blog

In Thrall to Regression

July 20, 2019

By John Steppling

In Thrall to Regression

 

Gabrielle de Montmollin , photography.

 

“The rose is without why; she blossoms because she blossoms. She pays no attention to herself, does not ask if anyone sees her.”
Angelus Silesius

“I never had a memory for myself, but always for others.”
Masha Ivashintsova

“What you didn’t see, don’t say…having seen keep quiet.”
Solon (Apophthegmata)

“The capitalistic order produces modes of human relations even in their unconscious representations…”
Felix Guattari (in conversation)

 

There is a collective regression to contemporary thinking. Or maybe it is the loss of thinking itself. But overlaying this can be seen a collection of resentments and fears, of desires and identifications with power and aggression. And some of this is being played out in the climate discourse. I continue to refer to Cory Morningstar’s work (Wrong Kind of Green http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/ ) where capitalism and class hierarchies are subsumed in a broader generalized (and confused) identification with, on the surface, action against global warming but also, on another perhaps deeper level, with Capital itself. With the ruling class and with authority.

Dagmar Herzog has written several excellent books that serve to both recapture the radical roots of psychoanalysis and to trace the pernicious effects of social and political and sexual conservatism in the U.S. that neutralised the radical nature of early Freudianism. And her work in very pertinent in light of the current mass capitulation to Capitalism (and aggression particularly) in contemporary anti-thinking.

Robert Gotzfried, photography (from his series on bowling alleys in southern Germany).

“Meanwhile companies have to change their business models at least every decade to keep up with a world in which the prices are stagnant or falling and new challengers can pop up to take advantage of cheap financing.{ }Shvets said: “In a world of private sector dominance, clear (and relatively predictable) private sector signals and information gaps, there are significant trading opportunities. This is not the world we inhabit.”
Ben Moshinsky (Greenwich Time, Feb 25th, 2018, Capitalism is Dead)

The global environmental crisis, while real is also being politicized because it offers just what Moshinsky above is referring to. It is the ticket out of stagnation and a way to supplement war as the only means to destroy surplus labor and surplus capital. The point here is that climate projects offer huge benefits for investors and the leaders of western business.

And what is taking place in another register is a populace who no longer think with any degree of autonomy and who, more to the point, identify with Capital — and certainly this is true of liberals in America, but also much of the new faux left.

Richard Lloyd Lewis, photography.

One of Herzog’s best chapters in Cold War Freud is on the legacies of Nazism. And it is hugely useful to the discussions of contemporary American culture. Her observations on the sudden and unexpected popularity that greeted zoologist Konrad Lorenz’ book On Aggression (the English translation of the German title..which read literally as The So Called Evil; The Natural History of Aggression) are to the point here. The book came out in English in 1966, in German, the original, in 1963) . It is interesting that Paul Erhlich’s The Population Bomb came out in 1968, and both books became University campus standards and both were immensely popular with the general public. This marked a sharp course correction for the sixties.

“Both in the Anglo-American and in the West German context, Lorenz’s book on aggression would often be read in conjunction with two further books exploring the animal origins of human behavior published a few years later: the American playwright (and student of behavioral science) Robert Ardrey’s The Territorial Imperative (1966) and the British zoologist Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape (1967). One strand of public fascination with these texts clearly had to do with a wave of interest in biological as opposed to sociological explanations of human nature – and not least with a desire to re-secure traditional notions of gender in an era of rapidly changing social roles for men and women. However, there was something distinctively post-Nazi German about the glowing appreciation and fervor with which Lorenz’s specific contribution to the wider project of analogizing from animals to humans was embraced.”

Dagmar Herzog (Cold War Freud)

Esther Bubley, photography, U.S. High School 1945.

The idea of aggression as a force for good has its obvious appeal to a warlike Nation such as the U.S., but the more unfortunate influence that came out of Lorenz’ book (and Morris’ especially) was a simplified and simplistic blueprint for history and society. Aggression then, took its place alongside greed (Ayn Rand and The Virtue of Selfishness 1964) and, yes, selfishness as pseudo scientific theories of human behavior. And this pop faux science text of Lorenz was to establish a certain best sellers litany of hugely influential books that rationalized what were actually the deforming principles of Capitalism — and all of them can trace their logic back to racist and Christian beliefs in white supremacy. This is the reading list of eugenicists and military leaders, of political speech writers and global bureaucrats. Lorenz book can be seen as the great grandfather to Jared Diamond and David Graeber, or Malcolm Gladwell, or Pinker or Stephen Jay Gould. I even like some of the stuff Graeber has written, he can be genuinely amusing. But then I suspect Goebbels could be amusing, too.

The point is that Lorenz book was a watershed in pseudo academics. He was the first real lit phenom for non fiction. Desmond Morris was close behind. And both books carried with them a creepy whiff of eugenics and Nazism. You can draw a straight line from Konrad Lorenz to TED talks.

István Sándorfi

Herzog quotes Max Horkheimer (from Lessons of Fascism)…“it is no longer the son’s fear of the father that is the typical psychological fact but the father’s secret fear of the son.” This comment came in the context of re-thinking the centrality of Freud’s Oedipus conflict.Herzog later quotes psychoanalyst Paul Parin“Psychoanalysis is not possible without an attack on the status quo; the critique of society is intrinsic to it.” (Psyche 1990) Parin in another essay noted that the story of the history of psychoanalysis is also the story of its deterioration. The radical thrust of the original Vienna circle around Freud (Otto Fenichel in particular) has very consciously been erased.And I will note, in semi anecdotal fashion, that while Horkheimer was right, and many post Freudian agree, there are two statistics regarding fathers …well three actually….that I find fascinating. I wrote a boxing show for HBO (never produced) and during my research I visited a lot of fight clubs and went to a lot of fights. The Nevada medical examiner was next me front row at a Vegas fight and recently a fighter had died in England. I forget who. But the Doc told me…there have been thirteen ring deaths in Nevada since they began keeping records. And in each case the fighter who died was managed by his father, who in each case was his cornerman. Second …a highly disproportionate number of convicted killers in American prisons are “juniors” (meaning they are named after their father). And third, Richard Rhodes (The Making of the Atomic Bomb) noted that among the scientists at Berkeley, recruited for the Manhatten Project, a disproportionate number were fatherless.

Arcangelo Ianelli

Rhodes also wrote…“found that scientists think about problems in much the same way artists do. Scientists and artists proved less similar in personality than in cognition, but both groups were similarly different from businessmen.” But then this was still mid century. And on through the early years of NASA, science was still different. And to notice this difference is important, I think.

And there is a kind of triangulation, or Euclidean graph of some sort embedded in 20th century thinking and its relationship to violence and aggression. From Nazi death camps to Hiroshima to Korea to Vietnam, and then later the U.S. anti communist violence in Central America and U.S./NATO aggressions across the Arab world. And as Capital imploded — culminating, in a fashion, in 2008, the ruling elite of international finance were rethinking their earlier strategies. And throughout this short 21st century the role of screen dominated life in the West looms. All of these points could be catalogued in sub groupings; stuff like the fall of the USSR, the dismantling of Yugoslavia (which was, of course, a U.S. and NATO crime) and the escalating recolonizing of Africa. Across this is a populace viewed as mostly disposable. And a populace, and this means the shrinking deracinated bourgeosie, too, that are in flight from reality. The climate crises (imagine scare quotes) has come to the rescue as an emotional and psychological refuge. Advertised as the place of “too late” — an impossible mental country that is built on institutional science. On the IDEA of credibility that white institutional science carries with it. A myth that arose in its current incarnation after WW2.

Ryann Ford, photography (Clines Corners, NM).

Now, this is to be seen quite separately from the real issues of global warming and more acutely, pollution and over fishing and big agriculture etc. No, this is a land where science, a kind of carefully constructed narrative about greenhouse gases and melting ice caps and thawing permafrost. In fact the issues are nearly infinite. And they are there, as both a kind of mental escape story and as a means to obscure the real dangers and problems — most of which have been around for forty, fifty, or eighty years.The belief in science is not irrational. But there is a constructed picture of second science (per Adorno’s second nature) that one sees most obviously in Hollywood film and TV. Medical shows in which doctors seem to know all specialties and every diagnostic theory ever written, and from memory. Espionage where technology surveils remote Hotels in Burundi or Genoa, where facial recognition works flawlessly and in nano-seconds. Science, technology, and a belief in an idealized future converge in a fantasy that has supplanted reality. In social media one frequently reads angry debates between non scientists who regurgitate statistics and data as if they were themselves graduates of MIT. None of them are but they are deeply invested emotionally in this slowly coalescing narrative of ‘end times’.

So prolonged and ubiquitous are these entertainments that they have come to feel real. And certainly are emotionally real to a majority of people in the West. It is a strategy (of government) that works at chipping away the confidence of the population, the citizenry, to limit hope and optimism, but just not completely.

Ahmad Zakii Anwar

“Ends are ‘deployed.’ This is particularly evident in the popular press, where apocalyptic scenarios are used as a commonplace trope. The end – even if it refers to the last day of a department store sale – is a kind of publicity stunt, an effective means of emotionally intensifying an issue to push special aims and interests. To proclaim an apocalyptic, catastrophic end is to invoke a ‘shock horror’ calamity that will somehow overwhelm and foreclose aspects of our future. In other words, endings are political. They are phenomena of popular discourse and powerful interests.”
Paul Corcoran (Awaiting Apocalypse)

I wrote before about Zombie films and post apocalyptic Hollywood product — both TV and film. The salient point about both these overlapping genres is that they are reconstruction narratives.

“When habitations have been destroyed, people will spontaneously move toward major or safe buildings, such as churches, schools, and hospitals. They will seek one another, forming small groups, of family, friends, or even strangers. These groups are often only temporary but may bring intense involvement. Group identification contributes to the ‘honeymoon’ euphoria and ‘therapeutic community’ effects of this post disaster period.”
Paul Corcoran (ibid)

Ivo Saliger (favorite Nazi Party painter).

The appeal of things being “too late” or “we are doomed” is that it grants one the space to relax. You don’t have your kids tuition for next year? No problem, we are all going to be dying of thirst and eating corpses. Now that may be superficial, but it is also in a simple sense true. The long arc of erosion in western bourgeois entitlements is not hard to track. After 2008 I think the state gave up trying to convince people, any people, about an American Dream. Picket fence houses cost millions of dollars and tens of thousands sit empty across the U.S. Permission to give up is, obviously, attractive psychologically for many on the left. And I continue to see this in communists I know, socialists of all stripes, or and so called progressive liberals. But the white American liberal is entrenched in a belief in the status quo. He still wants to save it, because his real estate office is just now showing a profit, or his new line of men’s underwear is breaking even and he hopes the summer line of speedos can get him out into the black. Or the new personal trainer service has finally got some B list clients. He has submitted to the narrative but aligns with the capitalist solutions.

Frenchman Flat, Nevada, April 1955. Observers for 22 ton kiloton nuclear detonation.

The superficial nihilism of climate warnings is beginning to resemble tabloid stories about Area 51 or the like. A genuine and sincere concern is automatically trivialized. And perhaps surprisingly these trivializations also carry embedded within them qualities of antisemitism and Orientalism. For all reflex dissent is directed toward fascist identification. And this in turn might profitably been viewed in terms of the growing fascist symbology and image increasingly employed in mainstream marketing. There are curious overlaps in all this, I think. Michael Barkun wrote his book A Culture of Conspiracy, about how UFO and alien conspiracies often employ antisemitic tropes.

“Although belief in a New World Order conspiracy assumes the existence of a master plot responsible for many aspects of the world’s evil, conspiracists differ in the arrangement of the conspiratorial hierarchy { }… such superconspiracies tend to be structured in the form of plots nested within plots, each layer more evil,powerful,and inclusive than those beneath. Hence the architects of conspiracy scenarios are free to place Jews at any of a number of points in the hierarchy—at the pinnacle, in a subordinate position, or as victims completely outside the domain of evil. { } Anti-Semitism appears in several forms. Sometimes traditional antiJewish stereotypes are projected onto a world of alien races, so that some extraterrestrials function as surrogate Jews; that is, they receive the physical and behavioral characteristics imputed to Jews in traditional anti-Semitism. This refracted racism can occur even in writers who view Jews themselves as innocent victims.”

There are echoes of Orientalist racism in the UFO abductee narratives. Aliens replace Native American tribes and the frontier is no longer the Western U.S. but some fantasy space locale or hollow earth or whatever. The narrative architecture remains the same.

Candido Portinari

And the need for sexual decontamination remains. Genuine environmental problems, and they are enormous, are re-directed toward that which is click bait and titillating, or, which pander to the new dream of end times. The current rise of fascist sensibility and values is reflected in not just the racism and Islamaphobia that is present in mainstream media (more on that below) but in the curious relationship between a new Puritanism and an embrace of the pornographic.

“Das Schwarze Korps, in short, expressly disavowed exactly the activities in which it was engaged. It did just that which it said it was not doing. Incitement and disavowal were inseparable. { } What is clear is that Der Sturmer’s recurrent detailed descriptions of sexual outrages gave readers crucial moral permission to hate without guilt (since Jews were continually described as aggressing on Germans) even as the ubiquitous declaration that Nazism was battling filth provided a ready excuse to display naked women and keep people’s attention fixed on sex. This manipulation of the discourses of sexual morality was particularly evident at those moments when the regime managed to have things both ways at once: to present itself as the guardian of good taste and pristine morals and to titillate and pander to the pleasures of looking.”
Dagmar Herzog (Sex After Fascism)

Western society today has it both ways all the time. An endless concern for “triggers” at University level courses (truly astounding) and the 24/7 stream of erotic titillation. Nearly every single advertisement is at some level selling the product with sex. At the same time, literally, bad words {sic} are censored out of television. Much of this overlaps with a new (relatively) war on children. Children in the West are quickly (at least poor kids) returning to the state of the early industrial revolution in England.

