There is goodness in our world. Never let those who seek a measured ‘objective truth’ tell you otherwise.
You can recognise it – and its opposite – when you feel it in your soul.
The better artists can emphasise that truth. I think Anthony Doerr is in that rank. All the Light we Cannot See is an extraordinary novel. You come away reeling at the truth of love, and art, and goodness, and humanity, and the threats from those who think of their power and our world as their machine.
I often wonder about our obsessions with Modernity – the measured, predictable, reduced-to-bits machine, eating the joy and love and good some will themselves not to see. Why do we put it on a metaphysical plinth? I wonder why we think technocratic subjects deserve that exalted position in so many minds, as if saying it is ‘science led’ makes a thing right, or good. As if pointing to some number generated from selective data in an economic model of nonsense Modern assumptions makes it right, or wise.
We don’t need to read Frankenstein or Doctor Strangelove to question that mythology around science and other STEM subjects (note to technocrats – putting one type of knowledge on a plinth is not a ‘measured objective truth’ – you swim within a metaphysical bowl, we all do – if you had some Humanities education you might note the irony). You don’t have to read John Ralston Saul.
You only have to look to the excesses and the wrongs of our Modernity-obsessed history. The destructive WWI Western Front with generals playing with numbers, making human mince. Nazism reducing people to another form of meat. State-Communism the same.
And now the Corporate machines with their sponsored politicians and that pinnacle of a Modern thought they endorse and support for their own ends – the fundamentalist economic policy makers who rose above wisdom and good from the early 80s. Our latter-day substitutes for 20th C despots. More human mincemeat. And let’s add some planetmince to the mix.
Without art or the Humanities, science and all the other number-obsessed disciplines are like a dry tongue counting calories … and never the taste and quality of a thing, the good and rightness of an act or a thought.
Let us reduce child rearing to calorie counts, because we cannot put love and joy and spirit and confidence and belonging and culture into the model. Let us do the same with society, community, the river, the land, the fish in the sea and the forests in the valleys. Let us call it economics, or objective science. Never mind the birdsong, or lying down in a wildflower meadow listening to the hum of tiny wings gently stirring the scents. Never mind feelings. Let’s call it a ‘resource’ instead.
The Positive myth ever trumping the Normative truth, to someone’s foolish end.
There is good in this world. And if we try to count it and apply some measured ‘utility’ to it … then, like fixing the position of a quantum particle … it will disappear from view. More than disappear … we will destroy it.
And that is the truth. And it is not good.
Chris Perley is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability with a governance, research, management and policy background in provincial economies, rural sociology and land use strategy.
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