Friday, December 16, 2005
Assumptions of the Benign (1)
I think it is speciesist to think that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was a greater tragedy than what millions of chickens endured that day and what they endure every day... (Karen Davis, PhD (!) Vegan Voice)
Animal rights. Well, why not? Everything is one at some point, and we, living in nature and being but one small part of it should respect nature rather than treat it as something of our own for ourselves. What right do we have to kill living things and wreck the world as a united living organism? What, when it comes down to it and in the larger sense, makes a man's life worth more than that of a chicken?
Last time we asked that question we aroused some ire, not from animal rights activists or from religious adherents, but from a nutter who went on about my psychic pain! Spare me. We have to seriously question what makes Man's life worth more than a chicken's life, and we must be serious in asking because there are violent people among us who can't make that distinction, and some of them are us, perhaps not to such extreme degrees as others but to degrees we might not feel comfortable with if we were to closely examine just how close we do come to irrationality and ecofascism as it was practiced by our favorite bogeymen, the Nazis.
We have to question our assumptions about ecology and nature and man's place in it because some of us who practice the beliefs of ecology hold in common with others we might dislike some very unhappy opinions, and we, naively perhaps, might follow along into ways unknown and wrong, ways we would forego if only we knew. So let's know. Let's find out more about ecology and where it leads us, or where it might lead us, and see if it leads us into other dark areas that in turn lead us to conclude for exaple that Islam is a religion of peace, or some such silliness. Let's find out if ecology is part of a vast ideology of communitarianism that is also part of identity politics that groups people rather than one that allows for individuals.
Before we delve into our latest look at ecofascsim, I'd like to point out that "like" is not "same." Wiccans, for example,might have similar ideas to wandervogel kids of the 1920s in Germany, but Wiccans are not the same as the wandervogel kids. It's in the closeness that we must be careful to avoid confusions and at the same time to recognize similarities without fear of scorn. Wiccans and Nazis might be similar in beliefs without being the same, and we must also be able to find out the truth of the sameness if it exists without dismissing it out of hand because we're all rightly sick of the over-use of the pejorative sense of the word. Wiccans might well be fat suburbanite teenage girls who can't get laid and nothing more than that, but to dismiss any investigation into the fascist roots of that kind of nature fetishization on the grounds that it's extreme and shop-worn is to betray ourselves and lay ourselves open to not challenging our own Left dhimmi assumptions. Ecology in itself is neither here nor there to most people, and most feel that over-all it's benign and worthwhile for those who are interested and committed to it. It probably is, and probably too there are only a very few extremists who go so far as the idiot, Davis, above. But where do we draw the line? Is Wicca benign? Is ecology good? Do we really know what it means to support ecologism? As one will have seen many times by now, I feel that ecologism is not a good idea. It has far too much in common with Irrationalist fascism. Ecologists might not be the same as old line Nazis, but they are in many respects similar in beliefs. We can find out where they are similar, and from there we can examine the worth of it and some of the baggage that comes with it, not all of which is pretty or functional.
Below we'll look at how similar are old Nazis and New Age ecologists. Ecology fits in with identity politics, is inseperable from it, and together they create the ground of multiculturalism, which in turn allows for the ground of Left dhimmi fascism. Like but not same.
The "Green Wins" of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents
by Peter Staudenmaier
"We recognize that separating humanity from nature, from the whole of life, leads to humankind's own destruction and to the death of nations. Only through a re-integration of humanity into the whole of nature can our people be made stronger. That is the fundamental point of the biological tasks of our age. Humankind alone is no longer the focus of thought, but rather life as a whole . . . This striving toward connectedness with the totality of life, with nature itself, a nature into which we are born, this is the deepest meaning and the true essence of National Socialist thought." 1
In our zeal to condemn the status quo, radicals often carelessly toss about epithets like "fascist" and "ecofascist," thus contributing to a sort of conceptual inflation that in no way furthers effective social critique. In such a situation, it is easy to overlook the fact that there are still virulent strains of fascism in our political culture which, however marginal, demand our attention. One of the least recognized or understood of these strains is the phenomenon one might call "actually existing ecofascism," that is, the preoccupation of authentically fascist movements with environmentalist concerns. In order to grasp the peculiar intensity and endurance of this affiliation, we would do well to examine more closely its most notorious historical incarnation, the so-called "green wing" of German National Socialism.
