Enough is enough ! Klaus Nürnberger Oct 2013
OUTLINE Policy options Motivations: entrapped in the modern worldview The impact of modernity on traditionalism Modernity undermines traditional value systems Can the church make a difference? Be realistic! Our real handicap is fatalism and despondency The transforming power of the gospel A few practical suggestions change your personal attitude become active at some point change your life style heed opportunity costs heed the law of declining marginal utility
Policy options • Must we wait until the most powerful decision-makers in society change their minds? • No, democracy places on us the obligation to become part of the political process. • Policy changes can only work on the basis of changed motivations.
Responsible Policy Priorities: 1. The preservation of the resource base of the planet. 2. A modest but healthy livelihood for all. 3. Equity in the distribution of efforts and rewards. 4. Concern for the weak and vulnerable. 5. Balanced (material, social, spiritual) need satisfaction.
Two basic principles • Sharing consumption leads to dependency. When we share production, consumption looks after itself. • 2. Production and consumption must remain within sustainable levels. • The economic system that comes closest to these ideals is social democracy, as it was developed in Northern and Central Europe.
It is not impossible to change direction if there is the political will to do so, e.g. 1. Change the cost structure (e.g. fossil vs solar energy; technology vs labour) 2. Change the social power structure (cartels, lobbies, corporations, unions) 3. Enhance the peripheral infrastructure (transport, communication, etc.) 4. Empower the peripheral population (education, training, credit, etc.)
What prevents that from happening? The importance of motivations that determine the political will.
2. Motivations Entrapped in the modern worldview
The Enlightenment: disillusion with authority led to a quest for personal autonomy - Think for yourself (rationalism) - See for yourself (empiricism - science) - Find out what works (pragmatism - technology) - Pursue your own interests (commerce - liberal economy) - Enjoy your life (hedonism - consumerism) - Relate to your personal Saviour (pietism) - Assert your personal dignity (human rights) - Have a say in your government (democracy) - Claim gender equality (female emancipation) - Let the youth find its way (anti-authoritarian education)
The modernity human being claims mastery over, ownership of, and entitlement to the benefits of one’s life world. All of reality has become a quarry to be mined for personal aggrandisement, profit and pleasure.
Neo-classical economicsunderpins and legitimates this quest: • 1. It defines the economic human being (the homo oeconomicus) as a profit- and pleasure maximiser. • The pursuit of self-interest is deemed ‘rational behaviour’. • By implication, concern for the interests of others and the well-being of the whole of social and natural reality is deemed irrational.
3. Only what can be bought and sold is relevant for the economic system. “The Gross Domestic Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile . . . What isn’t bought or sold—housework or caring for your own children, for example—doesn’t figure . . . hurricanes and floods push up GDP because the reconstruction gets factored in as new spending. Countries with more prisons look better than those with fewer . . .” (Christopher Dickey) 4. Prostitution is an ‘industry’. Gambling is an ‘industry,’ offering ‘products.’ Raising children is not an industry!
5. In the fields of investment, production and distribution, meticulous cost-benefit analyses are conducted. In the field of consumption we indulge in unnecessary expenditure and underutilised possessions. 6. Consumer extravagance is widely depicted in the media as the good life. 7. Public responsibility for the most vulnerable is called a ‘nanny state’.
All this demonstrates that we are motivated by self-interest and pleasure, rather than reponsible stewardship. The trend towards material gullibility has powerfully escalated during the last few decades.
“During the second half of the last century one was still busy with solid and fair commercial practices in the interest of both the enterprise and the customer, but since the turn of the millenium this has changed. Now the neo-liberal profit motive has come to dominate many board rooms. Higher returns, more expansion, higher bonuses. Whether co-workers at basic levels fall out of the race, or consumers become dissatisfied, is of secondary importance. The main consideration is that the bottom line impresses, that investors are delighted and that performance on the stock exchange rises.” David Gerginov
The misery of the periphery and the lure of modernity lead to rapid urbanisation and the modernisation of the world-view.
Is selfishness not inbred into the human psyche? Indeed it is!
Selfishness is programmed into the ‘reptile brain’ of all living creatures. Without it they could not survive. Other animals are prevented largely by instincts from harming themselves and others beyond strict necessities. But in humans selfishness is meant to be controlled by the rational faculties of our ‘pre-frontal cortex’.
Millennia of collective experience have lead to social imperativesand sanctions, based on spiritualassumptions and convictions, values and norms that guide us in life.
