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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.]

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

 

 

 

 

WATCH: Selling Extinction

WATCH: Selling Extinction

Prolekult Films

Published April 26, 2019

“Selling Extinction is a short introduction to the capitalist notion of a “Green New Deal”, the NGOs that support it and the recent Extinction Rebellion protests in London.” [Running time: 23:43]

 

[Prolekult is a Marxist film, writing and culture platform based in Birmingham, England. The project is presently run by James Bell (writing and narration) and Alex Bushell (editing and filming). The purpose of the project is to provide high-quality film content looking at world politics, culture and economics from a Marxist perspective. You can support them on Patreon and follow them on Twitter.]

WATCH: Quiet Storm – Technology & Social Control

WATCH: Quiet Storm – Technology & Social Control

sub.Media

Published April 2, 2019

 

“We’re on the brink of a new era. In the coming years and decades, rapid advances in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, data analysis, nanotech, quantum computing, bio-engineering and 3D-printing promise to drastically restructure our societies – much as the steam-powered engine and personal computer did during earlier phases of capitalist development. Coming waves of automation are expected to eliminate the majority of current job categories, raising the spectre of widespread unemployment and the potential for newer, more sophisticated forms of economic servitude and social control. These transformations will take place under the watchful eyes of a high-tech surveillance state, aided by a new generation of AI-driven facial recognition software, and the further proliferation of networked ‘smart’ devices that record nearly everything we say or do.

Many of the technologies of tomorrow are being designed today in the universities and corporate R&D labs of Shenzen, Singapore and Silicon Valley, by scientists and engineers working at the behest of military contractors and multi-billion dollar tech companies. Claims that ‘technology is neutral’ ring hollow in a world dominated by powerful states and capitalist social relations. It’s clear to anyone keeping score that those who control and shape technological development and mass production are best situated to reap the benefits. But at the end of the day, capital and the state don’t hold a monopoly on innovation. There are many anarchists also working on building new technologies to help thwart our enemies and unlock new paths of resistance. And despite what you may have heard, the master’s tools can be used to dismantle the master’s home – provided the person swinging the hammer knows where to aim.” [Source: sub.Media] [Running time: 33:26]

 

 

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

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

By Cory Morningstar

January 17, 2019

 

“What’s infuriating about manipulations by Non Profit Industrial Complex is that they harvest good will of the people, especially young people. They target those who were not given skills and knowledge to truly think for themselves by institutions which are designed to serve the ruling class. Capitalism operates systematically and structurally like a cage to raise domesticated animals. Those organizations and their projects which operate under false slogans of humanity in order to prop up the hierarchy of money and violence are fast becoming some of the most crucial elements of the invisible cage of corporatism, colonialism and militarism.” Hiroyuki Hamada, artist

 

1958: “17-year-old Bianca Passarge of Hamburg dresses up as a cat, complete with furry tail, and dances on wine bottles. Her performance was based on a dream and she practised for eight hours every day in order to perfect her dance.”

 

The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg – for Consent has been written in six acts. [ACT IACT IIACT IIIACT IVACT VACT VI] [Addenda: I]

In ACT I, I disclose that Greta Thunberg, the current child prodigy and face of the youth movement to combat climate change, serves as special youth advisor and trustee to the burgeoning mainstream tech start-up, We Don’t Have Time. I then explore the ambitions behind the tech company We Don’t Have Time.

In ACT II, I illustrate how today’s youth are the sacrificial lambs for the ruling elite. Also in this act I introduce the board members and advisors to We Don’t Have Time. I explore the leadership in the nascent We Don’t Have Time and the partnerships between the well-established corporate environmental entities: Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, 350.org, Avaaz, Global Utmaning (Global Challenge), the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum (WEF).

In ACT III, I deconstruct how Al Gore and the Planet’s most powerful capitalists are behind today’s manufactured youth movements and why. I explore the We Don’t Have Time/Thunberg connections to Our Revolution, the Sanders Institute, This Is Zero Hour, the Sunrise Movement and the Green New Deal. I also touch upon Thunberg’s famous family. In particular, Thunberg’s celebrity mother, Malena Ernman (WWF Environmental Hero of the Year 2017) and her August 2018 book launch. I then explore the generous media attention afforded to Thunberg in both May and April of 2018 by SvD, one of Sweden’s largest newspapers.

In ACT IV, I examine the current campaign, now unfolding, in “leading the public into emergency mode”. More importantly, I summarize who and what this mode is to serve.

In ACT V, I take a closer look at the Green New Deal. I explore Data for Progress and the targeting of female youth as a key “femographic”. I connect the primary architect and authors of the “Green New Deal” data to the World Resources Institute. From there, I walk you through the interlocking Business & Sustainable Development Commission, and the New Climate Economy – a project of the World Resources Institute. I disclose the common thread between these groups and the assignment of money to nature, represented by the Natural Capital Coalition and the non-profit industrial complex as an entity. Finally, I reveal how this has culminated in the implementation of payments for ecosystem services (the financialization and privatization of nature, global in scale) which is “expected to be adopted during the fifteenth meeting in Beijing in 2020.”

In the final act, ACT VI [Crescendo], I wrap up the series by divulging that the very foundations which have financed the climate “movement” over the past decade are the same foundations now partnered with the Climate Finance Partnership looking to unlock 100 trillion dollars from pension funds. I reveal the identities of individuals and groups at the helm of this interlocking matrix, controlling both the medium and the message. I take a step back in time to briefly demonstrate the ten years of strategic social engineering that have brought us to this very precipice. I look at the relationship between WWF, Stockholm Institute and World Resources Institute as key instruments in the creation of the financialization of nature. I also take a look at the first public campaigns for the financialization of nature (“natural capital”) that are slowly being brought into the public realm by WWF. I reflect upon how mainstream NGOs are attempting to safeguard their influence and further manipulate the populace by going underground through Extinction Rebellion groups being organized in the US and across the world.

