01.2024 Literature tip – The subjugation by Philipp Blom
The end of human dominion.
And the new beginning of human existence.
The current farmers’ protests in Germany show once again that climate protection is being pitted against the protection of human interests, such as the basic supply of food. And of course we know the arguments we use to promote climate-friendly agriculture and animal welfare. Nevertheless, the argument that climate protection is not human protection subtly catches on. So there is reason to explore this metaphor. Because only if we understand why the supposed opposition between nature and culture (humans as cultural beings) is so effective can we begin to give it an appropriate response. To do this, we can look to the bestselling author Philipp Blom. In “The Subjugation”, Blom has taken a look at the major shift in the paradigm of human domination over nature that has been documented for over 3500 years of culture . As a historian and philosopher based in Vienna, he takes us on a 368-page journey through history to explore the paradigm of “human domination”, which in the global North is often linked to the Bible’s Genesis 1:28 with God’s call for us to multiply and subdue the earth, not least with our way of doing business. Blom shows us that we also find this understanding in other world religions and cultures. And it brings with it mechanisms that should lead to a cleansing of those who think differently. He describes the “ethic clensing mechanism” and derives from it the great cognitive difficulties of not thinking systemic connections, climate change and nature as such in conflict with our culture as a result of new scientific findings.
The wonderful argumentative derivation that ONLY the belief or conviction in the dominance of man on earth could lead to a lasting conflict between nature and culture then somehow relieved me. As a politician, especially as Green Minister for Economic Affairs, I have been repeatedly confronted with the arguments that I would not be acting in a humane manner if nature and climate issues were prioritized. The tremendous force and the entanglement of this argument always amazed me. It shocks and leaves me completely stunned. However, Blom helps me to better understand the cultural programming of this human hubris. This is the only way we can confront it.
One aid is to remember Humboldt and his life’s work, whose task was to describe the world as a whole and to grasp his work as a cosmos. This brings us to systems thinking, systems analysis or systems management, and we can ask ourselves which system we ourselves embody? Blom succinctly summarizes that our body is also just a “symbiotic biological event horizon with an inner puppet theater” that replaces the old Adam. He thus describes how our “experiencing self” is just a body determined by billions of microorganisms with their own genetics. The question of whether our experience, our consciousness and our horizon of desire and pleasure or pain is only one aspect of the symbiosis of many thousands of species almost answers the cultural goal of the hubris of human domination. For this demands eternal life.
The realization of this impossibility has a price. The price of the radical thinking of man as a being that is inescapably entangled with the existence of all other living beings on this planet. Blom does not write that freedom is therefore perhaps only an illusion. But the question is unspoken on the table.
The description of the human image of Homo Circularis, which could provide an answer to the understanding with which we like to live, probably in the knowledge of being unfree, points us in the right direction. We would therefore like to refer to it once again: