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What do Mass Incarceration and Climate Change have in common?

June 29, 2017

Both Mass Incarceration and Climate Change are defining issues of our time. The more I think about them the more I realize they are symptomatic of our capitalist culture/practice/system. Capitalism structures our desire in such a way that produces these problems. In order to address them you need to address the whole system. There are some things that can be done to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and mass incarceration but the problems are still symptomatic and such actions don’t address the deeper processes. It would be wrong to conclude that we shouldn’t do these small steps in order to be able to address the whole system. Neither should we despair of addressing the whole system. We need our Naomi Kleins but we also need local small scale action. It’s a both/and not an either/or. Both are hard in different ways. We need an alternative vision. The system marginalises all talk of “capitalism” as a problem. It immediately labels such talk idealistic and thus shuts it down. Possibly the best way to avoid being completely shut down is to address capitalism subversively rather than directly. Or perhaps we have to realise that there are some contexts where direct address is possible and some where it is counterproductive. Perhaps some kinds of direct approaches are wrong and others are right. Some kinds of direct address can be a form of impatience. Violence is a kind of impatience and impatience can be violent. However, patience is paradoxical. It is inextricable from the kind of impatience that is always pushing for justice. At least for the Christian the drive for change is one that has to take account of the interpersonal context and freedom and desires of others. In that sense it must be patient in its urgency. The end does not justify the means for the patient activist.

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