Do Egalitarians need Spirituality?

A thoughtful review by Graham Strouts of David Holmgren’s new book, Future Scenarios appears at his website, Zone 5.

This provides an interesting angle on the predeliction of Egalitarian thinkers to foreground the need for a ‘reorientation of spiritual values’ or a ‘fundamental change of paradigm’. Note that while Holmgren himself is clear that under certain scenarios such social changes are essential, not every Egalitarian is in agreement. One of the issues with advocating a return to spirituality is the question, Which spirituality?
As Strouts puts it:

“what is the “spiritual” domain? This needs to be defined here becasue there is a vast range of possible interpretations….
There is a great danger within the environmental movement as a whole to replace the delusion of unending growth with the delusion of narcissistic spirituality, part of a wider failure to acknowledge the real gains of modernity through science.”

Ben Brangwyn, a participant in the Transition Movement in the UK, comments:

“I wonder about spirituality – I’m not sure what it means, I don’t know if I have it and I’m not sure that making it a conscious part of my day to day living will serve me (or others).”

I think this is well said, but one of the things Egalitarians tend to miss is that their Egalitarian perspectives in themselves are perceived by non-Egalitarians to amount to a form of spirituality. The ‘beliefs’, for instance, that altruism has merit, that people are basically equal, that the group is worth promoting and defending.

Of course, there is no reason to single out Egalitarianism in this respect. The other cultural biases also have their own set of ‘spiritual’ beliefs, which they themselves regard as being not so much spiritual as straightforward, rational common sense. In a sense, there’s no way of escaping ‘spiritual’ beliefs. All foundational beliefs will appear to others as based on (erroneous) faith. The faith of Fatalism that Lady Luck will smile, the faith of Individualism that things can only get better, and so on.

David Holmgren 2009 Future Scenarios: How Communities Can adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change. Chelsea Green

2 thoughts on “Do Egalitarians need Spirituality?

  1. When I was about 20 I had this discussion with a Anglo-Catholic whose spirituality I would describe as SuperNarnia. As an atheist he said I had no spirituality. I retorted, “Spirituality is … um, is– is Other People.”

    Yes, my biases are egalitarian.

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