With the smoke now cleared, the weak and essentially non-existent demands reminiscent of the 2009 TckTckTck “demands” can now be fully understood.

Some of these topics, in addition to others, will be released and discussed in further detail as addenda built on the large volume of research. This includes stepping through the looking glass, with an exploration of what the real “Green New Deal” under the Fourth Industrial Revolution will look like. Also forthcoming is a look at the power of celebrity – and how it has become a key tool for both capital and conformity.

[*Note: This series contains information and quotes that have been translated from Swedish to English via Google Translator.]

 

 

A C T   O N E

 

“How is it possible for you to be so easily tricked by something so simple as a story, because you are tricked? Well, it all comes down to one core thing and that is emotional investment. The more emotionally invested you are in anything in your life, the less critical and the less objectively observant you become.” — David JP Phillips, We Don’t Have Time board of directors, “The Magical Science of Storytelling”

 

 

Greta Thunberg, We Don’t Have Time, Facebook, October 26, 2018

 

August 2018, Finance Monthly, co-founder of We Don’t Have Time, Ingmar Rentzhog

We Don’t Have Time

As this term is quickly becoming the quote du jour as a collective mantra to address the ongoing environmental disaster that can best be described as a nod to the obvious, it’s true that we don’t have time. We don’t have time to stop imperialist wars – wars being the greatest contributor to climate change and environmental degradation by far – but we must do so. Of course this is an impossible feat under the crushing weight of the capitalist system, a US war economy, and the push for a fourth industrial revolution founded on renewable energy. Yet, inconvenience has nothing to do with necessity in regards to addressing a particular situation. What is never discussed in regard to the so-called “clean energy revolution” is that its existence is wholly dependent on “green” imperialism – the latter term being synonymous with blood.

But that’s not what this series is about.

This series is about new financial markets in a world where global economic growth is experiencing stagnation. The threat and subsequent response is not so much about climate change as it is about the collapse of the capitalist economic system. This series is about the climate wealth opportunity of unprecedented growth, profits, and the measures our elite classes will take in order to achieve it – including the exploitation of the youth.

What is We Don’t Have Time?

 

“Our goal is to become among the biggest players on the internet.” — Ingmar Rentzhog, We Don’t Have Time, December 22, 2017, Nordic Business Insider

On August 20, 2018 a tweet featuring a photo of “a Swedish girl” sitting on a sidewalk was released by the tech company, We Don’t Have Time, founded by its CEO Ingmar Rentzhog:

“One 15 year old girl in front of the Swedish parliament is striking from School until Election Day in 3 weeks[.] Imagine how lonely she must feel in this picture. People where [sic] just walking by. Continuing with the business as usual thing. But the truth is. We can’t and she knows it!”

Rentzhog’s tweet, via the We Don’t Have Time twitter account, would be the very first exposure of Thunberg’s now famous school strike.

Above: We Don’t Have Time tweet, August 20, 2018

Tagged in Rentzhog’s “lonely girl” tweet were five twitter accounts: Greta Thunberg, Zero Hour (youth movement), Jamie Margolin (the teenage founder of Zero Hour), Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, and the People’s Climate Strike twitter account (in the identical font and aesthetics as 350.org). [These groups will be touched upon briefly later in this series.]

Rentzhog is the founder of Laika (a prominent Swedish communications consultancy firm providing services to the financial industry, recently acquired by FundByMe). He was appointed as chair of the think tank Global Utmaning (Global Challenge in English) on May 24, 2018, and serves on the board of FundedByMe. Rentzhog is a member of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Organization Leaders, where he is part of the European Climate Policy Task Force. He received his training in March 2017 by former US Vice President Al Gore in Denver, USA, and again in June 2018, in Berlin.

Founded in 2006, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project is a partner of We Don’t Have Time.

The We Don’t Have Time Foundation cites two special youth advisors and trustees: Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin. [Source]

Screenshot

Mårten Thorslund, chief marketing and sustainability officer of We Don’t Have Time took many of the very first photos of Thunberg following the launch of her school strike on August 20, 2018. In the following instance, photos taken by Thorslund accompany the article written by David Olsson, chief operating officer of We Don’t Have Time, This 15-year-old Girl Breaks Swedish Law for the Climate, published August 23, 2018:

“Greta became a climate champion and tried to influence those closest to her. Her father now writes articles and gives lectures on the climate crisis, whereas her mother, a famous Swedish opera singer, has stopped flying. All thanks to Greta.

 

And clearly, she has stepped up her game, influencing the national conversation on the climate crisis—two weeks before the election. We Don’t Have Time reported on Greta’s strike on its first day and in less than 24 hours our Facebook posts and tweets received over twenty thousand likes, shares and comments. It didn’t take long for national media to catch on. As of the first week of the strike, at least six major daily newspapers, as well as Swedish and Danish national TV, [1] have interviewed Greta. Two Swedish party leaders have stopped by to talk to her as well.” [Emphasis added]

The article continues:

“Is there something big going on here? This one kid immediately got twenty supporters who now sit next to her. This one kid created numerous news stories in national newspapers and on TV. This one kid has received thousands of messages of love and support on social media…. Movements by young people, such as Jaime Margolin’s #ThisIsZeroHour that #WeDontHaveTime interviewed earlier, speaks with a much needed urgency that grown-ups should pay attention to…” [Emphasis in original]

Yes – there was, and still is, something going on.

It’s called marketing and branding.

