Dying for Our Sins

For the rest of my life, anytime I go somewhere in a car, or use petroleum-based products, I’m going to carry in my heart the image of this little guy, dying for my sins:

Oil covered sea bird

An oil covered sea bird on the beach in coastal Louisiana, June 3 2010. Photo by Charlie Riedel for Associated Press.

(More images on Huffington Post and New York Times.)

In many ways, this image is the highest expression of the values of Western Civilization. Ours is a philosophical worldview that values the ‘freedom’ and temporary comfort of individual consumers, corporations, and the abstract laws of capitalism over the natural laws of the God whose body is the material cosmos and whose breath is the eternal life that takes the form of all of us temporal, fleeting beings.

More than an environmental, economic, or political crisis, I believe that the crisis that has manifested itself as the Gulf Coast oil spill is a spiritual one.  I do not see how any thinking, feeling human being could look at images like this one without coming to the conclusion that our entire way of life is the ultimate blasphemy.

Make no mistake: the gods that are invoked to justify our human-centered cosmos are demons.

~ by emilypothast on June 4, 2010.

8 Responses to “Dying for Our Sins”

  1. This is a unrewarding subject. I will however enter a few words of greatness in hops of spreading some joy.

    While we can agree the oil spill is handled badly by the US administration and the company I would like to point out any human system would have oil spill.

    Its not a image of western civilisation its an image of the tradeoff price for any human civilisation where people can be great artists, poets, performers, scientists or thinkers.

    You are choosing to see a very small picture. Also birds will die painfully in nature regardless. There is no way of protecting the world from the world.

    In fact, trying would make you as much of an oppressor of nature as the alternative.

    Imagine a volcano exploding. What happens then? There is truly low standards in schools today if you are taught only this kind om neative mediocry.

    Aspire to something higher instead

  2. Horrific photo you got here.
    So unfortunate, for the sake of money only we are so cruel to nature.
    [good thing I do not own a car at the moment, guilt would kill me🙂

  3. @Erik,

    Thanks for commenting. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I don’t really understand the point you are trying to make. Are you suggesting that the development of a leisure class that brings forth artists, poets and thinkers is somehow dependent upon petroleum? Because there have, of course, been people engaged in these pursuits for many centuries prior to the development of the first internal combustion engine.

    Do you really not see the difference between the environmental destruction caused by an oil well and a naturally occurring volcano?

    I don’t pretend to be an expert on anything, but in this case, I really don’t think it’s me who is choosing to see a very small picture.

  4. @Emily,

    Look. I´ll explain the point I was making. Lets go back to the original text “this image is the highest expression of the values of WESTERN Civilization”

    No it isnt, Its nothing WESTERN with it at all. The eastern, northern and southern societies run on the same oil. You could possibly make the case its in some ways the highest expression of the values of MODERN society but western? Not a chance! Thats purely cultural racism against western world.

    And even when talking modern society what would the alternative have been years ago? Starvation? Thats what we had! Would image of starving people be a better expression of values?

    “Are you suggesting that the development of a leisure class that brings forth artists, poets and thinkers is somehow dependent upon petroleum?”

    The more effecient production in food you have the more people can do something else than produce food. Its a fundamental truth of our society that the reason “the west” was quicker developing like that is that out of the 14 animals humans scuccessfully have domesticated. 13 of em are from Europe, one from Southern America and ZERO from the rest of the world.

    Its cold hard fact that the rest of the world lacked the most important resource of human history, domesticated animals. And most history teachers seems to not even be aware of this fact. They still dont understand how a few western countries could conquer to entire world. They insted contest it based on principles that neither existed, nor COULD have existed – when it happened.

    So the first most important thing ever to happen the food industry (thus the human society) was getting domesticated animals as “muscles” making it possible for way less people to produce way more food.

    The second most important thing off course was the invention of automated machines, those machines run on some kind of fuel. Today most run on petroleum cause it is way more efficient than the alternatives (for instance burning wood in trains)

    When there was a few 100.000 people doing things by hand was ok, when it was 1000.000 people having animals helped enough but when its 10.000.000 people you had to have machines and when it was 1000.000.000 people almost nothing except petroleum was efficent enough to produce enough energy and food.

    Also, without the technical advancements such a society makes, most of the alternative-enviromentfrindly-fuels of today could never be invented. They are simply so hi-tech you never would have them without the petroleum-run society inventing them first.

    “Do you really not see the difference between the environmental destruction caused by an oil well and a naturally occurring volcano?”

    Yes I do, my point is that the BIRD doesnt! The Bird doesnt give a rats sss if it dies of oil or of lava. The only real problem as far as the bird is concerned is the amount of suffering. That is the only point with the image. Thus SUFFERING for your sins would be a correct description. But dying? Would the bird be less dead if a predator ate it? Would the bird care?

    Finally you just describe the bad things, not the good things. Its just like a teacher I had trying to discuss slavery in regards to western society.

    I said. HEAR UP! Western society did not invent slavery, western society however as ONLY society in the world made it illegal. This propaganda bullshit is not education! Africa had slaves before they dutch even knew Africa existed.

    I have had enough with (cultural) racism crap against western society! Its not like Russia, China, Latin america or Africa could make things different and better!

    Do you know why so many talks so bad about western things? Cause Russia and allies created an entire department during the cold war just to figure out how to badmouth western society values. Its called Critical Theory!

    Funny enough it doesnt badmouth other societies for things way worse!

  5. Erik,

    It’s funny to me that you insist on distancing the phenomenon of global market capitalism from “Western Civilization” and then go on to describe how, in your own words, “a few western countries” conquered the whole world. Whether you want to call it “western” or “modern” is just semantics. The fact is that the world-killing cancer of global capitalism originated in the West and was spread, in no small part, by a philosophical quirk that is uniquely Western.

