Friday, July 2, 2010

A Yoga (Socio-Political) Manifesto


Nature should have priority.1 It's here first and sustains everything.

The guiding principle is ahimsa. Non-violence translated into deep & skeptic ecology, i.e, the interdependence of human and non-human life in a world out of joint. We cannot understand ourselves if we estrange ourselves from nature, but we're already estranged!   

Socio-political starts bottom-up not top-down.2 We don't need to wait for the top to change. As real actors, close to the local/regional nodes of action, we can acquire the know-how to build connections and mobilize public opinion to challenge institutional and social alienation.

* From the bottom ---> up: The initial transformation is individual but it doesn't stop there. We are ONE: There is no true path without dharma/activism.3

* The aporia of human anthropocentric emancipation: We need to see non-human life under a different optic. The Greeks of ancient times didn't realize that non-Greeks were persons. American plantation owners in the late-18th Century didn't realize that blacks were not inferior brutes. The majority of Americans don't realize that non-human animals are more than just foodstuff. We have an obligation to treat animals with dignity4 (animal farming in America needs to be transformed from intensive farming ----> extensive farming).

* The aporia of pollution vs. development: Blaming corporations in order to feel safely excluded from the pollution cycle while feeding the very thing we try to prevent. We are the world's worst polluters! 5

* Though it may be a little late, the move towards eco-conservation is a social imperative. Let's fight to stop deforestation, to protect sea life from extinction (due to overfishing), ensuring ecological diversity for future generations. Yes, it seems daunting, but it begins by understanding, doing & telling others.

* The aporia of technology vs. emancipation: What makes us human is a result of our cultural evolution: language, rituals, arts and technology. Yet, our anthropocentric-based culture is leading us to a dead end. Let's move from an anthropocentric to a bio-centric culture!6

We must learn to curb and manage our waste: Reuse, donate, recycle! The present corporate-driven/production-intensive food paradigm needs to be turned upside down, from fast food ----> slow food. 7 Let's switch our eating habits and bring back food sacralization. Let's turn environmental degradation and human exploitation into eco-erotics!8

* The aporia of development vs. under-development9: Our post-Capitalist global society is craft-deprived. Globalization has outsourced our manufacturing and trade/skills base. Let's get back to cooking, arts and crafts, organic horticulture,10 etc. We should balance our individualism with communitarianism!

Let's change our cities by fighting urban decay with environmental sustainability, changing ugliness into beauty.

Let's become eco-Romantics!11 engaging in heritage conservation, infrastructure efficiency,  mass transit, regional integration, human scale, and institutional integrity.

Let's transform our neighborhoods by building sustainable structures, limiting urban sprawl, reducing car dependence, promoting pedestrian friendly urbanism.12

What to do? 

