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Meditations: Dark Matter, Individual & Collective

Meditations (Politics) - From Martin LeFevre in California

Dark Matter, Individual and Collective

A thoughtful, if blunt reader from down under wrote, "We cannot have responsibility for any but our own shit."

This was in the context of a discussion concerning the thorny question of whether to focus on the global or the local dimension as a response to globalization. Many people apparently feel that the global approach I advocate is in error, or impossible because of the enormity of the human crisis. They believe that the dictum "think globally and act locally" still applies.

One could spend years discussing the 'global vs. local' problem. My fear is that by the time the 'local first and last' philosophy is shown to be unworkable, the planet will be completely plundered.

So can we short-circuit this argument without short cutting it?

Obviously both the local and the global approach are correct. It is a question of which one to emphasize first.

Progressives have responded to rapacious globalization by working to empower local communities. That is commendable, but inadequate. It may even contribute to the fragmentation of cultures and communities.

There are no bulwarks strong enough to keep localities, seen in terms of particular cultures, from being swept up in the tsunami of globalization. Paradoxically, in a global society the way to help give local people greater self-determination is to humbly think together with individuals in besieged cultures, taking the whole and long view.

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The world, like human consciousness, is one thing as never before in human history. So do borders even matter any more, whether national, cultural, or otherwise?

Just as with the ecological crisis, no locality can stand against the accelerating macro-economic forces destroying the earth and localities. Since we can't go back to a time when cultures and races were isolated and relatively distinct, there is no choice but to take the whole view.

As my friend in Australia said, "a global perspective is essential to understanding the scale and source of our problems, even if it does engender quaking in one's shoes."

I think that is the biggest reason people all over the world are trying to cut things down to manageable bites. However that is merely breaking things up even more. All decent people are quaking in their shoes, so it is vital that we grow in heart and mind enough to get our hearts and minds around the crisis that confronts us all.

That is a very different thing than thinking and acting personally, which is inherently self-centered and exclusive. Individualism is a rampant disease in the global society, leading inexorably to countless fragments of people caring only about themselves, if that.

By human nature and media propaganda, the vast majority of people are consumed by the personal, the particular, the local, and the immediate. It's the rare person who takes the whole and long view. But the word Œindividual' literally means 'undivided,' and that is what the world desperately needs more of.

Just as there is no Œmy consciousness,' there is no Œmy shit' that is separate from the collective shit of society. There's just the load each of us has been handed at birth, and the amount of crap we allow to accumulate in ourselves through negligence and taking the easy way.

Our consciousness is inextricably part of the entire garbage dump of human consciousness, which is the common ground of humanity. Certainly there are variations in the content of this collective dark matter, but there is no actual separation. Therefore taking complete responsibility for one's own shit is taking responsibility for humankind.

Responsibility means caring for the whole of humanity. If we don't do that, there won't be any localities left to worry about.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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