“Yesterday I sat completely by myself, today there is one other here too. There are none [that] I know.” — Greta Thunberg, August 21, 2018,  Nyheter newspaper, Sweden [Translation via Google]

The “one kid immediately got twenty supporters” – from a Swedish network for sustainable business. What is going on – is the launch of a global campaign to usher in a required consensus for the Paris Agreement, the New Green Deal and all climate related policies and legislation written by the power elite – for the power elite. This is necessary in order to unlock the trillions of dollars in funding by way of massive public demand.

These agreements and policies include carbon capture storage (CCS), enhanced oil recovery (EOR), bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), rapid total decarbonisation, payments for ecosystem services (referred to as “natural capital”), nuclear energy and fission, and a host of other “solutions” that are hostile to an already devastated planet. What is going on – is a rebooting of a stagnant capitalist economy, that needs new markets – new growth – in order to save itself. What is being created is a  mechanism to unlock approximately 90 trillion dollars for new investments and infrastructure. What is going on is the creation of, and investment in, perhaps the biggest behavioural change experiment yet attempted, global in scale. And what are the deciding factors in what behaviours global society should adhere to? And more importantly, who decides? This is a rhetorical question as we know full well the answer: the same Western white male saviours and the capitalist economic system they have implemented globally that has been the cause of our planetary ecological nightmare. This crisis continues unabated as they appoint themselves (yet again) as the saviours for all humanity – a recurring problem for centuries.

Source: WWF

+++

“Our goal is to become at least 100 million users. It is an eighth of all who have climbed on social media. Only last month we managed to reach 18 million social media accounts according to a media survey that Meltwater news made for us. At Facebook, we are currently seven times the number of followers among the world’s all climate organizations. We are growing with 10,000 new global followers per day on Facebook.” — Ingmar Rentzhog interview with Miljö & Utveckling, October 15, 2018

We Don’t Have Time identifies itself as a movement and tech startup that is  currently developing “the world’s largest social network for climate action”. The “movement” component was launched on April 22, 2018. The web platform is still in the progress of being built, but is to launch on April 22, 2019 (coinciding with Earth Day). “Through our platform, millions of members will unite to put pressure on leaders, politicians and corporations to act for the climate.” The start-up’s goal to rapidly achieve 100 million users has thus far attracted 435 investors (74.52% of the company’s shares) via the web platform FundedByMe.

The startup intends to offer partnerships, digital advertising and services related to climate change, sustainability and the growing green, circular economy to “a large audience of engaged consumers and ambassadors.”

We Don’t Have Time is mainly active in three markets: social media, digital advertising and carbon offsets. [“In the US alone estimated market for carbon offsetting amount to over 82 billion USD of which voluntary carbon offset represents 191 million USD. The market is expected to increase in the future, in 2019 estimated 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions to be associated with any kind of cost for offsetting.”] As the company is a niche organization, social networks are able to provide services tailored to platform users. The startup has identified such an opportunity by offering its users the ability to purchase carbon offsets through the platform’s own certification. This option applies to both the individual user of the platform, as well as whole organizations/companies on the platform.

One incentive of many identified in the start-up investment section is that users will be encouraged to “communicate jointly and powerfully with influential actors.” Such influencers are Greta Thunberg and Jamie Margolin who both have lucrative futures in the branding of “sustainable” industries and products, if they wish to pursue this path in utilizing their present celebrity for personal gain (a hallmark of the “grassroots” NGO movement). [Further reading: The Increasing Vogue for Capitalist-Friendly Climate Discourse]

The tech company is banking on creating a massive member base of “conscious users” that will enable “profitable commercial collaborations, for example, advertising”:

“Decision makers – politicians, companies, organizations, states – get a climate rating based on their ability to live up to the users’ initiative. Knowledge and opinion gather in one place and users put pressure on decision makers to drive a faster change.”

 

“The main sources of revenue come from commercial players who have received high climate rating and confidence in the We Don’t Have Times member base.[2] … The revenue model will resemble the social platform of TripAdvisor.com’s business model, which with its 390 million users annually generates over $ 1 billion in good profitabilityWe will work with strategic partners such as Climate Reality leaders, climate organizations, bloggers, influencers and leading experts in the field.”

Video: We Don’t Have Time promotional video, published April 6, 2018 [Running time: 1m:38s]

A “state of conscious and permanent visibility assures the automatic functioning of power.” — Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish

Comparable to other social media endeavors where “likes”, “followers”, and unfathomable amounts of metadata determine financial success, the fact that the business is virtual enables high profit margins. The return on investment, best described as mainstream acquiescence and desirability by way of exposure, will be obtained through future dividends. In anticipation of this projected success, the tech company plans to take its business to the stock exchange in the near future. (Think Facebook and Instagram.) The most critical component to the success of this startup (like its predecessors) is achieving a massive member base. Therefore, according to the company it “will work actively with both enlisting influencers and creating content for various campaigns linked to the hashtag #WeDontHaveTime.”

