I expect this post will upset many in my feed – so let me first clarify I am by no means an apologist for ISIS and abhor any act of violence. But the flood of ‘Pray for Paris’ comments and discourse on the internet is a microcosm of what currently ails our societies and has unexpectedly struck a nerve with me. First, it’s elitist. We don’t pray (or even notice) when bombs go off in Baghdad or Beirut or Bangladesh, but when an attack occurs in a white, rich, Christian country, it’s the most terrible event in the world and we are frozen with horror. There are approaching 7.4 billion hominids on this planet. Billions suffer everyday from not enough to eat or violence in their countries. Millions are displaced by military aggression (ultimately about access to fossil sunlight and other precious resources). To pray for our own comfort and convenience and ignore the suffering going on outside our bubble is such a narrow gesture it’s almost insulting.
And btw, the loss of the natural world continues apace. 90% of pellagic fishes gone. 50% of wild animals gone since Ive been alive. 40% of insects gone. These tragedies are accelerating and no one prays one whit. We are eating the earth. Who is praying about that!!!!? Despite talks about climate change etc, nobody is really campaigning for the earth yet. We’re southern belles being fanned by (fossil) slaves and saying “land sakes” as we fret about our dresses.
The basis of prayer (biblical contrition and a loving God and all that), is by definition non-elitist (or it should be). If you pray, pray that our species finds its moral compass and changes our aspirations away from novelty and profits to something of more lasting meaning. What happened in Paris was awful, and unprecedented, but can’t be all that surprising to those paying attention to the end of growth and alienation of large swaths of population. We best get ready for lots more of this as our current system not only doesn’t work for most, but can’t even continue in its present arrangement for more than a few more years. We are so tribal. The evolutionary origins of our ingroup/outgroup algorithms suggest the default response to climate change, energy depletion and the end of growth is going to be a series of big fat wars against ‘others’. It’s already begun. Pray for Paris to be sure, but with a view to the wider backdrop and a challenging future. We need society to be more ecologically literate, more tolerant of others and more awake to our time in history, from which all futures begin. Perhaps Im insensitive, but were I to pray for anything, Id pray for that. It’s not all about us, humans, alive today, in rich countries.