This week's newsletter features a song by Chumbawamba (no, not that one), research about the power of action-focused storytelling, art in the dark, composting and butterflies.
I agree! We are socialised from a very early age to believe that there is an action we can take to make things better, to solve problems, to mould the world and to feel bad, to be marked down, even to be punished if we don’t find the answer. So the emotional response comes from this early conditioning, perhaps. To move on from it we need to escape the conditioning and perhaps from the belief that we should find a right action and that the only way to judge our actions is in their impact in the world (a utilitarian/consequentialist perspective). Perhaps we can’t solve it? Perhaps we are bit players without the ‘agency’ needed? Even the Musks, Gates, Bidens… none of us can find the right action in a utilitarian perspective. But we can act with as much love and care as we can, and pay attention to impacts and learn. This is to embody an ethic of care. Is it enough to save our life’s? Who knows? But I’m pretty clear that utilitarianism and it’s flourishing in capitalism has very nearly cost us life… I’ll look forward to our next walk’n’talk!
Ironically the last line should read ‘exercise care and love in our own agency’
Hi Rob. Just suppose that in most complex systems it is not possible for us ‘to know what to do in order to get an intended effect’. Certainly it’s not possible for us to know what unintended effects we might have. I think it is this utilitarian perspective of a world where cause leads to effect and we are clever enough to achieve our intended effects that has got us to this perilous time in history. An uncritical belief in our ‘agency’ is not going so well. What if instead we believed that we had to act (if only we could abstain completely) but in our acting we had no idea of the full range of our actual effects? How then might we proceed? My short hand answer might be with an ethic of care rather than a consequentialist or utilitarian ethic. Where humility was a key value at least as important as intelligence. Certainly if a butterfly can flap its wings in Mexico and cause a hurricane in Texas we should exercise care and live in our own agency. What do you think?