Jeremy Lent

Imagining a Life-Affirming Civilization

“For most people it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” This quote, attributed to Slavoj Žižek, captures what may be the greatest failing of our global collective intelligence today. Most people, even those who recognize the destructive nature of our dominant economic system, focus their attention on fixing problems within our received paradigm, but have given up on the task of imagining the possibility of something entirely different.

We’re told that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, a rat race that’s won by those who are most ruthless and competitive. The survival of the fittest. Humans are selfish individuals. All creatures are selfish—in fact, selfish genes are the driving force of evolution. Nature is just a very complex machine, and the modern world is the spectacular result of technology enabled by the market forces of capitalism.

What if every one of these statements is in fact wrong? Not just dangerous and leading our civilization on a path toward collapse, but based on faulty assumptions? What might our global society look like if, instead of being built on the foundations of exploitation, extraction, and wealth accumulation, it was constructed on life-affirming principles and ethics? What if we focused attention on our deep interconnectedness with each other and with all life on Earth?

I believe this is the great challenge that life is requiring from us in this perilous moment as we teeter ever closer to ecological and climate catastrophe. Increasingly, people are calling for an “ecological civilization”—one that is designed to create the conditions for every human being to flourish on a regenerated Earth. Let’s imagine the end of capitalism and the beginning of a new era in Earth’s history: one characterized by the mutually symbiotic flourishing of human and nonhuman nature—the Symbiocene.

Jeremy Lent: Author of the award-winning book, The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, and the new, The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find Our Place in the Universe. He is also the founder of Deep Transformation Network, a global community exploring pathways to an ecological civilization, and the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering an integrated worldview that could enable humanity to thrive sustainably on the Earth.

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