1 Aristotle's naturalism can be seen as a forerunner of eco-thics, as expressed by his dictum that Nature "does nothing in vain." John Clearly, Aristotle and the Many Senses of Priority, (Southern Illinois University Press, 1988) p. 60. 2 We don't have to choose between markets (Welfare Capitalism) or governments, as instruments of emancipation (Communism, planned-economy Socialism). Nor is there need to eliminate markets, trade, private ownership, the welfare state, or the institution of the corporation. What we need to do is bring about new practices for each of these institutions appropriate to a balance between prosperity and conservation. This task belongs neither to corporations nor to states: They are incapable of questioning the legitimacy on which their present institutional form is based. Citizens, not big-money interests, have to set the terms of the economic and political agenda. This is the force of emergence: Millions of people joining voluntary movements, discovering that the good life is more fulfilling than the endless cycle of accumulation and consumption. Professor Steven Buechler makes a similar (hopeful) point: "Movements can be crucial switching stations in the direction of history (...)  vital free spaces that promote democratization and restore a meaningful public sphere." See Steven M. Buechler, Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism: The Political Economy and Cultural Construction of Social Activism (Oxford University Press: 2000) p. 214.  Enacting Niyama at the social level can bring about a life of material sufficiency with cultural, intellectual, and spiritual abundance in balance with the environment. By osmosis, the social level can bring about needed changes in the political sphere. 3 One's embeddedness in a particular context: job, household/family, or community can lead one to recognize a problem, learn about community needs, and find a way to make life better through new -or reconfigured- social linkages.  4According to philosopher Tom Regan, animals have "inherent value" as subjects-of-a-life, and cannot be regarded as a means to an end. See, Tom Regan, The Case for Animal Rights, (University of California Berkeley, 2005) p. 245. 5The United States has 4.2% of the world's population and produces 24% of the world's C02 emissions. 6One must be careful not to write off culture, as if humans have fallen from paradise straight into some artificial exile of civilization. This is where the ancient Greeks can help. They understood that us humans are not completely "natural" but rather the site of a collision of nature and culture, which uniquely defines us. See Bruce Thornton, Plagues of the Mind: The New Epidemic of False Knowledge (ISI Books, 1999) p. 96.  7 "Slow food" goes against the received notion that cheap food = good food. Carlo Petrini, the man behind this movement defends the "unpolitical" idea that cheap food is really expensive, bad food, when compared with good, clean, carefully harvested food. He is right. In his book, Petrini advocates the idea of "gusto" (taste) and diversity. There is a correlation between slow food and health, which makes slow food more enjoyable. The locus for this revolucion is la osteria, a place where one can find "traditional cuisine run as a family business with simple service, welcoming atmosphere, good wine and moderate prices." See Carlo Petrini, Slow Food, the Case for Taste (Columbia University Press, 2003) p. 51-58. "Cheap food" is a Capitalist ploy to misrepresent real capital allocation and profit in the name of "abundance," hiding government subsidies for monoculture and intensive production which end up as profit for Big Business in food and energy. Take for instance American corn policies: We subsidize corn while (protect Monsanto's right to sell it to farmers as genetically modified seed). Coincidentally, corn is the foodstuff staple for raising cattle in the US (funded by whom?) and an energy commodity. Wonder why such a labor-intensive commodity such as meat is so cheap? Corn is heavily fertilized — both with chemicals like nitrogen and with subsidies from Washington. Over the past decade, the Federal Government has poured more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for the crop — at least until corn ethanol skewed the market — artificially low. That's your Big Mac @ McDonald's, a $5 meal bargain, with 1,400 calories (more than half the daily recommended requirement for adults). 8 I thank my friend Gene Ray from Scurvy Tunes, for his suggestion. I'd like to spin his idea of eco/erotics as an embodied striving for well-being that connects us with the animal and non-animal other (life). The opposite of eco/erotics is eros gone astray, a perversion of Nishkam Karma. A desire in the form of a will-to-control that aims to secure itself by mastering all around it. Ridden with anxiety, this eros reduces other to self. In fact, there are examples of such versions in modern times: Certain "peak" historic moments, when factors motivating nations and individuals, such as the desires for profit, security, and hegemony got transformed militaristic erotics. 9 It turns out that the mantra of "emancipated" Communist development in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean throughout the 1960's-1980's consisted in mimicking the Capitalist "anthropocentric development" model: 1- constant growth, 2- domination of nature, 3- industrialization and technologization of production and society at the expense of environmental degradation, abandonment of agriculture (land reform in this case meant very little, since arbitrary and exploitative prices were set by the bureaucrats, not by the farmers), massive migration to the cities, urban unemployment and loss of crafts skills. The deterioration of nature brought by these mistaken policies, was invoked by the communist  bureaucracies as a step in the right direction for the attainment of development. 10 Who would think of pursuing horticultural studies in Miami, now, when the expected move of disenfranchised farmers is from the rural areas to the city? Precisely! This overall migration has to do with the switch from farmer-produced to corporate-produced agriculture. How can one reverse it? By encouraging simple living. Diversifying instead of homogenizing food consumption; by making good, simple food (not gourmet food) a desired commodity, so that corporations are forced to alter their mode of production. Surely, one must be watchful of corporation's good intentions! It's all about awareness: As we become more educated in our food habits, there is gradual a move from agriculture into crafted horticulture. Are people ready for it? After the subprime mortgage crisis, the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, and BP's gulf disaster, the answer is yes. 11 The new eco-Romantic is committed to ecological flourishing, but she is neither anti-technology, nor naive in her political expectations about Messianic utopias. The traditional Romantic lived in a paradox he was blind to. (H)e deprecated technology from his studio in the industrial-brought comfort of the pre-Modern city. We must see the good and bad in technology. The Industrial Revolution cannot be simply undone (the remedy would be worst than the disease). It needs to be transformed. Technology can serve us in using the ecosystem resources more efficiently. On the other hand, there is a strong historical relationship between growth in economic output and growing human demands on the earth's finite ecosystem. We've pushed since 1950's the human burden on the planet's regenerative systems, its soils, air, water, fisheries, and forestry systems beyond what the planet can sustain. Anthropocentric "development" is not the answer. Pushing for economic growth beyond the planet's sustainable limits accelerates the rate of breakdown of the whole. It also intensifies the competition between rich and poor for the earth's remaining output of life-sustaining resources. 12 See my  "Miami's Urban Mess."