 

Prospectus We Don't Have Time (pdf)

We Don’t Have Time Business Plan Swedish

 

On April 18, 2018 the crowdfunding platform FundedByMe (utilized by We Don’t Have Time to enlist investors) acquired Ingmar Rentzhog’s Laika Consulting. Excerpts from the press release are as follows:

“FundedByMe today announced that they acquire 100% of the shares in the established financial company Laika Consulting AB, a leading communications agency in financial communications. As a result, the company doubles its investment network to close to 250,000 members, making it the largest in the Nordic region. The acquisition is a strategic step to further strengthen FundedByMe’s range of financial services…

 

[Ingmar Rentzhog] will continue to work on strategic client projects for FundedByMe and Laika Consulting in part-time. Moreover he takes a role in the company’s board. The majority of his time he will focus on climate change through the newly established company, “We Don’t Have Time”, as a CEO and founder.” [Emphasis added] [Source] [3]

 

We Don’t Have Time Software App: The Latest Wave of Western & Corporate Ideology at Your Fingertips

 In October 2016, Netflix aired the third season of Black Mirror, “a Twilight Zoneesque anthology TV series about technological anxieties and possible futures.” The first episode “Nosedive” posits a shallow and hypocritical populace in which “social platforms, self-curation and validation-seeking” have become the underpinning of a future society. [Black Mirror’s third season opens with a vicious take on social media]. The disturbing episode shares parallels to the concept behind We Don’t Have Time. The difference being instead of rating people exclusively, we will be rating brands, products, corporations and everything else climate related.

Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018 

The not unintended results will be tenfold. The corporations with the best advertising executives and largest budgets will be the winners. Greenwashing will become an unprecedented method of advertising as will the art of “storytelling” (no one ever said a story has to be true). Small or local businesses with little financial means will more than often be the losers. Especially hit, will be migrant entrepreneurs whose cultures differ from ours in the West – where “Western democracy” is the only democracy that is valid.

Adding to the conversation as to who is ultimately benefiting from this endeavor from a cultural, social, geographical and ethnic perspective is the fact that “subconscious biases about race or gender, is a proven problem on many crowdsourced platforms.” [Source] Ultimately, this means that in order to acquire the needed support as a multimedia platform, the self-interest of the Western world must be at the fore with no concern for the Global South – other than what we can continue to steal from her.  The inconvenient truth is that all roads lead to the same collective (if even subconscious)  goal: the preservation of whiteness.

Rentzhog assures his audience that “our core, though, will remain, namely to empower our users to put pressure on world leaders so that they move faster towards an emission-free world and environmentally sustainable solutions and policies.” [Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018]

An “emission-free world” sounds enticing – yet there are no plans whatsoever to retract our growth economies. “Environmentally sustainable solutions” … according to who? According to a tribal elder who upholds the principles of “the seventh generation” (the Indigenous belief that humans must properly provide for its descendants by ensuring that our actions in the present allow the Earthly survival of seven succeeding generations – not to be confused with Unilever’s Seventh Generation acquisition) – or according to the World Bank? (We all know the answer to this rhetorical question.)

Another inconvenient truth, regarding the above premise, is that there is growing pressure on governments to increase Federal research and development funding to develop and deploy “deep decarbonization” technologies as one of the primary “solutions” to climate change. This was proposed at the Paris Climate Accord with Bill Gates’ “Mission Innovation” initiative which committed to doubling government investment in energy technology.

“We want it to cost more, in terms of revenue, public support and reputation, to not work on lowering emissions and improve environmental sustainability, whereas those that lead the way should be recognized for this. Our vision is to create a race towards environmental sustainability and CO2 neutrality, making it the core priority for businesses, politicians and organizations worldwide.” — Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018 

Here again, we must look closely at language and framing. Who are “those that lead the way”? Are they referring to Western citizens who can fit all their belongings in a duffle bag? [Here it must be said that the environmental heroes in the West are NOT the Richard Bransons or Leonardo DiCaprios of the world. The real heroes for the environment, due to their almost non-existent environmental footprint, are  the homeless – despite the scorn they receive from society as a whole.] Are they referring to the African Maasai who to this day, literally leave no trace? Or are “those that lead the way” Unilever and Ikea (represented on the We Don’t Have time board). This is another rhetorical question we all know the answer to. Notice the mention of CO2 “neutrality” rather than a drastic reduction of CO2 emissions. 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.

As online reviews and ratings systems have become a Western staple of determining the worthiness of a person, group or corporation,  the internet presently is a primary source of determining the quality of an entity. One example of this type of system is the online site Trip Advisor, which utilizes user feedback as a measuring stick of a hotel, airline, car rental, etc.  As the Trip Advisor rating system is the revenue model We Don’t Have Time seeks to emulate, we will explore this particular rating system.

Whereas a reputable and established website such as Trip Advisor is based on an actual experience – We Don’t Have Time evaluations are more geared toward promises into the future regarding a green technology revolution and/or the effectiveness of advertising in making people believe the veracity of these promises. By utilizing fake accounts (think Twitter and Facebook), strategically orchestrated campaigns will effectively allow the app to break political careers and demonize people and countries based on the numbers of ratings (“climate bombs”). These bombs can be administered against any foe that does not embrace the technologies (sought by the West to benefit the West) of this so-called revolution, regardless if the reason for doing so is justifiable or not.

The word “bomb” itself will become reframed. Rather than associating bombs with militarism (never touched upon by We Don’t Have Time) the word bomb will eventually become first and foremost associated with ratings, bad products, bad ideas and bad people. Such is the power of language and framing when combined with social engineering. Here, the behavioural economics of hatred can be weaponized – a virtual new form of soft power. The Nicaraguan Sandinista government who did not sign onto the Paris Agreement because it is too weak (and serves only Western interests) could quickly become a pariah on the global stage- as the West controls the stage. Already a target for destabilization, the soft power app would be applied as the ruling class sees fit.

When one contemplates the non-profit industrial complex, it must be considered the most powerful army in the world. Employing billions of staff, all inter-connected, today’s campaigns, financed by our ruling oligarchs can become viral in a matter of hours just by the interlocking directorate working together in unity toward a common goal to instil uniform  thoughts and opinions, which gradually create a desired ideology. This is the art of social engineering. Conformity and emotive content as tools of manipulation has been and always will be the most powerful weapons in the Mad Men’s  toolbox. If 300, 000 people have already voted with “climate hearts” on a “trending” topic in under 48 hours – it must be a great idea.

