Localism Increases Fragmentation of Earth
The latest philosophical fad among comfortable progressives is that we each, all 8 billion-and-counting of us, belong to a particular place. The focus on “community” however, is a reaction to the planetary ecological and socio-political crisis. Localism is a misleading half-truth that is contributing to the fragmentation of the Earth and humanity. The scale of the ecological crisis, and the crisis of human consciousness that gave rise to and mirrors it, is overwhelming. So it’s understandable that people who still give a damn would react by trying to narrow their focus, believing that “the local issues are where our attention should go.” However the cliché, “think globally and act locally” has become “think locally and act locally.” And when the entire Earth is dying at the hands of man, localism is the wrong prescription. Why?Because progressives forget that the parts can never make the Earth or humanity whole. If we begin with the whole, we can integrate the parts; but if we begin with the parts, we’ll never see the whole. People are straining for diversity as an endless tsunami of homogeneity breaks over us. Even poets speak of how we are “different collections of histories born of particularities of place.” Like all clever half-truths, conventional minds nod in agreement, or agree so automatically that no conscious agreement is necessary. Inarguably, local issues require our attention. But when the local is put before the global out of fear of the scale of the crisis, people are caught in the same separative and specialized mentality that has produced the Sixth Extinction and the climate crisis. There are three universal flaws in human nature. The first is the belief that our problems originate externally and must be dealt with externally, when in fact they originate internally and must first be understood internally. This mistake is understandable evolutionarily, but inexcusable morally. For tens of thousands of years, long before the dawn of agriculture, anatomically and cognitively modern humans had to be focused outwardly, since the immediate needs for and threats to survival came from the wilderness. Once humans across the world began to settle down in cities however, internally generated psychological divisions gave rise to organized religion, and war. The second universal trait of the human mind is the habit of putting the part before the whole. Specialization and individualism are the plagues of the modern mind (as well as their reactions — collectivism, control and collective thought), but thinking in terms of the particular and immediate is as old as the division of labor. The third primal pattern is the identification with specific groups, also known as tribalism, which has waxed and waned over the centuries in various forms. It’s ascendant in the present world in the form of a resurgence and regurgence of nationalism. Nationalism, whether from hideous people such as Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene leading the retrogressive Make American Great Again movement, or coldly calculating machines like Vladimir Putin with his Restore the Russian Empire idiocy, have brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, again. Many progressives insist, against overwhelming historical and current evidence to the contrary, that human nature is good, and that it is a “myth that humans are, by nature, competitive, selfish, and autonomous.” That “has lead to a cascade of self-fulfilling prophecies,” these pollyannas insist, since “human nature is, by default, empathic, community oriented, generous and cooperative.” That childish view goes hand in hand with the romanticization of indigenous people in recent years, and the futile attempt to place the indigenous way of life back at the center of humankind’s adaptive pattern. It neglects two truths. First, all people were once indigenous people. Some were warlike, some peaceful. Most lived in a rough balance with nature, but that didn’t prevent man from hunting the megafauna into extinction. Colonization was the brutal clash between “civilized” Europeans, with their “guns, germs and steel,” and the still plentiful numbers of indigenous peoples in North and South America, Africa, and Australia and Aotearoa. Second, we cannot go back to reclaim indigenous wisdom and live according to its precepts about the Earth. Not only is that impossible, with very few intact indigenous groups retaining their traditions in more than a ritualistic way, but the entire phenomenon of tradition belongs to history. Humanity must move beyond tradition. The way ahead is not back. Though humans haven’t psychologically changed since the emergence of modern man 100,000 or more years ago, that doesn’t mean we have to either revert to myths about the goodness of human nature, or fantasize about returning to a time when people lived close to nature. People all over the world are feeling overwhelmed by the planetary crisis. Though it goes against the grain of human nature, history and current thinking, we have the capacity, as human beings, to see, feel and respond to the world as it is and as a whole. Precisely because it is a planetary crisis that arises from man’s consciousness and “human nature,” we have no choice but to address it as a whole first. Localism and the mentality of “my community” contribute to the fragmentation of the Earth and humanity. Martin LeFevre
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org
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