mirrors, this reaching out with our words to create miracles in this virtual political doppelganger...we are the actors...and we all oppose something, and this is our shared humiliation...

Voltaire

There is a classic discrepancy between the right to own some form of wealth (with the term as loosely defined as can be set) and the desire for equality. In order to improve equality, it is necessary to reduce the freedom of people in the possession of wealth ( which to me is a natural right--to a reasonable degree, that is). To improve equality, it is necessary to take away the disproportion between people and either distribute it or delete it. To do so, however, requires a reduction in freedom, since doing so mandates that some number of people are to be forced by the authority to abnegate some material possessions of theirs.

Therefore, freedom and material equality are at odds. Trouble is of course the fallacy of drawing a line. How much is too much? We can define in the abstract how disproportionate the first world's pollution is, by calculating their average carbon footprint is 5x that of the third world. Still, any implementation we might dream of to requires tangible changes in the way of life of tens, nay hundreds of millions of people. Imagine how many things would need to be subtracted from your life, how big of a change you would have to undergo, to reduce the footprint to a reasonable level. Factor out everything you own to everything you can keep 5:1!

The bottom line is that to change things now for millions of people would require a violation of their freedom. There is simply no feasible way, no logical route, to get the majority of Americans to choose to cease consuming so flagrantly. Their brains are by now so wired by habituation to do otherwise is unthinkable for them. This is a serious dilemma.

Voltaire

There is a classic discrepancy between the right to own some form of wealth (with the term as loosely defined as can be set) and the desire for equality. In order to improve equality, it is necessary to reduce the freedom of people in the possession of wealth ( which to me is a natural right--to a reasonable degree, that is). To improve equality, it is necessary to take away the disproportion between people and either distribute it or delete it. To do so, however, requires a reduction in freedom, since doing so mandates that some number of people are to be forced by the authority to abnegate some material possessions of theirs.

Therefore, freedom and material equality are at odds. Trouble is of course the fallacy of drawing a line. How much is too much? We can define in the abstract how disproportionate the first world's pollution is, by calculating their average carbon footprint is 5x that of the third world. Still, any implementation we might dream of to requires tangible changes in the way of life of tens, nay hundreds of millions of people. Imagine how many things would need to be subtracted from your life, how big of a change you would have to undergo, to reduce the footprint to a reasonable level. Factor out everything you own to everything you can keep 5:1!

The bottom line is that to change things now for millions of people would require a violation of their freedom. There is simply no feasible way, no logical route, to get the majority of Americans to choose to cease consuming so flagrantly. Their brains are by now so wired by habituation to do otherwise is unthinkable for them. This is a serious dilemma.

Pages

Add a new comment

Comments are closed.