“Nobody wants to be bottom of the class.”  Ingmar Retzhog, We Don’t Have Time, December 22, 2017, Nordic Business Insider

To be clear, the West is in no position to “teach” (nudge/engineer) the “correct” value system regarding sustainability to the world, when the biggest polluters on the planet are manufactured into “climate leaders” and “climate heroes”. This is reality turned on its head. A reality we are conditioned to accept. Institutions such as the United Nations in tandem with the media, spoon-feed this insanity (that defies all logic) to the global populace, in servitude to the ruling classes.

“Nudging”: Acquisition International Magazine Issue 10, 2018 

Finally, this behavioral science platform lends itself to the continued devolvement of critical thinking. With virtually everything and everyone to rate all day long – who has time to look in depth at any given policy or product that after all, sounds, looks and feels simply amazing due to sophisticated marketing coupled with behavioural change tactics? It is vital to keep in mind that social engineering – and massive profit – are the key merits and purpose of this application.

 

End Notes:

[1] TV 2 Danmark Danish public service, SVT Swedish public service, TV 4 News, Metro TV, Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet (August 20, 2018), Sydsvenskan, Stockholm Direkt, Expressen (August 20, 2018) , ETC, WWF, Effekt Magazin, GöteborgsPosten,Helsingborgs Dagblad, Folkbladet, Uppsala Nya tidning, Vimmerby Tidning, Piteå Tidningen, Borås Tidning, Duggan, VT, NT, Corren, OMNI, WeDontHaveTime CEO viral FaceBook post that mention it first. [Source]

[2] Click-based advertising based on highly rated companies that want to drive traffic to their websites; Targeted web advertising for companies that want to reach out to environmentally aware users in different segments; Business subscriptions where companies and organizations have the opportunity to interact with the members and get the right to use the We Don’t Have Times brand and the company’s rating in their marketing [Source]

[3] “Laika Consulting was one of the first companies in Sweden to work with crowdfunding when we established the brand in 2004. I look forward to follow the company’s growth closely. A combination of Laika’s expertise in listed companies, together with FundedByMe with its international and digital presence, can create new opportunities for growth.”says Laika’s CEO, Ingmar Rentzhog.” [Source]

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

Edited with Forrest Palmer, Wrong Kind of Green Collective.

 

 

Valley of the Sex Dolls: Our Post-Apocalyptic Future Is Grimmer Than You Thought

December 12, 2018

By Cory Morningstar and Forrest Palmer

 

“Patriarchal systems of capitalism and colonialism don’t recognize or value inherent worth in women’s bodies and the work women do, and instead commodify them. Once women’s bodies are objectified in this way, it positions violence against women as justified, embedding it into the fabric of society. Violence against women is and remains the bedrock for all other kinds of violence.” — Battered Women’s Support Services

The near-term and even more so post-apocalyptic future will be grim – a reflection of the neoliberal and patriarchal ideologies that will bring us face to face to a new form of mind pollution – a collective conditioning to the continued social degradation of women. With the rise and proliferation of plastic sex dolls and sexbots – our increasingly desecrated landscapes will soon be filling up with disposable bodies. Many dismembered and almost exclusively, female in form.

Production of sex robots Abyss Realbotix

Industrial scale production is already here. Akin to a slaughterhouse, these life-like forms hang suspended from the ceiling on chains bound to the neck. Row upon row, the headless forms represent a new era in commodification, exploitation and ultimate degradation – the socially acceptable and financially profitable desecration of the female body.

The irony of the politically correct backlash toward plastic straws in contrast to the acceptable growing tsunami of plastic waste exclusively in female form  – is lost. Silicone heads, torsos, breasts, arms, legs, removable vaginas, dirty and worn, will protrude from garbage bags and trash bins. A growing number of these forms will resemble dead children – the discarded remains of the anatomically-correct imitations of five year old girls, created exclusively for paedophiles. After all, according to the manufacturers, “It’s not worth living if you have to live with repressed desire.”

As a sign of the depravity of man, rivers, streams, lakes, oceans and all other places of waste disposal will overflow with plastic corpses that grossly mimic the female form. The sheer abundance of female bodies floating face down – or face up – will become so commonplace, an already desensitized society will become even more indifferent to the grotesque spectacle. Left solely to the machinations of men, female body parts fill up landfills by the tens of thousands – to such an extent – real women will be indistinguishable from the plastic corpses, literally lost amongst the rubbish.

Above: Sex dolls assembly in Abyss Creations laboratory. Credit: Eduardo Contreras/San Diego Union-Tribune

Above slaughterhouse image. This was the first of six “related images” suggested by Google to the sex doll assembly photo above

The line between real – and plastic – will continue to blur until it disappears all together. The need to separate real and plastic becomes at first inconvenient, to then more difficult, to then most difficult, to finally, no longer necessary. This is the beauty of social engineering – a gradual but steady progression that goes undetected – thereby ensuring it’s eventual completion and success.

“This system of violence is called patriarchy, and over the past two thousand years it has come to rule most of the world. Patriarchal civilization is based on exploiting and consuming women, living communities, and the earth itself.” — Women’s Caucus, Deep Green Resistance

An old description for vulgar terms such as “fuck”, “shit” or “damn” is to describe them as “four-letter words”.  Yet, there seems to not be a problem with one particular four letter word:  rape.  This is illustrated by the current preoccupation with sex dolls, where the object personifying the female body is sexually dominated and/or assaulted, yet can’t even speak or respond to “her” vile treatment. It demonstrates the indifference that is prevalent in most societies when it comes to rape of the female body, be it imagined – or real. Is there any greater reflection of this type of rape mindset than a man procuring a doll to have sex with whereby he can essentially control her every action without thought, participation, feeling and/or contribution to what should be a mutual act between willing partners?