Despite an extensive documentary record, the subject remains an elusive one, underappreciated by professional historians and environmental activists alike. In English-speaking countries as well as in Germany itself, the very existence of a "green wing" in the Nazi movement, much less its inspiration, goals, and consequences, has yet to be adequately researched and analyzed. Most of the handful of available interpretations succumb to either an alarming intellectual affinity with their subject." 2 or a naive refusal to examine the full extent of the "ideological overlap between nature conservation and National Socialism ." 3 This article presents a brief and necessarily schematic overview of the ecological components of Nazism, emphasizing both their central role in Nazi ideology and their practical implementation during the Third Reich. A preliminary survey of nineteenth and twentieth century precursors to classical ecofascism should serve to illuminate the conceptual underpinnings common to all forms of reactionary ecology.
Two initial clarifications are in order. First, the terms "environmental" and "ecological" are here used more or less interchangeably to denote ideas, attitudes, and practices commonly associated with the contemporary environmental movement. This is not an anachronism; it simply indicates an interpretive approach which highlights connections to present-day concerns. Second, this approach is not meant to endorse the historiographically discredited notion that pre-1933 historical data can or should be read as "leading inexorably" to the Nazi calamity. Rather, our concern here is with discerning ideological continuities and tracing political genealogies, in an attempt to understand the past in light of our current situation -- to make history relevant to the present social and ecological crisis.
The Roots of the Blood and Soil Mystique
Germany is not only the birthplace of the science of ecology and the site of Green politics' rise to prominence; it has also been home to a peculiar synthesis of naturalism and nationalism forged under the influence of the Romantic tradition's anti-Enlightenment irrationalism. Two nineteenth century figures exemplify this ominous conjunction: Ernst Moritz Arndt and Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl.
[We'll hold off posting further biographical details until a later date.]
While best known in Germany for his fanatical nationalism, Arndt was also dedicated to the cause of the peasantry, which lead him to a concern for the welfare of the land itself. Historians of German environmentalism mention him as the earliest example of 'ecological' thinking in the modern sense. 4 His remarkable 1815 article On the Care and Conservation of Forests, written at the dawn of industrialization in Central Europe, rails against shortsighted exploitation of woodlands and soil, condemning deforestation and its economic causes. At times he wrote in terms strikingly similar to those of contemporary biocentrism: "When one sees nature in a necessary connectedness and interrelationship, then all things are equally important -- shrub, worm, plant, human, stone, nothing first or last, but all one single unity." 5
Arndt's environmentalism, however, was inextricably bound up with virulently xenophobic nationalism . His eloquent and prescient appeals for ecological sensitivity were couched always in terms of the well-being of the German soil and the German people, and his repeated lunatic polemics against miscegenation, demands for teutonic racial purity, and epithets against the French, Slavs, and Jews marked every aspect of his thought. At the very outset of the nineteenth century the deadly connection between love of land and militant racist nationalism was firmly set in place.
Riehl, a student of Arndt, further developed this sinister tradition. In some respects his 'green' streak went significantly deeper than Arndt's; presaging certain tendencies in recent environmental activism, his 1853 essay Field and Forest ended with a call to fight for "the rights of wilderness." But even here nationalist pathos set the tone: "We must save the forest, not only so that our ovens do not become cold in winter, but also so that the pulse of life of the people continues to beat warm and joyfully, so that Germany remains German." 6 Riehl was an implacable opponent of the rise of industrialism and urbanization; his overtly antisemitic glorification of rural peasant values and undifferentiated condemnation of modernity established him as the "founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism." 7
These latter two fixations matured in the second half of the nineteenth century in the context of the v?lkisch movement, a powerful cultural disposition and social tendency which united ethnocentric populism with nature mysticism. At the heart of the v?lkisch temptation was a pathological response to modernity. In the face of the very real dislocations brought on by the triumph of industrial capitalism and national unification, v?lkisch thinkers preached a return to the land, to the simplicity and wholeness of a life attuned to nature's purity. The mystical effusiveness of this perverted utopianism was matched by its political vulgarity. While "the Volkish movement aspired to reconstruct the society that was sanctioned by history, rooted in nature, and in communion with the cosmic life spirit," 8 it pointedly refused to locate the sources of alienation, rootlessness and environmental destruction in social structures, laying the blame instead to rationalism, cosmopolitanism, and urban civilization. The stand-in for all of these was the age-old object of peasant hatred and middle-class resentment: the Jews. "The Germans were in search of a mysterious wholeness that would restore them to primeval happiness, destroying the hostile milieu of urban industrial civilization that the Jewish conspiracy had foisted on them." 9
Reformulating traditional German antisemitism into nature-friendly terms, the v?lkisch movement carried a volatile amalgam of nineteenth century cultural prejudices, Romantic obsessions with purity, and anti-Enlightenment sentiment into twentieth century political discourse. The emergence of modern ecology forged the final link in the fateful chain which bound together aggressive nationalism, mystically charged racism, and environmentalist predilections . In 1867 the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term 'ecology' and began to establish it as a scientific discipline dedicated to studying the interactions between organism and environment. Haeckel was also the chief popularizer of Darwin and evolutionary theory for the German-speaking world, and developed a peculiar sort of social darwinist philosophy he called 'monism.' The German Monist League he founded combined scientifically based ecological holism with v?lkisch social views. Haeckel believed in nordic racial superiority, strenuously opposed race mixing and enthusiastically supported racial eugenics. His fervent nationalism became fanatical with the onset of World War I, and he fulminated in antisemitic tones against the post-war Council Republic in Bavaria.
