A quest for "the true and unique paradise"

Half of my life ago, I encountered the writings of Christopher Lasch – historian and social critic – through the pages of his book “T...



Half of my life ago, I encountered the writings of Christopher Lasch – historian and social critic – through the pages of his book “The Culture of Narcissism”. His words were hypnotic, exposing me to a worldview I knew instinctively correct, while at the same time drawing me in the company of many smarter and better educated people who, like me, found his style opaque and mental twists and turns. complexes can sometimes be as confusing as they are enlightening.

I believe that the weight of his worldview rests on a veneration for the past, which he saw as “… a political and psychological treasure from which we draw the reserves … which we need to face the crisis. ‘to come up”.

Today I reread parts of the book that Lasch wrote three years before his death, in 1994 – “The True and the Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics”. It was a ‘eureka moment’ as I now realize that my outlook on the fate of humanity is greatly influenced by the seeds that Lasch planted in my mind 40 years ago, the most striking of which is awareness. that not all change is progress.

Lasch cautions against nostalgia, while calling for an honest memory of good and evil. As there was a time when people had a stronger sense of belonging, to be proud of their ability to provide for their families and take care of their community – that was good. Lasch suggested that the good of the past rested on “… his understanding that everything has its price, its respect for limits, its skepticism of progress.” He also noted that small landowners, artisans, traders and farmers were “… more often victims of ‘improvements’ than the beneficiaries (who) are unlikely to confuse the promised land of progress with the true and only paradise” .

Which brings us to the most existential of all problems; global climate change. Lasch’s relevance to the issue of climate change is that it seems highly unlikely that people will be able to reduce the rate of global warming as much of the world continues to maintain a consumption-based economy: an economy in which more and more products and services are pumped out to sate our insatiable appetite for things we don’t need.

We have allowed ourselves to be volunteer cheerleaders for huge corporations whose primary purpose is to maximize profits for their shareholders. Whatever they make, we buy it, in awe of the new technologies that have made our lives so great. Lamenting the abandonment of the wisdom of the past, Lasch observes that “insatiable desire, once condemned as a source of frustration, unhappiness and spiritual instability, has become a powerful stimulus for economic development”.

On August 9, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nations agency, released a report of more than 3,000 pages, which concluded that “… unless it there are immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (controlling global warming) will be out of reach.

I’m not naive enough to believe that everyone will easily come to accept the science that informed the IPCC report on climate change. And that scares me. I have no solutions to come up with, but in accordance with my understanding of Lasch, I urge average people to come together to define the issues that need to be resolved.

How can we motivate each other to give up “… luxuries (we turned them) into necessities? Our survival may depend on our ability to create a hospitable post-industrial-capitalist economy. In my opinion, this means consuming less; encourage small local businesses; and ensure that the “new capitalism” will allow workers to stay in the communities they love, while still being able to earn a living wage.

As Pogo said “We have met the enemy and they are us”. It will take more than paper straws and solar panels to end global warming, but we must each do our part. The problem is, our individual efforts are like a standoff between elephants and puppies. Because we are a community, maybe we puppies can fend for ourselves. But to win, we have to convince a few elephants to come by our side.

I believe Christopher Lasch would agree that our puppy power represents another good thing of the past – a willingness to come together as members of a kind, loving and caring community. Such a state is “the true and unique paradise”.

Jim Palermo lives in Southampton.



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