And it is this mentality that has now completely enveloped the entirety of man’s existence, who has furthered his depravity by unleashing the same mentality onto the Earth herself.

The need to control, dominate and manipulate without a response from its victim is part of the euphoric experience of pilfering perpetual and increasing resources from that which he has no respect. The same euphoric feeling from raping the animated human body has extended to inanimate objects: sexbots, sex dolls and the Earth herself. She, being the Earth, provides all of the pleasures without any pangs of guilt in terms of the verbal and physical responses from an unwilling participant.

A sex doll and other rubbish litters Sincil Dike, 2018,  (Image: Bill Brown)

Yet, the primary mistake of modern man is his false belief that the ongoing structural collapse is not a reactive expression by the Earth in direct response to his misdeeds. Although the Western edifice built off this centuries long and ever expansive rape is formidable, it is not affected to the same degree as the environmental victims in the Global South who fight to survive in far more vulnerable circumstances. However, the growing yet still imperceptible fissures continue to go unacknowledged by those in the most insulated parts of the world.

Juxtaposed with a rapidly warming planet, planetary environmental collapse and accelerated resource depletion – the ramifications of this cultural arrogance – is in the midst of unfolding. Blind to the sixth extinction event, now well underway, this grotesque waste of energy and resources is no match for the grotesque human reductionism that feeds the momentum for the furthering of collective human depravity and indifference.

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

 

 

 

 

The Left is Consumed by Propaganda

Misión Verdad

July 21st 2018

La izquierda está consumida por la propaganda occidental

[The Left is Consumed by Propaganda]

 

Words of Gustavo Borges Revilla, director of the Venezuelan media project Misión Verdad during the 24th Sao Paulo Forum in Havana, Cuba held July 15th -17th in the course of the Foro’s discussion about art, communication, culture and intellectual work. Misión Verdad participated at the invitation of the Cuban Ministry of Culture.

Gustavo Borges Revilla, director of the Venezuelan media project Misión Verdad 

Yesterday saw the start of an intense and definitely constructive discussion because it shows a great deal about what is currently happening in Latin America and the world. We can all agree that there is a crisis. It is the crisis of the world system as we know it, a global systemic crisis of capitalism. A crisis inherent in all of us, one people in Latin America are living now in our own lives, in our own bodies.

As you know, Venezuela was a victim in 2017 of perhaps the most refined model of intervention the West has yet designed, not just to take over State power that today is in the hands of anti-capitalist forces, but rather to dismantle States themselves as we have come to know them. In other words, Western thought derived from the Pact of Westphalia is in crisis. The Nation-State model that has served capitalism well for so many years is in crisis. Looking at those States, their crisis and the models of intervention, we think, based on our work, that a full understanding is lacking of what is happening right now, not just in Western thought but among ourselves as we live through these new processes of intervention. This is not to play the victim in relation to this issue, but it is a call to be alert. Why? Because Nicaragua is suffering intervention right now too.

In 2015 we said that this new model of intervention would be used in Nicaragua and we state here in Havana in 2018, that Cuba is a country that could be a candidate to suffer this model of intervention. Which is nothing less than a reconfiguration of countries’ cultural identities, and the hijacking of values and principles characteristic of the Left for many years. I’m talking about human rights, solidarity, youth, categories that are being reconfigured by bodies like, just to give one example, the Open Society Foundation.

Video with aerial views of the July 19th celebration in Managua, Nicaragua.

Unless everyone in this room knows what the open Society Institute is, then we have already lost the argument. Just one fact about the foundation : just in the last five years, it has invested one billion dollars in 120 countries, in 48 “color revolutions” that destroyed the whole of the Middle East. It started in Tunisia, went on to Egypt, continued in Libya and tried also in Syria. Imported into Latin America, Venezuela suffered 3 attempts at a “color revolution” in 2007, 2014 and 2017. We can say here today that Venezuela is the only country that has understood how to confront “color revolutions” and disarm them using political intelligence and audacity.

But this carries us into a slightly more complex debate, one a bit more invidious, a bit harder to face up to, namely the debate on the work of intellectuals. To begin with, we can ask ourselves whether intellectuals, above all left wing intellectuals, really understand what is happening. I wonder because President Maduro is probably among the world’s politicians most criticized politicians in the world media system, by the world’s banal media aristocracy.

Sadly, we have seen that the Left is not infallible when it comes to consumption of Western propaganda. The Left, maybe not so much the Latin American Left, but the European Left, if one can put things that way, has indeed assimilated the Western argument that there has been no democracy in Venezuela. Which takes us again into a slightly more profound debate : “What is democracy?” We have already noted that there is also a crisis of concepts, a reconfiguration and it’s not really we who are giving a new interpretation to these concepts, adapting them to our realities.

A view of the Cuban capital Havana. | Photo: Reuters

I don’t know if people are aware that the last ALBA declaration saluted the referendum held in Ecuador excluding Rafael Correa from Ecuadoran politics. An ALBA document. We have to view such points with much caution and much responsibility, because on this reading of democracy, Ecuador is democratic, Argentina is democratic, Brazil is democratic, but Venezuela is a dictatorship, never mind Cuba which for 50 years has been stigmatized as such.

The question is whether these concepts of democracy, human rights, liberty and revolution are of any use to us.

