1) Environmentalism is the oldest and maybe the only unorganized religion.
2) A “pope” is a function of an organized religion, assigned by a plutocracy to one of their members.
3) The primary papal function is to personify patriarchal authority. (Institutionalized authoritarian sexism.)
The Republican Party, for instance, is an organized religion, as is Catholicism, Islam and Judaism, etc. This article is not about differences between such sects, nor any other sects or cults, nor is it about any of their belief systems, myths and administrative organizations past and future. A few are mentioned only to help define how and why environmentalism is the only unorganized religion that has been shared over millennia by millions in a multitude of unconnected cultures–and why this should concern us now.
(Nor is this article neither a paean to environmentalism nor argument for unorganized vs. organized religions, nor is it arguing against our giving religious organizations economic advantages of tax exemption that governmental organizations enjoy even though they compete with other types of organizations for the vital resources, markets, material and intellectual property of the culture. This article is about personality in American (and potentially, global) culture and how and why our culture has become increasingly prone to massacres by a type of personality, which psychologists are calling, “pseudocommando”.
The difference between organized and unorganized religion is primarily, economic and secondarily, political. Examining this issue is important because, through it, we can reduce the violence and unless we come to terms with it, mass murders by both pseudocommandos and members of police forces are likely grow more common. The NRA slogan, “guns don’t kill, people do”, while correct, is irrelevant to the issue of gun control, however, the inability of mainstream media and leadership of religious organizations to comment on the “why” of the NRA’s statement, “people do”, is astonishing, even though killers on trial and in their writing, which police like to label, “manifestos,” explain it well enough, as have the experts that are assigned by courts of law to report on the thinking of mass murderers that were recently brought to trial. What is the connection between belief systems and mass murder?)
Proponents of democracy accept the fact that corruption makes democracy into mob rule and at the local level, plutocracies are led by undemocratic relationships. We gloss over the fact that the leadership as well as rank and file of powerful police and other important organizations are by and large unable to read a text like this one, much less make sense of it. They may be awed by intelligence, erudition and intellectual ability but they really do not understand it’s value. Even though sending their children to university, they have no knowledge of nor do they respect education. They are likely to feel uncomfortable about seeing something familiar about themselves in the personality of the pseudocommando and don’t understand it. “There but for the grace of god, go [they].” In this state of confusion, they are prey to proselytizers of religious belief systems; such as, Catholicism, Creationism, Scientology, and so on.
Above all, they can’t connect the dots between environmental stewardship, emotional health and spiritual commitment. They would consider each of these ideas separate and irrelevant. Nor are they amenable to rational explanations of why they are relevant, which is why attempts by documentarians like Gore, Moore and Burns consistently fail to reach them. They are not vulnerable to persuasion and the rigidity of the belief systems of organized religions solidifies their immunity to rationality.
Caliphs of 8th century Iberia were inclusive of all religious organizations that had a written text. The Christian conquerors, from whom modern Americans of wasp and Euro-Latin ancestry are descended, were pickier about religious texts and absolutely intolerant of those whose religions differed from the Christian text they favored. Above all, Christians didn’t comprehend nor could they abide environmentalists. Pogroms were conducted to rid the world of believers of other faiths in general but those who worshiped nature were/are regarded as sub-human, animal species that have no soul, a view that justified enslaving people in cultures with tribal social organization with relatively small populations using less sophisticated technology and rhetoric.
The first Supreme Court of the State of California (1850), which was constituted of and by white men raised in Protestant families, ruled that native people had no rights to life or property since such things were accorded to human beings by the United States Constitution and natives were by definition, not human beings. Needless to say, “frontiersmen”, who were encouraged to populate the West, continued to view natives and their descendants in this way long after the courts and legislatures amended legal decisions in response to civil rights movements after the right to vote was extended to “ordinary” citizens, women and “emancipated” slaves, etc. Currently, there are an estimated 10 to 30 million permanent residents of the United States, most of them descendants of pre-Colombian residents, who are not permitted to vote or hold office.
(Note: Since democracy in the United States was originally hypocritical and is now dysfunctional, voting isn’t of pressing interest to many in America but especially not of great importance to those who are denied the opportunity because they are not bonafide citizens. To the contrary the denial of suffrage has a psychological benefit, since the “undocumented” immigrants needn’t feel concerned nor responsible for decisions made by local, state or federal government ostensibly on their behalf or in their name and since the government is de facto owned by special interests that fund campaigns, they have less to gain from documentation and may have much to lose.)
History books and media used in public education, colleges and universities in America, although they blush about massacres and forced-march displacement of entire native communities and decimation of most of the aboriginal population due to exposure to diseases imported from Europe, to this day continue to repeat the rhetoric justifying European occupation of stolen lands, theft of water and other resources and economic exploitation of natives for slave labor, describing this as the “founding of democracy”. Thus, the prejudice is still with us–in practice. In practice, the person of native or African descent must prove their humanity even when they have declared a Christian faith. More devastating, however, is the way in which the descendants of the conquered people developed a bias against and fear of their own language, styles, genetic forms and culture.
