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Material assets and other security blankets

July 22, 2006

I’ve been poking around Taognostic and found this talk by Richard Heinberg. It’s a critique of civilisation that is comphrehensive and basic at the same time, the sort of thing you can give to your mother to explain where you’re coming from these days.OK, maybe that’s stretching it a bit but as a first up reading the uninitiated could do a lot worse.

I had always associated Richard Heinberg with the Peak Oil movement so to discover an essay with this breadth of understanding is a nice surprise, especially as he wrote it back in 1995 at a time when I still thought left wing politics could solve the world’s problems.

The most interesting part of the talk is where he compares our adult desire for material objects with the security blankets of our infancy.

The infant lives entirely in the present moment in a state of pure trust and guilelessness, deeply bonded with her mother. But as she grows, she discovers that her mother is a separate entity with her own priorities and limits. The infant’s experience of relationship changes from one of spontaneous trust to one that is suffused with need and longing. This creates a gap between Self and Other in the consciousness of the child, who tries to fill this deepening rift with transitional objects–initially, perhaps a teddy bear; later, addictions and beliefs that serve to fill the psychic gap and thus provide a sense of security. It is the powerful human need for transitional objects that drives individuals in their search for property and power, and that generates bureaucracies and technologies as people pool their efforts.

This is an idea that for some reason I’ve never heard before and interestingly ties in with something else I read on Taognostic:

When people get mad about you messing with their car, or stepping on their lawn, it’s not because they care for either, it’s because they have (dangerously) expanded (or contracted might be more accurate) their identity to cover material objects. When you step on their lawn, you’re threatening their false identity.

All the more reason to pick up your baby

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