Yesterday, the Network of Intellectuals debated what is a revolution and what is not. One hundred years on from 1917. I don’t understand. When we are in a moment in which so far as we understand things, there is no reason for pessimism. We are in a marvelous moment. The world élites are fighting among themselves, devouring each other. For example, we see Donald Trump, representative of part of the world elite, fighting with his allies, trying to impose economic conditions on China, while the Chinese more or less laugh at them. Furthermore, we see them trying to impose threats in Latin America and Nicolas Maduro destroying the US plans to intervene in Venezuela.

We have won four consecutive elections in less than six months and here we’re touching on the last issue that we wanted to address here. Not just Latin America but the whole world today lacks an analytical framework belonging to us, the world’s peoples. Nothing is written now about Venezuela’s victories. There exists a kind of emotional state, above all among left wing intellectuals, of permanently having to start from zero, forever abandoning moments of achievement and success.

There’s a feeling that Venezuela was left on its own over the last few years without the leadership of Comandante Chavez. We get excited about the new victories, fine, we celebrate these new victories. We grasp that Venezuela has had four electoral victories where the Venezuelan opposition was left fragmented in at least four pieces, and that came about, I insist, through political intelligence and furthermore with the unassailable support of Venezuela’s popular base represented mainly by low income women and single mothers who are each responsible themselves for no fewer than a thousand people.

If it weren’t for these women doing politics for real, Venezuela would today be submerged in severe hunger. These women, threatened with that in 2017, organize,get on with life, co-exist, face down threats, do politics and thus guarantee the electoral victories of the Bolivarian Revolution.

I insist that Venezuela has created a Chavista formula. We asserted beforehand in this discussion group that we have to be constantly more Chavista because Chavismo, beyond the historical circumstances imposed on it, turned out to be a method of political action, a pragmatic method of interpreting reality and of working that reality so as to plan for the future with the same daring clearly evident in the meetings and experiences of Chavez and Fidel.

We are dealing with uncomfortable questions that any meeting trying to be honest should address. Power for what? At a time when the Western élites are destroying the whole system we are accustomed to, when its institutionality is being destroyed by its own creators. One has to insist : power for what? We should ask ourselves this, all of us involved in political processes and also of other people in theirs. Why does Manuel Lopez Obrador want power? Or Nicolas Maduro? Or Evo Morales? After the coming and going of grievous and occasionally shameful defeats in our region.

I don’t want to provoke more discomfort, but in 2017, between February and July of 2017, the supposed progressive regional leaders never mentioned Venezuela and the intervention process it suffered, except Cuba and Bolivia, obviously. This is not, shall we say, a victim’s complaint, but rather a call for reflection, above all to the intellectual Left, which seems to look at the world as if we were in1950 instead of 2018, in a moment when time is rushing on, and while it may be a more perilous time, it is also a marvelous time. If capitalism manages to remake its philosophical framework, its existential structure, then we will have lost the opportunity of a lifetime to impose a new culture, to think it through, to experience it and leave behind for good all the many centuries of subjugation in which we have been spectators and not participants.

Thank you.

The transcription and editing of this speech was done by the Cuban cultural web site La Jiribilla

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Video | Sao Paulo Forum Underway in Havana, Cuba: “Who we work for is the poor of our countries.”

The Work of Celebrity in the Age of Neoliberal Environmental Governance

Blinded by the Stars? Celebrity, Fantasy, and Desire in Neoliberal Environmental Governance

Paper Prepared for Symposium “Capitalism, Democracy, and Celebrity Advocacy,”
University of Manchester, UK, 19-20 June 2012

By Robert Fletcher

 

“Queen Rania of Jordan, Naomi Campbell, Malala Yousafzai, Jennifer Lopez, Bill Gates and more get behind the United Nations’ Global Goals.” [Source]

 

Abstract

The growing prominence of celebrities within the global environmental movement—and their power to shape and advance this movement’s aims—has been a burgeoning focus of recent research. Thus far, such analysis has viewed the phenomenon primarily through a political economy lens, contending that celebrity is harnessed to further the agenda of a mainstream environmental movement that has become increasingly conjoined with neoliberal capitalism, as
expressed in the mounting enthusiasm to address ecological decline through corporate partnership and incentive-based market mechanisms. This presentation draws on psychoanalytic research to offer the complementary suggestion that celebrity also functions as a form of transference helping to sustain the fantasy implicit in this neoliberal vision “that capitalist markets are the answer to their own ecological contradictions” (Büscher 2012:12). Through transference, the charismatic authority conferred to larger-than-life celebrities helps to conceal the gaps between Real and Symbolic in this vision and thus obfuscates contradictions inherent in the execution of neoliberal environmental strategies. From this perspective, cynical suspicion concerning celebrities’ authenticity may paradoxically enhance their authority, and thus this analysis helps to explain counterintuitive findings that widespread ambivalence towards celebrities does little to diminish their power to shape public sentiment.

Excerpt:

The Work of Celebrity in the Age of Neoliberal Environmental Governance Researchers have observed that the growing prominence of celebrity resonates with and supports a general process of neoliberalization in various ways. First, in its close association with the rise of philanthrocapitalism (Bishop and Green 2008), celebrity helps to legitimate a paradigmatically neoliberal approach to governance emphasizing businesses’ capacity to self-regulate in the absence of substantial state oversight via so-called “corporate social responsibility” strategies (Holmes 2012; Kapoor 2012). Celebrities also help to sell (often literally through their corporate endorsement contracts) the idea intrinsic to this neoliberal approach that individuals can contribute to social causes primarily through “ethical” consumption of ostensibly socially and environmentally sustainable commodities rather than direct political engagement (Carrier 2010). Further, celebrities contribute to legitimating the spectacular rise of private philanthropy efforts on the part of wealthy individuals (see Kapoor 2012), a movement that both promotes neoliberalism in championing its “private visions of the public good” (Raddon, 2008: 38) and which has itself been increasingly neoliberalized over the past decade in seeking to restructure itself on the model of the market in the interest of enhanced “efficiency” (Holmes 2012).

