Democracy and Climate: Are they Connected?

Or are they One Truth, One Tree, Root and Branch?

You might think that Planet Earth goes its sad or merry way without regard to the political systems of any of those nations whose boundaries do not even appear on space-based photographs of our vibrant blue-green marble.

And you might think that the political forms in any of those countries have no connection with the flourishing or perishing of life-forms that make up Eco-system Earth.

But in fact our social systems and our eco-systems are deeply intertwined.

The intertwinings have political aspects, biological aspects, and spiritual aspects.

To begin with, we are still trying to cope with the discoveries of how to burn deposits of fossil fuels in such a way as to provide powerful new forms of energy for use by human societies. Those discoveries led to the emergence of corporations that became enormously wealthy and powerful by controlling, extracting, selling, and burning these fossils. 

Scientists and then political decision-makers discovered that these corporate business plans were scorching the Earth, forcing climate turbulence, and endangering our planetary web of life. But by the time these facts had become known,  the Carbon corporate structures and their political supporters had become so powerful and so unwilling to change that healing the Earth against their wishes had become extremely difficult.

On this issue (and often on others as well), nations that label themselves democratic in effect become oligarchical – – ruled by the few, the hyperwealthy. And when their oligarchy is Big Carbon, the less likely are those nations to act swiftly and emphatically to prevent climate chaos. Politics becomes biology.

There is a deeper interconnection – – indeed so deep that it is more like unity than like connection.

In Dr. Martin Luther King’s most profound, most prophetic, and most provocative sermon – – "Beyond Vietnam: a Time to Break Silence" – – he named Racism, Militarism, and Materialism as deadly “triplets” afflicting America.

Why did he use the word "triplets"? He could have said "trio," "triad," "three." The word "triplets" points to the truth that the three deadly life-patterns share a great deal of DNA, as do biological triplets.

What is the DNA that racism, militarism, and materialism share? It is the impulse to dominate, to subjugate.

The impulse to treat every "other" as an "It,” never as a "Thou.” That is the spiritual aspect of the danger that we face.

In the crisis at Standing Rock, North Dakota, the oil companies and their pipeline accomplices rolled the three triplets into a single domineering battering ram.

First, Materialism in charge.The companies, ravenous for even greater profits and utterly uninterested in empathy for people or for Earth, planned to push their pipeline close to Bismarck. 

But that city objected, fearing the pipeline might leak poison upon them. Would anybody pay attention?

Ahhh. Bismarck is practically all white.  Yes, attention must be paid.

 So the pipeline companies backed off, and rerouted it onto territory of the Sioux Nation. Surely those pesty Injuns would have to take it lying down. Racism  in charge.                                                                              

But the Sioux cried out that the “black snake” of their tradition was coming to strangle them.    They began prayerful protests, and found allies flocking to them.

These prayerful Water Protectors stirred the pipeline companies to fury,   and police with war-like weapons came roaring down upon the nonviolent ProtectorsMilitarism in charge.                                                   

As more and more communities that had been exploited and abused, forced underground,  have come bursting into the light, the frightened hyperwealthy have rallied around a bully to force these troubling djinni back into their bottles of repression. Through him they turned one chunk of the dispossessed against other chunks of the dispossessed, and with a minority of the people they won an election.

So now the new government of the United States is the most anti-democratic, most committed to dominate and subjugate all “others,” most devoted to Racism, Militarism, and Materialism, of all American governments  since the pro-slavery governments of the 1850s.

 What is the antidote to this poison?

Passionate Compassion. Active, determined love. As the Song of Songs says,

“Love that is strong as death,

Harsh as the grave;

Its tongues are flames, a fierce

And holy blaze.”

As Leonard Cohen sang,

“From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
--  Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst. ..

for it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:

--  So that Democracy be coming to the U.S.A.

To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, O mighty Ship of State!

Resist and Create  --  

A whole new Ship of State.

The Prophet Leonard’s dark and fiery vision of the USA -- the cradle of the best and of the worst – is the society most furiously burning our common home, the Earth. And yet the society where democracy is bubbling up most fiercely, in the Women’s March of love that stirred millions, in the defiant love of “strangers”  that erupted in airports everywhere, in Black Lives Matter and the Dreamers, in Jews proclaiming, "We've seen this before!".

Those millions signal what is aborning. Its birth is necessary to the rebirth of Mother Earth. For unless we can renew democracy here, our Mother Earth cannot be redeemed and healed.

And this means that the “issues” can no longer be disconnected.  The subjugation of women, of Blacks, of Latinos, of Muslims, of gays, of the white poor, the white working class, the white lower middle class – all those subjugations stem from the same DNA that subjugates the Earth. 

Resist and Create  --

A whole new Ship of State.

Mast by mast, deck by deck,  in every corner of our country we must embody in the present some sacred piece of the sacred future Ship of State that we envision.

Glorious ends cannot justify despicable means –-- for the means we use will become the ends we actually achieve. Both how we resist and what we create must cohere.  Love – it CAN be strong as death!

What are the masts, the sails, the decks, the anchors that we need to shape? I welcome your thoughts  -- Share them in the Comments section on our website. I will suggest some when I write you again, later this week.

As we approach our fiftieth year bereft of Martin Luther King, explore the ideas he spoke in 1967, ideas you can find at as beckonings toward love as strong as death, whose tongues are flames, a fierce and holy blaze.

With blessings of Truth and Transformation --  Arthur 


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