Human Supremacy

This morning I had one of those “ah ha” moments, when something changes my perspective in a way that explains things that seemed inexplicable. I don’t remember hearing the term ‘human supremacy‘ before. But as soon as I read that I understood what it is. White supremacy been part of our national conversation for years. Human supremacy extends the idea of white supremacy to the domination of everything non-human by humans.

One of the most important points umair haque makes in the article referenced below is there are no hierarchies. That is the fundamental concept of Mutual Aid. In our Mutual Aid work, we monitor ourselves to avoid any vertical hierarchy from creeping in. That’s something you have to learn and practice when you begin to work in a Mutual Aid community. We are so used to having someone in charge, someone making decisions.

When there isn’t a vertical hierarchy, by definition there can be no supremacy.

As the systems now in place break down because of environmental, economic, and political chaos, we will be forced to find different ways of living. Mutual Aid is one possibility. One that gets away from human supremacy.

One of the most insightful authors I follow is umair haque. His article today is titled “The End of Human Supremacy”.

If I say to you that we need to end white supremacy, you’ll probably agree with me, wise and gentle person that you are. But this is a job, to tell you the truth, that we should have done long, long ago. The work before us this century is much harder, and goes much further. I call it the end of human supremacy.

What I mean by that is something like: at this juncture in history, we walking apes regard ourselves as supreme. Above and beyond everything else, at the top of our own self-imagined hierarchies of life and being. We’re way better — way more powerful than a dumb little virus, aren’t we? Maybe not. And because of that very mistake — human supremacy — our civilization has plunged into the beginnings of collapse.

Because our civilization is built on this pillar, “I think therefore I am,” our economies and societies have developed in a perverted way. They don’t think — therefore they aren’t. They aren’t people — they don’t deserve the rights and protections and guarantees of personhood. They are there to be subjugated, exploited, abused.

Do you see what I mean by human supremacy a little bit now? We’re the only “people” on this planet. And therefore, only we matter. We’ve made a tiny bit of progress. Sure, women and people of color are now allowed into the ranks of “people” — sometimes. But human beings sit still atop our great hierarchies. If I ask you to examine your conception of the world, it will be a modern one, not a premodern one — unlike the ancients, you probably won’t put human beings at the bottom…you’ll put them at the top.

And that’s what we have to undo.

We don’t belong at the top of any hierarchies. There are no hierarchies and there is no top. There are webs and spirals and links between things. But a top? It doesn’t exist. Our entire civilization was brought to a halt by a tiny microbe. Still think we’re at the top? OK, then imagine this. The fish clean the rivers we drink from, the insects and worms turn the soil of our harvests, the trees give us air to breathe. Top? What top?

The End of Human Supremacy. Our Civilization is Collapsing. But Can We Change Fast Enough to Stop It? by umair haque, Eudaimonia, Oct 31, 2021

Eileen Crist knows more than a person should, more than seems healthy, about dying birds and dying watersheds. She’s keenly aware of the global crisis of biodiversity loss and ecological collapse, and she sees what’s driving it: direct causes like climate change and what she calls the “ultimate causes” — population growth, overconsumption, and technological power. But the thing that really interests Crist, the thing that she’s been studying and publicizing for the past three decades as a professor and radical environmental thinker, is an even deeper question: Why is so little being done to address this planetary emergency?

She attempts, with a mix of intellectual rigor and lyrical passion, to provide an answer in her 2019 book, Abundant Earth: Toward an Ecological Civilization. The cause of our inaction, she says, is “human supremacy,” a largely unconscious belief that Homo sapiens are the masters of creation rather than just one humble species among millions. This worldview sanctions not only factory farming, clear-cut logging, mountaintop-removal mining, and bottom-trawl fishing, but also more commonplace behaviors such as cruising along in cars that slaughter wildlife and emit carbon dioxide. As long as human supremacy prevails, Crist writes, “humanity will remain unable to muster the will to scale down and pull back the burgeoning human enterprise that is unraveling Earth’s biological wealth.”

The most important thing to expose and dissect is human supremacy. It often gets referred to by the gentler term anthropocentrism. I view it as a widely shared, unconscious worldview that tells us we are superior to the rest of nature and thus entitled to treat nonhumans and their habitats however we please. Human specialness, human aboveness, and the sanctity of the human prerogative — those are key elements, along with our seizing the power of life and death over nonhumans and our aggressive control of all geographical space.

Human Supremacy by Sara Wright, April 21, 2021. Our Great Reckoning. Eileen Crist On The Consequences Of Human Plunder by LEATH TONINO, DECEMBER 2020

Since the inception of the patriarchal culture (ca. 10000 BCE) we have become conditioned to assume that human supremacy over nature is “natural law.” But there is nothing natural about human supremacy and derivatives such as male supremacy, white supremacy, and other such ideologies of domination. 

Musings on Human Supremacy, Religious Patriarchy, and Industrial Ecology by Luis Teodoro Gutiérrez, originally published by Mother Pelican, May 3, 2021

2 thoughts on “Human Supremacy

  1. My first thought was a passage from the Bible with man being given dominion over all the animals. Vertical hierarchy is established by God. Man is above a virus. Man is above an animal. Having said this, its also true man was given a directive to tend the world that was given to him. Human Supremacy is given by God but human nature ruins that authority. What you are proposing is not possible in this world.


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