Moataz Nasr

Now, it is interesting to examine how national identities are fashioned by class elitism, but how they also take on their own curious life and mythology. How in a superficial sort of way the scapegoating mechanism is provided by Nationalistic pride and patriotism. Mexico is the shadow land to the white U.S.A. Austria serves in a way as Germany’s inferior little cousin, Paraguay is Brazil’s Mexico, and Poland is both red headed step child to Germany AND Russia and more recently the Czech Republic. But even Poland has a Mexico in Ukraine. None of these examples are parallel and if you take England and Ireland you see the lack of parallelism. And yet, the very idea of a nation, the very ur-logic of statehood, of citizenship, is entwined with a need for inferiors to abuse and ridicule. The reality is, of course, that Paraguay is among the happiest and most congenial of countries on earth, and Mexico, notwithstanding the abuses suffered at the hands of its northern neighbors, remains a culturally advanced country with a long history of great architects and painters. The stereotyping of nationalism is intwined with resentment and projection. What one individually cannot accomplish is projected toward the inferior other (nation).

Adolf Wissel (Among Hitler’s favorite painters).

The new fascism is also playing upon a kind of incorporation of kitsch multiculturalism and identity politics. One of the characteristics of the realist art loved by Hitler and the Nazis is the blankness of the expressions. The entire representation of the human resembled autism. (see, again, The Skin Ego by Didier Anzieu). There is both a volkish teutonic idealised Aryan form, but one that is without personality. Nobody in Nazi art is ever really *looking* at anything — or rather no women are, and only a few men. That quality has resurfaced in contemporary marketing. And in Hollywood. As a footnote to the approved art of the Nazi Party, one gets the sense that when Heidegger wrote so endlessly about those humble leather shoes of the humble farmer or woodsman, he was writing about the shoes he saw in all those paintings of Wissel and Sepp Hilz, not any shoes he ever saw anywhere in rural Germany. They always did give off a slight oder of kitsch.

The role of power and authority is masked by concentrated capital. And increasingly the modern institution is even more impersonal than ever before. In fact often one cannot reach a single human being that works in any capacity for big institutions.

“In an age in which capitalism is apparently consolidating its global dominance..the concept of reification has largely been replaced in social theory by concepts such as ‘globalization’ and ‘reflexive modernization’- ideas which carry all the trappings thatLukács associates with bourgeois thought: inevitability and inexorability. “
Timothy Bewes (Reification, Anxiety of Late Capitalism)

Bo Bartlett

Lukács is very pertinent to this moment of Capital’s opportunistic cooption of environmentalism.

“Reflexive modernization thus, in a certain sense, presents the reconciliation of subject and object sought by Lukács, but in reverse; rather than the proletariat awakening to its objective historical role, uniting political subjectivity and objective history in the moment of revolution, reflexive modernization accredits the objective world with autonomy and agency -‘subjectivity’. “
Timothy Bewes (ibid)

This is a little like the thrust of much of the new extinction discourse, which samples freely from new age rhetoric. The earth is now personalized. Not just made subjective or metaphorical (though it are often both of those) but customized and individually tailored. One chooses the earth one wants and needs.

“We have already described the characteristic features of this situation several times: man in capitalist society confronts a reality ‘made’ by himself (as a class) which appears to him to be a natural phenomenon alien to himself; he is wholly at the mercy of its ‘laws’, his activity is confined to the exploitation of the inexorable fulfilment of certain individual laws for his own (egoistic) interests. But even while ‘acting’ he remains, in the nature of the case, the object and not the subject of events. The field of his activity thus becomes wholly internalised: it consists on the one hand of the awareness of the laws which he uses and, on the other, of his awareness of his inner reactions to the course taken by events.
This situation generates very important and unavoidable problem-complexes and conceptual ambivalences which are decisive for the way in which bourgeois man understands himself in his relation to the world. Thus the word ‘nature’ becomes highly ambiguous. We have already drawn attention to the idea, formulated most lucidly by Kant but essentially unchanged since Kepler and Galileo, of nature as the “aggregate of systems of the laws” governing what happens. Parallel to this conception whose development out of the economic structures of capitalism has been shown repeatedly, there is another conception of nature, a value concept, wholly different from the first one and embracing a wholly different cluster of meanings.”

Georg Lukács (The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought)

Albert Bierstadt

Bewes tries to make the point that the concept of reification is itself reified. The truth is actually that the concept that claims the concept of reification is reified, is what is reified. And this is not an endless stream — I think that is where it stops. Sleight of hand theoretical dealing from the bottom of the deck has a pretty limited shelf life, as it were.

Benjamin, all the way back in Origins of German Tragic Drama, emphasized that different forms of cultural expression arise in different eras in order to express the predominant myth of the time. Gillian Rose observed:

” The myth comprises the history of the significance which the society of the time has given to nature, and, as a myth, presents that significance as eternal. Benjamin calls this Naturgeschichte (the history of nature).” { The Melancholy Science}. Now Adorno in his earlier writings sought to adjust Lukács idea of nature — meaning that nature was not anything physical but rather the myth, the historical given as it is presented to that era. This is again what Adorno came to call ‘second nature’. The conventions of nature, the fossilised and rigid mythology is presented AS nature. And therein lies the transmission of a mental deadness. Benjamin saw the turgid melodrama of trauerspeil as a vision of fallen nature (and fallen man). Adorno, as Rose points out, saw all history as the story of nature’s fall. Second nature is always melancholy, then. Now without getting into this too deeply here, the germane point is that nature is never free from an inherited mythology. Real actual physical nature is always mythological.

Liang Ban

And for Adorno, all that is mythological is illusion. And here one returns to reification. All of culture reflects how society sees itself (that’s the simple definition). Commodities are part of culture and never more so than today. In fact everything is commodified. The subject is commodified and it is perhaps that final step into self objectification, or self reification, that has precipitated the current developing cult of non thinking. And cross cutting this is just how removed one might want to view the fascist militarism that invades screen life ever more acutely.

As an anecdote, I saw the other day on twitter someone post a map of some global warming, the arctic I believe, in deep purples and red to signify extreme heat and warning. The person posting this wrote that seeing this map made him ‘literally nauseous’. I think it is worth pondering this a moment. This was not a photo of dead children in Gaza or Afghanistan or Iraq. It was not children held in U.S. custody at the border nor was it a graphic description of mass rape by the Cedras junta in Haiti. No, it was a red and purple coloured map. And the personalized pseudo confessional tone of the declaration speaks to the new pop confession — meant to both self chastise somehow, but more, to self congratulate. Was this person made sick by military atrocities or scenes of torture? I doubt it. Where once the final bastion of moral outrage was the child molester, that reservoir of charged moral energy has migrated to climate discourse. But then this is the coalescing of a new second nature — the conventions of climate *end times*. Ok, back to a brief few notes on reification and natural history.

Adorno in letters to Krenk, wrote…

“the causes of human suffering are … glossed over not denounced in the lament over reification.”

Howard Russell Butler

This is very telling, really. Adorno was never happy with reification per se, as a concept. And he chatised Benjamin for his use of it, too. But he went ahead and wrote extensively about it anyway…because, I think, he knew it cannot be escaped. And Adorno in an early essay, The Idea of Natural History, was coming to grips with a coming exterminationist sensibility embedded in capitalism and instrumental logic.“Heidegger’s philosophy was the philosophical form of mythic terror taken by the disaster of the 1930s. “
Robert Hullot-Kentor (Things Beyond Resemblance)

This is excruciatingly relevant to the contemporary terror of Capital, the rise of genuine fascistic principles. And the climate question is directly representiative of this trend. Allow me two longer quotes here, spliced together, from Hullot-Kentor’s introductory essay on The Idea of Natural History.

“The historical voyage itself has become a natural event. External mimicry of the natural force of the cyclops becomes internal self-identical mimesis, ultimately the order of the ratio, which is itself a structure of the selfsacrifice of particularity to universality. Thus, in its conscious control of nature, the self has triumphed by becoming opaque to its selfreproduction as second nature. { } The rigidified self, structured by internalized sacrifice, pays for its survival by forgetting that it has renounced itself in the process. The nemesis of the ruse of the dialectic of enlightenment is that the control gained over the other amounts to the forfeiture of true self-control.”

Yuken Teruya

In Heidegger there are various strategies employed by neologisms that are trotted out to provide faux depth (and here Freud would enter the question, again, actually). This kitsch mythos is reproduced today by a kind of visual neologism evident in advertising. But the point is that the hollowing out of thought has corresponded with a hollowing out of experience and a hollowing out of the self.

“From the formalism of mythic names and ordinances, which would rule men and history as does nature,there emerges nominalism—or the prototype of bourgeois thinking.”
Adorno & Horkheimer (Dialectic of Enlightenment)

As Hullot-Kentor notes of Odysseus, the flight from mythic nature only reproduces it. The contemporary fetish of pseudo scientific jargon is the continuing attempt to make culture (and history) into nature. There is this anxiety attached to the personalized version of Nature. Not only is Nature personalized but the subject position is personalized, customized and presented as history. History has become second nature. And the transformation of history into Nature was also evident in both Benjamin and Lukács.

Bruno V. Roels, photography.

And this history is today more withered and forgotten — the amnesia of contemporary processes of thought runs throughout contemporary political theatre and throughout the climate discourse. With no longer a memory of nature there is no longer a critique of illusion. We live in the domain of illusion and second nature. Meaning is only the appearance of meaning. And because of the truncated and hollow subjective there is the resort to emotional magnification.

“This is apparent in the phenomenon of the semblance of second nature, which is a semblance because it is the mere appearance of meaning. Although it is historically produced, this semblance appears mythical: that is, as archaic, as emphatically expressive, as an engulfing whirlpool.”
Robert Hullot-Kentor (ibid)

The real primary thrust of Adorno’s theory of art has to do with reification. The critique of reification by way of reification, as Hullot-Kentor put it. But the point here is that contemporary discourse has lost the capacity to differentiate semblance and we arrive at a new, or third nature. As obtuse as this may seem it is the kernel of the problem of today’s public conversation. And contemporary consciousness is literally the consciousness of the screen. Third nature is the blank implied infinity of the screen, where the discussion takes one to the insights of Jonathan Beller (in an earlier post). Image condenses history as slavery and domination, racism and colonial logic.

Lukács

Jonathan Bewes quotes Godard from 2 or 3 Things I know About Her…made in 1966.“Something can make me cry . . . but the reason for those tears is not directly connected with the actual tears that trickle down my cheeks. . . . Everything I do can be described but not necessarily the reasons for which I do it.”

The anthropomorphic notion of Earth is there to feel nauseous about. There are bright colours on a map. And behind every claim on the emotional disfigurement of contemporary consciousness are institutions of power. It is nearly impossible to find science free of U.S. government mediation.

“Anxiety is so prevalent in late capitalist society that it has become a defining quality of that society. Not only is reification inseparable from the anxiety towards it; anxiety is always anxiety about reification.”
Jonathan Bewes (ibid)

And this finally leads one to look at the dream of end-times.

The empty debate on the spectacle — that is, on the activities of the world’s owners — is thus organized by the spectacle itself: everything is said about the extensive means at its disposal, to ensure that nothing is said about their extensive deployment. Rather than talk of the spectacle, people often prefer to use the term ‘media.’ And by this they mean to describe a mere instrument, a kind of public service which with impartial professionalism’ would facilitate the new wealth of mass communication through mass media a form of communication which has at last attained a unilateral purity, whereby decisions already taken are presented for passive admiration. For what is communicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.”
Guy Debord (Comments on Society of the Spectacle)

Masha Ivashintosva, photography (Statue of Seneca).

Marx noted that the commodity “reflects back to human beings the social characteristics of their own labor as objective characteristics of the products of labor themselves, as social natural-qualities of these things.”

” While Marx’s analysis of commodity fetishism was indispensable to his conceptualization of social relations, Benjamin is also keen to stress exploitation and the conditions in which labouring occurs. The fashion industry provides, for Benjamin, a ‘dialectical image’ of the deadly social relations of production, illustrating both the reifying effects of the exchange mechanism and the brutal physical conditions that attend work. In Marx’s account, the textile industry is central to the formation of the factory system of exploitation. It was in the cotton mills that women and children were employed en masse, cheaply, and mechanically spinning materials harvested by growing numbers of slaves, born to work and worked to death, in the US slave states. Das Kapital supplies a materialist core for Benjamin’s idea of the fashionable body as, symbolically and concretely, intimate with death. Marx details how ‘the murderous, meaningless caprices of fashion’ are linked to the anarchy of production, where demand cannot be predicted and where gluts lead to starvation. The connections between products and death alert Benjamin to the fact that everything consumed has been produced under conditions that occasioned suffering.”
Esther Leslie (Overpowering Conformism)

Kitty Kraus

Suffering congeals under the rule of progress. It becomes the appearance of history, and of nature both. The commodity form always has implied its fetish character and cannot hide its murderous assault on life. The owners of the world decide what to feel compassion about. Not people, not dead children or torture victims but *earth* itself, an earth that is personal and magical and alive — a Disney cartoon world in which people rarely impinge. It is the regressive return of animism in a sense, which was once eradicated in the project of disenchantment. But returns today as its own inversion. Positivism and instrumental reason have progressed and left magic behind, except when it is an instrumental magic. And anyway, its not really animism — for such is not possible in the realm of hollowed out damaged cognition. The emotional inflation is a reaction to the anxiety of reification itself. There is a silent mental panic that feeds a deep crippling anxiety and that anxiety is expressed in moralistic condemnations, in shaming and stigmatizing. And social media is the perfect digital stocks or pillory.The violence of Capital, the destruction of the environment, this has all been occurring for a couple hundred years. As Hullot-Kentor put it in his introduction to a volume on Adorno (Things Beyond Resemblance)…’history stands in thrall to regression’. And this because history is stained indelibly with violence and domination. For Americans Nature is claimed and owned — and regression is what is seen in the anti Utopian ethos of the new green capitalist environmentalism. Anti Utopian because the dream of the hollowed mind is one of damage control. And class reflex seems natural itself — let the owners of the earth deal with managing the clean up. Or…let the ruling class and their machinery, both literal and figurative, execute the global triage that is advertised as the ONLY way forward. Forward but back.

