Climate disasters as social entropy

Over time, the capacity of states to respond to climate disasters will diminish. The frequency and scale of those disasters will increase, eventually resulting in a situation that has already become normal in some parts of the US and the world, wherein people–living in the milieu of partial recoveries–struggle to carry on their lives in the midst of the detritus of environmental catastrophe. The long-term consequence of this, of course, will be a decrease in security, health, and well-being. These things are, I believe, inevitable. However, actions can be taken to reduce these vulnerabilities and to make local communities more resilient and self-reliant.

Fabrications of Consciousness

I saw Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, Part One yesterday. In the film, AI is the antagonist. One of the primary threats discussed throughout is the ability for conflict and chaos to be created and sustained through the manipulation of information.

This is an apt film for the times in which we live where many people’s capacity to discern what is true and false, what is a fact or an opinion, what is credible or non-credible is virtually non-existent. Ideas have consequences and erroneous ideas can have grave ones. This is especially so as we hurtle towards a future where scientific and political literacy become ever more important in order to make sense of a rapidly changing world.

AI, Human Obsolescence, and Fascism

There was a report on Marketplace yesterday that included a statement from an executive at OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT. He said that AI will help companies to improve efficiency. He added that it will also cost jobs.

From a policy standpoint, how will governments address the sudden obsolescence of workers from industries so affected? You may recall that many workers who were displaced by deindustrialization and globalization never fully recovered, to say nothing of local and regional economies.

Also, and perhaps more urgently, in an age of increasing political polarization, where politicians present themselves as proto- and neo-fascists, does not such economic dislocation serve as fertile ground for insurrectionary sentiments? While these new technologies may represent a boon for corporations, they could also produce profound instability in society as a whole.

African spirituality eschews abstraction

I came across a post on a social media site which featured a video of what appeared to be an African American woman thanking God for slavery, which supposedly saved her from being somewhere in Africa worshiping a tree. A commentator who re-shared this post indicated that he would rather worship a tree since trees are, after all, real.

His was a good commentary on the logic of African spirituality, that is that it eschews abstraction and elevates that which gives life to the status of the divine. After all, why shouldn’t humans worship the trees, the sun, the earth, and those other things upon which life depends?

Below I list a few examples of how Africans recognized nature as divine from the Akan, Igbo, and Yorùbá traditions.

DivinityAspect of natureCulture/tradition
AnyanwuSunIgbo
Asase YaaEarthAkan
AlaEarthIgbo
Ṣàngó (Changó, Shango, Xangô)LighteningYorùbá
AmadiohaLightening and thunderIgbo
Nana Adade KofiLightening and ironAkan
Ògún (Ogun, Ogum)IronYorùbá
Ọ̀ṣun (Oshun, Ochún, Oxúm)River, fertilityYorùbá

Maat or Isft

Black/African people have a deep ethical tradition that is not only ancient, but is one that has largely survived our experiences of slavery and colonialism. Despite this, there are many who wish to assert that decadence is our way, that degeneracy is the essence of who we are as a people. These people have not only unmoored themselves from history, they have accepted a falsified consciousness of who we are.

Spirituality and revolution

There is an imperative for social change that is articulated in the spiritual systems of many African cultures. The demands for honesty, righteous character, service to one’s community, frugality and restraint, reciprocity, discernment, and sacrifice are not merely matters of personal, spiritual cultivation. Nor are they born of a lack of concern for the physical world that we inhabit. These are commitments that require a parallel commitment to self-transformation and the revisioning of the world.

For instance, to be mAa xrw (true of voice) in a world awash in the currency of lies can be costly. But this is a necessary disposition if isft (wrong-doing) is to be appropriately understood and corrected. To strive towards the practice of mdw nTr (divine speech) is not only a matter of seeking to build bridges between the kmtwy (African/Black people) of the present world and the deep thought of their ancestors. mdw nTr, as a body of living practice, requires that the world be refashioned wherein alienation is not an inevitable outcome of the human condition.

There are other, innumerable examples, but I submit to you that only WE can save us, and that our culture is one of the most underutilized assets in this struggle.

Nature, humanity, and the divine

A few days ago I posted something about the implications of the desacralization of nature and the erosion of humans’ relationship with it. I was happy to see that this topic was recently addressed on the Medicine Shell. The reality is that not only was Africa historically wealthy in terms of our ancestors’ knowledge of nature, but also their ability to apply such wisdom in ways which were sustainable. The loss or suppression of this knowledge vis-á-vis enslavement, colonization, globalization, and modernization–all processes of westernization–have not only attenuated our connection to the natural world as a people, but have limited our consciousness to a paradigm of life where nature is seen only for its extractive, instrumental value–a form of relation that has and will continue to be disastrous for humanity.