Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Fire!

- Slavoj Zizek, "The Amazon fires should make it clear. We have got everything wrong on the ‘climate crisis’"
Our meagre efforts are like a soccer fan in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in a superstitious belief that this will somehow influence the outcome

Just when the burning of the Amazon forests drifted from our headlines, we learned that almost 4,000 new forest fires were started in Brazil in the two days after the government banned deliberate burning of the Amazon.

These figures trigger alarm: are we really heading towards a collective suicide? By destroying the Amazon rainforests, Brazilians are killing “the lungs of our Earth”. However, if we want to confront seriously threats to our environment, what we should avoid are precisely such quick extrapolations which fascinate our imagination.

Two or three decades ago, everyone in Europe was talking about Waldsterben, the dying of forests. The topic was on the covers of all popular weeklies, and there were calculations of how in half a century Europe will be without forests. Now there are more forests in Europe than at any point in the 20th century, and we are becoming aware of other dangers – of what happens in the depth of the oceans, for example.

While we should take ecological threats extremely seriously, we should also be fully aware of how uncertain analyses and projections are in this domain – we will know for sure what is going on only when it is too late. Fast extrapolations only hand arguments to climate change deniers. We should avoid at all costs the trap of an “ecology of fear,” a hasty, morbid fascination with looming catastrophe.

This ecology of fear has the hallmarks of a developing, predominant form of ideology in global capitalism, a new opium for the masses replacing the declining religion. It takes over the old religion’s fundamental function, that of installing an unquestionable authority which can impose limits.

The lesson hammered into us is that of our own finitude: we are just one species on our Earth embedded in a biosphere which reaches far beyond our horizon. In our exploitation of natural resources, we are borrowing from the future, so one should treat our Earth with respect, as something ultimately sacred, something that should not be unveiled totally, that should and will forever remain a mystery, a power we should trust, not dominate.

While we cannot gain full mastery over our biosphere, it is, unfortunately, in our power to derail it, to disturb its balance so that it will run amok, swiping us away in the process. This is why, although ecologists are all the time demanding that we make radical changes to our way of life, underlying this demand is its opposite: a deep distrust of change, of development, of progress. Every radical change can have the unintended consequence of catastrophe.

Things get even more difficult here. Even when we profess the readiness to assume responsibility for ecological catastrophes, this can be a tricky stratagem to avoid facing the true scale of the threat. There is something deceptively reassuring in this readiness to assume the guilt for threats to our environment: we like to be guilty since, if we are guilty, then it all depends on us, we pull the strings of the catastrophe, so we can also save ourselves simply by changing our lives.

What is really difficult for us (at least for us in the west) to accept is that we might be reduced to a purely passive role of impotent observers who can only sit and watch our fate. To avoid this, we are prone to engage in frantic activity, we recycle old paper, buy organic food, whatever, just so that we can be sure we are doing something, making our contribution.

We are like a soccer fan who supports his team in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from his seat, in a superstitious belief that this will somehow influence the outcome.

It is true that the typical form of fetishist disavowal around ecology is: “I know very well (that we are all threatened), but I don’t really believe it (so I am not ready to do anything really important like changing my way of life).”

But there is also the opposite form of disavowal: “I know very well that I cannot really influence the process which can lead to my ruin (like a volcanic outburst), but it is nonetheless too traumatic for me to accept this, so I cannot resist the urge to do something, even if I know it is ultimately meaningless.”

Is it not for that reason we buy organic food? Who really believes that the half-rotten and expensive “organic” apples are really healthier? The point is that, by way of buying them, we do not just buy and consume a product – we simultaneously do something meaningful, show our care and global awareness, we participate in a large collective project.

The predominant ecological ideology treats us as a priori guilty, indebted to Mother Nature, under the constant pressure of the ecological superego agency which addresses us in our individuality: “What did you do today to repay your debt to nature? Did you put all your newspapers into a proper recycling bin? And all the bottles of beer or cans of Coke? Did you use your bike or public transport instead of your car? Did you open the windows wide rather than firing up the air conditioning?”

The ideological stakes of such individualisation are easy to see: I get lost in my own self-examination instead of raising much more pertinent global questions about our entire industrial civilization.