“The stubborn belief in progress and trust in a mass base is founded on social democracy’s fetishization of quantitative accumulation in all its forms. This connection between the stubborn belief in progress and faith in a mass base is further identified with the political will for ‘servile inclusion in an uncontrollable apparatus’.”
Esther Leslie (ibid)

Robby Muller, photography. (Poloroids from Paris Texas set).

 

[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwriting. Plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. Taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. A collection of plays, Sea of Cortez & Other Plays was published in 1999, and his book on aesthetics, Aesthetic Resistance and Dis-Interest was published by Mimesis International in 2016.]

 

Green Autarky: Self Sufficiency Against the Growth Based Model of Industrial Capitalism

Nullus Locus Sine Genio – No place without spirit

July 30, 2019

By Robin Monotti Graziadei

Green Autarky: Self Sufficiency Against the Growth Based Model of Industrial Capitalism

 

Pier Paolo Pasolini: “Intelligence will never have much value in the collective judgment of this public’s opinion.”

Those who want “growth” in that sense are those who produce; that is the industrialists. And, as “growth” in Italy is this growth, they are more exactly those industrialists who produce superfluous goods. Technology (applied science) has created the possibility of a practically unlimited industrialization, of a solidly transnational character. The consumers of superfluous goods, on their part, irrationally and unknowingly agree in wanting “growth” (this growth). For them it means social advancement and liberation, with a consequent repudiation of the cultural values that had provided them with the models of being the “poor”, the “workers”, the “savers”, the “soldiers”, the “believers”. The “masses” are therefore for “growth”: but they live this ideology only existentially, and existentially they carry the new values of consumerism. This does not deny that their choice is decisive, triumphalist and adamant. – Pier Paolo Pasolini “Growth and Progress” (1973)

The model which environmental or ecological awareness places under threat is the “growth” based model of industry based capitalism.

It is the “growth” based model of industrial capitalism which is the main driving force behind the production of superfluous goods.

It is the industrial production of superfluous goods which is the main driving force behind today’s dominant ideology of mass consumerism.

The environmental problem this raises is that there are not enough resources, not enough nature to pursue a growth based industrial model of capitalism and save the planet’s ecology at the same time, given that industrial capitalism comes intrinsic and intertwined with the mass production of superfluous goods and the ideology of mass consumerism.

It is clear that in order to save the planet it is the industry based model of economic growth that needs to go.

Industrialists and financiers are very aware of this, and are once again turning the problem on its head.

They have turned ecological concern of the masses into a marketing campaign for industrially produced renewable energy.

This is because they are trying to save their own profits, not the planet.

They are trying to save the “growth” based model of industrial capitalism, not the ecology.

Any form of energy, also renewable energy, that is deployed on an industrial scale in order to supply a “growth” based model of industrial capitalism will ultimately destroy the ecology of the planet.

Therefore they are putting a human face on industrial renewable energy in order to save the growth based model of capitalism which provides them huge profits.

They are up to their old tricks, and need to be exposed for the frauds they are and have always been.

The new human face of “Green” renewable industrial energy is also a fraud if its not divested from a growth based model of industrial capitalism and also is a declared anti-war of aggression position at the same time: corporate neocolonialist wars for resources are the direct result of unfettered growth based capitalism, as the supply chains of renewable energy on an industrial scale means many more wars in mineral rich regions such as Congo, and other regions of Africa.

It is the growth based model of capitalism it feeds which is the problem of industrial production, regardless of the colour of its energy.

Therefore growth based capitalism and industrial production are two sides of the same coin: you can’t separate one from the other.

The entire first world society that has already experienced a growth based economy needs to be the first to transition towards a de-growth economy, an economy of self sufficiency where you eat and consume what you really need. This needs to happen outside the logic of consumerism promoted by industrial capitalism. Growth based industry seeks economic profits globally and it is this model which ultimately depletes the planet environmentally at a global scale and economically only enriches industrialists and their shareholders while impoverishing everyone else.

It does not matter if the new face of industry is now “Green” energy: It is still a massive fraud if it does not promote a de-growth model which moves away from industrial production for profit to production for self sufficiency (to survive on at a local scale not to sell on a global scale). That is why self sufficiency is also a key concept of the de-growth model.

 

[Robin Monotti Graziadei is an Italian architect and film producer based in London. He is the managing partner of Robin Monotti Architects, a firm that he founded in 2007. In 2010, Monotti won the RIBA and Royal Parks Foundation’s International Drinking Fountain Design Competition with his Watering Holes fountain design. In 2016 Robin co-founded the film production company Luminous Arts Productions. You can follow him on twitter.]

Trees, GE Trees & Nature to Save Capitalism from Itself: New Report

Trees, GE Trees & Nature to Save Capitalism from Itself: New Report

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees

July 18, 2019

 

Trees, GE Trees & Nature to Save Capitalism from Itself: New Report

Raleigh exhibit depicts gasoline from genetically engineered trees. photo: Langelle/GJEP

Trees to Solve the World’s Problems?

From Genetically Engineered Trees for the Bioeconomy – to the Trillion Tree Proposal and Business for Nature

Traducción al Español

Tradução para o Português

By Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project

 

This report examines events and research publicized between 23 June and 4 July 2019 that discuss the mass-use of trees to enable the unsustainable lifestyles of the world’s top 1% in the face of looming ecological catastrophe: from trees genetically engineered to feed the “green” manufacture of energy, plastics and chemicals; the planting of trillions of trees to reduce global atmospheric carbon levels; and “reforms” to the economic system to allow future profit-making under the guise of biodiversity protection.

The three events where these proposals were brought out were the International Union of Forest Research Organization’s 2019 Tree Biotechnology Conference 23-29 June at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, The Global Tree Restoration Potential, a new study published on 4 July in Science, and the launch of Business for Nature initiatives in China and Norway on 2 July.

 

IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) held its biennial 2019 Tree Biotechnology Conference over 23-29 June at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. This was the first Tree Biotechnology Conference held by IUFRO since June 2017 when their conference in Concepción, Chile was met with days of protests and disruptions by Mapuche activists, students and others. The 2019 Tree Biotech conference was originally announced to take place in Curitiba, Brazil. It appears that the conference was suddenly moved to Raleigh, North Carolina because of the protests at the last Tree Biotech conference in Chile and the fact that Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), has a long history of being militantly anti-GE tree. [1] NC State was likely chosen as it is the hub for many different efforts pursuing and promoting GE trees, including use of gene-editing on trees, and researching new ways to sell GE trees to a resistant public–a major theme of this year’s Tree Biotechnology Conference.

The effects of the 2017 protests could be felt at this year’s Tree Biotechnology Conference, which included constant police presence both inside and outside of the venue, pleas to attendees to consider taking over the top three leadership roles in the event, and confusion as to when or where the next conference might take place, and even whether to continue to use the controversial term “biotechnology.” The lack of public presence by some of the most outspoken leaders in the tree biotechnology field and leading GE tree company ArborGen, further underscored the anxiety of the event.

While the future of the Tree Biotech Conferences is uncertain, what was not at question was the desire by industry to use specially designed GE trees as a feedstock for the future “bioeconomy”, which was addressed in a closing series of presentations. Unlocking the sugars in trees, necessary to transform them into fuels, plastics, chemicals and other products, however, has proven a major challenge. This was reflected in the rising emphasis at the 2019 conference on the genetic engineering technique known as CRISPR. The ecological and social implications of the massive increase in demand for wood to fuel this “bioeconomy” or the risks associated with the GE trees involved, were not addressed.

Rodolphe Barrangou presents on CRISPR Photo:Langelle/GJEP

Rodolphe Barrangou, NC State professor and editor of The CRISPR Journal gave the opening keynote for the IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference, highlighting his personal efforts to bring CRISPR and other gene editing techniques into the forestry sector. He referred to human history as “BC” – Before CRISPR” vs “AD – after the death of the other recombinant technologies.” He also pointed out that “the [CRISPR commercialization] bottleneck [is] acceptance by regulators and society.”

To solve this problem, he envisioned a CRISPR gene editing process that would achieve a “non-transgenic…non-GMO [regulatory] approval.” Barrangou feared that if people understood that CRISPR is still genetic engineering, it would be the downfall of CRISPR’s commercial success—and make it harder for his new CRISPR startup focusing on developing CRISPR for forest trees to become profitable.

CRISPR would use artificial intelligence and machine learning in forest trees, he explained, to predict what genomes, sequences and pathways to “knock out, turn on, turn off,” in order to find the relevant traits of interest to industry. He did, however, admit that CRISPR scientists are “nowhere near understanding tree genomics as well as we understand human genomics due to the fact that tree genomes are so much bigger and more complex.”

But the excitement around CRISPR as a new tool to genetically engineer trees was evident at the conference, which included several other presentations on CRISPR in trees, including use of CRISPR to modify tree branching in order to grow trees much more densely in plantations. If implemented, this would have serious repercussions for communities and biodiversity near the plantations, as the existing problems with forced displacements, fresh water loss and inundation with agrotoxins like fertilizers and pesticides would be greatly exacerbated.

This lack of concern about the larger implications and risks of GE trees by researchers has led to decades of global opposition, a fact which was discussed during a lengthy panel session on “Societal Acceptance of Forest Biotechnology.” The session was focused on ways to encourage the public to accept GE trees. It opened with a presentation by Jared Westbrook, Director of Science of the American Chestnut Foundation, on using GE to restore the American chestnut—documented as being a “test case” to make GE trees more palatable to the public. The session was focused on ways to encourage the public to accept GE trees. It opened with a presentation by Jared Westbrook, Director of Science of the American Chestnut Foundation, on using GE to restore the American chestnut—documented as being a “test case” to make GE trees more palatable to the public. The second presentation in the session discussed the findings of a survey by Mark Needham conducted to see how to convince the public of the benefits of using GE trees in forest restoration schemes, especially the GE American chestnut. The panel discussion that followed included participation by Westbrook, Needham, GE tree pioneer Ron Sederoff and a representative from GE tree company FuturaGene. The conversation among the panelists and the audience was very candid about the worries around public opinion, the potential for increased regulations on CRISPR, and the ban on GE trees by the Forest Stewardship Council.

The general malaise of the conference continued at its closing dinner, normally a gala celebration, which was without enthusiasm and repeated the pleas for willing volunteers to take over the organizing of future activities.

 

Trillion Tree Planting Proposal

Less than one week after the close of the IUFRO Tree Biotech Conference, a study was published in Science titled The Global Tree Restoration Potential, projecting the ability to mitigate climate change by the mass-planting of trillions of trees across the globe. [2]

The study, developed by Crowther Labs and ETH Zürich, with the help of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, was hailed as a miracle cure for climate change—the surefire solution to allow dominant culture to continue uninterrupted by ecological collapse. The study, however, is fraught with unanswered questions and serious red flags. One major flag is the study’s reliance on the UN FAO’s definition of forests, which is any area 10% covered by trees, and does not exclude monoculture tree plantations–despite repeated calls by forest protection groups to do so. According to the World Rainforest Movement, the FAO definition “discards other life-forms as well as the biological and cultural diversity that define a forest while ignoring the social and environmental impacts of plantations.” [3]

What this means is that the trillion trees being promoted could easily include vast monocultures of non-native trees, or even GE trees, due to the FAO’s intentionally overbroad definition of forests. [4] This fact is confirmed by a decision made at the 2003 UN Climate Conference in Milan that GE trees could be used in forest carbon plantations.

Another serious flag is the involvement in this study of researchers linked to the UN’s program to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). [5] The REDD program has been actively opposed by Indigenous Peoples and forest dependent communities since its inception. REDD schemes take over forested lands to “protect” (and sell) the carbon they store—and have resulted in the forced displacement of communities that live in those forests. [6]

Because the trillion tree proposal repeatedly refers to generating tree cover “in the absence of”, or “with minimal” human activity on 1.7 billion hectares, it could easily result in mass-displacements of rural, poor and Indigenous communities from those lands.

An additional problem with the study comes from its math. The authors admit that the 300 gigatons of carbon projected to be stored by these trillion trees will not be realized until the trees are mature, which could take decades. [7] Meanwhile 10Gt of C02 are being emitted annually. [8] Particularly in boreal forest zones, a major emphasis of the study, trees grow very, very slowly. Add to this the study’s lack of interest in the increasing rate of destruction of existing critical forests that is occurring—such as the 88% rise in deforestation rates in Brazil’s Amazon over the past year [9] –and it reads more like a fairy tale than a serious recommendation for mitigating climate change.

