Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thesis question articulation V: Moral attentiveness

Moral attentiveness: part one
Series begins back here.
There are of course many forms of unhealthy response, the most common of which can perhaps be summed up under the headings of denial, despair and desperation.

First, the claim about societal unsustainability can be challenged in a number of ways. In dispute are the extent, causes and imminence of the various ecological crises and the political agenda of those who make such claims. The scope of the warning naturally gives rise to conservative suspicion. Narratives of societal decline or impending disaster are virtually ubiquitous in at least Western culture since the later years of the Western Roman Empire. Those who suffer most from the present social order will always be quick to critique it. And from a theological perspective, might it simply be another form of human hubris to believe that our actions are capable of effecting global alterations?

Such challenges to the account of unsustainability are important and of course need not be made in bad faith. But the unhealthy response of denial consists not in raising these questions, but in the dogged refusal to accept the possibility that decline is possible, or in the wilful ignorance of the available evidence, or in its doctrinaire reinterpretation to avoid undesirable conclusions.

A second common response to this predicament is despair, a pervading sense of dread that numbs motivation and judgement. Without hope for good things in the future, life may no longer feel worth living. The burden of this knowledge may prove too heavy to bear and so various defence mechanisms may be employed. These could include apathy, seeking distractions, or making attempts to minimise the importance of the information in order to cope.

A third unhealthy response is a frenetic activism that desperately seeks to stay alive, either personally or collectively, at whatever cost. Others may be recruited to the cause and those who will not are treated as enemies. A variety of survivalist strategies may be adopted, for either personal or communal survival, and all other concerns are subordinated to that goal.
This post is part of a series in which I am outlining my current research question. My present working title, which this series seeks to explain, is "Anxious about tomorrow": The possibility of Christian moral attentiveness in the predicament of societal unsustainability.
A. Societal unsustainability: part one; part two
B. Predicament: part one; part two
C. Moral attentiveness: part one; part two
D. Christian: part one
E. Possibility: part one
F. Summary: part one