#09—The deep ecology view…

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Anthropocentrism tends to see humans to be the only, or primary, holders of moral standing. It puts humans first and thus animals and the natural environment second. However, arguing for the sustainable use of natural resources and arguing for the preservation of nature can be a valid anthropocentric argument. This is because both animals and the natural environment act to improve our happiness and to sustain our existence on planet earth.

Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his book “Politics” argued that: “in nature nothing is in vain so, the inference must be that she has made all animals for the sake of man.” Indeed, the dominant view in the history of Western philosophy is one of anthropocentrism. However, the “Copernican” shift in understanding, from a geocentric to a heliocentric worldview, represented a shift away from an anthropocentric view of the universe! It follows then that one day we ‘may’ no longer see ourselves as the rulers of flora and fauna but as equals to them.

Indeed, biocentrism and ecocentrism seek to place humans on an equal level with all other living things. Environmental ethics developed as an idea in the 1960s and 1970s. Deep ecology argues that all living things are alike in having value in their own right, independent of their usefulness to others. In short, it argues that the preservation of biodiversity is an ethical goal. Interestingly, the “ethics” in environmental ethics shares the same “ethics” in (human) philosophical terms. The concepts of consequentialism and deontology are used to try and give “environmental ethics” a philosophical basis. However, neither are perfect and, in my opinion, anthropocentrism (of a certain kind) may actually be the best for treating flora and fauna with dignity.

Consequentialist ethical theories maintain that whether an action is right/wrong is determined by whether its consequences are good/bad (think “utilitarianism” and seeking the greatest balance of pleasure over pain). The problem with consequentialism is this: practices such as bull fighting, hunting foxes for sport and watching dogs fight, might be okay because such ‘cruel’ hobbies produce happiness for human beings.

Deontological ethical theories contend that whether an action is right or wrong should not consider if the consequences are good or bad but only if the action itself is good or bad. For deep ecologists who take this view, they see all living things as having the moral right to respectful treatment. This sounds fine at first, but the problem is this: it could mean that we aren’t allowed to cut down any trees or prevent any insects from passing on diseases to humans. Therefore, such views are too extreme and will not be accepted by rational human beings.

I actually think enlightened anthropocentrism can contribute to what those who believe in environmental ethics want. This is because human survival on planet earth (think of Dawkins’s “Selfish Gene”) depends on a healthy natural environment. At present, humans are the only species capable of protecting all other life forms. An enlightened form of anthropocentrism would mean (a) being vegan more often (b), shopping less (c), have fewer children and (d), urging governments to only invest in clean energy projects.

  • Ethically — killing an animal is no longer justified (for cavemen it was, but today we have nutritious vegetarian alternatives).
  • Environmentally — animal farming is no longer sustainable (rainforests are being cut down for meat production).

The only way, individuals, societies and humankind can respect and make into law the things that deep ecologists dream of is to (1), stop farming animals for meat and protect animal rights by law (this will make us healthier and feel less guilty too) (2), act to protect the range of remaining ecosystems and (3), change the way globalisation works (invent in human production processes that don’t cause pollution or deplete natural resources)

If we continue with a short-term anthropocentric mentality, there is a danger that we will focus on pleasures today (over-consumption) and let the environment suffer permanent damage. However, this would directly harm future generations of humans! An enlightened form of anthropocentrism would advocate, protecting the natural environment (many love the idea of wilderness) and protect the rights of animals (many of us get pleasure from observing David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet” and “Planet Earth” documentaries).



BBC (2019). Blue Planet II. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved, https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04tjbtx
Brennan, A & Yeuk-Sze, L. (2015). Environmental Ethics. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-environmental/
Padwe, J. (2013). Anthropocentrism. Oxford Bibliographies. Retrieved, 10.1093/obo/9780199830060-0073
Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


#08—Rights for future generations?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Human rights are said to be inalienable rights, but do we really have rights? I mean we are controlled by society and laws and regulations and these things change depending on where you are in the world and what gender you are.

Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


Compare & Contrast

I’ll be honest. I haven’t read any of the books by Jack L. Chalker, he wrote many and now he’s dead. But his genre was sci-fi and a common theme was: body swapping, being somebody else. Well, most of us fantasise about this. A little thinner, a little taller, a bit richer a bit more confident. It is common in psychology to find people who aren’t happy with who they are. So what if for a day you could be anybody? Who would you be? Let us say that this is a particularly popular wish, desire and dream nowadays. We have films like: Freaky Friday (1976) where a mum and daughter are swapped into each other’s bodies for a day to understand the issues faced by the other; Trading Places (1983) in which an upper class man and a lower class man are swapped as a sort of social experiment and, The Change-Up (2011) which is, I guess a kind of a male fantasy (I’ve seen none of them but I get the idea as I guess you do too!).

Well, in this current age most of us have Facebook, LinkedIn or a similar data gathering tool. In this era of social media obsession, what we want to be is what we post, who we are is the person in bed in a dark room thinking thoughts that we never can say out loud and can never do. There are filters on all camera apps, there’s Photoshop. It’s now possible to airbrush out what we don’t want to be and with Instagram makeup fashionistas as it is to make our noses thinner and our lips bigger. To be clear – and based on my reading of articles on psychologytoday.com – in life people who want to be somebody else lack the ability (confidence/cash) to express themselves in the way they want. Most of us I guess see aspects in others that we ourselves cannot achieve. See the food court, high heels, extended eyelashes, $1,200 dollar phones. They/we eat a salad in public, and then binge on a biryani in the bathroom. If you desire something which is impossible, you will be disappointed and frustrated each and every day. Phycologists say body swapping fantasies normally include: (1) simply wanting to be another person (2) be a different gender (3) be born to different parents (4) be born in different country (I score three from four). It’s so easy to say, “be positive” it is so easy for these Western born (male & white) Doctors and self-help gurus to say “look to the bright side.” Basically however this is true: desire what is possible and then try to achieve it because, desiring something which is impossible can only lead to sadness and disappointment. I want to say this diagnosis is designed to keep us quiet, to stop us asking “why” but honestly, wishing to be 16 again (I’m five years older) is totally pointless.

Anyway… For me, in this exercise of body swapping fantasy I’d like to experience reality not fantasy. Who exactly then would I like to be? Well, Doctor Porter of course! He is so sensitive, he has a car, he goes to the gym and he does not have any kids. The question one or two may ask is why be him? You could’ve chosen Yacoub Shaheen, or Mehmet Akif Alakurt. You could have been U.S. President Donald Trump or at least one of the astronauts on the International Space Station. The reason is this: I’m good at fantasy when confined to the compound and imprisoned in the home. Reality means being an anonymous other. I want to be a man for a day. To be, for 2,640 minutes, an ordinary normal man (there is no way I would sleep not even from one of the 158,400 seconds). Why, well to walk around the malls, visit the hotel pool and experience that. He is different. People think he is normal, but he seems not to be. My mentor Dr. Porter is so punctual and caring. No other Doctor in the Department of Philosophy’s open-plan offices, here at the University of Hussain, is always there. He is punctual and has time for old students as well as current ones. He only drinks black coffee. No girl has ever seen him eat junk food. He has a Instagram page, he’s a good horse rider, and many students follow him. His wife is Moroccan and beautiful. We all have dearly wished to be her! But no, I will be him.

Let me be clear with you my dear reader, in this life there are masculine, feminine, and in between people. This has nothing to do with sexuality. Sexuality is defined as the sexual parts that human beings are born with, and these tell us if the person is a boy or a girl (but science says 1 in 100 may be born into the wrong body, this is accepted in some cultures, in others it is not). I said I want to be a man, and I totally mean to be a real man for the whole day. In the environment that I am living in, men are everything whereas women are to be controlled and hidden. Men are allowed to do everything, and even if it is wrong, well he’s a man so he’s going to be forgiven. I am a woman and I have always been controlled. So, for one day I want to be a man. I’ll be the controller, I’ll drive my sisters (would they be my daughters now?) to the Al Ain zoo where we will take lunch and discuss how to free the imprisoned monkeys. Then we’ll go to the “Promenade” at Jumeirah beach, they’ll wear their Adidas superstars and Juicy Couture t-shirts.

That was my plan. But when I woke as Dr. Porter, the plan changed. My wife was back in Morocco (her mother was sick). In the bathroom I examined myself in the mirror, my black hair was now blonde and missing in the middle. The body was one aspect but the feeling, that was the real difference. I was about to dress for working but I decided to cancel classes, why not? I would quickly give that student who was so keen to do her homework and ask questions an A on BlackBoard (that’s me!) then go to the gym at the Intercontinental Hotel. It was a mixed gym and I was interested to know how much I could lift. I planned to run as fast as I could too. As I was about to leave the apartment I went to reach for my ‘abayah and shayla (“cloak” and “veil” in Arabic), but smiled. No need today. As I walked to the car I noticed that some women looked to the ground as I got near them, others looked at me with a kind of lust in their eyes. I wanted to visit myself, was Dr Porter in Amna’s body? I hope he didn’t have a heart attack at the shock from waking up as me. or I’d be him for ever. Part of me wished he did have a heart attack, I’d grab his/my New Zealand passport and fly first-class to Auckland.

