Sunday, 14 May 2017

Open Letter to Prince Charles

In response to his call for a Sustainability Revolution.

Dear Prince Charles

In your book, Harmony, you say the following:

“The Earth is under threat”. It cannot cope with all that we demand of it . . . If we want to hand on to our children and grandchildren a much more durable way of operating in the world, then we have to embark on what I can only describe as a ‘Sustainability Revolution’ - and with some urgency”.

I agree entirely.

Influenced - like you, I suspect - by books such as E F Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful, Meadow’s The Limits to Growth, and Herbert Gruhl’s Ein Planet wird Gepündert (We are Plundering our Planet), the whole essence of which is contained in its title, I came to this same conclusion in the early 1970s - more than 40 years ago!

Clearly, you were also an early convert to the realisation that we couldn’t carry on as we were, but needed a radical change of values and behaviour, in respect to the economy and the grossly materialistic lifestyles and lifestyle aspirations it engendered and depended on. We were placing an increasingly unsustainable drain and strain on the finite natural resources and carrying capacity of our vulnerable and already (even back then) overpopulated planet, which the very survival of our civilisation clearly depended on us putting an end to. There HAD to be a Sustainability Revolution.

I was young and naively expected those in positions of power and influence to recognise this too and take appropriate action. I was greatly encouraged by many eminent individuals, including yourself, who clearly shared my perspective and concerns.

When I eventually realised that, despite all the fine words and good intentions, the radical change of course towards a sustainable economy and ways of life wasn’t happening, and wasn’t going to happen  (on the contrary, the socio-economic order of consumer capitalism responsible in the West for our suicidal direction of travel, was emphatically endorsed by our leaders and put into “turbo mode”), I set my mind to trying to understand the cause of such madness. How could such an intelligent race as our own, capable of putting men on the Moon, be so blind and stupid when it came to the existential need to develop a sustainable global economy and ways of life?

It took a long time, but eventually I discovered what I believe to be the answer. Again, despite being older and wiser, I naively expected those in positions of authority in academia, to recognise the importance of my discovery; but again - thus far, at least - this hasn’t happened. When I’ve tried to communicate my insights and ideas to academics and others, they have not listened, or, if they have, have dismissed them, usually with distain as a form of “social Darwinism” - which I’ll come back to.

The obvious explanation for my ideas being ignored or dismissed is, of course, that they are rubbish, that I am deluding myself about their importance. After all, who am I to judge? 

Then again, who is anyone to judge?  We look to academics as authorities in understanding the human condition and situation, but as my discovery (which is indeed based on a human-evolutionary, i.e. Darwinian, perspective) reveals, it is a mistake to expect academics to have a realistic understanding of the society, state and economy they themselves, like everyone else, are utterly dependent on, and thus quite incapable of viewing objectively.

Undeterred by the lack of academic interest in my ideas, I’ve continued to develop them and explore their implications for understanding human nature and behaviour (individual, social, political and economic) which evolved, in the natural and very tribal environment as it existed for human beings long before the first states and civilisations emerged from it.

From what I know of your views, you look to “old wisdom” as your main source of inspiration in facing up to the existential challenge of achieving a Sustainability Revolution, while my inspiration is based on the relatively “new wisdom” generally associated with the name of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution. I don’t reject the “old wisdom”, where it makes good sense, but see it as part of our historical heritage, which is a mixed bag of ideas and values, which need to be assessed very critically.

The Abrahamic idea of man being a sinner, i.e. a fallen angel, for having disobeyed divine (i.e. priestly/state) authority is a very bad idea, or at least, one well past its sell-by date. I see man very differently, as an aspiring ape. We have to rise above our primitive Darwinian nature, but first we must acknowledge and develop an understanding of it, rather than making it a taboo, which a previous generation of academics did in overreaction to the Nazis having hijacked and abused, for their own evil purposes, the half-baked ideas of social Darwinism

So, what does an evolutionary, i.e. Darwinian, perspective tell us about ourselves and our situation, which academics, because of their self-interested blindness to the true nature of the state and the taboo they themselves put in place, are missing?

