The shadow side of our creativity.

Image: wikipedia

For all the benefits capitalism can bring ,in moderation, left unchecked it breeds impatience. selfishness, short sightedness and increasing dissatisfaction. It encourages us to want more, now, for ourselves and creates wants that go way beyond needs.

We have become an Ourobouros. A legendary symbol of a snake eating its own tail.

Somewhere along the way, our ability with science has given us the to think we can improve on Nature, as though Nature is somehow static and passive. In our generation, the stunning arrogance of that assumption is becoming plain to see.

“If there is something in nature you don’t understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding. So there is a logic to natural things that is much superior to our own. Just as there is a dichotomy in law: ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as opposed to ‘guilty until proven innocent’, let me express my rule as follows: what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Anti Fragile

No less destructive has been social media – treated well, a huge connector but when used for commercial gain, a conduit for vitriol and deceit. The art of conversation reduced to 240 shouty capitals and lower case biases as a hunting ground fior advertisers.

VAR has added technicalities to a game played for vast amounts of money, where losing can destroy careers and returns, but how much pleasure has it added for players and fans?

We laugh at old ideas of perpetual motion, yet we practice it in the way we treat Nature, as though it will somehow give, unconditionally and without reservation, in perpetuity.

This is all getting a bit preachy, and my frustration at our attempts to somehow bargain with nature is showing, so I’ll move to an observation, and a question.

The observation is that the evidence suggests that there are enough resources for us to live sustainably on the planet in our current numbers if we get our act together. Getting our act together means recognising that we have to achieve greater balance between what we want, and what Nature is capable of giving us.

The question is, how do we move to a point where we create greater natural wealth by consuming and interfering less? A healthy planet with healthy people?

We are an enormously creative species. The danger is, like the ourobouros, we will end up consuming ourselves through our misdirected creativity if we take our inventions and discoveries and let them loose unchecked.

I’m not sure that outright opposition is the way. Most people operating and supporting the capital system are not “red in tooth and claw”, they’re just doing what we have trained them to do, and I suspect unseating the current system without something to replace it would most likely lead to hugely destructive withdrawal symptoms.

Our creativity has given us extended supply chains, many ways of financially gaming the system to enable those who handle rather than create wealth (other than for themselves), and the creation of products and services that consume scarce resources in return for questionable contribution.

We know we have to act. Yesterday Mark Carney suggested that we will have the same level and more deaths from planet warming every year by mid century – one generarion away – as we have from Covid – and we won’t be able to lock down, nor will there be a vaccine.

Perhaps what we need now are “small pockets of resistance” – individual and collective actions amongst small groups that we can over time, on an accelerating basis weave together to bring about thr change we need. To use our creativity constructively to achieve more by consuming less by being more selective and more responsible to change direction.

It has to be down to all of us, to bring it to front of mind and keep it there, every time we make a purchase. Who made it, how far has it come, what has it consumed, what will happen to it when we no longer need it or want it? Would we be emabarrased to explain our purchase to our friends, or our children?

If not now when? If not us, who?

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