 

Trees as the Engine for a Green Future of Consumption

While seemingly at odds, both the Crowther Lab study on vastly expanding global tree cover to store carbon, and the proposal by GE tree researchers to vastly increase demand for trees by genetically engineering them to replace fossil fuels for the industrial production of everything from electricity to plastics, fall in the same false worldview where the mass-use of trees becomes the path to a “clean, green future”. Both are, at their essence, cynical and opportunistic schemes to avoid real, fundamental social, economic and political change in order to enable overconsumption as usual in the face of overwhelming evidence that rapid and fundamental changes at all levels of society must be undertaken—a call that has been taken up by the National Academies of Sciences [10] and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. [11]

 

Business for Nature?

Along with these false solutions to climate change emerged another subterfuge to use forests and the natural world to accelerate profit-making under a “clean, green” veneer. On 2 July, a Business for Nature scheme was announced simultaneously at a World Economic Forum meeting in China and Norway’s Trondheim Conference on Biodiversity.

The idea is not new. In 2008 in Bonn, Germany, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) launched its own Business and Biodiversity Initiative that included models for marketing environmental services, the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), and a new Green Development Mechanism. [12]

The Business for Nature initiative, however, is renewing the scheme using the urgency of ecological crises, as evidenced by its website headline Nature Loss is Threatening Our Economies–Urgent Actions and Collaborations are Needed. [13]

The opening of the site lists statistics on the “massive loss of nature” while studiously avoiding any indication as to the causes, which have been driven by the very belief underpinning the initiative, that humans are somehow separate from “nature.” The site highlights the Global Risk Report which “identified environmental risks as among the greatest systemic risks to our global economy,” adding that “only nuclear war would be more destructive.”

In the twisted logic of the Business for Nature scheme, “nature protection” is unironically promoted as “essential for prosperous business,” including the activities that have led us to this ecological crisis–i.e. ongoing natural resource extraction.

The grand finale of their proposal highlights the “significant opportunities” (massive profits) to be made from protecting the “ecosystem services” of nature:

“$2 trillion in opportunities in food and land system transformation alone

$22.6 trillion opportunity for water infrastructure by 2050

THE OCEAN ECONOMY ESTIMATED TO BE WORTH $2.5 TRILLION PER ANNUM”

In its pledge to forests, it touts a massive ‘reforestation’ campaign, along with a commitment to REDD, and the “elimination of deforestation by 2030” which would magically be achieved with no plan to reduce demand for wood products.

In fact, the future of “green business,” fueled by a bioeconomy, requires a huge increase in wood consumption.

 

CRISPR to Manufacture the Perfect (Unregulated) GE Tree?

And this is where the Tree Biotechnology Conference, The Global Tree Restoration Potential and Business for Nature may overlap is through the genetic engineering technology known as CRISPR. [14]

The overall impression from the IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference was that scientists and industry are banking on emerging technologies like CRISPR and a rising demand for wood products and designer GE trees to meet the future market for forest health, climate mitigation and the bioeconomy.

Would CRISPR be used as part of the trillion tree effort? Will it be used to genetically engineer trees to be specially adapted to particular biomes? Or to withstand climate change, insect attacks, or other stresses?

There are uncomfortable connections between the work to create genetically engineered CRISPR trees and the Trillion Tree study. ETH Zürich in Switzerland, home of the Crowther Lab that led the study, for example, is considered one of the best biotechnology schools in Europe. In March it awarded the Richard R. Ernst Gold Medal to Emmanuelle Charpentier, one of the scientists who discovered the CRISPR gene editing tool, and sits on the Editorial Board of The CRISPR Journal with Barrangou. And Crowther likes to boast that his lab includes experts in geospacial mapping, remote sensing and genetic techniques. It is easy to see where genetically engineered CRISPR trees could fit into the scheme to cover the planet in carbon sucking GE trees that could be then cut down and pulped, chipped or digested into sugars to feed the insatiable and unsustainable demand for building materials, energies, plastics, etc. The demand which has fed the global economy and has helped lead us to the brink of disaster.

 

Except for the European Regulation on Gene Editing

During the IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference panel on societal acceptance of GE trees, researcher Wout Boerjan, of the Ghent Institute in Belgium, a long-time campaigner for the deregulation of GE trees, discussed his fears about the EU decision to treat gene edited trees and other organisms the same as other GMOs. “If gene editing falls under the GM regulation, many new companies will not start. There are many new ideas based on CRISPR/CAS and they can only develop into a company if it’s not going to be so expensive to bring these products on the market. So, if you have a new edited plant and you need to go through the regulatory system, which is extremely expensive, these small companies cannot afford it and the product will not come to the market, so the whole innovation in Europe will just fall flat.” [15].

Miron Abramson, of GE tree company FuturaGene, responded that he was less concerned about gene editing perceived as GMO, “So we will treat it as GE and I don’t see any disadvantage or advantage in this case, but just another tool.”

 

A Voice of Experience Offers a Word of Caution

But the Tree Biotechnology conference was not without its cautionary voices. On the societal acceptance panel, Professor Ron Sederoff, considered the father of tree biotechnology, remarked that, “There are people who are kept up at night worrying about this technology and I might be one of them. One opponent of GE technology, David Suzuki, makes an argument that is widely considered that science shouldn’t be trusted with new technology. That science does things that are inherently dangerous and we don’t know what to expect, and I think that’s the core of his argument. But I agree that that’s right. There are people who simply have a fear of new technology, and I think they have a good reason. Looking back on human history, there has been misuse of every major technology that has been invented…We haven’t even thought about the potential for the misuse of the technology that we’re talking about. But I think it’s there…I think that there are worries, and I think that CRISPR, for example, poses a threat because it makes things [that exist outside of the law] and if you could do anything you want to and you were malevolently inclined, you might be able to take pathogens that affect people or ecology or forests and [use CRISPR to combine their traits] and make new things. I think there are things to worry about.” [16]

 

Transformation not Reformation: Join the Resurgence!

Global Justice Ecology Project (globaljusticeecology.org), coordinating body of the international Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees, (stopgetrees.org) is issuing this report and critique of the 2019 IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference, the Trillion Tree Campaign and Business for Natureinitiative because of our commitment to expose ecologically and socially destructive false solutions that enable business as usual. This is a step in our work to help create a movement that can fundamentally transform political, social and economic systems in order to address the multiple ecological crises threatening the future survival of humans and millions of other species.

For this reason, we are also co-organizing The Resurgence: 2019 North American Forest & Climate Movement Convergence, 11-14 October in the Shawnee National Forest of Southern Illinois. This strategic action session, open to forest and climate activists, organizers and others is aimed at uncovering root causes of the ecological crises we face and developing new strategies to address them. (For info: forestclimateconvergence.org)

To protect forests and communities from the impacts of climate catastrophe, we must actively opposeunjust market-based and profit-oriented false solutions to climate change, such as those described above. If what is proposed as a solution to catastrophic climate change jeopardizes other people or ecosystems it cannot claim to be just or sustainable.

To keep forests intact, we must fundamentally transform the dominant political and economic systems and transition to small-scale, local and traditional systems.

We can clearly see the result of the dominant political and economic system in the form of climate and other crises, including loss of fresh water and arable land, ocean collapse, mass-extinction and extreme weather, as well as escalating human rights abuses including forced displacements, migrations and genocide.

These systems cannot be simply reformed. We must organize to fundamentally confront and transform them. Even the generally conservative National Academy of Sciences agrees. A paper they published on 6 August 2018 concludes, “[A] Stabilized Earth trajectory requires deliberate management of humanity’s relationship with the rest of the Earth System if the world is to avoid crossing a planetary threshold. We suggest that a deep transformation based on a fundamental reorientation of human values, equity, behavior, institutions, economies, and technologies is required.” [10]

For information on how to join this effort for systemic transformation, visit The Resurgence: 2019 North American Forest & Climate Movement Convergence http://forestclimateconvergence.org

 

NOTES

[1] CTNBio Meeting to Approve GE Trees Cancelled – FuturaGene Taken Over (2015) https://stopgetrees.org/victory-ctnbio-occupied-meeting-cancelled-no-approval-ge-trees/ and see Interview with a Militant of the MST (2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GeqRRM7A5s&list=PLJIqsEBkCVM2edxllRUp2a0zTwPI0CMjq&index=4&t=561s

[2] The Global Tree Restoration Potential (2019) https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6448/76

[3] For decades, World Rainforest Movement and others have demanded that the FAO change its forest definition, which “reduces a forest to any area covered by trees. In doing so, the FAO definition discards other life-forms as well as the biological, cyclical and cultural diversity that define a forest in its continuous interconnection with forest-dependent communities. FAO’s reductionist definition also allows the companies behind tens of millions of industrial fast-growing plantations to claim their monocultures are ‘planted forests’. Countries’ forest statistics thus count these fast-growing industrial monocultures as ‘forests’, in spite of the well-documented social and environmental impacts such plantations have caused around the world.” In 2009, WRM explained, “the definition of forests is not an academic or linguistic discussion: it is a political issue having serious social and environmental consequences at the ground level. Defining plantations as forests empowers the corporate sector – particularly plantation companies – and disempowers local communities opposing them to protect their livelihoods. The FAO continues playing this role by refusing to change its definition.” https://wrm.org.uy/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Compilaci%C3%B3n-21-de-Marzo-2018-EN.pdf

[4] Use of the FAO definition means that “reforestation” efforts could easily become tree monocultures, or even GE tree plantations, since there is no official difference between them. While the Crowther Lab distances itself from the question of monocultures in its online follow up [https://www.crowtherlab.com/tree-restoration-potential-qa/] use of the FAO definition of forests means monocultures cannot be avoided. And at the FAO’s World Forestry Conference in 2009 in Buenos Aires, sessions addressing reforestation, afforestation, forest restoration, sustainable forest management, and net zero deforestation all advocated the planting of tree monocultures.[http://climate-connections.org/2009/10/23/world-forestry-congress-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-plantations/]

[5] National Forest Monitoring and Information Systems for a transparent and truthful REDD+ process (FAO) https://www.researchgate.net/project/National-Forest-Monitoring-and-Information-Systems-for-a-transparent-and-truthful-REDD-process-FAO

[6] Sky Protector Briefing Paper https://skyprotector.org/2018/08/19/sky-protector-briefing-paper-8-2/ also see the film A Darker Shade of Green, REDD Alert and the Future of Forests https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPFPUhsWMaQ and

REDD-Monitor’s Offsetting fossil fuel emissions with tree planting and ‘natural climate solutions’: science, magical thinking, or pure PR? https://redd-monitor.org/2019/07/04/offsetting-fossil-fuel-emissions-with-tree-planting-and-natural-climate-solutions-science-magical-thinking-or-pure-pr/

[7] “Of course, the carbon capture associated with global restoration could not be instantaneous because it would take several decades for forests to reach maturity. Nevertheless, under the assumption that most of this additional carbon was sourced from the atmosphere, reaching this maximum restoration potential would reduce a considerable proportion of the global anthropogenic carbon burden (~300 GtC) to date.” (1). The global tree restoration potential https://science.sciencemag.org/content/365/6448/76

[8] According to the Global Carbon Project: https://www.co2.earth/global-co2-emissions

[9] Brazil: huge rise in Amazon destruction under Bolsonaro, figures showThe Guardian, 3 July 2019 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/03/brazil-amazon-rainforest-deforestation-environment

[10] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2018: Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocenehttps://www.pnas.org/content/115/33/8252

[11] “Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society,” Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Summary for Policymakers https://www.ipcc.ch/2018/10/08/summary-for-policymakers-of-ipcc-special-report-on-global-warming-of-1-5c-approved-by-governments/

[12] The Green Shock Doctrine, p. 4 https://globaljusticeecology.org/green-shock-doctrine/

[13] Business for Nature website: https://businessfornature.org/

[14] CRISPR is a gene editing technique in which CRISPR and the RNA segments and enzymes it produces are used to identify and modify specific DNA sequences in the genome of other organisms https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/CRISPR

[15] 2019 IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference session on “Societal Acceptance of Tree Biotechnology” (Quote found at 49:47)https://mediasite.wolfware.ncsu.edu/online/Play/f9f72a14f48f4b4bb5a58222979e4afd1d?catalog=b9038d70a4ff49dbaab35ddc1a25705821

[16] 2019 IUFRO Tree Biotechnology Conference session on “Societal Acceptance of Tree Biotechnology” (Quote found at 1:28:04)https://mediasite.wolfware.ncsu.edu/online/Play/f9f72a14f48f4b4bb5a58222979e4afd1d?catalog=b9038d70a4ff49dbaab35ddc1a25705821

 

[The Campaign to STOP GE Treesis a national and international alliance of organizations that have united toward the goal of prohibiting the ecologically and socially devastating release of genetically engineered trees into the environment. Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates, administrates and fundraises for the campaign. World Rainforest Movement, based in Uruguay, is the Southern Contact for the Campaign and has materials in English, Spanish and Portuguese.]

 

WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth

WATCH: The Battle Against Climate Change by Paul Kingsnorth

Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2018. © VPRO Backlight December 2018

Video Published April 26, 2019

 

 

Humanity has lost the battle against climate change. That is what Paul Kingsnorth thinks. The former environmental activist believes that we can´t stop climate change anymore. How should we live on knowing that climate change is a fact that can´t be denied anymore? A documentary that gives thinker and writer Paul Kingsnorth the time to explain how humanity still can be hopeful although the battle against climate change in his eyes has been lost.

Former environmental activist and writer Paul Kingsnorth has withdrawn to Ireland on a unspoilt part of the earth. You could say that he lives now at the end of the world. A portrait of an end-time thinker who nevertheless does not give up hope and continues to believe in the power of nature.

Thinker and writer Paul Kingsnorth stood early on the barricades as a conservationist. He resisted the insatiable hunger of the globalized world for more land, resources and things in England and on the other side of the world in Papa New Guinea. Kingsnorth was one of the leaders of the environmental movement and reached a large international audience with its passionate speeches. But at some point, he came to terms that he had to revisit his belief that humanity could save the world.

