Sunday, December 18, 2005

Assumptions That Lead Us Astray (5)

Why? Why do we in the modern West protest against our societies and our ways of living to the point we enable our enemies to kill our own people? Why aren't we screaming mad and making changes in our favor? Why do thousands of protesters show up to riot in the streets of Seattle but only a dozen old people show up to condemn sharia laws in Ontario, Canada? Why do our movie stars and politicians and public intellectuals and our neighbours condemn our world and us for crimes against Humanity while killers threaten our friends with the possiblity of nuclear war? It's due to the way we view reality and from that how we assign priorities to our values. If, as an example, we value "The Land," then people are a lesser priority. If we value people who live in primitive cultures, then we devalue ourselves and condemn ourselves if we engage them in just war. We have to change our minds about how we view reality. Earth First! It leads down a road few of us would care to take if we knew where it leads.

The following installment of Staudenmaier's essay on ecofascism provides us with some further biographical detail and some insight into the nature of the anti-Human, pro-Nature thrust of ecofascism as practiced by the Nazis.

We are faced by ecoterrorism in the West. That, regardless of the terrorism itself against individuals, is not our deepest concern here. The importance is state ecologism and, worse, cultural ecofascism, the kind of mind-set that creeps in to societies and takes over under cover, as it were, that devalues people and promotes a mysticism and irrationality in people so they come to accept as right and natural the removal of people from areas to promote the good of birds, for example. all well and fine, we can say. But when protecting birds extends to protecting chickens, not from cramped cages, but to the extent of smashing windows and burning buildings and assaulting people, then it's more than a case of a few extremists going to far,it's a case of people who have lost sight of the worth of man in himself. Those are people who value the idea of ecology more than they value the idea of Humans. And once the idea of Humans is devalued, Humans themselves are just a detail. When nature is seen as "The Land" and is made into something more than the accumulation of dead decay that it is (mixed with rocks and stuff,) and when nature becomes Mother Nature! whom we are accused of raping, then all sense goes out the window, as well as those who do not belong on the land, the interlopers, the ones who came later, who aren't part of the natural environment. It soon enough degenerates into expelling or killing foreigners, burning homosexuals who are "unnatural" and unproductive of society's need to replenish the population, and to subjugating women and forcing them to become breeding machines. The move toward devaluing people as a universal whole in favour of them being unique groups of authentic beings in their own natural place and their own traditional cultures, that is the road to extermination of others.

We have to decide whether we are rational or irrational in our pursuit of knowledge and truth. Some, such as Herder, devalue reason in favor of feeling. Ecologists use reason to devalue Man by using reason irrationally. At heart they feel that Man is an interloper who must be made to return to a pre-lapsarian paradise, even if that means killing most people and forcing the rest to live in forests. Lest any one think this is some exercise in hyperbole, look please at the essay below, then examine the history of the Khmer Rouge, of the Cultural Revolution, of Soviet collectivization and the destruction of the kulaks and Ukrainian peasantry in the 1920s and 30s. Those campaigns of extermination are of a piece with the Nazi drive to create a utopian world of right Nature. If one starts to look at the world as invaluable, then one may very well start seeing people as of no value. And the first to be of no value are the ones who don't belong on the land in the first place. On that road there is only one end.

Every man, as Kant so nicely put it, is an end unto himself. No man, according to me and most, has any right to hasten another's leaving. Those who lose sight of the worth of Man are lost to Mankind. To look at Man as just another creature in a state of nature, and as one who is indeed a threat to nature that must be stopped before he does greater harm, that is a crime against Humanity. Firstly, it's a crime against the self. but even if there is no great Moral and man's life is simply an accident of biology and chemistry, Man is, and that is sufficient for Man.