The gym was a bit of a disappointment, it was almost empty. The only people using it were Arab and Westerner housewives (or maybe they worked only in the afternoons?). They seemed a bit bored. I noticed they looked at me. I also had to say hello because, they knew me here. One even asked me about Alia. When I spoke it was hard not to laugh. My words my thoughts but said in a man’s deep voice. I loved my accent. I kept on speaking loudly when I was in the car. The freedom was amazing. The most noticeable difference is that nobody looked at me with the eyes that said: “why aren’t you at home?” “where’s your brother?” “Who’s your father to let you come to the Mall alone?” To the mall, that is what I’ll do. I knew how to drive. The family driver had let me and my older sister drive from school to home and even I would drive a bit on the desert highway after university. But only to add to my Snapchat and Instagram accounts. I was going to drive fast. Dr. Porter had a Ford Mustang. But, no, I didn’t want him to get any radar tickets.

I drove to the capital city’s biggest Mall. Inside I walked and walked, I kept looking at ladies, they kind of looked back to me. My thoughts were mine, my body language was not. I decided to sit in a coffee shop and watch people. This is what I did as myself. But now, I did not review handbags and shoes, I was focused on how tall then men were, did they have more hair than me? Was their belly wider than their chest? I was focusing on my new gender. I was comparing myself with my gender. I felt a bit bad because Alia tried calling me many times. There was no way I could speak as him to her. She’d know I wasn’t him. But I did SMS her and I particularly focused on paying her compliments. She was shocked at first but I sent to her a selfie and then typed: I’m a changed man, I like to pretend looks aren’t important but I want to let you know you are truly beautiful, I always think it but now I’ll say it. Basically I said to her what I wanted my future husband to say to the real me. I also typed this, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” it was from the Cambridge university dictionary but we say a similar saying in Arabic.

As the sun began to set, I realised that being in a man’s body was basically not that different. Yes I had freedoms of movement (and this was truly divine). But, I was still comparing myself to others, looking at people as objects of desire, disgust or indifference. I still wanted to be better than others. Every look was a judgment of a type. What did I learn? We are, after all, humans. I considered the thesis of Joseph Conrad, in our soul we are all wildly animalistic. Never judge a book by its cover, those sweet charming students, those sincere and sensitive teachers are basically the same. Behind the cover of their smiling faces is a dark inner self. The question this gender metamorphosis did not answer was this: must it always be like this? Will humankind ever rise above our base instincts, competitive tendencies and envies?

Inspirations and/or Recommended Readings

Chalker, J. L. (1989). The Identity Matrix. Riverdale, Canada: Baen Books.

Conrad, J. (2012 [1902]). Heart of Darkness. London: Penguin.

IMDb (2011). Body Swap Movies. Retrieved from, https://www.imdb.com/list/ls000924797/

Branded Identities

Brand and Identity

An imagined community is a concept coined by Benedict Anderson to analyse nationalism.

Anderson depicts a nation as a socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.

Anderson’s book, Imagined Communities, in which he explains the concept in depth, was first published in 1983.












#03—Is truth important?

pleasurably pondering pointlessly

Truth is as important as you value it to be. But in a practical sense (e.g., the disciplines of architecture, engineering, aviation, electronics) it is of vital and critical importance.

Steed, E. (2018, 25 June). Philosophy Illustrated. The New Yorker.


Going, going gone!

[A mode of thinking is being lost*]


A baby held, read to and talked to, undergoes an initiation into a useful life; they may also undergo an initiation into happiness.


A child held in happy attention to books and stories has a good chance of loving reading as an adult. What about the [ipod, ipad, iphone] others?


* Reading a paper book [I recently read, I rergret to say, online and thus via a digital LED screen…] frustrates one’s smartphone sense of being everywhere at once. The author said that suddenly, one is stuck on that page, anchored, moored, and thus, I myself now add, left out of the loop — disenfranchised from the perpetually breaking news and contemporary viral tweets.