In his bundled essays “Confessions of a recovering environmentalist” (2017) he describes how some weak-kneed accountants of this world hollowed out the green movement from the inside and exchanged the barricades for ties and conference tables. Limiting CO2 emissions became the new gospel because it was measurable and countable. But according to Kingsnorth, that is an illusion. He thinks that in his victory rush, the green movement of today exchanges the remaining wild nature for a wind or solar panel farm. The battle is lost.

Kingsnorth withdrew with his family to the Irish countryside to live self-sufficient. He founded the “Dark Mountain Project” in which writers, poets and artists are looking for a different view of the end of the world, based on the connection between man and nature. He exchanged his clenched fist and protesting voice for an inner, literary search for the question of what makes us human and what our place is on this magical planet.

[Running time: 49:32]

Original titel: De aarde draait door

 

 

 

 

The Global Goals to Further Corporate Capture Presents: The United Nations Foundation Partnerships

The Global Goals to Further Corporate Capture Presents: The United Nations Foundation Partnerships

Wrong Kind of Green

June 18, 2019

 

 

 

“It’s about industrial transformation on a scale we’ve never seen before.” – Sharan Burrow, B Team, International Trade Union Confederation

 

 

+++

“For this reason, the UN Security Council must be abolished. Rather than fostering peace among nations, this body has promoted wars and invasions by imperial powers in their quest for the natural resources available in the invaded countries. Instead of a Security Council, today we have an insecurity council of imperial wars….

 

The time has come for the nations of the South.

 

In the past, we were colonized and enslaved. Our stolen labour built empires in the North.

 

Today, with every step we take for our liberation, the empires grow decadent and begin to crumble.

 

However, our liberation is not only the emancipation of the peoples of the South. Our liberation is also for the whole of humanity. We are not fighting to dominate anyone. We are fighting to ensure that no one becomes dominated.

 

Only we can save the source of life and society: Mother Earth. Our planet is under a death threat from the greed of predatory and insane capitalism.”

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, gave this talk at the summit of the Group of 77 plus China, meeting in Santa Clara, Bolivia, on June 14, 2014.

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UNITED NATIONS FOUNDATION PARTNERS

Disney
Royal Dutch Shell
The Nike Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Johnson & Johnson
Vodafone Foundation
Walgreens
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
BNY Mellon
Takeda Pharmaceutical Company
Stephen Curry

Below you will find a list of our larger financial partners since 2016.

BILATERAL AND MULTILATERAL DONORS

  • Government of Australia
  • Government of Canada
  • Government of Denmark
  • Government of Finland
  • Government of Germany
  • Government of Norway
  • Government of Sweden
  • Government of the Netherlands
  • Government of the United Arab Emirates UAE + Sharjah Media Centre
  • Government of the United Kingdom
  • Government of the United States
  • The World Bank

 

  • FOUNDATIONS AND NON-PROFITS

    • Akila & S. Somesegar Family Foundation
    • Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
    • American Red Cross
    • Angélica Fuentes Foundation
    • Ariadne Getty Foundation
    • Barr Foundation
    • Benito & Frances C. Gaguine Foundation
    • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    • Bloomberg Family Foundation
    • Boston Foundation
    • California Community Foundation
    • CARE International
    • Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
    • Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
    • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
    • ClimateWorks Foundation
    • Dalio Philanthropies
    • David & Lucile Packard Foundation
    • DOEN Foundation
    • Ed and Mary Schreck Foundation
    • Ford Foundation
    • Fuserna Foundation
    • GAVI
    • Hinduja Foundation
    • J.C.C. Fund
    • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
    • Junior Chamber International
    • Kathryn B McQuade Foundation
    • Keisuke Honda
    • KR Foundation
    • Lear Family Foundation
    • Lions Club International Foundation
    • MAC Aids Fund
    • MCJ Amelior Foundation
    • Mickey Ross Endowment
    • Muirfield Foundation
    • National Philanthropic Trust
    • Naveen and Anu Jain Foundation
    • New Venture Fund
    • Nielsen Foundation
    • Osprey Foundation
    • Pivotal Ventures
    • Project Perpetual
    • Renaissance Charitable Foundation
    • Rexel Foundation
    • Rockefeller Brothers Fund
    • Rockefeller Foundation
    • SCA
    • Seton Hall University
    • Silicon Valley Community Foundation
    • Simon Estes Foundation
    • Skoll Foundation
    • Stephen and Ayesha Curry Family Foundation
    • Summit Foundation
    • Swedish Postcode Foundation
    • TE Connectivity Foundation
    • The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Global Ministries
    • Tides Foundation
    • Turner Foundation
    • Vergstiftelsen Foundation
    • Wallace Global Fund
    • Wellcome Trust
    • WestWind Foundation
    • William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
    • Women’s National Basketball Players Association Foundation
    • World Lung Foundation

  • CORPORATIONS

    • Abraaj Group
    • Al Ansari Exchange LLC
    • Al-Dabbagh Group
    • Alibaba Group
    • Amazon Web Services
    • American Institute of Architects
    • AOL Charitable Foundation
    • Aptive
    • Astellas USA Foundation
    • Aviva
    • Bank of America
    • Barclays
    • Beach House Group
    • Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD)
    • Bioré
    • Blackbaud
    • BNY Mellon
    • Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS)
    • Caterpillar Foundation
    • Cemex
    • Chevron
    • Dell
    • Diamonds Unleashed
    • Dietel Partners
    • Dogan Holdings
    • Edelman Public Relations
    • Eli Lilly
    • Ericsson
    • Essity
    • Exxon Mobil Foundation
    • Fabletics
    • Gap Inc.
    • Goldman Sachs
    • Google
    • Grundfos
    • GSK
    • GSMA
    • Guggenheim Partners
    • H&M
    • IFC Asset Management Company
    • Inmarsat Global Limited
    • Investec
    • Johnson & Johnson
    • JP Morgan
    • Kaiser Permanente
    • Kenneth Cole Productions
    • Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics Base
    • Lululemon
    • Mac AIDS Fund
    • MAM USA Corporation
    • Manitou Group
    • Mann Global Health
    • Mars, Incorporated
    • Mashable
    • Mastercard
    • McKinsey & Co.
    • Merck & Co.
    • MetLife
    • MixLids
    • MMG Limited
    • Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding (GIFT)
    • Nestlé
    • Newman’s Own Foundation
    • Nike Foundation
    • Nike, Inc.
    • Oath
    • Olam International
    • Ooredoo
    • Parachute
    • Pearson Education Inc.
    • Pfizer Inc.
    • Philips
    • Porter Novelli
    • Proctor & Gamble
    • PwC
    • Q22
    • Qualcomm
    • Royal Dutch Shell
    • Safaricom
    • Samsung
    • SAP Public Services
    • Sumitomo Chemical
    • Swarovski
    • Takeda Pharmaceutical Company
    • Target
    • TE Connectivity (TE Foundation)
    • Temasek
    • Terminix
    • The Coca-Cola Company
    • The Kellogg Company
    • The Walt Disney Company
    • Unilever
    • United States Liability Insurance Corporation
    • UPS Foundation
    • Vestergaard
    • Viacom
    • Vodafone Americas Foundation
    • Walgreens Boots Alliance
    • White & Case LLP
    • WME
    • Yara International
    • Zhong Yi Corporation
The New Suits of Capitalist Developmentalism: The New Green Period of Capitalism and its Ecological and Citizen Avant-garde

The New Suits of Capitalist Developmentalism: The New Green Period of Capitalism and its Ecological and Citizen Avant-garde

Kaosenlared

May 21, 2019

By Miquel Amorós

 

[*Translated from Spanish to English via DeepL translator – Original version in Spanish here.]

 

The new green period of capitalism and its ecological and citizen avant-garde.

10 Eco-Friendly Luxury Fashion Brands – Armani [Source]


The capitalist world is debating in an unprecedented ecological crisis that threatens its continuity as a system based on the pursuit of private profit. From the pollution of air, water and soil to the accumulation of waste and rubbish; from the depletion of natural resources to the extinction of species; from the urbanizing tide to climate change; it seems that a sword of Damocles hangs over the market society. Leaders from all spheres of activity are concerned about unstoppable environmental degradation, including a reorganization of production and consumption according to inevitable ecological imperatives. Many people are convinced that the capitalist system of exploitation cannot be maintained in any other way. The contradiction between growth (the accumulation of capital) and its destructive effects (the ecological disaster), will have to be overcome with a compromise between industry and nature, or better between their respective spectacular representation: on the one hand, the high executives and on the other, the patented ecologists. We are entering a new period of capitalism, the “green” stage, where new gadgets and technological systems – “renewable” energy plants, electric cars, GMOs, big data, 5G networks, etc. – will try to harmonize economic development with the territory and the resources it contains, thus facilitating “sustainable” growth and making the current, motorized and consumerist way of life compatible with the natural environment, or better yet, with what remains of it.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez – Barneys The Window. Photographed by Roe Ethridge / Styled by Brian Molloy / BOGLIOLI K2 Wool Hopsack Two-Button Suit / COMME DES GARÇONS PLAY Men’s Chuck Taylor 1970’s High-Top Sneakers [Source: Barneys New York]

The “energy transition” is but one aspect of the “economic transition” towards ecocapitalism, which, starting from the wild (neoliberal) incorporation of nature into the market, now reaches a phase where mercantilization will be regulated by corporate and state mechanisms. It is an industrial, financial and political operation of great importance that is going to change everything so that nothing changes, so that everything remains the same.The new technologies introduced after 1945, in the postwar period, (manufacture of cements, fertilizers, additives and detergents, more powerful engines, additives, thermal power stations, “atoms for peace”, etc.) were the factors that triggered the plundering of resources, the emission of pollutants and metropolitanization, exponentially increasing the power of transnational corporations. The economic growth became a destructive element of first order, but also, in the major cause of social stabilization, of a much greater efficiency than the unions or the workers parties. Consequently, developmentalism came to shape the policies of all kinds of governments. Employment was the worker’s only means of gaining the status of consumer, motorist and inhabitant of the periphery, so that the creation of jobs then became the primary objective of the “political class”, both right-wing and left-wing. The immediate interests of the wage-earning masses integrated in the market were aligned with those of the businessmen and the parties, to the point of firmly opposing any ecological corrective that endangered growth and, consequently, jobs. Ultimately, “dying of cancer is preferable to dying of starvation,” as some said. Unfortunately, workers have been strong supporters of business continuity, urbanization and parliamentarism, not caring about the negative impact this could have on their environment, their freedom or their lives. That is why the ecological conscience has crystallized almost exclusively in sectors that are inactive or almost so, such as academics, neo-rurals, precarious, students or pensioners. The fight against noxiousness has before it a social barrier that is difficult to overcome as long as the defence of the workplace is a priority for the majority of the population; if the contradiction is not overcome, the defence of the institutions will take precedence over the defence of the territory and the autonomy of the struggles.It is up to the state to channel the protests, encourage the formation of a pragmatic ecological elite and pave the way for the new green capitalism, if necessary by promulgating a “climate alarm state”.

Faced with a politically and socially blocked situation, the international ruling class takes the initiative by trying to direct the long march of the techno-industrial economy towards profitable “sustainability” for its own benefit and without real opposition, either by eliminating old jobs, or by creating new ones. The destruction continues and even increases, but it is certainly about saving capitalism, not the planet. Extractive ecology produces profits even in the short term; however, markets are not strong enough to initiate a process of “green” reconversion, nor are technological innovations alone, in view of which the first steps depend largely on the State. It is up to the state to channel the protests, encourage the formation of a pragmatic ecological elite and pave the way for the new green capitalism, if necessary by promulgating a “climate alarm state”. As a result, the ecological crisis – which today is presented as a climate issue – becomes trivially political. Meanwhile, the environmental movement is infiltrated by agents of the multinationals and bought with funds of various origins, resulting in a political network of influences at the service of a new kind of capitalism. The same thing happened with the NGOs. At that moment, the purge of extremisms is necessary for the transformation of the green party of decomposition into an instrument of the dominant order. The message of moderation obedient to the little belligerent slogans would not reach the manipulable masses if the anti-system “fundamentalists” were not isolated as soon as possible, or as the informal hierarchies of ecologism-spectacle say, “bridged”.

Targeted demographics – Promotional illustrations/video for Green New Deal

The movement against climate change has given rise to a registered “brand”, Extinction/Rebellion, which covers the environmentalist flank of left-wing citizenry, giving it arguments in favour of state mediation of the crisis. Those who appeal to the state certainly cannot be branded as “radicals,” since while they are against “extinction,” they are not against capital. Nor against any concrete responsible; one of its principles reads as follows: “we avoid accusing and pointing at people, because we live in a toxic system”. No concrete individual (no leader) can be considered guilty of anything. For a climbing mentality, not all leaders, not all capitalists, are equal, and ecological reforms can even be beneficial to the majority. They are potential allies and benefactors. Thus, the declared objectives of eco-citizenship do not go that way. They limit themselves to pressuring governments to force them to “tell the truth to the citizens”, to take “decarbonizing” measures foreseen in the “energy transition” and to decree the creation of “supervising citizen assemblies”, true political springboards for the arrivists. Their weapon: the non-violent mobilization of 3.5% of the “citizens”. No revolutions, because they imply violence and do not respect “democracy”, that is, the system of parties and ranks. They do not want to put an end to the capitalist regime, they want to transform it, making it “circular” and “carbon neutral”. We will not overlook the fact that the majority of waste is irrecyclable and that the production of “clean” energies implies the consumption of enormous quantities of fossil fuels. The professionals of citizen ecology do not want to destroy the State either, the great tree under whose shadow their personal careers thrive and their placement strategies work. The ecological crisis is reduced by this captive ecologism to a political problem that can be solved by the heights thanks to a Roosevelt-style Green New Deal: a new pact for the global economy between the world’s ruling class, the political bureaucracy and its environmental advisors that imposes measures for the reduction of polluting emissions and the storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide that the multiple conferences on climate change have failed to impose. Something extremely suspicious, like everything that comes from the system. The “dual” citizen strategies are “symbiotic”, not ruptured. Ecosystems would be restored by harmonizing conflicting interests from within. Duality consists precisely in collaborating (acting in symbiosis) with the institutions on the one hand, and mobilizing the catastrophe-sensitive masses on the other. However, the mobilizations are nothing more than a spectacular display of purely symbolic support. They do not aspire to much, as they do not question the status quo, not saying a word about the symbiosis of governments to those who are pressured by markets, growth or globalisation.