Modernity deliberately and successfully demolishes these traditional mindsets for the sake of profit and pleasure. Don’t do it! has changed to ‘Just do it!’ In modern secular societies faith has become a private pastime that is tolerated as long as it does not interfere in areas of life that really matter.
The entertainment and advertising industries bombard us with an incessant stream of images and arguments that make us dissatisfied with what we have. They undermine all social constraints and moral inhibitions and glamorise profit and pleasure. They induce us to crave things that do not really satify, buy things we do not need with money we do not have. It is hard to imagine that our flimsy spiritual input can match this flood.
“Advertisers in the corporate world are of course offered lucrative recompense, and, with that financial draw, our corporations attract humans from the highest strata of IQs. And our best artistic talent. And any sports hero or movie star they want to buy. Combining so much brain power and social status with sophisticated electronic graphics and the most penetrating psychological techniques, these teams of highly intelligent adults descend upon all of us, even upon children not yet in school, with the simple desire to create in us a dissatisfaction for our lives and a craving for yet another consumer product. It is hard to imagine any child having the capacities necessary to survive such a lopsided contest, especially when it’s carried out ten thousand times a year, with no cultural condom capable of blocking out the consumerism virus.” Swimme 1996:16.
Many former traditionalists may carry their sense of community and responsibility over into the new reality. However, when the uprooted lose their traditional values, constraints and inhibitions, they may become more brutally self-centred than the modernisers bargained for.
The destruction of traditional values and institutions exacts a heavy price! The impact of modernity, (exacerbated by apartheid policies such as migrant labour and influx control), has led to the large scale destruction of the African family. It was triggered by the utilisation of cheap labour by the modern economy without catering for their families at the places of work. Children grew up without role models. According to the SAIRR only33%of all South African children live with both their parents (Whites 83%), 39% live only with their mothers.
In sum, our collective motivations have been severely distorted for the sake of profit and pleasure. Our modern culture militates against responsibility, sufficiency and contentment. The consequences in economic and ecological terms are catastrophic.
There is always a tug of war between our insights and convictions on the one hand, and our personal and collective interests on the other. The interests of the most powerful social agents dominate.
Convictions Motivations Actions Institutions Interests
ConvictionsActionsInstitutions Interests In modernity questionable interests swamp convictions
In the biblical faith convictions control and integrate valid interests. Convictions InterestsActionsInstitutions
Can this actually happen in our church? Let us be realistic! 1. What motivates us as Christians? Our standing in society and earthly prosperity? Our own peace of mind and eternal destiny? Or God’s vision for his world? 2. Does our concept of salvation include the well-being of God’s creation as a whole? 3. Does our Christian worldview match current scientific insight?
4. Does the Word of God reach the decision-makers and role models of our times? 5. Does our theological training equip our pastors to interact with secular experts and role players? 6. Are economic-ecological topics included in our sermons, liturgies, hymns and classes on a regular basis? 7. Does anybody in public life take us seriously, or has our faith become a private pastime that is tolerated unless it interferes in aspects of life that really matter?
However, our true handicap may not be impotence, but fatalism and despondency! Once we feel we cannot do much, we will swim with the crowd. Then we remain part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Faith in God is a trust, a conviction, a mission and a determination that can ‘move mountains’.
Fatalism is unjustified! 1. All great things begin small – a seed can crack a rock and grow into a tree. 2. Social power is located primarioy in primary groups. 3. Potentially the church is represented in all primary groups at all levels of society. 4. Over time, primary groups can form a critical mass whose weight is able to restore the balance.
(a) We must see to it that all social strata are represented in our own primary group structure so that they can be reached by the Word of God. (b) Our members must be empowered by the Word of God to ignore peer pressure and become role models.
5. Social change happens in times of crisis. And economic-ecological crises have now become inevitable! When the crises begin to hit hard alternatives must have been worked out and tested. 6. The church can provide a neutral platform where contending parties can voice their frustrations, pool their insights and work out solutions.
Sharing God’s fellowship, leads to an eccentric rather than egocentric worldview (I am not the centre of the world but God is): Christians see reality ‘from above’, with the eyes of God, and their place within it. Christians see reality from the future and the needs of future generations.
We must jettison the modern spiritualisation and individualisation of the Christian faith and regain the comprehensive horizons of the biblical faith. God is the Creator of the whole of reality. And so God must be deemed the Redeemer of the whole of reality.