The Early Days of a Better Nation

Saturday, November 28, 2009



Guilt-tripping and hair shirts not way to go, hair-shirted Green guilt-tripper admits

Mark Lynas, who recently welcomed recession and rising oil prices, and compared flying to planting mass-casualty long-delayed time-bombs, has had something of a change of heart:
If the lesson for scientists is that the era when they can practice their trade entirely separately from the rest of society is well and truly over, the lesson for environmentalists is equally harsh. Having spent years (once again, myself included) reminding the public of the horrifying potential consequences of climate change, and demanding major lifestyle change on the part of ordinary people, it seems that our message is not just falling on deaf ears – but may even be counterproductive.

We have to start accentuating the positive, rather than constantly invoking apocalypse. Getting off fossil fuels is a necessity, but that does not mean that people’s lives must be made harder or more austere. Forget all the “war economy” analogies, locally grown jam and appeals to save old clothes. Our message needs to be a forward-looking one of hope, prosperity and technological progress.

We also have to stop trying to make people feel guilty. No, flying isn’t analogous to child abuse. Polar bears won’t drop from the sky. Constantly accusing normal people of immoral behaviour is perhaps a way to get noticed, but not a clever way to win converts. And the normal people in question, upset at being accused of killing babies every time they step onto Ryanair, will be very susceptible to the first conspiracy theorist who whispers in their ear: “Don’t worry, it’s not true.”

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39 Comments:

Climate change politics has become official state policy. Thats bound to produce more skepticism! People are bound to be suspicious, because as we know, states deceive and oppress people on behalf of capitalism.

The green movement started with a simple and somewhat naive demand - that the state and capitalism acknowledge anthropogenic global warming and act on it.

But now the state and capital have accepted climate change as a central problem - they will impose their own 'solutions' to advance their capitalist interests. Carbon trading, biofuels, nuclear power. The bourgeoisie use the discourse of global warming to advance their own agenda, (and in a way that wont address climate change).

Of course people will be alienated and skeptical.

We live in an age of skepticism. 'Science' was once used to bypass politics by authoritarians and technocrats. Now this no longer works. People were skeptical about GM crops. After BSE, it did not work to say: 'Science says its safe, you must eat it".

Science is a social activity that constructs partial and uncertain knowledge. This then become reified into 'Truth' to serve power. The green movement cannot use the same maneuver, of 'science says do this'. There are many reasons why a shift to a more just and equal society on this planet is needed, and many different registers this need and desire must be expressed in.

But to conclude - while science is a social activity that constructs partial and uncertain knowledge, this knowledge still has a relationship, through our practice, with a material world beyond our concepts.

i.e. scientific paradigms are not mere 'conspiracies'. If science could simply be bought and paid for to serve the interests of the richest - ie the state and capitalism, then climate science would say something far more comforting to the key interests of big business!

The anthropogenic climate change hypothesis by and large contradicts capitalism's interests in perpetual expansion and 'built in obsolescence' consumer commodity production. The hypothesis especially contradicts the interests of the dominant configuration of capitalism around oil that still marks our era. Capitalism has only reluctantly accepted the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. Undoubtedly they now wish to use that hypothesis to advance a rotten capitalist agenda. But if they had their way, the hypothesis would not have emerged to prominence in the first place. The conspiracists cannot explain this...

Under certain very specialized circumstances, guilt and hair shirts seem to be able to capture mass popular support. Consider the precedent of Savonarola's domination of Florence. Of course, that domination was short-lived and was brutally repudiated; but it did happen.

A: Don't touch that, it's hot.

B: Ow, that hurt, why didn't you warn me?

A: Er, I did warn you.

B: But not in the right tone of voice, I'm going to sue.

We also have to stop trying to make people feel guilty. No, flying isn’t analogous to child abuse.

No, more like murder on a planetary scale. But we wouldn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by telling him he's a fucking idiot.

It seems that Lynas has taken a leaf out of the Monbiot school of eco-journalism - every so often announce 'heresy' against the green 'orthodoxy' that you yourself had created. Guaranteed to get you noticed.

"It seems that Lynas has taken a leaf out of the Monbiot school of eco-journalism - every so often announce 'heresy' against the green 'orthodoxy' that you yourself had created. Guaranteed to get you noticed."
Anon.
Anyone who tries anything worthwhile makes mistakes anon, which can easily result in your actions having unintended consequences. It's far too early to be so cynical about so interesting a statement unless, that is, Lynas has a habit of making these self-publicising flip-flops. He hasn't, has he? ;)

OK a couple of things:

I know that Lynas a few years ago decided that he had to back Blair because Blair took AGW seriously, in spite of Iraq. He always gave me the impression of being a "decent leftist" one who tends in general to back empire.