It has been proven that since the Johannesburg summit in 2002, if not before, the capitalist world is aware that its uncontrolled functioning produces such a level of destruction that it is in danger of collapsing. It is more than evident that despite the resistance to regulation by countries whose stability and influence depend on hard extractivism or unhindered development, capitalism as a whole has entered a green developmental phase and is trying to establish controls (Agenda 21, creation of the Green Climate Fund, fifth IPCC report, Paris Agreement, the 24 different COPs). This explains the epidemic of realism and opportunism that has taken over the ecological media “in action” to the point of provoking an avalanche of demands for employment in the political-administrative field. The militants do not want to close their doors, especially when there is a good remuneration, so that all the ideals are kept in their pockets. In truth, it is not only the capitalists who would benefit from a state of alarm. The new subsidized ecologism follows in the wake of “green” developmentism based on “renewable” industrial energies, and sustains the alarmist leaders of capitalism against the negationists. All their efforts are devoted to adjusting the industrial and consumerist way of life with the preservation of the natural environment, despite the fact that the results have not been flattering until today: greenhouse gas emissions, far from being reduced as established by international agreements, have reached record figures. With the optimism of a newly enlightened novice, they want economic growth, necessary for the survival of capitalism, and the territory, necessary for the conservation of biodiversity, at least in appearance, to be marvelous, no matter how much the global temperature continues to rise and the climate is degrading. Incomparable advantages of the symbiotic method and the reformist narrative!


Pentagon Fuel Use, Climate Change, and the Costs of War, Neta C. Crawford, Boston University, June 12, 2019

Those responsible for global warming and pollution, and those responsible for precariousness and exclusion are the same, but those who fight them are often not. They are two battlefields, the one of imbalance and the one of inequality, which do not finish converging and not because a cohort of vocational bureaucrats appears under the stones, trying to carve out a future for themselves by acting as an intermediary. Aspiring leaders have their days numbered because ordinary people lose their meekness when their means of subsistence are affected and they no longer allow themselves to be domesticated with the ease of days of abundance in less aggressive climates. The weakness of world-capital lies not in the climate, not even in health, but in supplies. The day when the techno-industrial system – either from the markets, or from the State – stops satisfying the needs of a large part of the population, or in other words, when due to the climate or any other factor the supply fails, the era of insurrections will come. A failed system that hinders the mobility of its subjects and puts them in immediate danger of starvation is a corpse system. It is probable that in the heat of the protest, community structures will be recomposed, fundamental to ensure the autonomy of the revolts. If civil society succeeds in organizing itself on the margins of institutions and bureaucracies, then ecological struggles will converge with wage struggles, as reflected in the praxis of a unified social conscience. And that slogan heard in the French rebellion of the “yellow vests”: “end of the month, end of the world” will reveal all its meaning.

Miguel Amorós


Talks on 12 May 2019 at the book exchange fair in L’Orxa (Alicante) and on 18 May at the Biblioteca Social El Rebrot Bord, Albaida (Valencia).

WATCH: Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

WATCH: Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

ZEMBLA – Onderzoeksjournalistiek

Documentary published on May 24, 2019

New Documentary: Victim of the World Wildlife Funds

 

“ZEMBLA investigates the collateral damage of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) battle for nature conservation. ZEMBLA discovers that WWF promotes birth control programs that include contraception and even sterilization for men and women.

The fight against poachers is getting grimmer all the time. ZEMBLA travels to India, where local inhabitants are wrongly accused of poaching, are being tortured and sometimes even killed. On camera, guards from Kaziranga National Park state that they are allowed to shoot unwanted people.” [Source] [Running time: 39:52]

A New Volkisch Mythos

A New Volkisch Mythos

Counterpunch

May 23, 2019

By John Steppling

A New Volkisch Mythos

 

 

Greta is able to see what other people cannot see.  She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.

— Malena Ernman, Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate (mother of Greta Thunberg),May 3, 2019 

 

If you want to be more ecologically minded, good for you. But don’t be under the bizarre American illusion that your individual action is a substitute for collective action, for systemic change.

— Umair Haque, Medium, May 2019

 

“Capitalism is in danger of falling apart.”

– Al Gore

 

A psychotic world we live in. The madmen are in power. How long have we known this?

— Phillip K. Dick, Man in the High Castle, January 24, 2012

 

There is a clear problem with most environmental discussions or debates. The problem is, in short form, a lack of class analysis.

This is most evident in the manufacturing of the overpopulation argument. But it is prevalent in nearly all discussions about global warming or rising sea levels or most anything relating to planetary ecology, really.

What is bothersome here is that the voices I am hearing warning of mankind’s immanent demise are mostly ruling class voices.

Richard Leakey says:

I am increasingly convinced that in the tropics, and particularly in the poorer nations, protecting nature everywhere is an effort with diminishing returns. I believe that protected areas (that is areas of land set aside by governments and governed by national statutes) such as national parks and national forests are the best targets if nature is to be protected.

So give up on the poor, can’t save them.

And Leakey goes on:

Whilst state-owned wildlife land, designated as national parks, is vital, in some countries private land may also be secured by state laws that allow for private ownership of title. Thus an individual can use such land for wildlife and nature protection for the duration of the term of the title and this can be equally as secure as a national park.

Okay, so create spaces for the rich to be safe from the restive natives.

And finally Leakey writes:

Not all countries have constitutional provision for private ownership of land, and instead occupancy and land use are regulated by lease hold. In respect to conservation, this is certainly a better option than group-owned or community-owned land where in time wildlife could be untenable given governance arrangements on community-owned assets.

As a general trend what I am hearing is the validation of what amounts to royalist wisdom and the dangers of community control of anything. The message is ‘we can’t risk it, the danger is so extreme that the practical solution is to allow the elite class to control the planet in order to save it.’ The elites and/or corporate control. All the so-called New Green Deal solutions are there, it seems, to save capitalism before saving the planet.

Now, one of the curious contradictions in the climate discourse is the selective trust in certain institutions. The western based (and funded) NGOs have a pretty long track record now of craven support for U.S. government foreign policy decisions. Take Amnesty International’s (AI) recent comments on Venezuela.

Chuck Kauffman from Alliance for Global Justice observed vis a vis AI’s near fascistic litany of lies: “They don’t seem to even care about their credibility anymore.” The open naked Imperialist aggression against Venezuela, and the attendant propaganda slandering Maduro, is now a staple of all the candidates for the Democratic Party. And, Amnesty is also co founder of Global Campaign for Climate Action…a group that also receives monies from the Pew trust, the creepy AVAAZ, the World Wildlife Fund, and Union of Concerned Scientists. Now, just a quick word on the UCS. On the board sits William K. Reilly, former appointee by George Bush to head the environmental protection agency. There are also members that sit on the Council for Foreign Relations, a nuclear scientist who writes on security issues, a lawyer for the US Dept. of Energy.

And yet, many people rightly concerned about global pollution and over industrialization seem to have no problem accepting the word of these same western backed NGOs when it comes to issues of ecology. They know Amnesty lies, but if the topic is climate change, they leap onboard. Clive Splash (He currently holds the Chair of Public Policy and Governance at Vienna University of Economics and Business, appointed in 2010. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the academic journal Environmental Values) writes:

The existing institutions of modern economies are those supporting economic growth. The growth priority has been made clear by the over 3500 economists supporting a climate tax and opposing structural change. Similarly, Lord Stern is the academic figure head of the New Climate Economy, a concept created by members of the Davos elite, with its ‘Better Growth, Better Climate’ reports. Their explicitly stated concern is that: “In the long term, if climate change is not tackled, growth itself will be at risk.” Change is coming and the corporations and billionaires are fully aware of this. They have been actively lobbying on climate and environment since Johannesburg (Earth Summit 2002) and were a dominant force at Paris. They have also long been seeking to control the environmental movement for their own ends.

Again, we hear that echo of the ruling class (Lord ….LORD Stern?!) and the anti communist agenda at work here. Leave it to the elite class, the captains of Capital, to decide policy. And the first order of business is to save capitalism and that means to save growth. The poor are there to be slaves, not to decide policy. What one sees in Extinction Rebellion and in the Greta Thunberg brand is described pithily by Clive Splash…”When hegemonic power is threatened it captures the movement leaders and neutralises them by bringing them into the power circles and takes the initiative away from radical revolutionary change.”

One of the refrains I have heard (and have had directed at me) is, well, we can’t wait for socialism. This is a natural response from a very frightened populace. And it is exactly this response that the ruling class counts on. The infiltration of radical movements has a long sordid history. Ask the Black Panthers. Today the very real threats and dangers of global warming and over-industrialization are being funneled into places that shift the blame from the ruling two or three percent and onto its victims. This is, of course, exactly what the overpopulation alarm does. I see headlines such as *Humans Plunder the Planet* but not *Ruling Class Plundering Humanity AND the Planet*. I see books such as Climategeddon — amusingly penned by a former author of diet self help books and…wait for it….a high ranking Scientologist. But I have had people quote Wollersheim to me. Next stop the Sea Org.

More trenchant was this week’s bit of Imperialist green concern from war friendly candidate Elizabeth Warren, who expressed worry that global warming might effect the readiness of America’s military. (death of irony moment?) On twitter Club de Cordeliers noted…

Under Warren’s proposal, each murdered child will be stamped with the slogan: This Killing Achieved with Net Zero Carbon Emissions.

That the U.S. military is the greatest consumer of petroleum products worldwide seems beside the point. Or, let’s return briefly to Greta Thunberg — who can probably just be referred to as *Greta* these days without risk of confusion. She held up a cute homemade sign for a selfie …tweeting it to jillions of followers. The sign read ‘Let Russia Strike for Climate’. Apparently the *Greta* is getting good advice from Hillary Clinton or Bolton or Elliot Abrams, someone — who knows. She is certainly to be considered *NATO friendly* at this point. The visibility that Elizabeth Warren commands, and that which Greta commands now, too, is an indication that one should be highly credulous. The giant electronic telecom giants and the mainstream electronic media, social media, TV, all of it is in the hands of a relatively few people. These narratives, all of them, are vetted for ideological compliance with corporatism, Imperialism, and a de-facto racism or better put, white supremacy. Visibility is earned, and it’s not arbitrary. And if a *Greta* suddenly appears, rest assured she has handlers. I mean, it’s simply a given, and there are no exceptions.

So there are several problems looming that tangentially connect to overpopulation alarms. One of them is a recolonizing of Africa (and the recolonizing of former communist countries continues apace, as well). But here Africa, in particular, is viewed as a huge resource for raw materials sought after in the West. The re-colonizing takes several forms but here is a typical example.

As Cory Morningstar observed vis a vis this …“Can you imagine @WWF promoting the sterilization of women living around national parks in Europe or the US? The fact they consider it acceptable in India and Africa is racism, pure and simple.”

The white west (and Bill and Melinda Gates leading the charge) are rather unapologetically determined to stop the global south from reproducing. Sterilization and vasectomy suggestions (voluntary, of course) are to be found in countless U.N. sponsored (and USAID sponsored) pamphlets and directives for missions in Africa.

The new alarmist propaganda tends toward sensationalizing what are a few basic truths, sometimes half truths, and building a sort of screenplay to a disaster movie out of these. The influence of Hollywood apocalyptic film and TV cannot be over-emphasized, actually. For those films are both unconscious projections of the ruling class, and the audience embrace of this stuff speaks to unconscious fears as well. The elite producers of this crap fear the marauding masses (zombies) and the bourgeois audience fear black sites and Bloody Gina’s reprisals if they stray too far off message (like voting for a third party). A good deal of the new environmental panic is not based on the actual (and I hasten to emphasize real) problems and crises, but are more the conditioned response from audiences trained for thirty years, at least, to kitsch media entertainments. People see life unfold like an action movie. Sea levels can’t just rise and destroy infrastructure and crops, wash away beach front property, no, they have to completely submerge Baltimore, Oslo, and London. The sum effect of this is actually to have the real and severe problems in retreat.

Watch Madonna’s Eurovision performance (in Israel where she was never not going to perform), with lyrics like “not everyone is coming to the future, not everyone is gonna last.”

There is now coming out of Hollywood a near endless stream of dystopian ‘end of times’ films, which (as I have noted before) are reconstruction fables as well. But now the end of times includes the rehabilitation of Big Brother. The state emerges as a sort of necessary mechanism for culling the herd. Madonna was also sporting blond plaited hair and an eye patch. So maybe it’s just me but this new volkish imagery is growing and being used in ways that familiarize the public with fascist motifs.