First of all, it tells us that the human brain must have evolved to want (subconsciously more than consciously) to maintain the environment on which it depends and has been “successful” in. Clearly, we ALL depend on the socio-economic status quo and don’t want it changing to our own personal disadvantage.

This means that everyone who is anyone in society, whose “success” within it has given them any degree of power or influence, is the least inclined to want radical change. Or if, like you, they recognise the vital need for radical change, they will, nevertheless, still be subconsciously very much inclined to envisage only the kind of changes which preserve their own privileged position within the changed socioeconomic order/environment.

This is a difficult obstacle to get around, rather like trying to jump over one’s own shadow. We have to trick our brain into recognising what it (subconsciously) doesn’t want to recognise, either ignoring or rationalising it. It is a difficult trick to pull off, not least, because we can never be sure that we have succeeded, are not just rationalising and deceiving ourselves at a deeper level. We have to remain sceptical and self-critical.

If I feel with some confidence that I have got closer than most to the truth, it is because mainstream (academic) understanding of the human condition and situation is so badly misconceived, the academic brain being no different from other human brains in respect to its inclination to rationalise the state and status quo to suit its own, personal, self-interests. 

Like their medieval predecessors and counterparts, academics are privileged clients and employees of their respective "patron state", with a massive personal self-interest (subconscious more than conscious) in rationalising and defending its role, self-image (as a "nation") and ideologies (social, political, economic and racial/formerly religious), on which the state bases its claims to moral and knowledgeable authority.

Secondly, a human-evolutionary perspective reveals how the state and the society associated with it conflate and confound very different aspects of the original tribal environment in which human nature evolved, with the so-called “nation state” now deceitfully posing as our tribe or nation (intra- and inter-tribal environment) itself, while at the same time facilitating society’s SELF-exploitation (as an extra-tribal environment, on a par with the natural environment) to the personal advantage of its ruling elites and favoured (especially wealthy and academic/formerly priestly) clients, at the expense of society at large and its long-term survival.

This is why all past civilisations were bound to a cycle of boom and bust which eventually led to their demise, as happened to ancient Greek and Roman civilisation. 

Our own civilisation is bound to the same cycle. The present, unprecedented, boom phase, will soon be followed by an equally unprecedented and likely terminal bust phase. 

Our failure to face up to the challenge of a sustainability revolution will, of course, play a major role in our civilisation’s demise. But so long as we fail to recognise the true nature of the state and its primary role of facilitating society’s self-exploitation, there is no way we can rise to this challenge.

I’m not a doom-monger, any more than you are when you warn of the dire consequences of us failing to achieve sustainability, but a realist - and an optimist. 

If we continue on our present course, we are doomed. That’s just a fact that you and I have been aware of for a long time. It is probably too late now to avoid a degree of civilisational collapse in the decades ahead, which will be terrible enough, but we could still reduce its scale, overall damage to the biosphere and bio-diversity, and greatly increase our children’s and grandchildren’s chances of survival and recovery.

However, before we can embark on the Sustainability Revolution in earnest, we have to develop a much better understanding of society and the state, along the lines I have indicated above.

As heir to the British throne, you are in a uniquely influential position to promote such an understanding and to play a leading role in the revolution that would follow from it.

The question is, are you up to it?

I’m optimistic, but at the same time realistic in respect to just how big a challenge this would be for you.

All I can do is present my ideas and hope that they resonate with you.

Best regards

Roger Hicks

P.S. I know, you receive piles of letters every week and are very unlikely to actually read this one. For this reaon, I will publish it as an open letter on my blog, where others might also read it, and who knows, perhaps someone who knows you personally will recognise its relevance and bring it to your attention.


P.P.S. A few years ago I watched live coverage of the Queen's Speech to both houses of Parliament, in which your mother read out the government’s plans for the coming legislative period.  

My overwhelming impression was of it being a ritual humiliation of the monarch, who is required to present the government’s plans as if they were her own, when everyone knows they are not.  

You will be expected to do the same in due course and, given public knowledge of your views on many issues, I shudder at the thought of you allowing yourself to be similarly humiliated, especially in view of you usually having more enlightened ideas than any British government is likely to have.

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