Episode 11, Lesson 3: I Do Not Understand Anything at All about COP 26 or Climate Change

Welcome to Episode 11 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. And today we’ll examine together Part I, Lesson 3 of The Course’s Workbook for Students.

In the first part of the Workbook, we’ve been deconstructing our illusory understandings of the world. We’ve been imagining ourselves as residents in Plato’s Cave completely deceived by our culture, its educational system, by its advertising, its politicians, priests, and publicists. It’s all illusion.

In line with that insight, today’s lesson reads: “I do not understand anything I see in this room, [on this street, from this window, in this place].”

For purposes of this podcast and its concern with social justice, the lesson’s central idea might better be phrased, “As a captive in my culture’s version of Plato’s Cave, I do not understand anything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place.]”

Or: as a beneficiary of a system that is white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, and patriarchal, I understand nothing at all about the world.

The truth of this last phrasing was especially illustrated this morning on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” and its coverage of the 26th meeting of COP (Congress of Parties) on climate change. The meeting began today in Glasgow, Scotland.

Global South guests on this morning’s “Democracy Now” described it in scathing terms invisible to most of us who are even taking the trouble to notice that COP 26 is taking place. “Democracy Now’s” guests spoke of:

  • White Supremacy: They described the Glasgow gathering as “the whitest and the most privileged climate summit ever, with thousands from the Global South unable to attend because of lack of access to COVID vaccines and visa issues.”
  • Dysfunctional Capitalism: They added that the exclusion of participants from the Global South was intentional to silence their voices highly critical of specifically capitalist schemes such as carbon trading and “Net Zero Carbon Emissions” that will permit the world’s biggest “free market” polluters (mainly the United States) to continue business as usual. As a result the Paris Climate Accord goal of keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, will not only be missed, but global temperatures will reach the catastrophic level of 3 degrees above those pre-industrial measures.
  • Neo-Colonial Imperialism: The capitalist world’s business as usual includes ongoing subsidization of the fossil fuel industry and unabated plans for expanded oil drilling and pipelines across lands belonging to indigenous peoples. Unchanged business plans means that Africa’s 1.5 billion people who are responsible for about 3% of global warming will continue bear a vastly disproportionate share of climate change’s ravages. Those consequences will predictably turn the continent’s largely agrarian populations into impoverished climate refugees. The refugees will in turn be xenophobically excluded from seeking asylum in countries like our own.
  • Patriarchal Rule: Even though 60-80% of the non-industrialized world’s farmers are women, the ones making the decisions that will adversely affect their livelihoods are men like Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, and the predominantly male CEOs of fossil fuel corporations.   

In the light of all of this, Lesson 3 might well read, “I do not understand anything at all.” I don’t even know how white supremacy works because (as a white person) it works for me. I do not how capitalism works, because (as an American) it benefits me. For the same reason, I do not know how imperialism or patriarchy work.

In Plato’s Cave, I know nothing about climate change.

But guess who does know about climate change and how the world works for whites, capitalists, imperialists, and men. It’s those would-be delegates excluded from the Glasgow conference. It’s those spokespersons from the Global South who know the ins and outs of the real effects of carbon trading and “Net Zero” policies. It’s those poor women farmers made to bear the brunt of climate chaos.

It’s the poor who according to Christian faith (and Jesus’ voice in A Course in Miracles) constitute the site of God’s revelation of what’s wrong with the world and what to do about it. Indirectly, A Course in Miracles is asking us to listen to them – to the voices of the excluded who resonate with the voice of Jesus. The historical Jesus was one of them.

Think about those people from the Global South today as you repeat (almost as a mantram) the central expression of Lesson 3. As you focus randomly on whatever your eyes light upon, say “I do not understand anything I see in this room, [on this street, from this window, in this place].”

As you watch television, or read the paper say, “As a beneficiary of a system that is white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, and patriarchal, I understand nothing at all about the world.”

To access previous postings in this series on A Course in Miracles, please go to my podcast site.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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