Ecology thus lends itself easily to ideological mystification. It can be a pretext for New Age obscuration (the praising of the pre-modern etc), or for neocolonialism (developed world complaints of the threat of rapid growth in developing countries such as Brazil or China), or as a cause to honour “green capitalists” (buy green and recycle, as if taking into account ecology justifies capitalist exploitation). All of these tensions exploded in our reactions to the recent Amazon fires.

There are five main strategies to distract from the true dimensions of the ecological threat. First there is simple ignorance: it’s a marginal phenomenon, not worthy of our preoccupation, life goes on, nature will take care of itself.

Second, there is the belief that science and technology can save us. Third, that we should leave the solution to the market (with higher taxation of polluters, etc). Fourth, we resort to the superego pressure on personal responsibility instead of large systemic measures (each of us should do what we can – recycle, consume less, etc).

And fifth, perhaps the worst, is the advocating of a return to natural balance, to a more modest, traditional life by means of which we renounce human hubris and become again respectful children of our Mother Nature.

This whole paradigm of Mother Nature derailed by our hubris is wrong. The fact that our main sources of energy (oil, coal) are remnants of past catastrophes which occurred prior to the advent of humanity is a clear reminder that Mother Nature is cold and cruel.

This, of course, in no way means that we should relax and trust our future: the fact that it is not clear what is going on makes the situation even more dangerous. Plus, as it is fast becoming evident, migrations (and walls meant to prevent them) are getting more and more intertwined with ecological disturbances like global warming. The ecological apocalypse and the refugees apocalypse are more and more overlapping in what Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur, described entirely accurately:

“We risk a ‘climate apartheid’ scenario,” he said, “where the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.”

Those least responsible for global emissions also have the least capacity to protect themselves.

So, the Leninist question: what is to be done? We are in a deep mess: there is no simple “democratic” solution here. The idea that people themselves (not just governments and corporations) should decide sounds deep, but it begs an important question: even if their comprehension is not distorted by corporate interests, what qualifies them to pass judgement in such a delicate matter?

What we can do is at least set the priorities straight and admit the absurdity of our geopolitical war games when the very planet for which wars are fought is under threat.

In the Amazon, we see the ridiculous game of Europe blaming Brazil and Brazil blaming Europe. It has to stop. Ecological threats make it clear that the era of sovereign nation states is approaching its end – a strong global agency is needed with the power to coordinate the necessary measures. And does such the need for such an agency point in the direction of what we once called “communism”?

21 comments:

Gert said...

Ecological threats make it clear that the era of sovereign nation states is approaching its end – a strong global agency is needed with the power to coordinate the necessary measures. And does such the need for such an agency point in the direction of what we once called “communism”?

Hath Hell frozen over? An econo-nationalist like Farmer pointing to trans-National solutions to global threats? Isn't that something the 'globalists' would indulge in?

-FJ said...

I don't endorse every idiotic thing that Zizek might utter.

-FJ said...

The last thing we need is a global solution to a non problem. If Brazil wants to burn down the Amazon, I could give a f*ck. I waant to live on Trantor.

Franco Aragosta said...

"What we once called Communism," eh?

Doesn't this bubblng, gurggling fount of putrid verbal diarrhea ajd vomius have enough sense to realize that "COMMUNISM would still be COMMUNISM, even if we started to call it STAWBERRY JAM?"

Gertrude Stein said it best when she wrote "A rose is a rose is a rose."

"A turd is a turd is a turd" is equally true.

However, a it's only fair to say that "A Marxian-Collectivist-Communist-Socialist-Leftist-Internationalist-Globalist-Progressive-Statist-Secularist-"Liberal" Democrat-New World Orderist a comprehensive amalgam of synonyms for the clear, old-fashiioned term E___V___I___L___!

Franco Aragosta said...

Those few of us left who may have retained a scintilla at least of Decency, Modesty, and god Common Sense must earnestly pray for the ultimate Success and complete Triumph of the BREXIT –– no matter what it may cost in temporary setbacks for the British economy.

