Monday, June 4, 2018

Lindsay Sheperd on social justice and the environment

If this is true then as Heidegger said, "Only a God can save us now." What Lindsay Sheperd is pointing out is how frankly absurd the act of looking upon the world anthropocentrically truly is.

Sheperd was spot on when she said, "In some instances the outdoors is not safe for anyone."  She was also correct when discussing how, often times, the "healing" power of nature is actually found in its ability, or even power and potential, to "decenter" identity - to completely overwhelm one's sense of self or, if it so chooses, to destroy one's sense of self or one's identity. Nature has the uncanny ability to remind us that it is nature which gets the last vote in determining "what's what" and that how we may conceive ourselves to be - whether precious, special, important, or identifying as x, y, or z - doesn't necessarily mean that that is how we truly are in reality. Such forms of decentering can and many often times do constitute an act of transcendence through sublimity, as the decentering of one's own identity in light of something much larger and much more encompassing is what affords the natural world its healing power and quasi-religious grace. It reminds us that we may not be as special as we think we are, and that the world is not a safe place. The natural world can and will gladly go on without us.

The millennial obsession with "safety" and "safe spaces" is attempting to sanitize the last outpost where these sort of truly educational and revelatory experiences might occur due to the inherent risk, danger, and all-out lack of human identity found there: the wilderness.  Nature, when made "safe," loses its real educational potential and becomes just another stage prop in the human-all-too-human drama of so-called "social justice." In fact, inasmuch as Sheperd is pointing out, "social justice" is far - very, very far - from any form of real environmental justice where human actors are able to take a step back in their obsessive motions of attempting to grab the limelight and think of others for just once. In the name of safety, avoiding risk, and feeling important, millennials are actually committing worse injustices against the environment and failing to achieve any realist ecological understanding of it. That is to say, millennial narcissism and environmental justice really don't fit together hand-in-glove.

The article Sheperd cites is all millennial narcissism gone way too far. As I tell my students in Existentialism on the first day of class: "The universe doesn't give a shit about you."  When one goes hiking in remote environments and witnesses a pristine and well-functioning world that is completely without the human and doing just fine, that truth can be an eye-opening experience for even the most naive helicopter-parented millennial who will usually melt like a snowflake at the first hint that they may not be as special as they've been told. Eventually, nature (read "Reality") will assert itself and its number one (and only) law will show itself to be supreme. And that law? It's quite simple: "Reality Rules."

Link HERE.