Andrew McLaughen said...

These problems that you’ve mentioned in the post are not only hard to solve, but also well known. It’s funny how easily we can ignore the elephant room and go on with our daily lives. However, I would like to mention that the “elephant” is not the only thing destroying our home. There are forces that are harder to see and if known aren’t talked about much. Think of these forces as the dust mites that line our pillows and beds, or the rats hidden in attic. The information that animals are rapidly being killed off is not a big surprise to us. What would probably surprise us is that our pets, specifically our cats, have a big part in this. Our population is continuing to expand and with it the pet population. Despite our usual animal-genocidal behavior, people love animals. They make good companions and, to some, pets are even apart of the family. But, while human and pet population continues to grow the pets prey continue to shrink. Cats are apparently hunting many birds into endangerment due to their being some many of them around. This problem is hardly ever talked about and I thought it would be interesting to pile more bad news on your bad news mountain. The only solution to this problem would probably to restrict pet population which is very lame, but how said enjoying the environment was fun.

Laura Vargas said...

I believe that this is exactly what we need to hear in this moment in our lives. Our previous generation dealt with religious wars, gender and racial inequality, economic depressions and numerous other social upheavals. This has been top priorities in the previous decades, and little importance has been given to the most basic of all issues: our environment. Years of apathy has resulted in a world in a very sorry state. However, I am an optimist and believe that this generation does have the capacity to make a difference and work towards a common goal. This worldwide phenomenon of "occupation" demonstrates a vital truth about our current society. People are caring, and young people are using their "technological distractions" to throw down governments and change their surroundings. So what does this teach us? Don’t underestimate the power of youth and the impact of this new train of thought. People are getting educated and for the first time in years there is a collective rejection towards extreme capitalism and the absurd economic disparity in our society. The protests are not against war, or segregation, and they are not aimed towards a government change. This new movement is calling for a paradigm shift in society as a whole. It is not a political reform; it's a moral one. This brings hope and proves that people are not numb between the masses, but are instead on the lookout for ways to transform it. If all the twenty-year olds opt for education and empathy towards the world, a lot can be accomplished in the next fifty years.

Gerald said...

There is a simple task one can do to see the violence (and I would call it violence) that society inflicts on nature. Take a walk, and keep your eyes open. You can’t miss it. Look at the side of the road, or at the shore line of the beach. It’s sad, and disgusting. The most convincing way to bring those who do not see a problem with this society’s misplaced priorities to a sustainable outlook, one that gives nature and non-human life the respect they deserve, is to help others to understand the (once again, as I often make note of it) interconnectivity of the world. The current path is self-destructive on a species sized scale. Cities, as they operate today, manufacture thrash. The air, water, land, soil, flora, fauna, and humans are poisoned. Eventually the balance will be so off kilter that the people who live in them will no longer be able to. This is, for lack of a better term, utterly stupid. No matter how much value one puts on “lower” forms of life, even dogs know better than to shit were they eat.

Anonymous said...