The Americn Revolution succeeded but only at Great Cost to our brilliant, far-seeing, remarkably unselfish Founders any number of whom died in poverty or badly straitened circumstances, because –– unlike most today –– thy were devoted more to PRINCIPLE than to the mere pursuit of self enrichment and dctatorial power.


"Better DEAD than RED" holds true now more than ever before –– and I DON'T mean "RED" as used in the current label for the REPUBLICAN-CONSERVATIVE-LIBERTARIAN elements –– a deliberate misabelling and misrepresentation of the term that has craftily been fobbed off on ignorant, dull-witted Americans by the machinations of EVIL Leftist Operatives –– most of them probably disaffected, atheistic "Jewish intellectuals" like their fiendish Master Karl Marx –– the root of most-if-not-all the violent upheaval and mass murder that dominated the twentieth-century. . ];^}>

Franco Aragosta said...


________Why Be A Democrat? _______

Willfulness is part of what it takes;
Haughtiness makes a component too.
Yearning for a better life’s heartaches
Beset by Self-Deception’s shuttered view

Earns suicidal urges ‘mongst the Rich,
And fosters dreams of Vengeance in the Poor
Deny this truth? You’re apt to lose your niche
Ending up locked outside your own door.

Money too diffused loses its power.
Our hope to see Equality for All
Creates a fractious mental climate sour
Resulting in Revolt bound to appall.

A misperception of our truest need
Traps us where upon ourselves we feed.


~ FreeThinke

Rational Nation USA said...

Boris BOris BORis BORIs BORIS!

TRUMP's British twin.

Woo-Hoo!

-FJ said...

You really are an idiot, RN. Democracy broke in Britain yesterday. The China Authoritarian Model is all that's left. G_d Save the Queen.

Franco Aragosta said...

It's much too bad my longtime friend Farmer John, –– like our still-beloved-but-no-longer-=respected blogging colleague Lisa of Who's Your Daddy? –– has so far refused to secure this blog as an ASSHOLE-FREE ZONE!

BEWARE, FJ, lest this place suddenly transform itself into a clone of LISA'S LITERBOX.

My own particular motto has always been "BETTER the EMPTY HOUSE tan the UNWELCIME GUEST!"

David Horowitz long ago had to learn –– the HARD WAY –– that TOTAL FREEDOM eventually can't help but produce MALEVOLENCE, INtERNECINE WARFARE, CHAOS, DISIINTEGRATION and DISSOLUTION.

NO ONE can be "FREE," unless and until he submits to the Ultimate Authority of the tenets of Holy Writ.

Western Civilization has –– the been slowly-but-surely committing SUICIDE, because of it's absurd attempt to "liberate" itself from that most basic tenet –– the CORNERSTONE of a healthy, productive, reasonably happy Social Order.

Franco Aragosta said...

ONCE MORE WITH DEEPEST FEELING and HEARTFELT LONGING:

As I pass through my incarnations
___ in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations
___ to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers
___ I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings,
___ I notice, outlast them all.

We were living in trees when they met us.
___ They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us,
___ as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift,
___ Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas
___ while we followed the March of Mankind.


We moved as the Spirit listed.
___ They never altered their pace,
Being neither cloud nor wind-borne
___ like the Gods of the Market Place,
But they always caught up with our progress,
___ and presently word would come
That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield,
___ or the lights had gone out in Rome.

With the Hopes that our World is built on
___ they were utterly out of touch,
They denied that the Moon was Stilton;
___ they denied she was even Dutch;
They denied that Wishes were Horses;
___ they denied that a Pig had Wings;
So we worshipped the Gods of the Market
___ Who promised these beautiful things.


When the Cambrian measures were forming,
___ They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons,
___ that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us
___ and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
___ "Stick to the Devil you know."


On the first Feminian Sandstones
___ we were promised the Fuller Life
(Which started by loving our neighbour
___ and ended by loving his wife)
Till our women had no more children
___ and the men lost reason and faith,

And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
___ "The Wages of Sin is Death."

