A Curious Case of Mistaken Identity – The Politics of Climate Change

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It is often the case that during a conversation with someone in the comments on CleanTechnica, some interesting idea gets explored which then becomes an idea for an article. Someone was commenting about the political nature of some of the articles on CleanTechnica.com. They were saying that they are a conservative, politically, but they support the fight against climate change. They were saying that making derogatory and hostile comments in articles, about President Trump or the Republican party, alienated and offended conservative people. They said that we should keep politics out of CleanTechnica.

In Climate Change, Politics Raises its Ugly Head

Anyone who has been following my writing on CleanTechnica will know that my views are somewhat socialist. I have also previously expressed the view that while certain political parties, and people within those parties, create policies which are hugely detrimental to the efforts to overcome damaging climate change, it is they who bring politics into CleanTechnica. If tomorrow they started to create policies and legislation to do everything that is necessary to support the fight against catastrophic climate change, then CleanTechnica writers and readers would be only too pleased to congratulate them and sing their praises. As it is, we are left with no option other than to point out the criminal negligence of their policies, and their moral bankruptcy as individuals. At CleanTechnica we have a duty to inform our readers, and to be truthful in all that we say. It is, therefore, necessary to make people aware of the unwholesome influence of money in our political institutions, and our societies in general. People need to be fully aware of the web of lies and deceit woven by those with vested interests in keeping things just as they are, even at the risk of destroying the planet that we all live on.

However, where that is the background to this article, it is not really its purpose. The conversation that I had opened up an acute awareness of the role of identity in the problems we are facing today. In this article I am looking to discuss the idea of identity, and how it affects our thinking and actions in life. This is especially relevant to the relationship between politics and the war against climate change.

Eastern Mystery Points The Way

A major element of Eastern mysticism is to say that all identities are false identities. Before birth, in the carefree existence within the womb, we exist, but have no name. We might be a boy or a girl, but we have no concept of being a boy or a girl. Our parents might be black or white, Christian or Hindu, socialist or conservative, English, French, German, Chinese, or American or whatever, but we do not speak any language, hold allegiance to any flag, or have any concept of religion, politics, or ethnic groupings. After birth, all of these things are added on to us, and we begin to develop the concept of an “I” that exists in space and time. The schizophrenic nature of our existence is that we are not only conscious and able to act in the world, but have a mental construct of a “self” which is conscious and which is acting, and has a continuity in time. As we learn and experience more, and add to our memories, then this mental construct of “myself” becomes further ornamented and embellished. The illusion of it seems more real.

Image – Original work by Andy Miles

The aim of Eastern mysticism is to set aside the confines of the limited self, and to exist in a single moment of time, where consciousness, and action are focused together, and exist purely without any artificial “self” existing separately from consciousness and action, as if observing from the outside. It is that small self, or ego, which experiences fear and insecurity, which has plans and hopes, but which also knows that it will come to an end in death. In the state of consciousness in which there is no self, there is no death, and no fear or anxiety, only a continuing state of consciousness, out of which arises action. Though consciousness is focused and defined into a single moment, far from being restrictive, it is an experience of being connected with the infinite, and unbounded by the restraints and limitations of the small self.

It is interesting that in all of the religions, references can be found to that ego-less state. For example, in the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of seeing action in inaction, and inaction in action. He refers to the fears of the small self interfering with the flow of action which should naturally be occurring, and, where the self is put aside, it cannot interfere, and the flow of action occurs naturally of itself. This was also a profound doctrine relating to karma, which only arises due to the small self interfering with what should occur naturally. In more modern parlance, this would be expressed as, “go with the flow, man.”

Jesus Christ expresses a similar idea when he says, “And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

That concept of having “faith” and letting go of all the hopes and fears of the small ego, and connecting with the infinite consciousness, “the holy spirit,” to allow it to flow through without interference of thought is very similar to Krishna’s teaching.

