The Technocratic Paradigm in Laudato Si and Mining in the Philippines

[Contribution to CEAP’s Webinar:  UnderMIning Lies:  the Truth About Mining in the Philippines, Wednesday, October 27, 2021.]

Good morning!  I have been asked to share some reflections on Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on “Our Common Home” (2015), especially as it may “undermine lies” about mining in the Philippines. 

In the short time we have, as my fellow speakers will take up particular cases of mining in the Visayas, Mindanao and Luzon, I wish to elaborate on a central message of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ (2015).  In this encyclical, he treats the relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of the ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate on responding to the ecological crisis, the serious responsibility for international and local policies to respond to this crisis, the throwaway culture, and the proposal of a new lifestyle. 

Central to all of these themes is what I would call a two-faced daemon, posing as a hero, but in practice a villain.  As in Greek mythology, it is a benevolent spirit, but in its benevolence it turns malevolent.  It is not itself the evil demon, but in its malicious activity it has the power to turn humans into vicious demons, despite their white-collar appearance of civility or their high-brow posture of culture, legitimacy and legality. This is the technocratic paradigm, which Francis describes as dominant in our world today – including such as the “world-class” technology being touted for such as the open-pit mine of Tampakan or the algorithms driving Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  The technocratic paradigm begins benevolently, responding to human need, but as it realizes itself in our world, it is destructive of the relationship between the human being and the earth, the human being and the human being, the human being and God.  This, for all the reasons Francis observes in Laudato Si in our world today:  as it makes the earth more fragile, it creates more poor.  In its apparent subservience to the economy, it controls the economy, making it a lackey of its purposes;  it is not a servant of humanity, and a fortiori not a servant of God.  As it is destructive of the environment, so is it destructive of bio-diversity and dismissive of the right of each individual creature to survive and thrive.  It is the human cause of all the evils that Francis sees beset our planet and our life on the planet today:  pollution and climate change, loss of fresh and potable water, loss of biodiversity, the decline of the quality if human life and the breakdown of human society, global inequality, and the reason why our responses to these evils are so weak. 

The technocratic paradigm is the reason why there is such a powerful drive to re-establish such as SMI Tampakan mines.  The drive is a daemon.  Its effect is demonic.  That is why Francis calls to counter the technocratic paradigm and replace it with a newfound respect for humanity that respects God in his creation of all for all, and understands the human being to be in fraternity with all created creatures and all created human beings.  

The daemon in the technocratic paradigm lives in the need to fulfill human need in creation.  In fulfilling human need it creates new human need, but continuing to fulfill increased human need it loses its humanity and respect for creation.  Consider how in satisfying my human need for 50 pesos, I create my need for 500, but in pursuing my need for 500, then 5000, then 5 million, I lose my humanity and respect for creation. 

The need to fulfill human needs is the need to consume.  But in better fulfilling the need to consume, when I use increasingly improved technology not only to better fulfill the need but to better create need, moving from improved manufacturing to industrial factories to computerized industrial production, to gargantuan computerized systems of computerized production systems,  to production using artificial intelligence to enhance not only production but to purposefully increase consumption,  the need is endless: the consumerism daemon and the power of technology in the ongoing cycle of increasing production and increasing human need in a fragile and battered planet are now demonic.

For this productive gargantuan exacts its toll on the environment.  The gargantuan must be fed with our fresh water, our fresh air, our agricultural products from our fields and our oceans, with the industrially-relevant products of our trees, our animals, our minerals, with the cultures and traditional sensitivities of such as the B’laans, the Monobos, the Subanen, even with the lives of people.  For as the technocratic paradigm operates, only the qualified may operate it, only those with special managerial capabilities or technical savvy can run it, discarding all who cannot, throwing away those who have not been able to keep up with the technology, those who were never trained in the technology, those who have been left behind in “useless” liberal arts, those who are uneducated and inept.  These the technocratic paradigm spits out, just as the mining process spits out its toxic waste.

Yet all the things on the planet the Creator in his benevolence has created for all, not just for humanity, and worse, not just for the powerful, the privileged, the oligarchs in humanity.  Driven by the technocratic paradigm, science and technology express the human being’s power over the things of earth, the human being’s dominion over the created things he now arrogates to himself, even while in the mind of the Creator the rainforests, rivers, the mountains and the oceans were created not only for human beings but for the family of the Creator’s creatures. 

In considering then how we might undermine the lies behind the mining industry, for Francis, and hopefully also for us all, we must gain insight into the driving lies embedded in the technocratic paradigm:  that because the human being has been called to take responsibility for the earth, he has the license to destroy it at will; that his increasingly efficient productive technology is increased power he must use to continue ravaging the earth and manipulating the consumption needs of human beings upwards lest he loses his power; that the problems generated by the technocratic paradigm can only be solved by more and better technology; that because gold is needed for electronics and memory chips in my computer and cellphone, or because copper is used for electrical wiring in machines I use, that therefore we are obligated to politically allow gold and copper mines to operate on this archipelago with their environmental costs and gargantuan risks for the Filipino people.  These are lies. 

Undermining the technocratic paradigm we need to appreciate life and creation as it is intended by the Creator for all.  We must move away from consumerism, needing to consume for the sake of consumption, needing to feed the need that captains of the technocratic paradigm feed into my psyche and my sense of well-being to make me a compulsive consumer.  We need to understand what we really need on a planet where we are but a community of human beings in communion with many creatures who also have a right to exist.  We need to learn how to use and re-use, and not to waste.  We need therefore to find the political will to re-shape our economy into a way of fulfilling human needs that truly humanize.  Part of this humanized consumption is being able to smell the flowers and to praise God for Brother Sun and Sister Moon, for Brothers mountains and rivers, and to call all women and men on this earth sisters and brothers.

This challenge is not only in saying no to mining.  It is in saying yes to a dignified and natural life for all in our common home. 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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