Decentring the Human View

Rather than extending from human centred preferences on outward, what would happen if we decentred human interests and made them exactly equivalent and on the same level as all other interests, living and non-living?

In practice, we are at the centre of our own individual experiences, just as our DNA is at the centre of our evolutionary potential.

Yet, as I have shown, there are serious problems with considering ourselves as boundaried entities when a consideration of how we relate to, and even co-evolve with, other species shows that those boundaries are, at the very least, perceptual tricks of the light, edges against which we can pit our survival skills – but only if we also recognise that the boundaries themselves are somewhat illusory. This reminds me of the status of colour – an impossible phenomenon, in terms of physics, but as real and fundamental to our experience, and as essential to our own survival, as any other sensory feedback.

It’s unsettling to consider our interests as having no more inherent imporance than those of a virus, particularly when, emotionally, virii, cockroaches and other species we consider as competitors engender negative emotional reactions. Can we really achieve such a level of impartiality? Isn’t it counter to our very natures? Our very survival depends, surely, on outcompeting such monsters? How can we possibly consider them to have concerns which have the same status value as our own?

The paradox is that when we cultivate a more objective, less emotional response to microbes and other organisms around which we have, let’s face it, an evolved disgust, we can begin to observe and study without the accompanying horror, and that creates the space to understand them. With understanding comes the ability to consider their interests purely as systematically relational, and this, in turn, gives us the possibility to consider ways in which both interests may be served. This is not always going to be possible, of course. Yet the rapidly evolving HIV virus is, in a sense, an aggressive symbiote. Do I dare suggest that we might be able to see such a traditional enemy as such? Rather, for instance, than attempting to wipe out the ‘parasite’ that generates Malaria with increasingly aggressive and expensive drugs (to which the microbe, evolving faster than we can react, will always develop eventual resistance) we an think of the ecology of that lifeform, the pools that are required by mosquitos to breed: we can ensure that there are none near human settlements, we can ensure that nets to protect humans while they are sleeping are widely distributed, and most fundamentally, we can look into biological relationships between the microbe and other elements of the ecology.

Not so radical, after all, is it? Just basic common sense, instead of all out war.

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4 thoughts on “Decentring the Human View

  1. I think that we should all do this, especially our decision-makers. Despite our delusions to the contrary, we’re not the center of everything on this planet. Quite the opposite, since the world would continue to move along very well without us. Great post.

    1. Many thanks for this. The question is, is it enough to describe this view and to work personally and through relationships to bring it into existence in every part of one’s own life? Is this all we can do anyhow? Or does the shift require that we bring this to the attention of politicians and others who control the material reality within which we all subsist? And if that’s the implication, what chance is there that they will accept a view that decentres and so, disempowers them, given that the very vacuum at the heart of the insecure view is what creates a vortex which hungers for this power in the first place? This is something I’m struggling with myself (I actually think that the personal work is most important, and it is through the personal work that we empower ourselves enough, by creating enough authenticity within our own lives, to have the conviction to take the work to more and more relationships. But that’s a view shaped by my own experience and I’m always interested in other peoples’ views and experience.

      1. I’ve spent a lot of time fighting with people, writing letters, protesting, etc. in the hopes that these actions would change the things that I knew were wrong about the world around me. What I got back were angry letters from defensive politicians, eye-rolling from people who called themselves my friends, and strained (later to be estranged) familial relationships.

        The most profound changes I have made in the world, I realize now, are the ones which have been the direct result of living my own life with integrity, values, and selflessness; very much in the manner that you describe in your post. People notice these things, they ask questions, and they make changes to their own lives. It’s as easy as that. There is so much more value in actions than there are in words, probably because words lack the power to convey what we expect them to. Actions, on the other hand, are the stuff of true communication. We remember people by how they made us feel, by the things they spent their time engaged in, and not exclusively by the things they said. Yet, we worry incessantly about how we use, or misuse, our words. It’s baffling.

        To sum up, I agree with you. Perhaps I could have heeded my own advice and used fewer words. 🙂

      2. I honour your words, and your honesty. I’m listening to the most appalling story on the radio about the illegal, intensely cruel, massively desensitising, mass slaughter of old, sick, neglected, unwanted horses in Ireland for the meat industry across Europe and I can feel anger, horror and disgust rising, and a sense of futility threatening to overwhelm. But I can do nothing for all those dead horses now. What I can do is to support the few good people who are working to rescue horses, the few who are prepared to take time to document all that is happening and ensure there is a stronger reaction by the state. And I can see whether we can ourselves rescue any animals. These small actions, and the calm that comes with allowing the sensations and emotions to be one’s direct, conscious experience, without resistance, without judgment, but without becoming caught up in the urge to act on anger or frustration in the home or to become overwhelmed with the sense of futility are tiny shifts, but they change the trajectory of all interactions. Thank you for the affirmation, thank you for the life you are living, and know that I am, even after years of theory, only at the very beginning of my own active effort to shift perspective. With love, Lx

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