The Zen Buddhist equivalent is the concept of wu shin, meaning no mind, or no thought, referring to action arising from pure consciousness rather than the ego. In Taoism we have wu wei which means no action, though in the same sense as in wu shin, and as Krishna means it, of acting, but without the intermediary of the ego. It is interesting that in all those religions that idea is identical, pointing to the possibility of a state of mind radically different to that in which most of us operate. However, this is just more background, and not really what this article is about.

The Cloak of Identity

One does not have to have an interest in comparative religion, or spiritual practices and doctrines, to take an interest in one’s own psychology and the psychology of those around us. It is sufficient that we become aware of the unreality of this small self that we create through our thoughts, memories, and concepts. By freeing ourselves from that restricted perspective, we can expand our awareness and our thinking.

One aspect of that small self is our concept of identity. If, for yourself, you write down the phrase “I am,” and then make a list of all the things that you think should follow that, then those are all your concepts of identity. I aim to demonstrate a certain artificiality in those concepts, and to show how dangerous and destructive those concepts can be. It is my belief that we can, as people, become more rational in our behavior and our ideas, by becoming more aware of those concepts of identity, more aware of their artificiality, and so more able to separate ourselves from those concepts of identity. We need to go through a process of self-examination and re-evaluation.

The Twisted Knife

Returning to the conversation I was having with someone in the comments section below a CleanTechnica article, I can now say why all that we have discussed so far is relevant. They were saying that they are a conservative, politically, but they support the fight against climate change. Their problem is in their identity as a conservative, or as a Republican. It is not just a matter of their being an American citizen, who, having examined the policies of various parties, has decided to cast their vote for a Republican candidate. It is a matter of their having an identity as “a Republican.” It is part of their mindset, part of their psyche, that thinks “I am a Republican.” This sense of identity as “a Republican” creates an uncomfortable disparity between that identity and their belief in protecting the environment and overcoming the dangers of climate change. This is because the policies of the Republican party are clearly antagonistic to any measures limiting the consumption of fossil fuels, and they actively attempt to deny the validity of climate science. The person who has an identity as a Republican, but an interest in protecting the environment, experiences an uncomfortable cognitive dissonance, as there is no possible way of reconciling those 2 positions. Every time CleanTechnica writers produce articles rightly presenting the Republican party as enemies of all those wanting to protect the environment from disastrous climate change, it twists the knife, as it were, heightening the sense of discomfort. Hence the plea from our commentator to please stop twisting the knife and making him and fellow Republicans feel uncomfortable.

“Us” and “Them” – Dehumanizes All

However, the solution for them is to understand that the whole idea of identity is a damaging mistake. Perhaps the only positive identity we can adopt is that of being a human being. As human beings we can have love, kindness, and respect for all other human beings. If we identify as being members of the human race, it is easy to have loyalty towards humanity, and all that will allow humanity to flourish and prosper on our beautiful planet Earth. With a strong loyalty towards humanity it is easy to support everything that needs to be done to preserve all life on Earth, and to protect the environment and prevent disastrous climate change.

As soon as people begin to develop additional identities, that is where problems begin to arise. That is because those identities are group identities. The immediate effect of identifying with a particular group is to create separation between “us” who identify with the group, and “them,” whom we identify as being outside of the group. The ugly affect of “them” and “us” can be seen throughout history and in the present. Think of black and white, Israelis and Palestinians, the pure Aryan race and all of the “them” who were not so, and therefore to be persecuted and exterminated.

Those are perhaps more extreme examples. The damaging nature of these false identities is equally apparent in more trivial circumstances. For an example, reading comments below an article about cycling in the cities, I noticed many references to “cyclists.” “Cyclists go through red lights.” “Cyclists go the wrong way up one-way streets.” “Cyclists ride in the middle of the road and hold everybody up.” Do you see what is happening there? The commentators are creating a “them” and an “us” where “them” is those “cyclists,” and “us” is “motorists.” These comments were accompanied by all manner of unpleasantness and hostility. In comments, the harm is limited to unpleasantness, but out on the road, there are incidences of cyclists being deliberately subjected to very aggressive and dangerous driving by motorists using their car as a weapon.