Even though it would be considered to be common sense to worry about our environment it hasn’t bee the case in the last century. I doubt we will see a shift in our perspectives about the environment until unfortunately more damage has been done. We have for too long been too comfortable using our natural resources and our previous generations have done very little to foresee and implement solutions in case there are consequences to the vast majority of energy use. Not to mention our worlds population has increased dramatically in the last fifty years which contributes to our decrease in renewable energy resources. I would say that instead of these weak campaigns for better management of the waste we produce and the resources we use up we must implement stricter reinforcement to control this before it spirals out of control. Then again it has already spiraled out of control, can we save our earth in time before it dies? Maybe. We are much smarter than most species and we have created wonderful things but these things we have created can also be used against us in the long run.

Anthony DeCollibus

Zabdi_Rodriguez said...

No one cares about the earth! Everyone just lives their lives without thinking what effects they have on this planet. We share this place with all living things yet we act as though we own the earth. People need to open their eyes and realize that we need to make a difference now on how we treat the earth. If we dont treat the earth right it will eventually abolish the human race. Regardless of what happens the earth will be here, we are the Ines in danger of being extinguished by our own selfish actions. Until we learn how to appreciate our planet and act together as hymn beings we will end up like the dinosaurs!!

Alivia Poirier said...

I truly believe that we are what we eat. If we do not treat the animals we consume with dignity then we cannot expect dignity in return. American farming has turned into a mill constantly churning out chickens overfeed to the point at which their legs cannot support their bodies and pumped full of hormones to make them "larger and juicier". Their treatment is so brutal and inhumane we wouldn't ever do it to our own kind, but then why do it to something that we too are a part of, nature. We couldn't exist without it but we treat our environment and surroundings so carelessly. Our diffusion of responsibility principle has become so heavily embedded into our culture that we seek to be blameless by blaming major corporations and these farming industries. But that isn't any sort of solution either. He who is without blame can cast the first stone. Instead of looking outside our own tendencies and indiscretions we should look inside at the things we can so easily do different and somehow choose not to. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Hasn't that been pounded into our brains since youth? Why havn't we taken it seriously? Are we that unmotivated?

Speaking of motivation.. The post touched on urban renewal, reducing crime and urban gardening. Im from Detroit where within the city limits the economy has taken such a turn that there is not one single grocery store. Urban gardening and framers markets have been the result of this not because of a higher ecological need to protect our environment but out of pure necessity. The people of Detroit's first priority is not bettering the planet, believe me, they just need food on the table. I wonder if this is the point that our culture must reach before any real steps are made. Do we need to be living in post apocalyptic wastelands to start making moves for our future? I don't want to get down on Detroit because theyre really doing the best they damn well can. An instance of his, and also of turning ugliness into beauty is the Heidelberg Project ( which, among other things is turning abandoned, falling-apart houses into works of art. The work theyre doing on Detroits east side is absolutely inspiring and such a beacon of hope in a city filled with much despair.

Alex said...

What a headache huh? All I can think of is what a huge mess we are in nowadays. With the detrimental agricultural practices, economical instability, pollution, excess of power from corporations, malnourishment and poverty around the world. What can we do? Where do we even begin? Information like this is key to the betterment of society. The more people are aware of this and how it really effects their day to day living, the larger the opportunity it would make to create change. Not just knowing this information, but actively pursuing these goals that would truly make a colossal difference, not only our lives but the Earth we live in and every single organism in it. We need a massive rebuilding of all social and conscious structures.

Anonymous said...

The problem is, most people don't know a problem when they hear or see one. For example, pollution is a problem but as long as we can't see it or smell it, we're all good, right? And another this, the animals that are slowly falling into extinction. What about them? We are the top of the food chain, you would think that we would be more considerate; hunt less, don't kill for just a pair of shoes or for a purse when in a matter of weeks that same purse will become old news and end up some where in the back of the closet. But see, when things happen to us, to our money, to our way of living, we become aggressive. Like we've just been attact and now it's time to protect the off-spring or protect ones home. I'm actually impressed by how long these protests have lasted. But what about the times when we really needed to protest? When will anyone protest for the cost of tuition being so damn high? It makes me wonder if one improvement will make everything else I'm stressed out about, better. It's like saying " Solved one problem now everything's good!"
If I may "No it ain't"!

Dulange Absolu

niggi stardust said...

