Not My Problem

I’ve been seeing on social media a new meme, which I had already been thinking about for sometime. I found it compelling, because it is true: the virtue of solidarity is lost on Americans. Unlike a more communal society that is of the belief that we cannot truly progress while those among us languish, suffer, and die needlessly, the US is distinctly individualistic. Meaning, that we tend to define ourselves as autochthonous, springing from the forehead of Zeus into the world without any provenance, without any connection, gratitude, or debt to any place or being.

This corresponds with the illusion of the self-made man, narcissistically important and mildly solipsistic. The notion that we don’t owe anything to anyone else is a structural and cognitive defect, a deformity of memory that serially numbs out the countless macro and micro ways in which influence and soft power–not to mention privilege and positive prejudice–share the lives of the successful. Whether it’s lookism, sexism, racism, or other forms of chauvinism that benefit the verso groups of the prejudice, many benefit from the value dualism entrenched in much of American thinking, self-regard, and action. The American identity seems ineluctably driven to create enemies and suspects, like a paranoid type. While certainly the Schmittian notion of forcing unification through the straw man of a larger, more fearsome boogieman lends Machiavellian sense to the machinations of power-brokers, it is ultimately a self-immolating hyena-like strategy.

the selfmade man.jpg

Example A. The Myth of the Self-Made Man.

Currently, in US politics, the destruction of the Open Society is in full swing. Friends of mine are having their visas run out, and may have to go back to Mexico, a home they have not had in decades. Other scientist colleagues now estimate that they will leave the US after their current contracts expire, afraid of the status a European scientist in a xenophobic US may confront.

I also have many friends who are biding their time, believing that the deportations, wall-building, public services-quashing, racist policies of the current US Administration don’t affect them. They are not yet worried. Yet.

To everybody who thinks that fascism isn’t their problem, I share the story of the Protestant priest Martin Niemöller’s famous speech regarding the divisive tactics of the fascists, as he finally was taken by the Nazis:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr,
der protestieren konnte.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Here is one creative critic’s modern US take on Niemöller’s sad retrospective:



Upcoming Talk in Berkeley at Terra’s Temple

I’m excited to share my research interests with a more diverse audience February 19th at Terra’s Temple, an earth-based spirituality center and place of dedicated practice in Berkeley. This translation process of academic research into practical knowledge is precisely the work of the political philosopher, and environmental philosopher, for that matter. It is my pleasure to share a bit of a more experiential evening with fellow ardent acolytes of the earth and its ways.


Connect with local leaders

Reconnect with our love of the Earth.


Feb 19 – Yogi Hendlin, 

Environmental Philisopher 

and Research Fellow at UCSF


Every 3rd Sunday, 6-8pm

Suggested Donation: $20 (no one turned away)

Terra’s Temple, 3051 Adeline Street, Berkeley


Each month engage different local teachers to reconnect us with ourselves and our planet.

We have an abundance of wise elders, artists, activists, authors, healers, scientists, educators and spiritual leaders in the Bay Area whose work includes a connection to how we live within our beloved planet. It is the intention of Terra’s Temple to tap into all of this wisdom and share it with community members, so that we all may benefit and learn from each other. We want to continue the work of others toward building a strong community of wise and conscious citizens.



February 19, 2017


Yogi Hendlin

Environmental Philosopher and Research Fellow at UCSF




Talking with plants and animals has received a bad rap in a world where certain assumptions of a dumb, mechanical universe have themselves become superstitions. Luckily, science has finally come full-circle, now acknowledging the intricate, unexpected, and multi-channel means with which organisms communicate, both to their kin and to other species. This evening will provide a forum to explore the ways in which dogs, bees, and orchids (amongst other critters) communicate, shedding light on how we can better communicate as humans with the throbbing world around us. By honing in on the very different ways in which particular organisms communicate, we can gain a deeper appreciation of nature’s whispers. Learning new ways to listen also opens up other parts of ourselves, so we can access ways of communicating in our inner ecology overlooked in our technological age.

Yogi Hale Hendlin is an environmental philosopher and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Hendlin has published in numerous journals including Environmental Ethics, Environmental Philosophy, and Sign System Studies, and is an emerging expert in the field of biosemiotics—the interpretation of how organisms’ communication creates meaning. Currently, Hendlin is examining sustainability and politics from the more-than-human perspective in an upcoming book entitled Interspecies Politics: Valuing Difference in the Biological Polity.