MANN TALK: Androcentrism Augurs Apocalypse

by Perry Mann

“Mother Earth is a nurturing home of all life and should be revered and loved as in premodern (Paleolithic and archaic) societies.

Ecosystematic malaise and abuse is rooted in androcentric concepts, values, and institutions. The many problems of human relations, and relations between the human and non-human worlds, will not be resolved until androcentric institutions, values¸ and ideology are eradicated.” (The words are those of Max Oelschlaeger quoted by Edward O. Wilson in a piece titled “Is humanity suicidal?”)

The title translated: Man’s centeredness bespeaks disaster; that is, man’s belief that he is the center piece of earth and the universe; that he has an immortal soul; that he is God’s chosen; that he is independent of all other life and Earth herself; and that he can build an environment that better suits him and flourish in it and in the process neglect, abuse and even destroy the environment in which he evolved---is a suicidal belief, if implemented speedily on the present track.

Man believed that his planet was the planet that was at the center of the Universe. He believed that the sun revolved around his planet. But Copernicus disabused him of the illusion. Man believed that God created the earth and the heaven and all else, including him in His image, in a few days. Darwin disabused him of this illusion. Man believed that God created the earth and all that is on it for his comfort and convenience. Man has pursued his comfort and convenience in a frenzy of indulgence all to the detriment and inconvenience and even extinction of other life. His androcentrism and purblindness have induced him to propagate himself to the point where standing room on Mother Earth is becoming scarce, elbowing to the margins all other life.

In short, he has in his hubris and arrogance pillaged and plundered and polluted the earth to an extent that his and all life is in danger of extinction. His arrogance and hubris will disabuse him of his androcentrism--- apocalyptically---unless he sees the errors of his way.

Edward O. Wilson in his piece profiles Earth’s protagonists and Earth’s antagonists in this war of Earth’s survival. The antagonists in his view are dubbed exemptionalists and he describes them as follows: “[They hold] that since humankind is transcendent in intelligence and spirit, so must also our species have been released from the iron laws of ecology that bind the remainder of life. No matter how serious the problem, civilized human beings, by ingenuity, force of will, and ---who knows---maybe divine dispensation, will find a solution.”

Wilson profiles the protagonists: “When expressed as a full-grown philosophy as opposed to a mere cautionary sentiment, [environmentalists see] humanity as a biological species tightly dependent on the natural world. As formidable as our intellect may be and as fierce our spirit, the argument goes, they are not enough to free us from the constraints of the natural environment in which human ancestors have evolved.”

The problem of population growth to the exemptionalists is a no brainer: Its good for the economy and also it is a basic human right. But China with a billon or more souls on acres less than the acres of this country has restricted the number of children a family can conceive and birth. When this country reaches a population of a billion souls, who can doubt but that pro-lifers crowded and living cheek by jowl with many of the billions will have second thoughts about their position in regard to abortion? The earth cannot sustain an infinite number of humans, particularly, an infinite number wheeled by air-conditioned autos spewing tons of the stuff that kill us into the atmosphere.

The environmentalists’s view is: “Many of the earth’s vital resources are about to be exhausted, her atmospheric chemistry is deteriorating and human populations have already grown dangerously large. Natural ecosystems, the wellspings of a healthful environment, are being irreversibly degraded.”

Further the environmentalists say: “Earth is our home in the full, genetic sense, where humanity and its ancestors existed for all the millions of years of their evolution. Natural ecosystems---forests, coral reefs, marine blue waters---maintain the world exactly as we would wish it to be maintained. Our body and mind evolved precisely to live in this particular planetary environment and no other.”

“Ecosystematic malaise and abuse is rooted in androcentric concepts, values, and institutions.” Man believes he is the center of the Universe. Thus, all else is subordinate and subject to his whim, want and desire. The rape of nature is not a crime since she was created for his pleasure. His values and morals are confined to that which is relevant only to humans. To kill other life is morally right. To do to other life what would be a crime to do to his brothers and sisters is no crime. His institutions reflect his belief in his divine creation and his authority over all creation. He has instituted capitalism which to all other life is the ultimate scourge: It’s the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse on steroids.

A scourge equal to capitalism is religion, particularly that religion that believes God made man in His image and created the earth and all upon it for the benefit of man. This belief gives man carte blanche to convert the forests of the world into paper, lumber, and all else he can contrive from it for his convenience and profit, to dig up every resource that is profitable without regard to the hurt to the earth, to fish the oceans empty to supply his table, to drill and mine, to top mountains and fill streams, to extract nature’s treasures to warm his winters and cool his summers without any regard to the cost to come or to the cost  to all the other life that is related to him and sustains him. Man is the only species that is a threat to all other species.

Revelation is a madman’s dream. But man’s centeredness is no dream but is  a nightmare of reality---an apocalypse--- unless he can understand that he is an animal among animals and plants and related to all animals and plants and dependent on the welfare of all animals and plants for his survival as a species. And that all other life on this planet is dependent upon man to use his reason and conscience to maintain and enhance that which Nature devised to humankind.

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Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV.

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