The distance from nature in our society resides in all our "cool gadgets" and is a most vile beast. When i was a kid ,and i am only going back 15 years here, i climbed trees, i threw a football around, rolled down grassy hills, i collected rocks and hiked up mountains.Sure cell phones did exsist, and once i was ten or eleven i wanted one, but back then it only suficed in wasting your time, and disconnecting you from the outside world in one way : actually making calls and talking on the phone. That alone is a dying art, our communication will soon culminate in simply pressing one button. No one feels the need to go outside.. or climb a tree, because they can watch a documentary on trees instantly on netflix from their iphone in bed. Nature is not a priority, machines now sustain everyting. tragic. When the machine die, the world will be lost and only those who never lost touch with that which truly gives us life: nature, will remain be calm and peaceful.

Christian Pain said...

I have a solution. Imagine me raising my hand. Impatiently. It's not something new, just something I know. It's not something I know, but something many know. It's not something many know, it's something MILLIONS know. It's a plant, it's well known, and it's been used for thousands of years. Some call it the god plant, some call it inmoral and evil. But some know the truth. And they speak out, but nothing seems to happen. As you've probably already guessed, I'm speaking, or writing, of hemp. HEMP! The close relative to cannabis! Weed! Fire! Chronic! Mary Jane! Dope! That's right, I believe a solution, and a great one too, is the use of hemp. For what? Pretty much everything. If I were to list the things it could be used for I'd probably have a book writter down. In which case, I would quickly look for a publisher pray to sell some copies, for my 8 dollars an hour aren't the best thing around. Anyways, if you don't believe me and automatically brand me as a "pot head", look for yourself my innocent friend.

Christian Pain, not a pot head, but a supporter of hemp and cannabis alike.

Vanessa Vergara said...

We are all heading down a truly destructive path. Every single time I pass by a landfill it slaps me in the face: living an eco-conscious life needs to be more than just some temporary phase. As you suggested, we need to become bio-centric in order to somewhat lessen what we’ve done to earth. Until we can somehow find a way to convert our seemingly endless waste into usable fuel, we need to find other ways to do this. Technology is both a blessing and a curse in this day in age. When it comes to the pursuit of a bio-centric society it can truly prove useful though, especially in the process of spreading information and ideas. Use social networks to raise awareness among peers, co-workers and family members. The occupy Wall Street campaign is a perfect example of how this can be achieved in the modern age of the internet. Awareness is the first step to any form of progress, so the best way to do this is to begin with a concept we all understand: communication.

Lava Arms said...

Stay active! Consider this a war-zone! You are being engaged at all fronts; Psychologically & physically, the agents of death and oppression attack you in countless ways.

They will also have you become engaged; attacking everything in sight , both physiologically & physically.

They will say "this world was build for mankind; conquer her."

And the Earth will weep and beg that you not kill her animals, or enslave them for mass slaughter. She will also beg that you do not genetically modify the seed of her living fruit and vegetables. She will cry and scream for you to disarm your nuclear weapons, so that her beautiful children - be they American, European, Asian, black, white, red, yellow- are not born deformed, dying of brittle bones.

She will ask that you not imprison her and suck her resources out from under the feet of her people, only to be turned into profit in the pockets of the one who gave you that first order - "The world was built for mankind - dominate her".

Tell them "NO - The world was not built for mankind, you can never conquer this planet."
and then prepare to defend yourself.

They will have you believe that our current self destructive model is the best for mankind, until we are eating each other from lack of food or resources.

Daniella de la Riva said...

I agree with your point about the bottom must change before the top can. I think the ideas and thought process's of the individual is so important for change to occur. If you go to the root of our society you will find one that is unconcerned with the future repercussions of the life style's we choose to engage in. There is only the "now," frame of mind, not the "tomorrow." This is what is fundamentally holding us back from being a bio-centric society. There, can be no change unless the individual changes the way it thinks about the "now," and the "tomorrow," in respect to the earth or any social/ political issue.

It is idealistic, though, to sit here and preach about what should be done in order to do this, but in that, there is a diachotomy, because it is perfectly realistic to sit here and speak about what should be done. Conversation is, in my opinion, the only way to really sift through things and decide what is important and what isn't. The minute a conversation sparks is the minute the progress can begin, because a conversation can be the change the individual needs to go from the "now," to the "tomorrow," frame of mind.