Friday, December 16, 2005
Questioning Authority of Assumptions (2)
A brief precis of part two of this look at ecology as an aspect of Left dhimmi fascism reveals that what we often assume -- as a general culture of the Modernist West -- is not the ecology of warm and fuzzy stuff, of cute animals and baby birds living in old growth forests while happy people wander naked in harmony with Nature. No, ecology is far more than that, something that is in truth a sinister and repulsive and violent, hate-fueled ideology that often very nice and decent people speak of without having any idea whereof they speak. Yes, it's off-putting to write like that, bordering at first glance on the conspiracy theory level. The historical record proves that assumption to be misinformed. It's still such an assault on our conventional assumptions that most people will not believe that ecology is a term coined by a violent anti-Semite and that ecology is a pseudo-science that promotes genocide.
Ecology, when it comes down to it, isn't important to us here in the heart of a large city. Ecology is only interesting in that it is part of a larger problem we face from our fellow citizens, those who think that Nature is something great and good. It makes us nervous simply because we have to share space in this city with people who assume that some things are right, others wrong, and that's how we'll conduct our public affairs; and the nervousness arises when the right and the wrong are based in the majority mind of the public, in public opinion, on some very wrong and frightening assumptions. The idea of ecology as good isn't one thing in the mind of the public, it's part of a greater opinion. There is a linkage between ecology and Muslims blowing up buses in the city centre and politicians saying its not a problem with Islam and protesters raging at America and the West. If we ask ourselves "Why is the West flooded with Islamic maniacs committing murder at random, and why aren't our politicians doing the right things about stopping it, and why are people protesting on the streets against the West itself?" then we will have to start looking in directions not clearly obvious. We might come across as kooks when we suggest ideas not commonly assumed. We'll risk it here and hope for the best.
Half the population of the West is in a state of pathological hatred regarding America. And half of American citizens are whipped into a frenzy of rage at the sound of the name "George Bush."
What's going on here? Why is this happening? Why aren't people in the West enraged instead by Islamic fascists, by men who bomb buses and schools, who gang rape teenagers, who sexually mutilate female children? Why aren't we going nuts over the antics of our enemies? Why are we so enraged at ourselves and our own cultures?
No, it's not ecology that makes this happen. Ecology is part of the problem. Ecology is a piece of the problem that makes us see the West as evil. The positions we take emotionally as ecology supporters also means we take emotional postions that conform to that mind-set. We take it all, the good with the bad, and the result is madness-- unknown to us, the bad hidden in the good.
Ecology started badly, and though none of us here will suggest that we believe in the things the early ecologists wrote and thought about racial questions that stem from it, that the soil is polluted by having Jews living on it, it is part of ecology's history. Ecology is about clean water and the ozone layer and real forests. It is also-- and we must understand this clearly-- about priorities.
We won't likely find many people who claim that chickens suffer more than did the people murdered by Muslims on 9-11. We look at such people who equate the lives of chickens with the life of Man as lunatics. But we find thousands of people protesting on the streets in the name of anti-globalism fighting with police, smashing, looting and burning, praising homicide bombers and rapists and child mutilators, people who protest against us because we are destroying the Earth, according to them. Why? And then, why do our poiticians lie to us about Islam being the religion of peace? Why do our leaders lie to us about Islam? Why all the lies, and why do so many average people go along with the lies? Why do so many average and decent people hate America to the point they would rather support Saddam than Americasn is Iraq? Why are normal and decent people insane and hate-filled?
Part of the answer is to do with our views on ecology. It might seem crazy today to say ecology is part of the reason peole are against the Modernist West, but in five years public opinion will catch up to this and you'll be thought mad to disagree with it.
Today, ecology is a mental position in the public opinion that threatens to destroy our world as we know it. This is the second part of why.
The Youth Movement and the Weimar Era
The chief vehicle for carrying this ideological constellation to prominence was the youth movement, an amorphous phenomenon which played a decisive but highly ambivalent role in shaping German popular culture during the first three tumultuous decades of this century. Also known as the Wandervögel (which translates roughly as 'wandering free spirits'), the youth movement was a hodge-podge of countercultural elements, blending neo-Romanticism, Eastern philosophies, nature mysticism, hostility to reason, and a strong communal impulse in a confused but no less ardent search for authentic, non-alienated social relations. Their back-to-the-land emphasis spurred a passionate sensitivity to the natural world and the damage it suffered. They have been aptly characterized as 'right-wing hippies,' for although some sectors of the movement gravitated toward various forms of emancipatory politics (though usually shedding their environmentalist trappings in the process), most of the Wandervöge were eventually absorbed by the Nazis. This shift from nature worship to Führer worship is worth examining.
The various strands of the youth movement shared a common self-conception: they were a purportedly 'non-political' response to a deep cultural crisis, stressing the primacy of direct emotional experience over social critique and action. They pushed the contradictions of their time to the breaking point, but were unable or unwilling to take the final step toward organized, focused social rebellion, "convinced that the changes they wanted to effect in society could not be brought about by political means, but only by the improvement of the individual." 16 This proved to be a fatal error. "Broadly speaking, two ways of revolt were open to them: they could have pursued their radical critique of society, which in due course would have brought them into the camp of social revolution. [But] the Wandervögel chose the other form of protest against society -- romanticism." 17
This posture lent itself all too readily to a very different kind of political mobilization: the 'unpolitical' zealotry of fascism. The youth movement did not simply fail in its chosen form of protest, it was actively realigned when its members went over to the Nazis by the thousands. Its countercultural energies and its dreams of harmony with nature bore the bitterest fruit. This is, perhaps, the unavoidable trajectory of any movement which acknowledges and opposes social and ecological problems but does not recognize their systemic roots or actively resist the political and economic structures which generate them. Eschewing societal transformation in favor of personal change, an ostensibly apolitical disaffection can, in times of crisis, yield barbaric results.