Thus, when we are talking about “völkisch” or “Überfremdung,” we are automatically producing images that are inevitably linked to a fascist past. “Überfremdung” describes the fear of being flooded with foreigners, a foreign infiltration. The Duden dictionary explained the term in 1934 as “the intrusion of alien races.” ( ) What is concerning about these “poor words” in the first place is the imagery inherent to them, one that conveys fascism without speaking it. Such words are racist in establishing a hierarchy of ethnicity and, in that way, they have the potential to createm or exacerbate, false divisions between and within societies. The word “völkisch” creates a sense of belonging, an imaginal feature to help distinguish between the in-group and the out-group. The word “Überfremdung” works similarly by implying that there is an abundance of strangers invading the ‘German race.’ What seems to have changed, however, is the definition of the out-group or the enemy. Promoted by PEGIDA and the AfD, the new threat are Muslim immigrants and the idea of the “Islamization” of the Western culture. Thus, this becomes a powerful example for the political myth of the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West.

— Alexa Lenz, Public Seminar, July 14, 2017

 

The ideological road to National Socialism was paved not by Nietzschean self-awareness and self-overcoming, but by völkisch self-congratulation.

Roderick Stackelberg, Idealism Debased: From Volkisch Ideology to National Socialism, March 1, 1981

The first volley in the reclamation of volkish language was Bush’s use of the word “Homeland” when he created a new security service. Quite a few people noticed the connection to the German word Heimat. The far right parties in Europe now appropriate a good deal of Nazi symbology, while the even more virulent racism of a Macron (or Sarkozy) is ignored. PEGIDA and the AfD, in Germany, are really pretty much openly using Nazi rhetoric and symbol (both of which are technically against the law).

Cassirer (1973) analyzed three potential techniques that enabled the myth of Nazism: the magical use of words, the use of rituals and, finally, the recourse to prophecy. Nazi politicians managed to charge words with feelings and violent passions, therefore transforming their semantic meaning to convey magical imagery.

—Alexa Lenz, (Ibid.)

I will only add here, as a sort of thought experiment, that one compare the TIME magazine cover of Greta, with the photos in, what Remco Ensel, in an excellent monograph on the Dutch “Heimat” portrait photography called *Dutch Face-ism”, an expression of Völkisch Nationalism circa WW2 and tell me there is no equivalence. (or the VICE lead photo, or even Greta’s facebook portrait).

Now I know there are many people who will perceive this as an attack on Greta. It’s not. I am certain this young woman has almost zero awareness of any of the implications of her exploitation. And remember, too, that one of the most common rhetorical tactics of fascist apologetics (pretending to be liberal) is to re-state your argument incorrectly and then to respond to their manufactured distortion. It’s a version of straw man arguing. Couple this with the convenient appellation *denier*. If you say, wait, there were no rape camps in Serbia. You are immediately labeled a denier. It matters not at all that you would be correct in saying this. The corporate ruling class take-over of many green movements has a sum effect of reducing rights. For that is the logic of fascism. Remove rights but create space for the self expression of resentments. Property rights will remain untouched.

The opportunistic proprietor class capitalist sees enormous profit in Green endeavours now. Just as Mike Pompeo sees melting arctic ice as an “opportunity”. Never underestimate the capacity for brutish insensitivity in the lower functioning humanoids that serve as representatives of the ruling elite. It is bottomless, in fact. Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams, Kushner, Biden…this is the Troglodyte political class.

Brian Davey wrote about Thunberg, vis a vis her appearance in Katowice at a climate gathering:

What’s more it is richest 5% of the planet that consume 50% of planetary carbon – so the very people who are promoting this campaign must cut back the most. Instead they want to expand the economy. But how is this to be made compatible with reducing carbon emissions?

 

It isn’t – but a careful looks at the language of nature financialisation refers to carbon neutrality, not zero carbon. This is “convenient language when one of the main pillars of the business model is the sale of carbon offsets – rationalizing a continuance of the same carbon based lifestyle by constructing a faux fantasy one, that anyone with monetary wealth, can buy into.

— Brian Davey, Credo; Economic Beliefs in a World in Crises, January 2015

This is a bit like buying indulgences in the Medieval Catholic Church. So perhaps what is needed is a Martin Luther of environmentalism.

The ruling class and its marketing apparatus recognized early on that Green language would serve as cover while they re-tooled their industries. Green took on those magical connotations. Cut to Greta’s mother explaining that her daughter was *different*; i.e. magical. She could *see* carbon dioxide. Trust me there will be green Angels, soon, helping further carbon neutrality.

But there is another issue cutting across much of this, and that is a strange new war on children (and on motherhood in the global south, and black mothers in the U.S.). Although *new* is the wrong word. Whether by design of just as a natural tendency in the residual Puritans of America, the media message has been of late to normalize cruelty to children. From tearing babies from the arms of immigrant mothers and dropping them into cages, or the arrest of suspension of due process in Israeli arrests of children and youth, to the spike in jail time for minors across the U.S. In the 1990s, incarceration of minors rose 311 %.

Across the United States, thousands of children have been sentenced as adults and sent to adult prisons. Children as young as eight have been prosecuted as adults { } Some 10,000 children are housed in adult jails and prisons on any given day in America. Children are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted in adult prisons than in juvenile facilities and face increased risk of suicide.

—Equal Justice Initative, Children in Prison 2018

The rates for youth have declined slightly over the last few years but mostly due to teenagers aging out of the statistics. That ANY child was ever tried as an adult is all by itself a horror. In the U.S. infants born to black mothers die at twice the rate of those born to white mothers. Poverty is the obvious first reason, but structural racism…the stress of increased contact with the criminal justice system also undermines the health of the newborn.

67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.”“67 percent of black women who are incarcerated are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. So the majority of black women and girls are not incarcerated for violent offenses…( ) There’s a large percentage of women who are single mothers. I’m fortunate to have a significant other that supports me and supported me when I was behind the walls. But most women don’t have that. So they’re forced to take care of their children alone. And so when you’re forced to take care of your children alone, you don’t have the type of credentials that you need in order to access a job that’s a livable wage. And that’s the type of wages that you can take your family on vacations, and enroll your kids in extracurricular activities, you tend to find some non-traditional ways to make money.

— Nicole Hanson, Rattling the Bars, Real News Network

 

Neglect is often considered to be a failure, on the part of a caretaker, to provide adequate supervision, emotional nurturance, appropriate medical care, food, clothing, and shelter for a child. This definition also aligns with a definition of poverty, where poverty is considered to be inadequate food, shelter, and clothing.

— Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014

Child neglect is then, almost by definition, synonymous with poverty. Those damn poor people just can’t take care of their kids. And yet they breed so much, ya know? Maybe it wouldn’t be such a darn bad thing if we clipped the men…know what I’m saying, Earl?

In fact, one of the side bar implications in Melinda Gates programs is to strongly associate pregnancy with disease (not for rich white people, of course). And the overpopulation argument feeds in this directly.

There is not enough space to even scratch the surface here to list the inequalities operative in racial hierarchies in the U.S. What is important here to start to recognize the codes at work. Walter Benjamin famously said that “The logical result of Fascism is the introduction of aesthetics into political life.” But more importantly, at the end of that same essay (Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) he added…

Its (mankind) self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.

Capitalism has abandoned humanity. A shamefully neglected infrastructure has exacerbated the effects of global warming. The loss of jobs, mostly to robots, engenders confusion and anxiety, but also deep resentment. And we are well past the time when anyone thinks robots provide superior service. The need to keep escalating conflict, both at home with a militarized and racist police apparatus, and abroad via a gargantuan military whose size defies all rational comprehension. The suffering inflicted on the world by the U.S. and its proxies (Saudi Arabia, Israel primarily) is so enormous that it is hard to grasp it in its totality. And this confusion breeds reaction. The confusion seems not, however, to breed questioning.

When capitalism reaches its point of diminishing return, it deliberately creates a crisis or an appearance of a crisis in order to stage a ritual of a rebirth. The crisis is designed to corner everyone to rely on the capitalist framework for survival. This functions to divide people into two groups: a group which sees through the mechanism and a group that insists on solving the “crisis” no matter how (meaning solving it according to the acceptable ways). The establishment destroys the anti-capitalist momentum while co-opting dissident voices, giving them credentials, awards, positions in the hierarchy. The process eliminates enemies while augmenting the capitalist hierarchy.

— Hiroyuki Hamada (in conversation with me)

The real problems of ocean acidification, plastic pollution of those same seas, and the endless over production of certain crops that destroy land and poison pollinating insects, these problems are simply the result of needless and pointless industrial growth, a growth that has no rational need driving it. Hunger exists in a world of surplus food. The engine is maximizing profit. And why do so many people seem to just reflexively trust *science*? Trust without even a cursory check on who funds the study, or the institution. And the manufacture of fear is a staple of the ruling class. Fear of germs (from Asia or Africa, of course), or asteroids, or the ignoring of obvious testing failures which goes back to thalidomide. That and the very imperfect world of statistical analysis (see Harvard and Yale sociologists circa 1986 and the spinster’s beware warning) etc. The point is only that while it is clear global warming and pollution present enormous challenges, ones that may change the way nearly everyone on the planet lives, there is also clarity that a crises in Capitalism is forcing an increasing propaganda machine to validate the class hierarchies, and which is rehabilitating the most obscene thinking of the colonial and Victorian era. People are being indoctrinated to experience domination as salutary. Junk science abounds everywhere (facial recognition anyone? blood splatter?) but when it comes to climate and Green issues the bourgeois populace simply does not want to hear it. Which leads me to the idea of a cultic group think going on. And maybe this is tied into the acute narcissism of the boomers. Because just anecdotally my experience is that they WANT disaster. It provides self importance. They demand action and responsibility, but the most dire warnings are received with a barely suppressed pleasure.

The liberal white American today cannot tolerate the world going on around them with people they have been trained to see as inferior. Fear of the dark skinned global south (I mean Melinda Gates actually has a brochure in one of her projects to teach African women how to hold their baby, because I guess, you know, that’s something they clearly don’t know about), they fear the numbers, they fear fecundity (something that has dropped precipitously in the advanced West), they fear being in close proximity to the poor, the ‘other’ (migration), and they fear exposing their children to this ‘threat’, most of all. Consider that there is a huge movement on the right to ban abortion. And yet, largely, these same people are thrilled with Bill and Melinda Gates work to stop African reproduction. So it’s clearly not too many people, it’s just too many black people.

The new Volkish body politic is conflating global warming and the poor.

…the “longing for myth” reflected the pervasive experience of “dislocation and disorientation” precipitated by industrialization, revolution, and the dissolution of community values in the abstract conception of secular society, compounded by the fragmentation of German society “along confessional, social, and territorial lines”; the splintering of traditional social and cultural bonds gave rise to the desire for an “aesthetic-religious imagery” that would “unite modern society just as Greek mythology had supposedly once united the polis.

— Nicholas Huzsvai (honors thesis, unpublished)

Over two million people languish in nightmarish prisons in the U.S. Most for non violent crimes. And today the target is increasingly children and women of colour. But people respond with arguments of distraction, just as they are narcotized by screen distractions. The children not targeted for jail are given anti depressants.

And Gabor Mate has written (following Robert Bly) that fathers and mothers both today work twice as long and with less security and for less money than they did three generations ago.

Quite the opposite is true now. Far from being helped, working women are actively penalized if they wish to extend the time they are at home caring for their children. For men, it is not even considered reasonable to think of “interrupting” their careers in order to share in that process. Society does little to establish expert and compassionate day care for those children during whose early years the parent(s), for one reason or another, cannot avoid the necessity of working outside the home. Poor women, especially in the U.S., are economically terrorized by the welfare system into entrusting their infants to appallingly inadequate care situations, and then must spend hours daily traveling to low-paying jobs that barely allow their families a subsistence income.

— Gabor Maté, Scattered Minds: The Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder,

Leading to what Bly called “the rage of the unparented”. This is America, then, today. Children are targeted by law enforcement — think of the use of gang injunctions, prop 21 in California — which, again, allowed for minors to be sentenced as adults. California has, in fact, been the leading laboratory for terrorizing youth.

The collateral consequences of an adult conviction are severe. An adult criminal conviction stays on a youth’s permanent record, which can prevent him or her from voting, securing housing, getting financial aid or public benefits, and finding a job. Further, the juvenile justice system is intended to be rehabilitative, whereas the adult criminal system is not. Youth tried in adult court lose the opportunity to access many of treatment and rehabilitative options available in the juvenile system.

— National Center for Youth Law

Poor women, and particularly black and latino women, have been zeroed in on by the justice system and now are the fastest growing segment of the carceral state. Their children are warehoused, usually chemically warehoused if they prove in the least disruptive. But this only mirrors in much harsher way the white children of the affluent. For even the petit bourgeois youth is afflicted by a culture of screen addicted distractions and coercive infantile propaganda and entertainments. And they are likely the children of parents who were also distracted and anxious. And the parents of those parents. Three or four generations now who have not been provided with any sense of community.

A quick glance at the statistics: Children 0 to 5 years, over 600,000 are on one of the following: ADHD medication, anti depressants, anti psychotics, and anti anxiety drugs. But if you look at kids 6 to 17, there are SEVEN MILLION being medicated. I was told by a friend that in the run up to the millennium, in a gallup poll, that a majority of people welcomed an apocalypse of some kind — and the reason given was a belief that nothing was going to get better. They were expecting only worse to come. And, of course, they were largely correct.

Hollywood has been normalizing a mix of the sadistic and the sexual for going on fifty years, only now the spectre of Big Brother looms over everything, and this is presented as a virtue. There is in this new mythos forming around end-times thinking, an erotic representation of duty to power, and it elicits a kind of frisson. Fascism is now being updated, and it serves up a menu of catastrophe and individualism. Daily life is a combination of drudgery, tedium, meaningless work, and insecurity. And parents are weary of their neurotic complaining children. In sum I think people in the West no longer dream Utopian.

