Contrary to the laments of some right-wing journalists, the Catholic imaginarium is doing great – though probably not in the form they would most like to talk about. The patterns of thought, speech, and deed disseminated by Catholicism and the wrongs caused by them still shape public debates and private discussions, regardless of the declared attitude towards religion of those participating in them.
This intellectual, moral, and behavioral formatting has contributed to the catastrophic exploitation of the living planet and the resistance to the necessary shift of perspective. With the reactions they generate and the wounds left behind, the Catholic imaginings have been destroying our climate – both the planetary one and the one needed to conduct a sensible debate. And they will continue to do so until we cure ourselves of them.
Free yourself from addiction, from imposed decisions, from shackles … Sounds good, right? Especially when monocultural modern civilization forces us to consume patterns, status symbols, and ambition packages, chasing what is supposed to make us happy and allow us to pursue our freedoms.
In fact, this pursuit provides only an endless hunger and prevents achieving the satisfaction of deeper needs. We must learn how to say no to these false signals, and instead invest ourselves in deeper and more lasting values and actions. Shouldn’t that be the goal we all pursue and support each other in achieving?
Unfortunately, as soon as the conversation about freeing oneself from artificial needs and fake hierarchies starts, the habitual veto is placed on the table, justified by shouting about the alleged sacrifices, self-flagellation, asceticism, penance, and so on. The religious vocabulary, which people who use it in this context probably seems extremely insightful, is, in fact, evidence of mental muddling patterns derived from the Catholic imaginarium.
This is the reasoning of addicts who have let themselves be persuaded that there is a dark abyss of grim mortification just beyond the shining edge of their menu of ways of satisfying addiction – and nothing else. But staring at that poisoned menu brings no freedom nor happiness. Only by looking up from it are we able to build a better and more lasting civilization, both on the level of an individual and a species.
Even today, in a situation when societies and economies are built on exploitationist (i.e., in fact, suicidal) foundations, one can live more in harmony with ecological (i.e. most profoundly human) values – so as to start freeing oneself from harmful patterns, the vicious circle of artificially created behaviors, and thus becoming independent from wrongly calibrated determinants.
It is worth getting to work, even if the prospects for full success are slim – and it is worth taking timely steps to put us all on the right path, instead of choosing only between consumerist Eden and the bare walls of the hermitage.
Addicts dislike the addictive system contesting itself within its own safe space – hence the calls for contestants to either hide in the hermitage or dissolve into a crowd of satisfied consumers, to be out of sight anyway. When they refuse to disappear from view, they begin to be forced into the confessional, so that they can confess their sins as soon as possible.
Whoever wants to talk about a better world is mocked as a prophet (nota bene, are any propositions and explanations not discredited as preaching?), who is expected to be flawless, and so any shortcomings in terms of virtue are labeled as so-called hypocrisy – a cardinal sin and, which in the cult of consistency can disqualify such an individual.
Any such accusation serves, in fact, defending the status quo, in which the imperfectly noble people are perfectly vile or completely indifferent, because “at least they are consistent”.
Do you have to be ritually clean to encourage others – and yourself – to clean up after yourself? The loudest Yes! are shouting those who find it convenient not to clean at all. And yet, people who break criminal institutions from the inside, oppose the mistaken people around them, or confront individuals who are just like them with the difficult truth, often fight with evil as much as with themselves. Thus, they are becoming heroes of the most interesting stories, even if their moral status seems to be doubtful at first.
In a world of ubiquitous interferences, connections, and entanglements, the necessary cultural change can only come from within, that is, from those who – like all of us in different configurations and potentialities – are both victims, perpetrators, and beneficiaries. More or less conscious reasoning in terms of sin and virtue prevents mutual learning and supporting each other, and, thus, the modification of the dynamics of social forces, the result of which is a given form of culture.
The Earth as a living planet is a complex system (some would say: being) in which the directions of interactions occur all at once, the levels intertwine, there is dynamism in static, death gives life, and the flapping of a butterfly’s wings that causes a hurricane is by no means a metaphor. The realization of all this can throw you off balance, but only from the delusional one, to help you find the real harmony.
Unfortunately, an impediment to the assimilation of these realities is Catholicism, with its heritage of aggressive dichotomies, dualisms, and polarization. Soul-body, salvation-damnation, man-the rest of creation are typical toxic Catholic divisions, but they have their extension in such apparently secular oppositions as technology-ecology, progress-backwardness, materialism-idealism, civilization-wilderness, system-individual, which hinder (and sometimes even prevent) a meaningful discussion about the range of solutions needed to at least postpone the worst consequences of a planetary crisis.
Decisions and actions that are likely to bring positive and lasting results require understanding the world as a network of interconnections with non-obvious hierarchies, unlimited feedbacks, and uncomfortable interdependencies – and not falling into grotesque simplifications. Polarizing debates based on dichotomous premises become harmful (though tempting in their apparent clarity) verbosity and airheadedness, for which we have absolutely no time.
Our culture is soaked with Catholic imaginings so much that we have stopped noticing them. They are like the air we breathe without giving it much thought, not noticing how each subsequent breath poisons us.
The visions of the world and thinking patterns outlined above are not to be blamed exclusively on Catholicism (they can also be a product of other ideologies, overlap with previously existing attitudes, attach to more universal tendencies). They are also not inevitable in Catholicism (by properly interpreting its key texts, one may try to justify different attitudes).
However, here and now, in the state of our civilization and at this particular cultural moment, it is their popular Catholic version that has prepared and fertilized the ground for denial, apathy, and confusion, which destroy our climate no less than greenhouse gases.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/jak-katolickie-imaginarium-rozwala-nam-klimat/
Translated by Olga Łabendowicz