Meanwhile, a rapidly growing body of literature has documented the myriad ways is which environmental policy and practices around the world have become increasingly neoliberalized over the past several decades. To date, most of this literature has addressed its subject matter from a predominantly Marxist perspective, viewing neoliberalism as a capitalist process and hence analyzing the ways in which environmental initiatives have become implicated in processes of commodification and financialization associated with the strategy of ‘accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey 2005) by means of which neoliberal policies serve to amass wealth in the hands of what Sklair (2001) calls the “transnational capitalist class” (see e.g., Heynen et al. 2007; Brockington et al. 2008; Castree 2008; Brockington and Duffy 2010; Büscher et al. 2012; cf. Oels 2005; Fletcher 2010b).

March 3, 2015: “People, Planet, Profit: The Rise of Triple-Bottom-Line Businesses – Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2014 explores the role of ethical capitalism in the quest for sustainable economies.”

From this perspective, neoliberal theory functions predominantly as an ideological smokescreen, concealing the myriad ways in which unsavory aspects of this process (e.g., large-scale displacement of resource-dependent peoples in favor of corporate interests, the widespread failure of market-based environmental mechanisms to achieve intended aims) via an obfuscating rhetoric quick to proclaim “win-win” outcomes simultaneously sustaining the “triple bottom line” of “people, planet, and profits.”

In this analysis, celebrity endorsement of environmental causes serves to support this obfuscation, distracting audiences from such underlying problems and helping to legitimate by association the big environmental nongovernmental organizations (BINGOs) that increasingly function like corporations both in their courtship of private sector resources and in their implementation of neoliberal market-based projects and programs (see Brockington 2008, 2009; Sullivan 2011). In this sense, celebrity endorsement is understood as part of the process through which nonhuman nature is transformed into Spectacle via aestheticized, hyperreal imagery (Brockington 2009; Igoe 2010; Igoe et al. 2010) within a neoliberal era in which capitalism seeks to internalize natural resources as an integral component of production—what O’Connor (1994) calls capitalism’s “ecological phase”—rather than externalizing them in order to maximize short term profit, the dominant strategy prior.

The psychoanalytic-inspired analysis presented above offers an alternative, yet complementary reading of this trend. Rather than viewing it as the ideological obfuscation of an underlying economic process of capital accumulation, in this lens neoliberal theory could be understood as a fantasy helping to conceal the gap between the actual function and effects of neoliberal policies and their Symbolic representation vis-à-vis the pervasive win-win rhetoric previously described (see Fletcher under review). Hence, Dean describes neoliberalism as championing a “fantasy of free trade” that covers over persistent market failure, structural inequalities, the violence of privatization, and the redistribution of wealth to the “have mores.” Free trade sustains at the level of fantasy what it seeks to avoid at the level of reality—namely actually free trade among equal players, that is equal participants with equal opportunities to establish the rules of the game, access information, distribution, and financial networks, etc. (2008:55).

With respect to environmental governance, the effect of this is to sustain “the paradoxical idea that capitalist markets are the answer to their own ecological contradictions” (Büscher 2012:12). In service to this fantasy, celebrity promotion helps to mobilize affect and desire in support of environmental causes, focusing attention on splashy, sensation-filled spectacle supporting the win-win narrative (Brockington 2009) and thereby conjuring an aura of environmentalism “as exciting, exotic, erotic, and glamorous—as ‘sexy’” (Sullivan 2011:335)

As Dean (2008) points out, it is of course desire that sustains neoliberalism’s free trade fantasy: desire on the part of neoliberal advocates to see the theory fuction as envisioned; and desire on the part of those excluded from neoliberalism’s benefits to finally receive the material rewards perennially dangled in front of them. De vries (2007) identifies this latter fuction of desire in international development policy, wherein the masses excluded from the fruits of development nevertheless sustain faith in development’s potential due to their desire to receive the benefits (i.e., projects, public works, etc.) they have long been promised by planners. In this dynamic, the gap between promise and fulfillment of neoliberal fantasies is itself concealed through further fantasies assuring satisfaction at some future juncture, once the proper adjustments have been made to finally “get the market right.” With respect to celebrity, observing the glamorous, larger-than-life personas, lifestyles, and seemingly heroic acts of altruistic charity performed by environmental celebrities offers a similar jouissance, providing just enough pleasure to keep viewers hooked yet constantly deferring an implied fulfillment, in part through ostentatious revelation of the artificiality of these aestheticized representations themselves.

 

Download the paper:

Fletcher Blinded by the Stars Celebrity Fantasy and Desire in Neoliberal Environmental Governance

 

 

[Robert Fletcher is an environmental anthropologist with research interests in conservation, development, ecotourism, globalization, climate change, social and resistance movements, and non-state forms of governance. He uses a political ecology approach to explore how culturally-specific understandings of human-nonhuman relations and political economic structures intersect to inform patterns of natural resource use and conflict. Most of his research has been conducted in Latin America (particularly Costa Rica and Chile) but he has begun to work in East Africa as well.”]

WATCH: What is Nature ®Inc?

WATCH: What is Nature ®Inc?

Video Published August 22, 2012 by Transnational Institute

 

“Bram Büscher is Professor and Chair of the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University, The Netherlands and holds visiting positions at the Department of Geography, Environmental Management and Energy Studies of the University of Johannesburg and the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology of Stellenbosch University, in South Africa. [Full bio]