The attraction such perspectives exercised on idealistic youth is clear: the enormity of the crisis seemed to enjoin a total rejection of its apparent causes. It is in the specific form of this rejection that the danger lies. Here the work of several more theoretical minds from the period is instructive. The philosopher Ludwig Klages profoundly influenced the youth movement and particularly shaped their ecological consciousness. He authored a tremendously important essay titled "Man and Earth" for the legendary Meissner gathering of the Wandervögel in 1913. 18 An extraordinarily poignant text and the best known of all Klages' work, it is not only "one of the very greatest manifestoes of the radical ecopacifist movement in Germany," 19 but also a classic example of the seductive terminology of reactionary ecology.
"Man and Earth" anticipated just about all of the themes of the contemporary ecology movement. It decried the accelerating extinction of species, disturbance of global ecosystemic balance, deforestation, destruction of aboriginal peoples and of wild habitats, urban sprawl, and the increasing alienation of people from nature. In emphatic terms it disparaged Christianity, capitalism, economic utilitarianism, hyperconsumption and the ideology of 'progress.' It even condemned the environmental destructiveness of rampant tourism and the slaughter of whales, and displayed a clear recognition of the planet as an ecological totality. All of this in 1913 !
It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that Klages was throughout his life politically archconservative and a venomous antisemite. One historian labels him a "Volkish fanatic" and another considers him simply "an intellectual pacemaker for the Third Reich" who "paved the way for fascist philosophy in many important respects." 20 In "Man and Earth" a genuine outrage at the devastation of the natural environment is coupled with a political subtext of cultural despair. 21 Klages' diagnosis of the ills of modern society, for all its declamations about capitalism, returns always to a single culprit: "Geist." His idiosyncratic use of this term, which means mind or intellect, was meant to denounce not only hyperrationalism or instrumental reason, but rational thought itself. Such a wholesale indictment of reason cannot help but have savage political implications. It forecloses any chance of rationally reconstructing society's relationship with nature and justifies the most brutal authoritarianism. But the lessons of Klages' life and work have been hard for ecologists to learn. In 1980, "Man and Earth" was republished as an esteemed and seminal treatise to accompany the birth of the German Greens.
Another philosopher and stern critic of Enlightenment who helped bridge fascism and environmentalism was Martin Heidegger. A much more renowned thinker than Klages, Heidegger preached "authentic Being" and harshly criticized modern technology, and is therefore often celebrated as a precursor of ecological thinking. On the basis of his critique of technology and rejection of humanism, contemporary deep ecologists have elevated Heidegger to their pantheon of eco-heroes:
Heidegger's critique of anthropocentric humanism, his call for humanity to learn to "let things be," his notion that humanity is involved in a "play" or "dance" with earth, sky, and gods, his meditation on the possibility of an authentic mode of "dwelling" on the earth, his complaint that industrial technology is laying waste to the earth, his emphasis on the importance of local place and "homeland," his claim that humanity should guard and preserve things, instead of dominating them -- all these aspects of Heidegger's thought help to support the claim that he is a major deep ecological theorist. 22
Such effusions are, at best, dangerously naive. They suggest a style of thought utterly oblivious to the history of fascist appropriations of all the elements the quoted passage praises in Heidegger. (To his credit, the author of the above lines, a major deep ecological theorist in his own right, has since changed his position and eloquently urged his colleagues to do the same.) 23 As for the philosopher of Being himself, he was -- unlike Klages, who lived in Switzerland after 1915 -- an active member of the Nazi party and for a time enthusiastically, even adoringly supported the Führer. His mystical panegyrics to Heimat (homeland) were complemented by a deep antisemitism, and his metaphysically phrased broadsides against technology and modernity converged neatly with populist demagogy. Although he lived and taught for thirty years after the fall of the Third Reich, Heidegger never once publicly regretted, much less renounced, his involvement with National Socialism, nor even perfunctorily condemned its crimes. His work, whatever its philosophical merits, stands today as a signal admonition about the political uses of anti-humanism in ecological garb.
In addition to the youth movement and protofascist philosophies, there were, of course, practical efforts at protecting natural habitats during the Weimar period. Many of these projects were profoundly implicated in the ideology which culminated in the victory of 'Blood and Soil.' A 1923 recruitment pitch for a woodlands preservation outfit gives a sense of the environmental rhetoric of the time:
"In every German breast the German forest quivers with its caverns and ravines, crags and boulders, waters and winds, legends and fairy tales, with its songs and its melodies, and awakens a powerful yearning and a longing for home; in all German souls the German forest lives and weaves with its depth and breadth, its stillness and strength, its might and dignity, its riches and its beauty -- it is the source of German inwardness, of the German soul, of German freedom. Therefore protect and care for the German forest for the sake of the elders and the youth, and join the new German "League for the Protection and Consecration of the German Forest."24
The mantra-like repetition of the word "German" and the mystical depiction of the sacred forest fuse together, once again, nationalism and naturalism. This intertwinement took on a grisly significance with the collapse of the Weimar republic. For alongside such relatively innocuous conservation groups, another organization was growing which offered these ideas a hospitable home: the National Socialist German Workers Party, known by its acronym NSDAP. Drawing on the heritage of Arndt, Riehl, Haeckel, and others (all of whom were honored between 1933 and 1945 as forebears of triumphant National Socialism), the Nazi movement's incorporation of environmentalist themes was a crucial factor in its rise to popularity and state power.