Regrettable But Necessary

rogue-primateJohn Lye of Brock University defines ideology as ‘how the dominant institutions in society work through values, conceptions of the world, and symbol systems, in order to legitimize the current order.’ Your culture, your prosthetic device, includes your ideology, a legitimization of the local, current order. (57) An exotic ideology is one that is not your original ideology nor is it local nor does it really fit in with your environment. Sometimes an ideology is widespread, yet still local. For example, ‘gatherer-hunter’ is a pre-Stone Age ideology that, although found throughout the world, develops locally and fits in with its environment. (Livingston stresses ‘gatherer-hunters’ rather than ‘hunter-gatherers’ because ‘gathering was by far the more important activity.’ Even today, those who choose gatherer-hunter ‘are integrated with their environments.’ [53])

However, sometimes an ideology is widespread through conquest, creating subservient classes and a dominant class. Hunting our own species through warfare involves ‘pseudospeciation’–seeing those of the same species as a different species. Pseudospeciation is also useful in slavery and colonialism ‘and continues, only faintly disguised, in the age of multinational mercantile imperialism’. It is important that the subservient classes see the dominant class as the saviour, as the only means of feeding them, clothing them, of keeping them alive. (56)

Sometimes an ideology is widespread because the native ideology has no immunities against exotic ideologies. Livingston proposes that exotic ideologies overrun indigenous ones much the same as invasive species overrun native flora and fauna. (56) Millennia ago, people migrated, eventually becoming indigenous, but ‘Nature was still keeping the lid on. There were simply too few people, with too limited techniques [which brings to mind the IPAT formula], for them to do grievous damage. [What about the megafauna, which he details on pages 48-51? Livingston does say that ‘the non-human world entered a period of relative calm’ and that human ‘impact may have lessened–temporarily’, but  extinct is forever, which seems  pretty grievous to me. (52-53)] [The migrants’] exoticness was gradually diluted…, but their domesticity remained.’ (57) Nowadays, can you imagine how big yet crowded Wal-Mart would be on a Saturday? Or the doughnut-and-coffee shop?

The exotic ideology rests upon a dualism of human and non-human, meaning that the ideology is not only human-centred but also that humans see themselves as separate from and superior to Nature (non-human). This ideology ‘is human imperialism in its most highly developed form. Originally a localized northern aberration, it is now world-dominant.’ (57) In achieving world-dominance, Livingston writes that ‘if Native people had to be destroyed … that would be seen as regrettable, but also as necessary.’ He notes that ‘pseudospeciation helps here. The conquest is not of people. The conquest is of animate and inanimate ”resources” ‘ to feed our ideology’s need for economic growth. (59)

This brings me to ‘development’, as in ‘resource development’ and ‘sustainable development’ (an oxymoron) and ‘ecodevelopment’ (which Livingston ‘was never able to penetrate’). (59-60) Development could mean ‘the metamorphosis of a Luna moth’ but also ‘the work of the wrecker’s ball’. (60) Our ideology’s need for economic growth has at its core the development of the non-human sphere into the human sphere, into something value-added. We believe this development to be a historical necessity. It is fuelled by ‘the deeper humanistic need for unequivocally anthropocentric purpose and meaning in the universe.’ (62-63) Back on Earth, colonialism became development: ‘in the 1950s and 1960s, the new nations all tended to adopt the same path, the same goal, and all began to lose touch with their individual origins and their indigenous ways.’ (69) Since then, the idea of development has been extended (‘to the point that the idea itself is now bereft of all meaning’) to include social equity and sustainability, but its goal remains the same: economic growth. (70)

Livingston concludes by noting that the northern (Western, Euro-American) ideology, like goats and rabbits, is now everywhere, having out-competed indigenous ideologies, but ‘saying nothing about Nature.’ (71)

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