How Important Are We Really? Further Reflection on Human Privilege

This blog post was precipitated by a response to an earlier post defining the concept of anthropocentrism. I am always grateful for the invitation to write more about pretty much anything!

Do you ever wonder how we humans have evolved into such a hard driven, over-scheduled, stressed out, anxious, addicted collection of souls who tend to forget that – contrary to what we might think at any given time – the world does not revolve around our particular needs, opinions, beliefs, and interests? I wonder this! And I wonder when was the last time I remembered with intention that the universe is far deeper, more complex, more mysterious, more astonishing than I can even imagine. Maybe I had this passing thought two days ago, maybe a week ago. I would like to be remembering this all the time, because it matters, the lenses through which we experience our lives!

As long as humans believe ourselves to be the most valuable life on the planet, existing outside the systems network of all life – the living web – then not only will we will continue to exploit the earth and waters (and air) for our own use, we will continue to exploit one another. Here’s why. We are an anthropocentric bunch, believing and behaving as though the world revolved around us. We are the most important. It’s not a great stretch, then, for some humans to believe and behave as though they are more important than other humans. It’s called privilege. These particular humans believe that all humans revolve around them, and that they have license to exploit the less important ones. Hence the great and growing greater imbalances of power, of wealth, education, opportunity, material possessions. Hence the continuation of systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, religious and ethnic profiling, etc.

This is precisely why I can say, with good reason, that our injustices and social ills begin with our not knowing our proper place within and intrinsic to the web of life. If we could get that straight, everything else would follow.

I’ll give you an example. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, for example, are worthy, but they name care of the environment as the second to last, as though the environment were something other than the very crucible in which justice is forged.

When I speak of justice (or true democracy) these days, I am always offering my thanks to Terry Tempest Williams who speaks of it in this way: The open space of democracy provides justice for all living things – plants, animals, rocks, and rivers, as well as human beings.

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