It is salient that victims of European aggression everywhere in the world during the last five centuries were not destroyed and enslaved explicitly on account of their beliefs, however, this difference between the Euro-conqueror and the conquered was always an important and critical political justification because it allows perpetrators the comfort of empathic distance, they can kill a child as comfortably as a fish or lamb.
The prevalent spiritual beliefs of American native nations is a form of nature worship akin to environmentalism. Naturally, these people didn’t consider themselves to be environmentalists. How could they since they couldn’t conceive of any kind of belief system that didn’t recognize the supremacy of nature, which would be the polar opposite. Now, as it turns out, environmentalism is the only spiritual glue that has the potential to unite humanity in common cause simply because it is indiscriminately inclusive. We are what we eat. Human DNA is identical throughout global populations. Variations that distinguish populations from each other are not unlike variations between individuals within any coherent population group. Moreover, human DNA includes components of all other carbon life forms on the planet. Not long ago, all human cultures were parts of balanced ecosystems.
Religions that place rhetorical values higher than environmental values developed in contexts that needed to justify destruction and exploitation of forms of life, including human beings, who were defined by political sects as “others” and rhetorically, sub-human. In DNA there’s no way to distinguish a Mormon from a Toltec yet all sects: Mormon, Islam, Judaic, Christian and so on, are based on imagined differences that can be politically exploited. It is ironic that the catastrophe European civilization must now face stems from the difficulty of addressing critical environmental problems because of conflicts between perceived yet imaginary differences of cultures–we are divided, confused and stopped by inherently irrational contradictions.
As a result, we can’t trust anyone’s commitment to principles we share, we can’t even trust our own under all circumstances. Obviously, we capitulate to survive, under torture, or the torturous feeling when the mortgage payment is three month’s late or when you can’t make the rent or want a woman or man to look up to you. Mostly, the torture is in the form of anxiety because it is a constant, nagging source of discomfort. It is relieved for periods associated with receiving or using money or things that money can buy and by having what you believe money can attract, such as a symbol of “approval by peers”, like a car of the right mark or even more commonly, “avoiding disapproval by peers”. However, in America (unlike people in European nations, who enjoy an economic safety net), we are always at risk of poverty, which is an implicit denouncement for failure. To say someone is poor or without means carries the weight of disapproval of their value and importance and as it turns out, just aging connotes a similar failure. Does this capitulation define an American personality type?
So, I wondered about the heron in terms of the definitions of personality types offered by sociologists reflecting cultural approaches to the relationship of self and environment. The heron’s activities are partly directed by tradition, it appears to recognize differences between similar things based on its experience with them as we do though I’ve seen no reason to think it is self-reflective. My values, and the choices to which they lead, are also partly traditional—in music for instance. In addition, these choices are also led by needs for resolution of anxiety about money—I feel I don’t quite have enough right now.
Sociologists in the 1950s included among descriptions of common American personality types, one whose values are primarily directed by others. This was called the other-directed person, whose values would flexibly adapt to those of peers, often in response to media. They defined two other common types, which they found less typical of American subjects they studied using surveys, interviews and various personality typing questionnaires. One they call “inner-directed” or sometimes, “self-directed” or autonomous, by which they meant a person who was less flexible, self-determined values, less likely to be persuaded by media and peers and the third they called, the “tradition-directed” person valued that which was traditional in the culture in which they were raised as children.
Americans, throughout the world, are known for cupidity, which isn’t to say that cupidity is not a trait of many in England, France, Scandinavia, Russia and Mali, etc. nor that there aren’t examples of stupidity and ignorance in such places as well, but just that Americans are known for believing that they are inner-directed and for believing that they are the authors of their own desires, when they are the puppets of aspirations they learn from popular media. Moreover, despite their obvious addiction to desire-shaping media they are so used to thinking their desires are authentically their own that, even while watching a video that they rationally admit is influencing their views, they will state and feel that their choices were freely made. This is a style of cupidity that astonishes people elsewhere in the world.
So, unlike the heron, I see myself both like the heron and not. Some of my desires are shaped in genetic code, not inner directed but given by my physical nature, not unlike the heron. Some of my desires are traditional in my culture—I wear clothing in public and feel good about being seen in a good light, for instance, I have a taste for well-made equipment and feel important when driving an expensive car. Some of my desires stem from my need for approval, a Pulitzer, even in the form of a check; I am other-directed but since I am an artist first, I am compelled by inner, autonomous values as well and perhaps, less like most Americans, I am inner-directed.
Chinese people I’ve met and seen in the media appear to be generally Tradition/Other-Directed souls to an extreme I don’t find typical among Americans, not even rabid fundamentalists. Confucius understood that the big problem is sorting out the self. You can only say what a self was or what it may become because self is a dynamic experienced in the moment, it does not exist over time. Buddha noticed this. You can’t simultaneously measure mass and velocity. You may only predict a future location or describe where you were. For centuries, the Chinese system of personalities directed by tradition and others allowed the growth of a substantial population. A similar concept supported this growth in India. In both cases, environmentalists have been anathema, and still are.