The biocentrist and the Bright Green Environmentalist are siblings. They compete to save their mother, but also mankind’s, from themselves. The oneiric image of ecstatic union with the mother—at her breast as a child—is a memory constantly threatened by the forgetfulness of appetites; made more and more spectral, hallucinatory by everyday spent in her possession. If we do not act today it will have been too late tomorrow: “we cannot harm any part of her without also harming ourselves“. Mother Nature relies on us! For something we, perhaps, cannot give her; our very selves. The day to day existence of everyone depends on a usurpation of Mother Earth’s bounty, how much more must the environmentalists’, whose delicate sensibility abhorring the incestuous depredations of smokestacks and bullpricks yet must thrive on the power of her resources; food, electricity, a tree mulching environmentalist discourse? Some poet, driven by the same psychism of the incestuous gardener, made the ethereal pronouncement that only men cut down trees to make paper on which they express their desire for saving them. Between the competing brothers the very mortality inscribed in the consumption of Mother Earth through human use of her resources, attested by the indigenous and the apathetic rival to the fount of her nourishment alike in the complaints about her limited nature and the need for responsible consumption, there comes to be a solipsism; an absenting from distress to grasp, if only, at the memory of her heaving clefts, mounded hillocks and delicate foliage laid out for all her sons in a prelapsarian hunter-gatherer totem meal. In the raging rectitude of their desire to protect her they half realise that their contestation is not all there is to the matter; Mother Earth is also a mother-whore to a whole indifferent world of despoilers, legions of deflowerers who rival for her incestuous predilection of necessity in their arch and environmentally hostile ways—perverts, sinners, rapists, tribals taking firewood from forests for a living after being dispossessed of their livelihood by industries. They are loathe to name the apparent, but devastating, truth available to their own, and humanity’s instinctually desirous, oral-phallic vacillation: Mother Earth is a slut. Then, our own “conscience does make cowards of us all” but, how much more does the conscience of the Others’.
Flight from these dire exigencies and drives, for and against human satisfaction—through technology, but also through ecological rape—has created an atmosphere where the underlying genital circuit of Mother-Whore Earth and a spontaneous revulsion from incestuous desire are paralleled in the sexual mores of humanity as such, and a radicalisation of these mores established on the shifting grounds of man’s relation to the environment too. In India the idea of Bharat Mata, or India Mother is held up as an ideal of feminity, fecundity, fideism to the Hindu faith. A very popular Bollywood film Mother India (1957) has been described, rather too obviously psychoanalytically, by Sumita Chakravarti—is not the stock in trade of films the peddling of oneiric imagines; as a pathway to sublimation, or regression?—:
“[The] Radha of Mother India … has already become the mother of the whole community at the beginning of the film. Heavily garlanded, with the aura of distance conferred by ‘greatness’, she is persuaded by her ‘good’ son, Ramu, to inaugurate a dam built for the mechanised irrigation of their fields. The era of technology that independence is ushering in (symbolised by shots of tractors, machines, and dams…) promises relief and a new era in village life as well. What better figure to mark the transition from the old to the new than the culture’s feminine principle incarnate?” (Srinivasan, Bina 2007).
The images of a son compelling the damming and irrigation of his mother needs scant illustration in the primeval privates of the mind. The domination of women is also the domination of Mother Earth, the archetypal woman; whether her son coercers her or seduces her he still remains culpable for desiring; is not he also her choice suitor, ordained for her express satisfaction, doesn’t Freud say so? The mutuality between symbol and signified, thought and deed, ecological conservation and the thriving of life as such is tenuous, soft, compelling and irrevocable. Mother must stop desiring all these children, these phallic consumers of goods possessed of moral depravity. If we cannot stop these cruel suitors perhaps we can defy them, become better than they and abandon this lust for the mother. But how must this be done? Castration! The Western idea of symbolic castration as impinging upon individuality wrested from the parental stead does not hold universally; Alan Roland (2011) and Sudhir Kakar (2011; 2012) propose that symbolic castration not only defuses a morbidly charged situation in the familial hierarchy of Asian subjects but also becomes an act of self-improvement with social and personal benefits, where the subject sublimates his distressing and disapproved desire with a supplement that satisfies the innate motivating principle of his desire.