Man-- not trees, not mountains, not cloud or the ozone layer can rise to heights nothing else can; we can know the future and our end:

Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th'inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Implementing the Ecofascist Program

It is frequently pointed out that the agrarian and romantic moments in Nazi ideology and policy were in constant tension with, if not in flat contradiction to, the technocratic-industrialist thrust of the Third Reich's rapid modernization. What is not often remarked is that even these modernizing tendencies had a significant ecological component. The two men principally responsible for sustaining this environmentalist commitment in the midst of intensive industrialization were Reichsminister Fritz Todt and his aide, the high-level planner and engineer Alwin Seifert.

Todt was "one of the most influential National Socialists," 45 directly responsible for questions of technological and industrial policy. At his death in 1942 he headed three different cabinet-level ministries in addition to the enormous quasi-official Organisation Todt, and had "gathered the major technical tasks of the Reich into his own hands." 46 According to his successor, Albert Speer, Todt "loved nature" and "repeatedly had serious run-ins with Bormann, protesting against his despoiling the landscape around Obersalzberg."47 Another source calls him simply "an ecologist." 48 This reputation is based chiefly on Todt's efforts to make Autobahn construction -- one of the largest building enterprises undertaken in this century -- as environmentally sensitive as possible.

The pre-eminent historian of German engineering describes this commitment thus: "Todt demanded of the completed work of technology a harmony with nature and with the landscape, thereby fulfilling modern ecological principles of engineering as well as the 'organological' principles of his own era along with their roots in völkisch ideology."49 The ecological aspects of this approach to construction went well beyond an emphasis on harmonious adaptation to the natural surroundings for aesthetic reasons; Todt also established strict criteria for respecting wetlands, forests and ecologically sensitive areas. But just as with Arndt, Riehl and Darré, these environmentalist concerns were inseparably bound to a völkisch-nationalist outlook. Todt himself expressed this connection succinctly: "The fulfillment of mere transportation purposes is not the final aim of German highway construction. The German highway must be an expression of its surrounding landscape and an expression of the German essence." 50

Todt's chief adviser and collaborator on environmental issues was his lieutenant Alwin Seifert, whom Todt reportedly once called a "fanatical ecologist." 51 Seifert bore the official title of Reich Advocate for the Landscape, but his nickname within the party was "Mr. Mother Earth." The appellation was deserved; Seifert dreamed of a "total conversion from technology to nature,"52 and would often wax lyrical about the wonders of German nature and the tragedy of "humankind's" carelessness. As early as 1934 he wrote to Hess demanding attention to water issues and invoking "work methods that are more attuned to nature."53 In discharging his official duties Seifert stressed the importance of wilderness and energetically opposed monoculture, wetlands drainage and chemicalized agriculture. He criticized Darré as too moderate, and "called for an agricultural revolution towards 'a more peasant-like, natural, simple' method of farming, 'independent of capital'." 54

With the Third Reich's technological policy entrusted to figures such as these, even the Nazis' massive industrial build-up took on a distinctively green hue. The prominence of nature in the party's philosophical background helped ensure that more radical initiatives often received a sympathetic hearing in the highest offices of the Nazi state. In the mid-thirties Todt and Seifert vigorously pushed for an all-encompassing Reich Law for the Protection of Mother Earth "in order to stem the steady loss of this irreplaceable basis of all life."55 Seifert reports that all of the ministries were prepared to co-operate save one; only the minister of the economy opposed the bill because of its impact on mining.

But even near-misses such as these would have been unthinkable without the support of Reich Chancellor Rudolf Hess, who provided the "green wing" of the NSDAP a secure anchor at the very top of the party hierarchy. It would be difficult to overestimate Hess's power and centrality in the complex governmental machinery of the National Socialist regime. He joined the party in 1920 as member #16, and for two decades was Hitler's devoted personal deputy. He has been described as "Hitler's closest confidant," 56 and the Führer himself referred to Hess as his "closest adviser." 57 Hess was not only the highest party leader and second in line (after Göring) to succeed Hitler; in addition, all legislation and every decree had to pass through his office before becoming law.

