Oct 25, 2012

Mother Culture vs. Mother Nature

These thoughts and corresponding quoted excerpts are from and inspired by a great novel I received from a friend as a gift called: Ishmael a Journey of Mind and Spirit

Mother culture is the protagonist to the antagonist that is mother nature. Mother culture is the invention of the modern human while mother nature has been around since the beginning and has enabled all that we call life. Mother culture, however, is the manifestation of the stories humans have created and enacted for thousands of years. "A culture is a people enacting a story". 

The danger, however of these stories as portrayed in the book is that they assign a god like status to man. According to these stories or "Mother Culture" humans as the god like rulers of this planet should not only be capable but are destined to rule nature and all species. As such, earth is created for man in mind as its main benefactor. There is one major downside to these stories, however, that is the arrogance and ignorance that humans inhibit when dealing with nature:

They've been told an explaining story. They've been given an explanation of how things come to be this way, and this stills their alarm. This explanation covers everything, including the deterioration of the ozone layer, the pollution of the oceans, the destruction of the rain forests, and even human extinction - and it satisfies them. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it pacifies them. They put their shoulders to the wheel during the day, stupefy themselves with drugs or television at night, and try not to think too searchingly about the world they're leaving their children to cope with."
What's more interesting as told in the book is that humans did not always have such stories that put man in the center. There was a time when man considered himself just like any other animal and was completely resigned to the rule and uncertainties of mother nature. As hunter-gatherers humans hunted, fished and picked what they found on daily basis and though it meant they sometimes went hungry, they trusted the cards mother nature dealt them. How did mother nature know best? Well, here the book reminds us the track record of mother nature, that is the millions of years of evolution and all the species that have emerged on earth. If mother nature can create intelligent humans over millions of years from single cell bacteria, then she sure knows what she is doing and who are we to interfere or try to rule over her. But that's exactly what the post-agriculture man has done. Here, the book uses the symbolism of the Biblical story of "Fall of Man" as the reason for how man went from trusting mother nature to following mother culture.
In Christian doctrine, the fall of man, or simply the fall, was the transition of the first humans from a state of innocent obedience to God to a state of guilty disobedience to God. Though not named in the Bible, the concept for the Fall comes from Genesis chapter 3. Adam and Eve live at first with God in a paradise, but the serpent tempts them into eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God forbade

By eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam (Man) convinced himself that now he possessed the knowledge to know good and evil not just for himself but also nature and all of existence. Hence, here the original sin represents the moment man became aware of its intelligence and decided that this intelligence gave him the right to live above the laws of nature and enslave nature for his own survival, growth and benefit. The Semites who the main character of the book claims were the original authors of the Old Testament where in fact hunter-gatherers but were continuously being attacked and abused by their agricultural neighbors whom they did not understand. Why did their neighbors need more land? Why were they growing so fast? Why did they work so hard being farmers? It dawned on the Semites that their neighbors knew something they didn't. The first chapters of the Genesis is their attempt to explain this mystery.
Adam and Eve spent three million years in the garden, living on the bounty of the gods, and their growth was very modest. They had no need to exercise the gods' prerogative of deciding who shall live and who shall die. But when Eve presented Adam with this knowledge, he said, `Yes, I see; with this, we no longer have to depend on the bounty of the gods. With the matter of who shall live and who shall die in our own hands, we can create a bounty that will exist for us alone, and this means I can say yes to Life, and grow without limit.' What you should understand is that saying yes to Life and accepting the knowledge of good and evil are merely different aspects of a single act, and this is the way the story is told in Genesis."

When Adam accepted the fruit of that tree, he succumbed to the temptation to live without limit—and so the person who offered him that fruit is named Life.

In our own cultural history, the adoption of agriculture was a prelude to ascent. In these stories, agriculture is the lot of the fallen.

According to the notes, Eve means Life.

With this name, the authors of the story have made it clear that Adam's temptation wasn't sex or lust or luxuriousness. Adam was tempted by Life. Yes . . . It's something like this: Man was innocent until he discovered the difference between good and evil. When he was no longer innocent of that knowledge, he became a fallen creature.
Agriculture allowed man to grow exponentially and spread across the planet. However, with more land cultivation, more forests and species were destroyed and then came the industrial age with factories, machines and technology and now climate change and global warming. Agriculture now is an industrialized enterprise producing billions of tons of food every year to feed the ever growing human population of this planet. And what's mother culture's role on population control according to the book:
Mother Culture talks out of both sides of her mouth on this issue. When you say to her population explosion she replies global population control, but when you say to her famine she replies increased food production. But as it happens, increased food production is an annual event and global population control is an event that never happens at all. Within your culture as a whole, there is in fact no significant thrust toward global population control. The point to see is that there never will be such a thrust so long as you're enacting a story that says the gods made the world for man. For as long as you enact that story, Mother Culture will demand increased food production today—and promise population control tomorrow."
There are two major themes that repeat throughout the book that are telling of our times and have had devastating effects throughout human history as humans have adopted the narrative of mother culture instead of mother nature. One is that humans have truly adopted an exceptionalist mindset, that is earth was made for humans and hence all nature should serve human growth and survival. This of course has backfired with the emergence of obesity, disease, pollution, war and poverty while at the same time people are paralyzed and numb to these problems because these problems we are told are just part of the plan and the future is bright. This leads to the second theme which is that mother culture is all about the present as if everything that happened in the past was just a means to the end that is the present, us.
For the most part, we're a very `new' people. Every generation is somehow new, more thoroughly cut off from the past than the one that came before. Mother Culture says that this is as it should be. There's nothing in the past for us. The past is dreck. The past is something to be put behind us, something to be escaped from."

Until Darwin and the paleontologists came along to tack three million years of human life onto your history, it was assumed in your culture that the birth of man and the birth of your culture were simultaneous events—were in fact the same event. What I mean is that the people of your culture thought that man was born one of you. It was assumed that farming is as instinctive to man as honey production is to bees.
Now, obviously it is not realistic to even imagine that humans would go back to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and live solely by the uncertainties of life dictated by mother nature and agriculture is here to stay but what we can change and have control over is our mindset. The mindset that everything in our environment revolves around us and is there to support our individual success and growth. The "we" must not stop with our direct families or friends but rather our communities, counties and citizens of the world. Edward Abbey once said, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." A nonstop growth that causes the demise of the very body that the cancer cells reside in and cancer's own demise. This is also true of our society, economy and ecosystem. If all we aim for is just growth and advancement without considering its effects on others and our environment whether in our careers, social life or society in general we just are enacting the story of "mother culture" that is not very different than the story of a cancer cell. As such, we will do to our planet what cancer does to human bodies. And just as greed and unlimited profit maximization caused the financial collapse, if we do not quickly change our mindset to consider our environment we are just awaiting a natural catastrophe and disaster, that mother nature will never fail to deliver.

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