Ah yes, now I remember writing, and thinking, and pondering (and throwing my various opinions out at the world)… sorry ’bout that 8-month or so interruption. Life tends to get in the way of one’s best laid plans, I guess.
And when I left off, I was thinking a lot about- in fact, even working in my spare time on a book- the importance of integral theory to the political providence. Conversely, I was also thinking a lot about the many ways in which integral thinkers get politics all wrong. For instance, I just came across a new (to me) site by integral heavy-weight Corey W. deVos, a guy who I generally like (OK, I’ve never met him). This despite the fact that I have some serious disagreements with his take on “integral politics”. But it’s nothing personal against him, since the mistakes he makes are rampant throughout the integral community.
In particular, my attention was drawn to a post up on Mr. deVos’ site which is more or less a mini-manifesto on the wonders- the integral nature even- of green capitalism. As I’ve said before, I’ve found that in general the integral community is liberal (in the American popular sense, liberal to social democratic in the European political sense) and very, very defensive of capitalism. They like it. A lot. At the very best they’d like to see it look more like the capitalist-socialist hybrid that is popular through much of Europe. But the integral community is, from what I’ve seen, more or less 98% upper-middle class or better. Even those “without money” come from privilaged backgrounds (not surprisingly, there’s a high concentration of ‘whiteness’ too, since economic standing and racial make-up are so often related, though, again just from what I’ve seen, the racial mix of the integral community is a bit more diverse than the socio-economic mix).
And while I’m on this tangent (I will get to Mr DeVos’ post and my opinions of what’s wrong with it), a word about the integral community’s general economic background (and connected political leanings): it’s no coincidence at all that the integral community is by-and-large made up of individuals whose economic lot have enabled them to have a higher degree of education, and have afforded them the leisure time to ponder the sorts of bigger picture questions that might lead one to come to an integral vantage point of the world (Kosmos, whatever you’d like to call it). There are, in fact, little if any people (let alone currents) involved with integral theory (or practice or interests) from Harlem, East St Louis, or South Central LA. There are, however, hotbeds of integral activity in Boulder, Ashville, Burlington. Speaking in strictly political terms, people who benefit from a political (economic) system are going to be loath to embrace the destruction of that system, even if the destruction of that system were to bring about a net gain for the majority, or even the planet. Instinctually, we want security and safety, and if we have it, well, it becomes quite a thing to root for something else to take its place, no matter the pros or cons.
So then there’s this article I found on Mr DeVos’ site, Making The Case For Sustainable Business. Ugh. OK, OK, wait. I can be fair about this. In fact, there is a certain degree to which the article is right. It notes that huge corporations are “turning green” for, well, profit-related reasons, and that in the short term that’s good, considering the impending ecological disaster that is known as our planet circa 2009. And sure, I’ll buy that. I will note, however, that there’s an entirely good point to be made against green capitalism which goes something like “we feel better about the state of things when we partake in ‘green capitalism’ (i.e., buy and champion businesses for their relatively environmentally-friendly products over that which is environmentally un-conscious), which leads only to our complacency in the face of bigger or deeper environmental issues; thus, green capitalism is in fact worse than the in-your-face destructiveness of good ol’ fashioned industrialism, because at least with the latter, we can so easily identify it as so abhorrent that we know we must get rid of it or die”. To take an example right from the article at hand, DuPont has initiated a plan to cut their carbon emissions by 65% by 2010, which maybe we say “great! huge!” and want to buy DuPont products whenever possible and if we’re able. We feel good about buying “green” and they reap the profits. Yet, they’ve done a ‘green act’ by one factor, and we’ve looked past the fact that DuPont is the maker of many fine products that are not only incredibly carcinogenic and/or toxic to people and the environment, but tested on animals. As well, for just one of what could be untold numbers of examples (just with DuPont), as a leading holder of timber lands, DuPont was (about 85 years ago) instrumental in getting hemp and cannabis outlawed. Why? because hemp is far superior- most notably, in an environmentally sustainable way- then timber but the ensuing outlawing of hemp meant that we all had to turn to paper pulp which meant their timber stands increased in value exponentially from what they would have been if we were making our paper out of the far more sustainable hemp plant. So, sure, they’ve cut their carbon emissions by 65% and that is good. But to claim that as an environmental- let alone social or political victory, is not only a stretch, but a lie. If we believe DuPont (or Wal-Mart, another company mentioned in DeVos’ article as voluntarily making great strides to ‘green-up’) are “green” or environmentally sustainable or even sound company’s, well, we’ve merely been fooled (or are fooling ourselves).
Which brings us right back to that article. Another point I’ll accept is that we humans don’t do very good when it comes to long-term change, but the short-term stuff we can often handle. And in the short-term, green capitalism (and the ‘greening’ of corporate giants like Wal-Mart) is positive. Like I said, I’ll ignore the contradicting argument that I just put forth above and agree, in the short term it is good. I also think, in the short term, it’s good that Wal-Mart is now the U.S.’ number one seller of organic foods. In the big picture, and the long term (and in this case by “long term” I mean, like, my patience will run out in about two weeks) I’d say it’s like you need a home run to win and the guy squares up for a bunt.
The fact of the matter is that capitalism- green or not- is an exploitive, cohesive, greedy economic system. The article at hand alleges that it is the very greed of capitalism that is driving more and more businesses to adopt more environmentally-friendly practices. But greed, as science even know is beginning to affirm, is not the natural human inclination. Cooperation is. We are, as I’m fond of saying, a social species. We cooperate socially to maximize our security, survival, and our lives. Greed is an exploitation of our survival instincts, it is how we behave in the face of want, scarcity, and insecurity. Capitalism (and the State which upholds it) keeps up in a constant-state of either being in or perceiving to be in that place, in order to force us to act our part in the grand game of mine, mine, mine. Capitalism has us hoard while our neighbors (in this day and age a notion expanded to the entire globe) live in want and suffering. Capitalism has us engage in almost constant relationships of domination (dominator hierarchies) in order to continually ensure our own individual safety and security at the direct expense of our family, friends, community members, and the planet.
Contrary to popular belief, capitalism does not hold the patent on commerce, on trade, on innovation, on production of goods and services. I’m not talking about doing away with all that. I’m talking about social and political (economic) human relationships. Green is good, yes. But it is not the answer, not the entirety of it anyway. The Honda Prius is made in city-sized factory town’s in Japan which hold tens of thousands of illegal migrants like slaves under the the harshest of conditions for bellow minimum wages in sub-standard living conditions… but hey, my car is “green” 🙂
No, that’s not enough. Capitalism is not our future, and it’s certainly not “enlightened” nor “liberated”. It is economic slavery, exploitation, and domination of man over man.