People are now increasingly united in the view that the gross inequality of power, privilege and wealth in the world is primarily caused by monopoly ownership of natural and human resources that are ruthlessly exploited for exclusive private profit. The exploitation pushes natural and humans systems beyond their limits with resultant loss of planetary, ecosystem and human health.
I have tried to capture the new politics of solidarity needed to address this situation with the concept of ‘soliphilia’. I have defined soliphilia as: the love of and responsibility for a place, bioregion, planet and the unity of interrelated interests within it.The soli is from solidarity with meanings connected to a union of interests, purposes, or sympathies among members of a group; fellowship of responsibilities and interests. The word has its origins in the French terms for ‘interdependent’, ‘in common’ and from the Latin solidus, with meanings connected to ‘solid’ and whole.
I believe that soliphilia encompasses much of the politico-emotional feeling that ‘Occupy’ represented. We want our communities back from the brink, we want the social in society to be meaningful and we want a shared experience of decision-making and common-wealth creation. We experience soliphilia when fully engaged with the politics of people and places that we love. ‘Occupy’ gave expression to a symbiotic politics of place and our motivation to defeat the forces that cause sickness, death, extinction and unwelcome change. Soliphilia goes beyond left-right politics and provides a universal language to help achieve genuine sustainability.
However, I have realised that we do not have a word in English to cover the sense of profound sadness and distress that many of us have for the chronic devaluing and diminution of solidarity, social symbiosis and community. The social fabric of our loved communities is disappearing as a lived experience similar to that of the gradual loss our loved biophysical environments. I have created the concept of ‘solastalgia’ to explain this lived experience of distress and loss of solace about negative change to loved home environments and it has now gained considerable acceptance in our understanding of ‘psychoterratic’ or earth related emotional and psychological responses.
I now propose ‘solialgia’ as the opposite of soliphilia and it has the same etymological origins except that the algia or pain replaces the philia or love. Solialgia is defined as the distress people feel when their loved home community begins to disappear with loss of community, neighbourhood, neighbours, solidarity and common interests. When there is distress about a lived experience of; social unity falling apart, community in retreat, eviction, homelessness, social pathology, the privatisation of common wealth, the retreat of democracy ... there is solialgia.
Be warned, however, as there will be those who wish to use solialgia to justify their racism, sexism and other prejudices. We have to ‘occupy’ soliphilia and solialgia and prevent their abuse by those who actually represent their antithesis. As I have seen with the concept of solastalgia, this can be a difficult task.
The politics of place has an emotional and psychological landscape similar to that of the biophysical and I believe that soliphilia and solialgia cover two ends of an important spectrum but one that we have rarely ever spoken about ... now we can.