In the Carboniferous Epoch
___ we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter
___ to pay for collective Paul;

But, though we had plenty of money,
___ there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said:
___ "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled,
___ and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled
___ and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters,
___ and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings
___ limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future,
__ it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain
___ since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit
___ and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger
___ goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished,
___ and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing
___ and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us,
___ as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings
___ with terror and slaughter return!


The Gods of the Copybook Headings (1919)
~ Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

Gert said...

What's the point in uncritically reprinting something you believe is idiocy?! Your not PAID by Zizek, are you?

And who can deny the rain forests are the 'lungs of the Earth'?

Gert said...

RN must being sarcastic, he's hardly a 'Bonocchio' supporter.

Democracy died? Funny that: both sides are claiming that!

-FJ said...

The Oceans are the lungs of the Earth, not the forests. The forest consume as much O2 as they produce (starting around 1:35).

-FJ said...

btw - I AM paid by Zizek... just not w/money. ;p

-FJ said...

ps - I print all Zizek's work because people need to understand his perspective. His position is logical, but unfortunately suffers from the Communist Myth of the Good Administrators of the Commons (see near end).

Hong Kong today is testing the "Myth of the Monopoly of Coercive Force"

Thersites said...

Funny that: both sides are claiming that!

Democracy depends upon The Myth of Common Values

ERODING MYTH OF THE COMMON VALUE SYSTEM

"In America there existed, until very recently, a set of conditions which perhaps made the solution to Hardin's subset possible; we lived with the myth that we were 'one people, indivisible. . . .' This myth postulated that we were the great 'melting pot' of the world wherein the diverse cultural ores of Europe were poured into the crucible of the frontier experience to produce a new alloy -- an American civilization. This new civilization was presumably united by a common value system that was democratic, equalitarian, and existing under universally enforceable rules contained in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"In the United States today, however, there is emerging a new set of behavior patterns which suggest that the myth is either dead or dying. Instead of believing and behaving in accordance with the myth, large sectors of the population are developing life-styles and value hierarchies that give contemporary Americans an appearance more closely analogous to the particularistic, primitive forms of 'tribal' organizations in geographic proximity than to that shining new alloy, the American civilization." [p. 56]

"Looking at a more recent analysis of the sickness of the core city, Wallace F. Smith has argued that the productive model of the city is no longer viable for the purposes of economic analysis. Instead, he develops a model of the city as a site for leisure consumption, and then seems to suggest that the nature of this model is such is such that the city cannot regain its health because the leisure demands are value-based and, hence do not admit to compromise and accommodation; consequently there is no way of deciding among these value- oriented demands that are being made on the core city.

"In looking for the cause of the erosion of the myth of a common value system, it seems to me that so long as our perceptions and knowledge of other groups were formed largely through the written media of communication, the American myth that we were a giant melting pot of equalitarians could be sustained. In such a perceptual field it is tenable, if not obvious, that men are motivated by interests. Interests can always be compromised and accommodated without undermining our very being by sacrificing values. Under the impact of electronic media, however, this psychological distance has broken down and now we discover that these people with whom we could formerly compromise on interests are not, after all, really motivated by interests but by values. Their behavior in our very living room betrays a set of values, moreover, that are incompatible with our own, and consequently the compromises that we make are not those of contract but of culture. While the former are acceptable, any form of compromise on the latter is not a form of rational behavior but is rather a clear case of either apostasy or heresy. Thus we have arrived not at an age of accommodation but one of confrontation. In such an age 'incommensurables' remain 'incommensurable' in real life."

Thersites said...

:P

Gert said...

If Brazil wants to burn down the Amazon, I could give a f*ck. I waant to live on Trantor.

You'll be sorry when they burn it all down and start loads of underground coke labs on it! ;-)

Gert said...

And how would you feel if they turned Yellowstone Park into a giant petrochemical complex? ;-)

Franco Aragosta said...

Yellowstone is perched atop an ENORMOUS ndrground VOLCANO, and when –– not IF but WHEN –– it blows, it's BYE BYE a good healthy THIRD of the NORTH AMERICAN CONTINENT.

And it won't have a THING to do with cow farts, SUV'S fossil fuels or carbon footprints.

-FJ said...

Yellowstone Park is Nature's giant petrochemical complex. I've seen the boiling mudpots.