    In addition to the distribution of resources, a crucial component in the west’s “conquering of the world” (your words, not mine!) has always been the belief that one civilization possesses a wholly superior worldview that may be imposed on everyone else in the world with impunity. The God of monotheism and civilization is on our side. The God of Manifest Destiny and The White Man’s Burden. It is our righteous duty to bring market capitalism and Christianity to the ignorant savage.

    This god is the demon I speak of, and he lives on today in the hearts and minds of many secularists who have dropped the outward trappings of Judeo-Christian religion but not the sense of superiority and entitlement it confers. Whether or not you personally call yourself religious, your comments resonate with the pompous echoes of this cultural narcissism.

    I understand that you seem to have a lot of anger and free time and want to use the two to try to teach me a lesson, and that’s fine. I don’t have a great deal of ego wrapped up in the opinion I’ve expressed here and you can blather on all day about how stupid I am if it makes you feel better about yourself. I might not respond because I am trying to do lots of things with my time. Anyway, you seem like the kind of person who enjoys having the last word, so have at it.😉

  6. well said, emily.

    it is truly heartbreaking.

    susanna

  7. @Emily

    “It’s funny to me that you insist on distancing the phenomenon of global market capitalism from “Western Civilization” and then go on to describe how, in your own words, “a few western countries” conquered the whole world.”

    Funny? Western is a culture. There is nothing cultural about what you are mentioning at all, West did the same things as everyone else and the only thing “western” is that they were better at it and won a lot. The simple fact is rewarding success and punishing failure is nothing western. Everyone does that.

    Usain Bolt in the same regards doesnt run “jamaican” he runs the same way as everyone else. He just happens to do it better.

    “Whether you want to call it “western” or “modern” is just semantics.”

    That would be like claiming whether you want to call in Mexico or 12st century is just semantics. Western is a space, Modern is a time. It isnt even close to being the same thing.

    “The fact is that the world-killing cancer of global capitalism originated in the West and was spread, in no small part, by a philosophical quirk that is uniquely Western.”

    Nope. The fact is both China and Soviet did the exact same thing. And African older empires had slavery and golden markets before Europe even went there. They were defeated by the Almoravids, who ruled from western Africa as far north as Spain. There is nothing cultural about it. You are just attacking the winners for winning a struggle where everyone participated. Rather silly like complaining USA for invading Korea in the 50s

    “In addition to the distribution of resources, a crucial component in the west’s “conquering of the world” (your words, not mine!) has always been the belief that one civilization possesses a wholly superior worldview that may be imposed on everyone else in the world with impunity.”

    Yes and if anyone told you THAT was western its a complete joke. That was was the worldview of The Soviet Union as well as that of wartime Japan (Invading, Singapore, raping Nanking, occupying Korea etc) and postwar communist China.

    “The God of monotheism and civilization is on our side. The God of Manifest Destiny and The White Man’s Burden. It is our righteous duty to bring market capitalism and Christianity to the ignorant savage.”

    Nothing Western or cultural about it. The ideas you mention is in every religion and ideology ever invented (most religions are alike oldest being about nature, laters being more human family like and then the big ones today all about “energy”). Also concerning some of the peoples involved savage is a correct description. Zulus for instance was a terror-kingdom. You would not have liked being in Zulu-kingdom.

    “This god is the demon I speak of, and he lives on today in the hearts and minds of many secularists who have dropped the outward trappings of Judeo-Christian religion but not the sense of superiority and entitlement it confers.”

    Like Soviet Union communists? Who were neither christian nor western.

    “Whether or not you personally call yourself religious, your comments resonate with the pompous echoes of this cultural narcissism.”

    Nope, they in fact resonate as well with Egypt of the Pharaohs and the ancient Chinese Dynasties. None of which were christians or western. They also resonate great with my own country original myhtology which while being northwestern is not christian. I suggest you google “odin” “thor” and “loki” enjoy.

  8. Erik,

    I’m familiar with the religion of the ancient Egyptians, as well as pre-Christian Germanic mythology, thanks. If you took the time to click around on my blog, you might notice that the whole history of human religious beliefs is my primary interest and passion. That said, I’d be very curious to know precisely where, in any of these systems, you have found the philosophical analog to the mutual exclusivity inherent in monotheism.

    For an introduction to the way this history played out in the west, I suggest Jonathan Kirsch’s God Against the Gods: A History of the War between Monotheism and Polytheism.

    As for the interchangeability of the notions of “western” and “modern,” this is precisely the way that defenders of “western” values attempt to portray them. Growing up in the United States, I was routinely subjected to institutional propaganda like the views expressed by this website called WesternCultureGlobal.org, which is aimed at defining and defending Western Culture as being a globally superior worldview (very similar to what you apparently believe.)

    People also object to the idea of cultural supremacy because they do not believe that culture can be judged objectively. This, too, is incorrect. The proper standard for objectively evaluating a culture is by the degree to which its core values are for or against human life. A pro-human life culture recognizes the requirements of proper human survival, namely the values of reason, individualism, happiness, rights and capitalism.

    In other words, pro-human life culture is Western culture. And the extent to which a nation embraces Western culture is the extent to which it is free, prosperous, modern and peaceful—that is, supportive of human life. One need only look at life expectancies around the world to see that this is true.

    The ugly myopia of this attitude is what the original post addresses. If we are to define the values of “Western Culture” as valuing human freedom, individual comfort and capitalism, we must also accept the dark consequences these values tend to have for ecosystems and the other cultures which we routinely deem less enlightened than our own.

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