But what if we say “People, when riding a bicycle, sometimes go through red lights”? Do you see the difference there? There is no “them” and no “us,” because we are people as well, and the only difference between us is that one person is riding a bicycle and the other is driving a car. That represents the rational reality of things, but as soon as we start to talk about these dreadful “cyclists,” we are dehumanizing people and putting them into a different category, which allows us to discriminate against them and treat them as objects of hate.

So, let us think also of “Republicans” and “Democrats,” where instead of just being political parties, these are identity groups. It is one thing to be a US citizen, who, having examined the policies of the Republican party, decides to cast a vote for their candidate. That is entirely rational. The same would go for someone voting for a Democratic candidate. They would both be people and US citizens who carefully considered the policies of the parties, and made a decision when casting their vote. It is an entirely different thing to say, “I am a Republican” or “I am a Democrat,” because that is a false identity. That is creating a them and an us, and leads to the potential for violence and hatred between groups, which is something entirely unnecessary and to be avoided.

We Are All Human, and Human is All We Are

A further problem is that people not only dehumanize those in the other group, but dehumanize themselves too. Part of being a rational human being is to be able to examine evidence and facts and arrive at rational conclusions. Once a person takes a false identity, they force themselves into that mold and take on all of the attitudes and beliefs associated with that identity. They make themselves like a member of a fanatical religion, voluntarily suspending their own power of reasoning in exchange for the security of absolute certainty and of the sense of belonging.

So this is the source of the discomfort when a person’s rational mind tells them that catastrophic climate change is something we must avoid, but they have put their rationality on hold by adopting being “a Republican” as an identity, in conflict with their own rational thought. What I would say to people is that we all need to be much more self aware. We all need to be aware of the false identities that we could fall into, so as to avoid the trap. For myself, I am a human being: I allow myself that one identity. I was born in Britain, but do not see myself as “British.” I have Anglo-Saxon racial characteristics, but do not see myself as “White.” I believe in socialist politics, but do not see myself as a “Socialist.” I practice martial arts, create visual art, and write poetry, novels, and articles, but do not see myself as a “martial artist,” a “visual artist,” or a “writer.” No, I just see myself as a person only. All of those labels are false identities which would separate me from other people, and limit my potential to grow and understand the world I live in.

I invite everyone to examine themselves, put aside these damaging false identities, and just to be people living among other people, and able to act rationally without the obstructions and divisions of restrictive false identities. Let us all just be human beings. As human beings it is easy to have loyalty for our people and our planet, and all life on Earth. Right now that loyalty demands that every man, woman, and child on planet Earth today all co-operate together to focus on the only thing that is relevant right now. That is to do everything we can to make the transition to renewable energy and energy efficiency, as soon as possible, It is to stop burning all fossil fuels, and stop all activities which put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or which make the planet less capable of absorbing them. It is to put aside all petty meaningless differences, and put all our focus and energy into that one task until it is accomplished, and our planet and our civilization are saved from destruction.

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Andy Miles

As a child, I had the unrealistic expectation that I would learn about, and understand, absolutely everything during the course of growing up. Now, at the other end of life, I am fully aware of how much I have not learnt and do not understand, and yet, I remain interested in everything. My education, starting with an arts degree and going on to postgraduate studies in everything from computer science to hypnotism reflected my broad interests. For 20 years, I worked in local government. I am now retired, living in North Leicestershire in the UK, with plenty of time for doing whatever I like. I have always had a keen interest in everything alternative, which includes renewable energy and energy efficiency and, of course, electric vehicles. So, naturally, I have taken ownership of an EV, now that they are affordable and practical forms of transport. Writing is also one of my great pleasures, so writing about EVs and environmental issues is a natural evolution for me. You can find my work on EV Obsession, and CleanTechnica, and you can also follow me on twitter.

Andy Miles has 49 posts and counting. See all posts by Andy Miles