In this way "Haeckel contributed to that special variety of German thought which served as the seed bed for National Socialism. He became one of Germany's major ideologists for racism, nationalism and imperialism." 10 Near the end of his life he joined the Thule Society, "a secret, radically right-wing organization which played a key role in the establishment of the Nazi movement." 11 But more than merely personal continuities are at stake here. The pioneer of scientific ecology, along with his disciples Willibald Hentschel, Wilhelm B?lsche and Bruno Wille, profoundly shaped the thinking of subsequent generations of environmentalists by embedding concern for the natural world in a tightly woven web of regressive social themes. From its very beginnings, then, ecology was bound up in an intensely reactionary political framework.
The specific contours of this early marriage of ecology and authoritarian social views are highly instructive. At the center of this ideological complex is the direct, unmediated application of biological categories to the social realm. Haeckel held that "civilization and the life of nations are governed by the same laws as prevail throughout nature and organic life." 12 This notion of 'natural laws' or 'natural order' has long been a mainstay of reactionary environmental thought. Its concomitant is anti-humanism:
Thus, for the Monists, perhaps the most pernicious feature of European bourgeois civilization was the inflated importance which it attached to the idea of man in general, to his existence and to his talents, and to the belief that through his unique rational faculties man could essentially recreate the world and bring about a universally more harmonious and ethically just social order. [Humankind was] an insignificant creature when viewed as part of and measured against the vastness of the cosmos and the overwhelming forces of nature. 13
Other Monists extended this anti-humanist emphasis and mixed it with the traditional v?lkisch motifs of indiscriminate anti-industrialism and anti-urbanism as well as the newly emerging pseudo-scientific racism. The linchpin, once again, was the conflation of biological and social categories. The biologist Raoul Franc?, founding member of the Monist League, elaborated so-called Lebensgesetze, 'laws of life' through which the natural order determines the social order. He opposed racial mixing, for example, as "unnatural." Franc? is acclaimed by contemporary ecofascists as a "pioneer of the ecology movement." 14
Franc?'s colleague Ludwig Woltmann, another student of Haeckel, insisted on a biological interpretation for all societal phenomena, from cultural attitudes to economic arrangements. He stressed the supposed connection between environmental purity and 'racial' purity: "Woltmann took a negative attitude toward modern industrialism. He claimed that the change from an agrarian to an industrial society had hastened the decline of the race. In contrast to nature, which engendered the harmonic forms of Germanism, there were the big cities, diabolical and inorganic, destroying the virtues of the race ." 15
Thus by the early years of the twentieth century a certain type of 'ecological' argumentation, saturated with right-wing political content, had attained a measure of respectability within the political culture of Germany. During the turbulent period surrounding World War I, the mixture of ethnocentric fanaticism, regressive rejection of modernity and genuine environmental concern proved to be a very potent potion indeed.
Footnotes 1. Ernst Lehmann, Biologischer Wille. Wege und Ziele biologischer Arbeit im neuen Reich, M?nchen, 1934, pp. 10-11. Lehmann was a professor of botany who characterized National Socialism as "politically applied biology."
We see that some of our common assumptions about the benign can lead us to false paths, and once we see clearly where we're headed we can change direction and call to the attention of others that we are astray. Knowing what we do now about ecology we can see why Davis above would conclude that chickens are as important as is the life of man. In further posts we'll try to show that this line of feeling, this Irrationalist mode of epistemology leads us not only into fascist ecology but also into fascsit multiculturalism, into Left dhimmitude, into philobarbarism where we stand agape at Palestinian homicide bombers while some of our own say they are resistence fighters. It's all of a paackage, one part being next to the other. We'll continue next post with more of this essay, and we hope you'll join us.