 

[John Steppling is an original founding member of the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, a two-time NEA recipient, Rockefeller Fellow in theatre, and PEN-West winner for playwrighting. He’s had plays produced in LA, NYC, SF, Louisville, and at universities across the US, as well in Warsaw, Lodz, Paris, London and Krakow. He has taught screenwriting and curated the cinematheque for five years at the Polish National Film School in Lodz, Poland. Plays include The Shaper, Dream Coast, Standard of the Breed, The Thrill, Wheel of Fortune, Dogmouth, and Phantom Luck, which won the 2010 LA Award for best play. Film credits include 52 Pick-up (directed by John Frankenheimer, 1985) and Animal Factory (directed by Steve Buscemi, 1999). A collection of his plays was published in 1999 by Sun & Moon Press as Sea of Cortez and Other Plays. He lives with wife Gunnhild Skrodal Steppling; they divide their time between Norway and the high desert of southern California. He is artistic director of the theatre collective Gunfighter Nation. Read other articles by John, or visit John’s website.]

 

Arundhati Roy: In This Blitzkrieg of Idiocy, Fascist Marches, Fake-news Coups, and What Looks Like a Race Toward Extinction – What is the Place of Literature?

Arundhati Roy: In This Blitzkrieg of Idiocy, Fascist Marches, Fake-news Coups, and What Looks Like a Race Toward Extinction – What is the Place of Literature?

Scroll India

May 18, 2019

 

https://www.facebook.com/wrongkindofgreen/publishing_tools/?section=DRAFTS&sort[0]=edited_by_descending

 

The following is an excerpt from the “Arthur Miller Freedom to Write” lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy at the Apollo Theatre in New York. ‘India is fighting for her soul’: Arundhati Roy on fascism, Modi and being a writer in today’s world -‘In this blitzkrieg of idiocy, fascist marches, fake-news coups, and what looks like a race toward extinction – what is the place of literature?’

 

 

As the ice caps melt, as oceans heat up, and water tables plunge, as we rip through the delicate web of interdependence that sustains life on earth, as our formidable intelligence leads us to breach the boundaries between humans and machines, and our even more formidable hubris undermines our ability to connect the survival of our planet to our survival as a species, as we replace art with algorithms and stare into a future in which most human beings may not be needed to participate in (or be remunerated for) economic activity – at just such a time we have the steady hands of white supremacists in the White House, new imperialists in China, neo-Nazis once again massing on the streets of Europe, Hindu nationalists in India, and a host of butcher-princes and lesser dictators in other countries to guide us into the Unknown.

While many of us dreamt that “Another world is possible”, these folks were dreaming that too. And it is their dream – our nightmare – that is perilously close to being realised.

Capitalism’s gratuitous wars and sanctioned greed have jeopardised the planet and filled it with refugees. Much of the blame for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the government of the United States. Seventeen years after invading Afghanistan, after bombing it into the “stone age” with the sole aim of toppling the Taliban, the US government is back in talks with the very same Taliban. In the interim it has destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to war and sanctions, a whole region has descended into chaos, ancient cities – pounded into dust. Amidst the desolation and the rubble, a monstrosity called Daesh (ISIS) has been spawned. It has spread across the world, indiscriminately murdering ordinary people who had absolutely nothing to do with America’s wars. Over these last few years, given the wars it has waged, and the international treaties it has arbitrarily reneged on, the US Government perfectly fits its own definition of a rogue state. And now, resorting to the same old scare tactics, the same tired falsehoods and the same old fake news about nuclear weapons, it is gearing up to bomb Iran. That will be the biggest mistake it has ever made…

The books in question were not my novels (at that point I had written only one –The God of Small Things). These were books of nonfiction – although in a sense they were stories, too, different kinds of stories, but stories nevertheless. Stories about the massive corporate attack on forests, rivers, crops, seeds, on land, on farmers, labour laws, on policy making itself. And yes, on the post 9/11 US and NATO attacks on country after country. Most were stories about people who have fought against these attacks – specific stories, about specific rivers, specific mountains, specific corporations, specific peoples’ movements, all of them being specifically crushed in specific ways. These were the real climate warriors, local people with a global message, who had understood the crisis before it was recognised as one. And yet, they were consistently portrayed as villains – the anti-national impediments to progress and development. The former Prime Minister of India, a free-market evangelist, called the guerrillas, mostly indigenous people, adivasis, fighting corporate mining projects in the forests of central India the “Single Largest Internal Security Challenge”. A war called “Operation Green Hunt” was declared on them. The forests were flooded with soldiers whose enemies were the poorest people in the world. It’s been no different elsewhere – in Africa, Australia, Latin America.And now, irony of ironies, a consensus is building that climate change is the world’s single largest security challenge. Increasingly the vocabulary around it is being militarized. And no doubt very soon its victims will become the ‘enemies’ in the new war without end. Calls for a climate ‘emergency’, although well meaning, could hasten the process that has already begun.

And now, irony of ironies, a consensus is building that climate change is the world’s single largest security challenge. Increasingly the vocabulary around it is being militarized. And no doubt very soon its victims will become the ‘enemies’ in the new war without end. Calls for a climate ‘emergency’, although well meaning, could hasten the process that has already begun. The pressure is already on to move the debate from the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) to the United Nations Security Council, in other words, to exclude most of the world and place decision making straight back into the den of the same old suspects. Once again, the Global North, the creators of the problem, will see to it that they profit from the solution that they propose. A solution whose genius will, no doubt, lie deep in the heart of the ‘Market’ and involve more selling and buying, more consuming, and more profiteering by fewer and fewer people. In other words, more capitalism.

When the essays were first published (first in mass-circulation magazines, then on the Internet, and finally as books), they were viewed with baleful suspicion, at least in some quarters, often by those who didn’t necessarily even disagree with the politics. The writing sat at an angle to what is conventionally thought of as literature. Balefulness was an understandable reaction, particularly among the taxonomy-inclined—because they couldn’t decide exactly what this was—pamphlet or polemic, academic or journalistic writing, travelogue, or just plain literary adventurism? To some, it simply did not count as writing: “Oh, why have you stopped writing? We’re waiting for your next book.” Others imagined that I was just a pen for hire. All manner of offers came my way: “Darling I loved that piece you wrote on the dams, could you do one for me on child abuse?” (This actually happened.) I was sternly lectured, (mostly by upper-caste men) about how to write, the subjects I should write about, and the tone I should take.

But in other places, let’s call them places off the highway, the essays were quickly translated into other Indian languages, printed as pamphlets, distributed for free in forests and river valleys, in villages that were under attack, on university campuses where students were fed up of being lied to. Because these readers, out there on the frontlines, already being singed by the spreading fire, had an entirely different idea of what literature is or should be.”

 

[Arundhati Roy is one of the world’s great observers. In her writing is a raging activism that takes on unpopular, underwritten causes and is unafraid to challenge the ruling elite. Her first novel was published in 1997. The God of Small Things tells the devastating story of twins Rahel and Estha and in doing so, examines India’s caste system, its history and social mores. It explores the ways in which the ‘Untouchable’ caste is derogated and ostracised from society, and the consequences of breaching the caste’s longstanding codes. The narrative deftly illustrates how the personal is indeed political, and her writing style is searing in its beauty, delivering weighty truths about neglected societies.”][Source]

 

Read the full text of the PEN America Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy on May 12 here.

Raising the Alarm – On the Capitalists Seeking to Profit from the Climate Crisis

Statement from the Wrong Kind of Green Collective

Raising The Alarm – On The Capitalists Seeking To Profit From The Climate Crisis

May 10, 2019

 

 

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion among the online community concerning our six-act investigative series “The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg”. Some have continued to question the veracity of the information compiled by Wrong Kind of Green (WKOG).

Our series sought to illustrate how Thunberg’s image is being both propelled and exploited by various entities interested in promoting certain projects and ideas that will benefit their stock portfolios and bank accounts under the guise of “saving the planet”. In this regard, WKOG felt compelled to respond to some of the allegations made about our work, specifically those in a recent article by Media Lens in which our work was presented as playing a prominent part in influencing public opinion alongside those who are trying to disparage Thunberg and her symbolic role at the heart of the youth climate movement.

The fact is that WKOG has never made any claims that Thunberg was knowingly or willingly complicit in the machinations of those who are utilizing her presence as the head of the youth climate movement for their own nefarious ends. As we have no information on which to make such a claim, it would be against journalistic principles for us to express such thoughts. Doing so would simply trivialize our work with baseless claims and false allegations.

Instead, WKOG merely presented the facts regarding Thunberg’s associations. Thunberg could be a mere dupe in these relationships, but there is no refuting the key points which reveal that these relationships do actually exist and are not figments of the imagination, or conspiracy theories. Ultimately, Thunberg has entered into an alliance with people and organisations who have ulterior motives.

The current mass mobilization of the youth and the “green movement” is being sensationalized and exploited. This has been described by members of the elite and organizers as the “herding of cats”. Their objective – the furthering of the goals and dominance of the ruling class. By any unbiased analysis of the information provided in the series, the primary concern is in securing the economy and financial system, with saving the planet via a benign capitalism, a mere afterthought. This can best be described as the equivalent of the old idiom in trying to “have your cake and eat it too”.

On a deeper note, as much of the online conversation resides around a critique of our motivation for publishing the series, WKOG must ask what is the motivation of those promoting the Green New Deal. Is the Green New Deal inclusive to peoples in the Global South who bear the brunt of Western carbon emissions? Are they to have the middle class lifestyles we hold as sacrosanct and proof of our social and cultural superiority? Will this Green New Deal bring modernization to the rest of the world when said modernization is still dependent on infrastructure built by fossil fuels, such as roads, houses, cars and manufactured goods. How is this going to benefit the victims?

As no one in the mainstream is asking pointed questions such as these, evidenced by the lack of any mention as to how this will serve the interests of the non-Western world, the Green New Deal is simply a means of maintaining the status quo from a material aspect between those in the Global North and its marginalized counterparts in the Global South.

This all being portrayed as some sort of altruistic answer which allows us to continue our resource-intensive lifestyles under the pretense that we can solve the carbon emissions issue at the root of this problem. This bears no semblance whatsoever to our biophysical realities, nor our planetary boundaries.

In merely attempting to address these broad questions by placing microscopic focus on the connections between Thunberg and the major players behind the Green New Deal, the financialization of nature, and other supposed benign technocratic instruments, WKOG takes umbrage at the casting of aspersions against our character and integrity, in particular when it comes to our group being a part of the climate denial trope that is a major part of the mainstream Western world. As WKOG outlined in the series, the panacea of green technology is a ruse to enrich a new section of oligarchs trying to join the other robber barons who have comprised the upper class of the capitalist system since its inception. WKOG has laid out in painstaking detail the stakeholders behind the financial instruments who are investing in ‘clean’ renewable energy which is supposedly going to address the global environmental problem worsening with each passing day.

In shining a light on all this, we are in no way doing the work of those who are climate deniers. As we have no control over what entities use our resources, WKOG is powerless in dictating who shares our exhaustive research. It is a sad state of affairs when such critically important work is embraced by those on the right and shunned by those on the “left”. If we had legitimate grassroots environmental and social justice groups leading a united movement, this would not be the case.

What the series represents more than anything else is that WKOG merely elicits the reader to ask questions, such as: Is it acceptable to do “something” even if you know that something isn’t good enough? Is it acceptable to encourage an alcoholic to lightly curtail his or her drinking when the condition is so far advanced that cirrhosis of the liver is still a certainty by drinking at all? Does it make sense to enable a grossly overweight person in making a facile attempt to eat better when the diet still consists of the unhealthiest items imaginable, such as a diet Coke with an extra large pizza? Hence, if we know the “solutions” will fail to solve the problem, then what good are we honestly doing in pretending that they will?

In that vein, WKOG is not here to force change on anyone. Our only goal is to enlighten the public and present the truth as to what is happening with as much evidence as we can find. This is not the truth as we see it; these are the facts and we simply share them for people to make of them what they will.

We were asked to respond to a statement made by Greta Thunberg regarding one of the relationships we highlighted in our series. [1] We wish to make clear that it is not our place to make an addendum to our article as though we had spread a falsehood. In essence, the author of this Media Lens piece is asking WKOG to print a quasi-retraction as if we had actually written something untrue about the relationship. If anything, the response by Thunberg constitutes proof that what WKOG published was based in fact. As journalists, it is not our place to defend or eviscerate Thunberg. The statement published on Thunberg’s Facebook page in response to the information that we provided, in fact, validated our work as far as its veracity. If “We Don’t Have Time” did something untoward to Thunberg, then it is their responsibility to apologize for their misstep, not WKOG. Hence, an addendum in an apologetic tone from WKOG would be an explicit admission that we did something wrong when that is far from the case.

WKOG stands by our reporting on this matter and we will continue to defend our work since we are in full agreement that there is no more pressing issue than the protection of Mother Earth, for the survival of life as we know it. If anything, our critique of all these various characters is proof of how seriously we take this matter. As we are now so far down the rabbit hole, the last thing we need is half measures and lip service from the people in power. We must also highlight how the public is being misled by those in power – even if the message falls on deaf ears, causes rancor among the masses and ultimately makes them disparage us instead of the ones who are leading them astray.

Finally, WKOG would like to thank everyone who supports the investigative series. We are always willing to engage in civil conversation about the content of our work and defend it vociferously. WKOG only requests that any allegations have merit and do not venture into baseless accusations. There has unfortunately been too much of the latter, based on emotion rather than legitimate criticism.

 

[1]

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent: The Political Economy of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex [ACT I]