Something I and a minority of enviornmentalist have been arguing for years is that the "moderate" greenies with their emphasis on carbon trading are on the wrong track. On the physical level global warming is an infrastructure problem. That is most of the way we do things from designing buildings to building factories to setting up our transport and food systems produces greenhouse gases as a side effect. And generally infrasturcture does not get changed by price signals except at the margins. Fundamental infrastructure tranformation happens through public investment, public subsidy, and regulation. Think of roads, canals, train tracks, transmission lines, sewers, water, electronic communications. At the very least these require grants of public rights of way - in most cases actual public money expenditures either via cash subsidies or direct public ownership. So when mainstream greenies focus on price signals (and cap-and-trade is a price signal) they putting huge amounts of poltical energy into the least important component of solving the problem as well as the least popular. And the reason for this is it is the component that opens huge opportunties for profit by brokers and financial people. So it is an attempt to focus on buying off the elite rather than winning popular support and something that ignores the main potential solutions.

I think Patrick Neilsen Hayden gets it:
"It makes me weary, the same way it makes me weary to watch people turning the challenge of global climate change into nothing more than another arena in which to stage dramas of individual bourgeois virtue. If we manage to ameliorate climate change and survive as a civilization, it is not going to be because enough of us were heroically austere and self-disciplined; it's going to be because we figure out how to restructure our technical and social arrangements in ways that cause less damage to the planet."

From my 'right-on' activist days, and my partial exposure to Catholicism as a kid (enough to inoculate, not indoctrinate) I can say with some certainty that guilt is a crap motivator, though a good way of controlling people. If you want to get people motivated for a cause you should give them positive visions to work towards, as that way they'll feel good about what they're doing even if they're banging their heads against a brick wall, and they can have a good time. If you guilt-trip folk 7 ways from Sunday then you'll get a short-term win but it's not long before people get fed up with the obligatory hair shirt, and then they often reject the whole movement that forced them to put it on in the first place.

Guilt, though, is a very good means of social control, as witness Ireland up until the 90s when theocratic feudalism gave way to capitalism. Or, on a smaller scale, the peace movement in the UK in the 80s, which was increasingly dominated by right-on moralists who felt good by making others feel bad, and gained power by doing so. Some moralistic Greenies are guilty (arf!) of the same thing these days, which is good for them in the short term as they gain fleeting power and fame (Monbiot comes immediately to mind), but bad for environmentalists as a whole because it makes ordinary folk think that they're just a bunch of po-faced anti-fun moralists. Just as Irish folk used to think of priests - oh, we feared them, right enough, and tugged our forelocks and said the right things, but when they were out of sight we got back to our old sinning ways down the pub :o)

If Greenies want to motivate people to take real action against climate change, both on the small scale and on the larger political scale, they need to drop the hair shirt and whip out the whiskey. You can have a good time and save the planet.

@guthrie: do you have a URL for that PNH quote? It's a goodie and one I'd like to cite.

>If we manage to ameliorate climate change and survive as a civilization, it is not going to be because enough of us were heroically austere and self-disciplined;> it's going to be because we figure out how to restructure our technical and social arrangements in ways that cause less damage to the planet.

And the reason for choosing guilt over this approach is because the "restructure social relationships" part is very threatening to many of the powerful.

His last line gives it away. All he is saying is the eco-fascists should change their tactics before everybody realises they have been lying to us & the entire thing is a pack of lies. Of course the point is that is all a pack of lies by parasites out to impose Luddism & get a nice government subsidy in the process.

IOt may be argued that not every single member of the movement has been proven to have personally lied but for a movement to be wholly corrupt all that is required is for what passes for honest people to keep silent as what they know to be lies are told. Lynas is admittening that he has lied but promising that next time he will be somewhat truthful but he has not denounced the liars in the rest of the movement & thus removes any belief the more credulous might be willing to give him.

This should lead you to it:

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/011912.html#385144

eco-fascists ... lying to us ... pack of lies ... parasites ... Luddism ... government subsidy

Sigh.

That asteroid can't come soon enough.

@guthrie: thanks for the link
@nomadUK: thanks for the bellylaugh :o)

An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition - according to Mr Python.

If you have one Nomad lets see it.

Fred: the peace movement in the UK in the 80s, which was increasingly dominated by right-on moralists who felt good by making others feel bad, and gained power by doing so

Excuse me? What?

Gar Lipow - very good points. (Click on his name for the link to his book, everyone!)

Ken, in the heady peacenik days of the 80s you were likely on the Trotstkyite Left rather than with us right-on brown-rice-and-lentil-types, so perhaps my throwaway comment was confusing. I was an activist, though not to the extent of breaking into bases and getting arrested, and I saw the increasing use of guilt to enforce orthodoxy and bolster positions of power in the radical wing of the peace movement. Vegetarianism was pretty much mandatory (though even then you were guilt-tripped by vegans for eating dairy), and those who continued to eat meat were looked down upon as accessories to murder. "Non-violence" became an increasingly narrow orthodoxy, from which more and more folk, even those with strong activist backgrounds like my then GF (who was in the US Civil Rights movement and received death threats, FFS!), were excluded. The dominant current of the movement was a radical-liberal feminism hybrid, which was very big on guilt-tripping males and those who associated with them, and in that way exercised control over those who fell for the trip.

