Friday, June 28, 2013

Dualist delusion


Diverse and unified; different and equal; changing and constant. Opposites?

Behind the current dominant idea of growth and progress is out of date, straight line, narrow, technical thinking based only on breaking things down and analysing them in isolation. This stresses qualities that help us distinguish between people and things. It portrays difference and diversity as opposite, antagonistic, negating extremes: natural vs social; human vs animal; economy vs environment; mind vs matter; female vs male; black vs white; heterosexual vs homosexual; old vs young; science vs art; left vs right; objective vs subjective; dynamic changes vs stability...Its roots are Cartesian.

This has its place and its usefulness but its very often an either/or trap that is at odds with reality. It is preventing us from acting on the fact that uniqueness, diversity and difference are vital, connected, complementary qualities. Reality is interdependence – the natural and social, human and animal, economic and environmental and so on, are both unique and part of the whole simultaneously. The social emerges from the natural. This is what we are learning from joined up thinking - systems thinking - that is a feature of the newer, fast developing branches of science such as ecology.


The value of diversity and difference can and should be emphasised to counter the trend to political, economic, social and cultural uniformity. Diversity within and between species, habitats and ecosystems brings multiple interactions, with species compensating for each other in the face of change. Avoiding confusion, ie differentiating what is not different and identifying what is not identical, is vital. Difference stressed at the expense of and devoid of solidarity, cooperation and connection can become magnified, resulting in: neglect; blame; anxiety; racism; sexism; abuse; and oppression.

Awareness of this issue that results in action would mean better decision making, better problem solving and better ability to take opportunities. Connections would be recognised and accounted for and complexity better managed.

For the moment though we persist with predominantly straight line, narrow, technical thinking: the more economic growth the merrier; its the amount that counts; not much of a selective, controlled approach or much breadth or subtlety in the way we think through, measure and assess growth and progess. High growth, high energy and resource use (especially non-renewables), high waste and pollution, loss of biodiversity – damage to the quality, security and stability of human life.

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