The Peoples’ Park incident in San Francisco Bay area further punctuates the parapraxis involved in the articulation of ecological peace through libidinal frustration. The area divided between conservative Hippy-hating Republicans of East Bay and the pot-smoking revolutionaries of Haight-Ashbury; a plot of land used to hang out and carouse by the revolutionaries came to be espied for purpose of infrastructural development. This usurpation moved the hippies to raise picks and shovels and tractors in protestation and outrage on April 20, 1969; eventually, after many denouements of the conflict reached their climax, the establishment had decided to let the revolutionaries settle in there, which they did; growing vegetables that were picked prematurely and flowers that, DeGroot insists, were never quite pretty. Picks and shovels are obvious symbolisations of genitals and fertility come specifically to rescue the modesty of Mother Earth from hungry bullpricks of her rivalling suitors, and their promises of bacon and biscuits sold on discount. Incest consummated, or thwarted, thrives under the vigilance and goading of the mind’s primeval censors, a mysterious guilt plagues the would-be-usurpers of the parental bed. While the histrionics that were usual on Peoples’ Park came to a screeching halt the land was taken over by a playground for children, amidst moribund flowers and jaded revolutionaries who once cocked a snook at society’s disapproval of mother-love, intoxication and unalloyed sexual liberty toking to the chagrin of conservative Republicans. While the orgy-revolution had been rebuffed more discreet and socially legitimised consummations of the Peoples’ Park continued unabated. Here, a protestation wins a symbolic victory, a reinstatement and verbal nod to their phallus and yet they are castrated as they sleep; not being allowed to live their ideological dreams the hippies are effectively neutralised whether or not they can engage in casual sex at the People’s Park, or any public place for that matter.
For the anthropocentric ecological crusaders the Earth is an oyster but the biocentrist holds that oysters are as important as anthropos. Insofar as both these groups must collide in their championing of the Mother’s mound their intentions stem from the same filial desire: protect her from spoilage. But, the anthropocentrist is cognisant of the position he is in when he rescues the mother; he proceeds to claim an ordained right to possess her felicity and gratitude. They, in psychoanalytic parlance, identify with mother Earth as servitors of her secret and symbolically inexhaustible fecundity: they identify in the Earth an aspect of man that begs preservation. Identification, though a detour of the narcissistic ego, allows a greater lightness and transparency to overcome the probable consummation of the slavery which desire demands from the ego-object. The biocentrist seems to efface the self from this master-slave movement inherent to all love relationships: the lover surrendering himself to the beloved comes to fear from his own loss of self, but this loss of self allows him to be projected into the beloved such that his inexistence takes on the density of his idealisation of the beloved. This de-centring of the self is castration; the ironic consummation of idealisation begins with the castration of the lover, and by this possession without ejaculatory inevitability, “…in Masters and Johnson’s terms…”, the coitus will never be foreshadowed by an interruptus. Castration has potential to become a priapic gesture of the libido, persisting beyond its effacement. Can this priapic gesture not be read in the absurd cosmology of the biocentrist which is not propounded by any of the other indispensable and irreplaceable species but him and his rivals? The deed of castration becomes more properly priapic, or hallucinatory, when it purports to elaborate that castration alone is the guarantor of love for Mother Earth.
Indeed, the identifying anthropocentrist environmentalist dissembles when enunciating his deposition of his desire for Mother Love, but the biocentrist turns his desire inward, like a corrosive acid in mortification reminiscent of the Catholic Church. The anthropocentrist is Protestant, believing in the sufficiency of the work of his hands and divine grace, Earth’s never exhaustible bounty. At this juncture, it must be admitted that were Earth doomed then man too would be, and there would be no anthropos to centre or even any conservation discourse. The biocentrist is Catholic, requiring a beating of breasts and the small of the back in mortificatory moral paroxysms. If the environment were rescued by human extinction, as some extreme biocentrist movements like the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement hold to be the case with utmost moral urgency, who pray would the ecology be possessed by? Is it not only the human discourse of ecological conservation that envisages the restoration of ecological diversity? These styles of devotion are merely ruses of Mother Love gone incognito; “by their works shall ye know them”. Do the anthropocentrists who profess the need to conserve ecological integrity affirm their culpability in desiring to possess the produce of their love of the Earth? Yes. Are the biocentrists ready to eschew their lifestyles dependent on the products of civilisation that are rooted in the marital bed of Mother Earth and father superego? Perhaps, but it remains to be seen! And, they have not acceded that man is privileged, a superegotic despotism persists in their posturing. The former sheaths his desire in the honesty of the profligate, given to his irremediable dependance on Mother Earth’s bounty while the latter cuts off the throbbing organ of his morally repugnant desire; these styles of consummation, these appropriations of the desire and its elusive object are both awkward attempts at safe sex, as if there were such a thing.
