Today, a neutered mainstream version of [liberalism] settles for an anodyne ideal of equality, shifting the occupants of our power structures around but leaving the structures themselves intact. They seem not to realise that these structures necessitate inequality, whether delineated by race, gender , or some other distinction. An exploitative system requires people to be exploited. Racial prejudice, male chauvinism, nationalism, etc, enable and justify such a system, but eliminating these forms of bigotry won’t change the underlying dynamics. Someone else will be exploited instead.
I visit this issue for two reasons. First, I want to make clear that social justice must be more than the usual grab bag of identity politics issues. The kind of social healing we need requires the massive overhaul, probably the total reformation, of our systems of medicine, education, birth, death, law, money, and government. Second, the same pattern of reaching for superficial changes that don’t disturb the underlying system afflicts environmentalism just as much as it does social justice. So, just as a company can hire black, female, and LGBTQ executives at headquarters to administer a supply chain that exploits dark-skinned people in overseas factories and believe itself to be progressive, so also can it offset its carbon emissions by paying into a reforestation fund, all the while sourcing environmentally toxic products, and still call itself green.
The point is not to condemn the green rationalisations of corporations (or you or me); it is to illuminate the mindset of fundamentalism that enables those rationalisations. Fundamentalism of all kinds is a disengagement from the complexity of the real world, and I am afraid it is ascendant in many realms, not only religion. I even see it in various theories of alternative medicine, in the form of the Great Revelation of the One True Cause of all disease. Fundamentalism offers certainty, a lockdown of thought into a few prescribed pathways. The rush to The Cause, the retreat to unquestioned axioms taken on faith, does not serve us in a time of the disintegration of so much of what we thought we knew.
The quality of complex systems collides with our culture’s general approach to problem-solving, which is first to identify the cause, the culprit, the germ, the pest, the bad guy, the disease, the wrong idea, or the bad personal quality, and second to dominate, defeat, or destroy that culprit. Reductionist thinking pervades the entire political spectrum, or certainly mainstream liberalism and conservatism. When no proximate cause is obvious, we tend to feel uncomfortable, often to the extent of finding some reasonable candidate for “the cause” and going to war against that.
Perhaps what we are facing in the multiple crises converging upon us is a breakdown in our basic problem-solving strategy, which itself rests on the deeper narratives of the Story of Separation.
Charles Eisenstein, Climate: A New Story