An inveterate nature lover as well as a devout Steinerite, Hess insisted on a strictly biodynamic diet -- not even Hitler's rigorous vegetarian standards were good enough for him -- and accepted only homeopathic medicines. It was Hess who introduced Darré to Hitler, thus securing the "green wing" its first power base. He was an even more tenacious proponent of organic farming than Darré, and pushed the latter to take more demonstrative steps in support of the lebensgesetzliche Landbauweise. 58 His office was also directly responsible for land use planning across the Reich, employing a number of specialists who shared Seifert's ecological approach.59

With Hess's enthusiastic backing, the "green wing" was able to achieve its most notable successes. As early as March 1933, a wide array of environmentalist legislation was approved and implemented at national, regional and local levels. These measures, which included reforestation programs, bills protecting animal and plant species, and preservationist decrees blocking industrial development, undoubtedly "ranked among the most progressive in the world at that time."60 Planning ordinances were designed for the protection of wildlife habitat and at the same time demanded respect for the sacred German forest. The Nazi state also created the first nature preserves in Europe.

Along with Darré's efforts toward re-agrarianization and support for organic agriculture, as well as Todt and Seifert's attempts to institutionalize an environmentally sensitive land use planning and industrial policy, the major accomplishment of the Nazi ecologists was the Reichsnaturschutzgesetz of 1935. This completely unprecedented "nature protection law" not only established guidelines for safeguarding flora, fauna, and "natural monuments" across the Reich; it also restricted commercial access to remaining tracts of wilderness. In addition, the comprehensive ordinance "required all national, state and local officials to consult with Naturschutz authorities in a timely manner before undertaking any measures that would produce fundamental alterations in the countryside." 61

Although the legislation's effectiveness was questionable, traditional German environmentalists were overjoyed at its passage. Walter Schoenichen declared it the "definitive fulfillment of the völkisch-romantic longings," 62 and Hans Klose, Schoenichen's successor as head of the Reich Agency for Nature Protection, described Nazi environmental policy as the "high point of nature protection" in Germany. Perhaps the greatest success of these measures was in facilitating the "intellectual realignment of German Naturschutz" and the integration of mainstream environmentalism into the Nazi enterprise.63

While the achievements of the "green wing" were daunting, they should not be exaggerated. Ecological initiatives were, of course, hardly universally popular within the party. Goebbels, Bormann, and Heydrich, for example, were implacably opposed to them, and considered Darré, Hess and their fellows undependable dreamers, eccentrics, or simply security risks. This latter suspicion seemed to be confirmed by Hess's famed flight to Britain in 1941; after that point, the environmentalist tendency was for the most part suppressed. Todt was killed in a plane crash in February 1942, and shortly thereafter Darré was stripped of all his posts. For the final three years of the Nazi conflagration the "green wing" played no active role. Their work, however, had long since left an indelible stain.

The stain is visible and growing today. Most of us love our kittens and our puppies and we love gardening and hiking in the forests and across flower strewn meadows. We love, but nature is a thing without mind, without heart, without being other than that whcih we give to it from ourselves. Nature is only as beautiful as we are, and to project ourselves onto nature at the expense of our fellows makes us ugly beyond endurance. We must protect nature for our own sake, not for the sake of nature. When we over-value nature we under-value people. And then we start to over-value those who also seem to value nature highly, the primitives who live like animals, who are close to nature, who hate Modernity, who have a connection to The Land, whose people have lived on The Land from time immemorial, special people in special places, unlike those who have no place, and who should not be where they are.

And eventually we'd find ourselves wandering in circles going nowhere because there's no one left to kill anymore. Even then nature wouldn't be happy because nature is just a clump of dead stuff with living things on it for a time till they pass away. I'd rather we live while we're alive and love what we can and leave the rest alone if we don't need it. For the rest, I left my uniform and rule guide at the last hotel and filled my pack with poetry and things I need on the road.

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