To be Continued…
See previous part here: http://skepoet.wordpress.com/2013/02/23/psychoanalysis-and-environmentalism-part-ii/
Bachelard, Gaston. Trans. Jolas, Maria. The Poetics of Space. New York, USA: Orion Press, 1964.
Chew, Matthew, K. & Laubichler, Manfred, D. 2003. “Perceptions of Science: Natural Enemies–Metaphor or Misconception?”. Science: Essays on Science and Society. 4 July 2003: Vol. 301 no. 5629 pp. 52-53. DOI: 10.1126/science.1085274. Web. <http://www.sciencemag.org/content/301/5629/52.full>.
DeGroot, Gerard. “The Sixties Unplugged. London, UK: Pan Books, 2008.
Freud, Sigmund. Trans. Hall, Stanley, G. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York, USA: Horace Liveright, Inc., 1920.
Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, M. Tales of Love Sex and Danger: Second Edition. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Kakar, Sudhir. Book of Memories. New Delhi, India: Penguin, 2012.
Nordgren, Anders. Responsible Genetics: The Moral Responsibility of Geneticists for the Consequences of Genetic Research. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001.
Ricoeur, Paul. Trans. Savage, Denis. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited, 2008.
Roland, Alan. Journeys to Foreign Selves: Asians and Asian Americans in a Global Era. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Scholarly Editions. Issues in Mechanical Engineering: 2011 Edition. Atlanta, Georgia: Scholarly Editions, 2012.
Sheldrake, Rupert. The Greening of Science and God: The Rebirth of Nature. Cochin, India: Editions India, 2007.
Srinivasan, Bina. Negotiating Complexities: A Collection of Feminist Essays. New Delhi, India: Promila & Co. Publishers, 2007.
 “‘There’s a schism emerging between two camps within the environmental movement. On the one extreme, the dark green non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—such as Greenpeace USA and Friends of the Earth—seek radical social change to solve environmental problems, most often by confronting the corporate sector. As Alex Steffen explains it, they tend to “pull back from consumerism (sometimes even from industrialization itself)’. On the other extreme, the bright green NGOs—such as Conservation International and the Environmental Defense Fund—work within the market system, often in close collaboration with corporations, to solve environmental problems. Again, as Steffen explains: This “is a call to use innovation, design, urban revitalization and entrepreneurial zeal to transform the systems that support our lives’.” Hoffman, Andy. See, <http://erbsustainability.wordpress.com/2009/05/13/the-dark-greenbright-green-divide/>
 “The view that hunter-gatherers are not responsible for environmental degradation is mistaken. It is widely believed that they were responsible for the extinction of the woolly mammoth, large land tortoises, and possibly even neanderthals (see “Overkill Hypothesis”). It is not necessarily a peaceful way of life, it encourages tribalism and competition over resources with other humans and predatory animals”. Case. See http://howlingwaste.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/hunting-gathering/
 Golubiewski, Nancy & Cleveland, Cutler, Eds. “Perverse subsidies”. The Encyclopaedia of Earth. Web. < http://www.eoearth.org/article/Perverse_subsidies>
 Soetomo, Greg. “Ecological focus in the Archdiocese of Jakarta, Indonesia”. ECO. Web. < http://ecojesuit.com/ecological-focus-in-the-archdiocese-of-jakarta-indonesia/2360/>
 Freidman, Sharon. “Face it: All Forests are Sluts”. High Country News. Web. < http://www.hcn.org/hcn/wotr/face-it-all-forests-are-sluts>
 Shakespeare, William. “Act 3, Scene 1, p. 4; 84”. Hamlet.
