A superior moral justification for selfishness: the myth of human supremacy

A superior moral justification for selfishness: the myth of human supremacy

Review: Why are we killing the planet? “The Myth of Human Supremacy” nails troubling answers

From East Village Magazine

Human supremacy, according to Derrick Jensen, is a contradiction in terms. In The Myth of Human Supremacy, Jensen’s impassioned and intelligent analysis of the myth that proclaims we humans are superior beings, posits his approach with essential questions like, superior to what and whom? and the how and the why of that?

Dedicated to Planet Earth, the book’s opening quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions sets Jensen’s platform: “Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn’t mean we deserve to conquer the universe.”

the myth of human supremacyJensen amplifies Vonnegut : “How we behave in the world is profoundly influenced by how we experience the world which is profoundly influenced by what we believe about the world. Our collective behavior is killing the planet.” Jensen’s question is “Why?”—especially if humans are the superior beings? Why would they exterminate themselves and Mother Earth?

John Kenneth Galbraith offers an answer: “The modern conservative [and, I would say, the human supremacist] is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; and that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Jensen follows with a searing array of examples of human supremacism from the absurd unquestioned beliefs that shore up culture and religion to the murdering of the oceans. His final example is human sociopathy. After quoting a description of sociopathy, Jensen concludes, “This is human supremacism.”

He begins his dissection of human supremacist mythology in earnest with Chapter 1, “The Great Chain of Being,” the Mother of all human supremacist myths, right up there with religious and historical mythologies. Or, civilization, as the supremacists call their vision of reality.

Unquestioned beliefs are the real authorities of any culture, states Jensen. “The creation of these ideologies of domination not only eases or erases the consciences of the perpetrators but makes resistance to these perpetrators seem futile.”

Myths are the stories of the people; they are not necessarily more than that. According to Jensen, religion is often the next line of defense in upholding the tenets of the “Great Chain of Being” myth. We are superior because God says we are. “Nothing to dispute here,” he replies. “Being number one makes it so much easier to rationalize exploiting everyone.” No critical thinking need apply.

Jensen turns from religious mythology to the Darwinian capitalism of our dominant economic model, based as it is on the insane notion that selfish individuals all attempting to maximally exploit each other will somehow create stable and healthy human communities.

“Why,” he asks, “don’t they use the word neighbor instead of competitor? While human supremacists are busy destroying life and asking why any being would ‘waste energy’ helping competitors, bacteria are busy helping each other gain resistance to antibiotics, helping each other to survive.”

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Environments Leiden and Boston: Brill Jensen, Derrick (2016). The Myth of Human Supremacy. Seven Stories Press. ISBN 978-1609806781.  Seigel, Michael T

Derrick Jensen

J. and Lierre Keith), PM Press, ISBN 978-1-60486-674-2 2016, The Myth of Human Supremacy Seven Stories Press (April 12, 2016), ISBN 978-1-60980-678-1

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