Bill O'Reilly, Violation, and Mother Earth

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Justin Hoch [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

This Earth Day, let us recall the words of Gandhi: "What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another."

Bill O'Reilly, the recently-fired longstanding news anchor of Fox News, has provided a public example of this. Arrogance, the desire for pleasure, the will to dominate and short-term thinking are character traits that lead men to harass and force themselves on women. They are the same character traits that now drive humanity to rape the earth. Both are morally problematic and unjustifiable.

None of us are perfect and many men struggle with unrestrained sexual desire as well as climate denial. The former denigrates an individual woman, the latter exploits mother earth. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov taught that sexual desire is one of the three central human desires (the others being material desire and food desire). When unrestrained it feeds multi-billion dollar pornography and prostitution industries, and leads to sexual harassment and rape.

I use the term 'rape of the earth’ deliberately because there is something about the way that much of humanity is “using” nature today that is strikingly similar to the forceful violation of a human being who is vulnerable. Did BP and its consumers ask the Earth or its Creator for permission before drilling 35,000 feet underwater for oil in the deep sea? Did Peabody Coal and its consumers ask creation before exploiting coal by blasting open mountaintops? Did we ask the rain forests and the millions of species in them if we could slash and burn them down in order to grow graze cattle and grow crops? Have we asked the 80 billion chickens in factory farms if they agree to being animals slaves to supply people with eggs and meat?

Most likely, the answer to all these questions is no. And therefore, our taking occurs without the consent of the one from whom we are taking and is a form of rape. Yet the violation of mother Earth is in most cases unconscious, driven by a long consumer supply chain in which the consumer is generally unaware of how their consumption impacts people and the planet. To partake of consumer society is to knowingly or unknowingly violate God's creation.

The crisis of “outer reality” is actually a crisis of the inner reality. The ecological crisis is not primarily about economics, but about life-perspective orientation and the ways in which we strive to obtain our “desires”. It is less about the physical and more about the spiritual.

One of the spiritual roots of the ecological crisis , and of the sexual harassment of women, is arrogance. When men think that they can take from mother Earth or individual women, indiscriminately without asking permission, or mutual consent, rape of the earth, sexual slavery, and harassment of women can ensue. In the case of careless use of resources, arrogance can be a spiritual root. People see themselves as above the object, and choose to throw away something that breaks or that they use instead of investing time and energy to fix or clean it.

As a prominent figure in American media, O'Reilly, with his arrogant speech and behavior, has been responsible for sowing doubt and confusion about the reality of climate change. Bill O'Reilly once said, "no one can control the climate except God." Pope Francis begs to differ; in his Encyclical letter 'On Care for Our Common Home,' he quoted Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew in saying that for humans to change the climate is to sin against God. How ironic, the that on the day that he was fired O'Reilly had the opportunity to shake the Pope's hand.

NASA Goddard, Creative Commons, photosforclass.com

O'Reilly’s climate denial falls in line with FOX News’ environmental position in general. According to Media Matters, in 2015 Fox News covered climate change for a wapping total of 39 minutes. In 2016, that miniscule number dropped even lower to seven minutes. Fox News, and Bill O'Reilly, did a lot to amplify the voice of a tiny minority of scientists who are climate deniers, including some paid by the coal industry. The Atlantic points out how O'Reilly's successor, Turker Carlson, agrees with statements of climate skeptics where the "rhetoric is out of step with the latest science." But it's not just about Fox News. Ignoring of climate change is true of all mainstream U.S. media outlets. During the election season, ABC, CBS, NBC, And Fox did not address the implications of a Clinton or Trump Presidency on climate. CNN aired ads from oil, coal, and gas companies five times more than it covered climate change.

It is easy to see the faults in a public figure like O'Reilly and in mainstream media, but it may be more helpful to consider how we as individuals can become better people and tread more lightly on planet Earth. Reducing our meat consumption and airplane travel are places to start. O'Reilly's example is instructive and reveals a current state of human living. A new state of consciousness is possible for human society, based on humility, consensual and conscious relationship, long-term thinking, and moderated consumption. This Earth Day, may we birth a sustainable, thriving, and spiritually aware society to realize the prophetic vision of a new earth.

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