 Srinivasan, Bina. “A Disciplined River: The Case of Narmada Valley and its People”. Negotiating Complexities: A Collection of Feminist Essays. New Delhi, India: Promila & Co. Publishers, 2007. p. 141- 79.
 “The nature of the symbol relationship is a comparison, but not any desired comparison. One suspects a special prerequisite for this comparison, but is unable to say what it is. Not everything to which we are able to compare an object or an occurrence occurs in the dream as its symbol; on the other hand, the dream does not symbolize anything we may choose, but only specific elements of the dream thought. There are limitations on both sides. It must be admitted that the idea of the symbol cannot be sharply delimited at all times — it mingles with the substitution, dramatization, etc., even approaches the allusion. In one series of symbols the basic comparison is apparent to the senses. On the other hand, there are other symbols which raise the question of where the similarity, the “something intermediate” of this suspected comparison is to be sought. We may discover it by more careful consideration, or it may remain hidden to us. Furthermore, it is extraordinary, if the symbol is a comparison, that this comparison is not revealed by the association, that the dreamer is not acquainted with the comparison, that he makes use of it without knowing of its existence. Indeed, the dreamer does not even care to admit the validity of this comparison when it is pointed out to him. So you see, a symbolic relationship is a comparison of a very special kind, the origin of which is not yet clearly understood by us. Perhaps later we may find references to this unknown factor”. Freud, Sigmund. Trans. Hall, Stanley, G. “Tenth Lecture. The Dream: Symbolism in the Dream”. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. New York, USA: Horace Liveright, Inc., 1920.
 See Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, Munder. Tales of Love Sex and Danger. Second Edition. New Delhi, India: Oxford University Press, 2011.
 DeGroot, Gerard. “The Sixties Unplugged. London, UK: Pan Books, 2008.
 Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, M. (2011). Also, see Ricoeur, Paul (2008).
 Kakar, Sudhir & Ross, John, M. (2011).
 Matthew 7-16. The Bible.
By Cain Pinto
TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information(1998) by Erik Davis is a level headed exploration of the collective fetishes and taboos of our technocratic agon. Let not the book’s breezy tone and tongue in cheek yet pyrotechnic proclivity for floating self-conscious portmanteaux like ‘eschatechnology’ and ‘datapocalypse’ among its serious enumerations be an impediment to the receipt of delightful, well considered and erudite insights that are packed in for good measure.
The thesis of the book is not original but is fleshed out in a highly persuasive way and is wide in its reach of resources and analytical framework: that the project of the Enlightenment, seeking to dethrone religiomystical ways of understanding the world, by the use of instrumental reason, perpetuated magical ways of thinking while occulting them into the deeper ordering, unconscious structures of technological rationality is a proposition we have been made by theorists before. All in all, the dispassionate eye of Davis is an excellent vantage for the uninitiated and a succinct recapitulation to the blasé psychonaut and acquisitive dabbler.
The profusion of cults, the rash like irruption of mass entertainment products that gather attention across the globe among diverse audiences, the giddy ecstasy of communication and the tenacious optimism of cutting edge science which rivals the mystical pull of the numinous hearken back to a tribalism that never really ceased to breathe animating pneuma into the erstwhile deus ex machina of bellow-and-cudgel positivism. This book, though several years old in a world that ages by the minute, in sync with sound bites and giga, has aged remarkably well, and I suspect it will remain relevant until man’s elusive pursuit of the apocalypse will meet its resolution by coinciding with some trite prophecy.
Davis’ work is a fine piece of writing, capable of entertaining D & D nerds and tree-hugging ecofeminists alike, while cozying up with oddball, well read history buffs and pop culture connoisseurs. It is must read for the terminally optimistic empiricists of today, as a word of caution, a grain of salt, an obsidian mirror, a quick read in fast times.
My Rating: *** ½
Davis, Erik. (2004). TechGnosis: Myth, Magic and Mysticism in the Age of Information. New York, NY: Harmony Books.