wellsharp has covered a lot of ground since November 2007, summarising and reflecting upon the work of many insightful people. We’ve learned a lot from writing wellsharp; hopefully it provides some interesting food for thought for you too.
But it’s time for a break. We’d like to bring things to a close* in a suitable manner with a few appropriate words:
Ask the powerful five questions:
- What power have you got?
- Where did you get it from?
- In whose interests do you exercise it?
- To whom are you accountable?
- How can we get rid of you?
Only democracy gives us that right. That is why no-one with power likes democracy. And that is why every generation must struggle to win it and keep it – including you and me, here and now.
Tony Benn (2005) quoted at http://www.bennites.com/
we find that the prime human obligation is to act fearlessly and publicly in accordance with one’s beliefs; that one should withdraw cooperation from destructive institutions; that this should be done without violence …; that means are more important than ends; that crimes shouldn’t be committed today for the sake of a better world tomorrow; that violence brutalizes the user as well as his victim; that the value of action lies in the direct benefit it brings society; that action is usually best aimed first at one’s immediate surroundings, and only later at more distant goals; that winning state power, if necessary at all, is a secondary goal; that freedom “begins with myself” … is oriented to love of truth, and only then discovers what it hates and must oppose; and that state power not only should but actually does depend on the consent of the governed.
Jonathan Schell (2003)The unconquerable world: Power, non-violence and the will of the people. New York: Metropolitan Books. p.201.
* Never say never, of course – if we have something burning to say, or if circumstances change, we may post again, but it isn’t in our plans for the foreseeable future.
Political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote a brilliant commentary on a biography of Rosa Luxemburg, the Polish-German socialist revolutionary murdered in Berlin in 1919. I came across it recently in a collection of Arendt’s essays, and I just want to note a couple of points which really stand out for me.
Stephen Hale is a former environmental policy adviser to the UK government from 2002-2006 who now directs the think tank Green Alliance. In his 2010 paper on “The new politics of climate change”, Hale articulates the reasons for the present failure to take meaningful action on climate change. Based on that analysis of failure, he explains how a successful response climate change might still be achieved.
What can we do about the toxic textbooks that infest our education systems? How can we counter the pervasive neoliberal ideology which masquerades as ‘objective knowledge’?
I’m not a fan of book burning for any cause. A healthy dose of critical thinking is all that’s required. To help people along the way, here’s a handy warning you can spread generously around university libraries …
Source: Toxic Textbooks Facebook Group
As I described in my previous post, republicanism is founded on key concepts such as public politics and self-government. In an article published in The Good Society in 2008, John Barry notes that this “language of civic republicanism has been largely absent from debates within green politics” and from discussions of the politics of sustainability (p.5). In his article, Barry sets out to do something about that omission.
Drawing on ideas from Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Barry notes that “humans’ relative weakness, our vulnerability to natural dangers, makes us not just dependent creatures, but interdependent.” The republic, he continues, is therefore founded on the desire to build “an enduring home for human lives in a world ruled by contingency and filled with potentially hostile agents, both human and non-human.” This is in stark contrast to the widely accepted individualistic and “optimistic view of humans’ ability to transcend their limits” (p.6).
Thus, in many respects, the republican understanding of the human condition is much the same as the green understanding. Republicanism has both a realistic understanding of “human’s complex relations of dependence on natural forces outside our control” and an appreciation of the importance of sustainable living (p.6).
Anyone who is paying attention knows what’s going on. We have the evidence of an inexorable increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases. We are familiar with the many indications of changing climate and a warming planet. We see widespread denial, some active but most of it passive. And we have witnessed the repeated failure of nations to take any significant action, unilaterally or collectively. Given these circumstances, is there any cause for hope?
Clive Hamilton believes not:
clinging to hopefulness becomes a means of forestalling the truth. Sooner or later we must respond, and that means allowing ourselves to enter a phase of desolation and hopelessness, in short to grieve.
What we must grieve for is the future humanity has lost or, rather, methodically destroyed through our own handiwork. In his grimly titled Requiem for a species, Hamilton faces up to this grief. His concern is to get us to consider how we can best respond to the grief and despair brought on by climate change. He asks, how should we adjust to a future that will be so different from that which we have come to expect?