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Submitted by:Peachie Dioquino-Valera
Yes, I am joining the Hallmark bandwagon and writing about Love. It’s the Love month, and many may be thinking that I’ll be writing an article that is about Love for Mother Earth and so on and so forth. But since I have a predilection to burst romantic bubbles, I will have to talk about one of the perversions of self-love, which is Narcissism.
You might ask, what does this have to do with the environment? A whole great deal. It’s many people’s belief that Man’s vanity is what drove us to the state of the planet right now. I believe them too.
I will make this piece short, but sweet.
We’ve heard of the different kinds of Love: Maternal, Paternal, Companionate, Eros/Sexual, Unconditional Love, Infatuation, Empty, etc. Our love for our Moms is totally different from the love we have for chocolates; for the latter expresses pleasure towards this delectable heaven-sent food. Love can be expressed in a million ways—may it be through hugs, flowers, teddy bears, charity work, trust, letters, or any form of action that signifies caring.
But Love, no matter how pure this abstract feeling and matter can be, can go askew in a snap. The negative shades can be obsession, empty love, or extreme self-love. Don’t get me wrong, self-love is not wrong. Actually, it’s one of those topics heavily stressed in self-help books. We are remembered of famous sayings about self-love: “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” (a fave catchphrase in Ru Paul’s Drag Race show); or Ho Chi Minh’s “Love other human beings as you would love yourself.” This is one of those things though that need to be balanced, or its positive aspect only that should be acquired.
Self-love’s value and it being necessary is a given. However, if we love ourselves too much to the exclusion of others, then we risk just thinking about “me, me, me” and forget about the love for humanity and all other creatures. We stop working for the common good. We end up becoming vain, greedy, apathetic, insensitive, and selfish. This is evident when we become speciesists and think our species matter more than any other in the animal kingdom. Not even thinking for a while that every organism put on Earth has its purpose; one, balancing the eco system. It’s also evident when we think less of our trash since we believe that someone else should clean it up. Everything becomes self-centric. If it does not benefit you, then it’s not personally sustainable. Without even thinking that everything that occurs in the physical world would also penetrate our inner world.
According to the research of Juneman & Murty Magda Pane titled: “Apathy towards Environmental Issues, Narcissism, & Competitive View of the World”, the ruthless competitive jungle worldview—as opposed to the ideal cooperative harmony worldview—is highly related to narcissism. And that the N word, through the competitive jungle worldview, is a great predictor or root of environmental apathy. Our inflated self-views lead us to be concern with maximizing personal benefit than collective outcomes. There was even this data gathered that some highly competitive business-owner individuals started to extract more natural resources when they learned their fellow socio-civic concerned competitors were extracting the same amount of resources that they are. Now that’s just mind-boggling isn’t it? Instead of creating greater CSR programs that their competitors are doing they even went the other route! They really got stuck with the old-school “more is better, might is right!” view.
Man’s vanity knows no bounds. Our seeking of constant affirmation and validation of awesomeness, coupled with the wildfire nature of the internet and social media (plus overpopulation if I might say!), is depleting our planet’s bounty faster than we can say “Me or Mine!”. Status symbols and human value are equivalent to material stuff. Achievement and success means the ability to purchase expensive items and to possess more—more than what is needed. You see the rich and the famous collecting numerous expensive cars, most of it for display, without batting an eye on mining issues. You see a lot of people, from the mid to high-level income bracket, obsessing on always getting their hands on the latest cellphone model despite some of them knowing that the world’s lithium supply is drastically reduced from the supposed 300 years, to the now only 60 years remaining. And that some CP brands (even the beloved famous ones) are involved in abusive child labors in Africa or China. That people become so brand and shopping conscious that they’d rather be dead than buying from ukay-ukays, garage sales, nameless yet ethical eco clothing shops, or 2nd hand stores. Without even caring that the fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry in the world. Vanity comes in the form of studies showing men opting to buy anti-environment products just because they feel it’s feminine to buy green. Egotism is when you see rabbits or endangered foxes as anything but lavish fur coats; alligators and snakes as nothing but a hand bag or pair of obnoxiously expensive shoes; cows as milking machines and burger patties; or whales as ocean pets meant to be kept in larger-than-life aquariums. And to use the term “animal!” to insult someone? If that’s the case, then Man is “such an animal” then. Marketing or the Advertising world makes it worse. They unconsciously condition us to be this vain and program us to see this as normal. That to own 200 alligator-skin bags, to drink only bottled-water, and to keep buying gas guzzling cars is just okay.
Another vainglorious case study—Mt. Everest. No, the picture above is not a part of our Payatas garbage mound, it’s part of the once majestic Mt. Everest. Because of most people’s desire to elevate themselves by showing how they can conquer this highest mountain on Earth, they flock in droves to outclimb each other not only costing human lives, but the health of the mountain itself. Clean-up efforts prove futile due to in-demand trekking expeditions and increase in mountain guide groups who profit from this. There’s further deforestation due to construction of lodges, and mountain paths are now experiencing erosion. And of course the absence of toilets (obviously) in the mountain means trekkers just urinate or defecate on any spot. You’d think this will just be frozen in snow but sadly, due to Climate Change and melting glaciers there is now contamination in Nepal’s fresh waters.
I am not saying give up on your desires and goals and all that. What I am pointing out is that we tend to aim for shallow victories and exult too much in destructive triumphs to the point that we never see the bigger picture. We have to detect whether we’re bordering on vanity or narcissism already especially when it costs us our survival and our descendants’ ability to live on Earth after a few decades. When pro-self becomes anti-environment and anti-humanity, then we should stop and redirect a percentage of our self-love to the Agape Love, the unconditional love that breeds compassion.
I know some may feel a little bit hurt with this piece. But hey, I’d like to call it Tough Love. I believe fighting for the environment may ask from activists to develop a thick hide to enable them to say unpopular or “killjoy” things. Just think of it as a piece that can help you self-reflect and aid towards personal progression and sustainable human advancement.