Extreme liberalism and identity politics ruled. Class politics was derided as a vestige of old Left patriarchy, and socialists like myself were increasingly marginalised and ostracised. All that counted were identities which couldn't be criticised - if someone stood up and started speaking with "As a disabled black lesbian" she'd immediately have trumped, and shut up by guilt, most of the audience who'd be white middle class, with a few white working class.

The working class was, of course, beyond the pale and to be pitied and loathed in equal measure. To say that the right-on peace movement was ambivalent about the Miners Strike would be a serious understatement.

I recognised all this guilt-tripping and power play from my Irish upbringing, and to me the leading activists were little different from priests, the main difference being that the Church was backed by the State whereas right-on ideologues gained their power from exploiting others guilt. In the end that's the main reason that I left the movement.

Sadly, I can see the same moralism, authoritarianism and powerplay in the 'hard Green' movement, and indeed in parts of the mainstream movement (again, Monbiot is a good example, though at least he is a half-decent researcher). This only benefits the power players in the short run, and definitely doesn't benefit the cause in any run. That quote from PNH is spot on, IMO - some folk are grandstanding at the expense of practical social change.

To me, these very different movements are very similar in their use of guilt as a means of control and aggrandisement. Hence my post...

The problem Fred is that I don't see the likes of Monbiot as actuall trying to seize and use power. I see him and others honestyl trying to grapple with what will be necessary to deal with the threats (Not just of climate change). The trick is how to sideline the power crazed maniacs, who after all try and take over everything they ever come into contact with anyway.

Am I really weird in that I don't feel much guilt about anything, or have rationalised it away?

Neil, you have completely misread the last line - Lynas does not admit or insinuate that he has been lying. Therefore your suggestion that he is saying change tactics before we get found out is totally wrong.

While Guthrie I accept your claim that he has not changed tactics as represnting the very highest standard of which you or any eco-fascist is capable the fact that he also says "We also have to stop trying to make people feel guilty" proves that he does indeed intend to change from the tactic of trying to use guilt.

The entire movement contains little but power crazed maniacs quite deliberately fomenting what they know to be totally false fears to gain power. That it appeals to Luddites like you committed to preventing others producing progress & wealth is clearly the attraction.

FFS, quit using the stupid term "eco-fascist". Fascism is a particular historical and ideological phenomenon with very particular characteristics, not a catch-all term of abuse. By maliciously and mendaciously misusing the word (just like the bell-end fascists of the BNP who talk of "islamo-fascism") you seriously devalue it and make it harder to fight the very real fascism which is gaining ground rapidly in Europe and the UK.

Some fascist sects use Greenery in their ideology, but no Green sect AFAIK is "fascist". If you think otherwise, then f*ckin prove it. Take the important elements of fascism - ultra-nationalism, ethnic purity, corporatism, imperialism (to name a few) - and show how these apply to environmentalists. As a starter for ten, you could do worse than the Wikipedia entry on fascism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism).

The only tenets of fascism that might apply to extreme Greenies, such as Earth First!, are totalitarianism and authoritarianism, and even then you'd be hard-pushed to make those charges stick even for the nutters, let alone for mainstream Greenies. You want to accuse Greenies of authoritarianism and feathering their own nests, fine, go ahead. Hell, if you want to accuse them of kiddy-fiddling, go ahead. But quit misusing the term "fascism" because ignoramuses like you actively damage the anti-fascist movement which we need now more than ever.

What on earth are you on about, Neil? Your last post made no sense at all.

If by "ultra-nationalism & ethnic purity" you mean racism that is inherent in Nazism rather than Fascism. Fascism is about state corporatism & that dissent or individual thought is damaging (check the symbolism of the fasces). The entire eco-fascist movement is now committed to big government controls of everything(the small is beautiful days are long gone), to government being the only road to advancement, to censorship, suppression of facts & bullying of people showing the scientific/liberal virtue of scepticism. You may or may not approve of this but it is certainly Fascism.

Then you show the hypocrisy of your point by calling the BNP "bell end fascists" which is hardly consistent with your objection to the gratuitous use of the term. Note that the BNP recently denounced the kidnap & dissection of 1,300 Serbs, while still alive, for body parts by NATO p0olice - posible only because the "mainstream" parties supported it. I think you should apologise to the BNP or f'ing prove that their membership avergage 100th as fascist as the obscene, lying, racist, genocidal, child raping, organlegging Nazi filth who make up these 3 parties.

If you have one Nomad lets see it.

Know what? I think you just made it for me. Cheers.

"kidnap & dissection of 1,300 Serbs"

*cite required*

OK, this is a risible atrocity story under which they found a remote building in the combat zone where there were traces of used medical stores - bandages, plasma packs and the like.

Evidently, this had been a regimental aid post/small field ambulance. However, to give it the right pornographic oomph, they mashed it up with the old "traveller wakes up in bath full of ice without kidney" urban myth.

(You try conducting transplant surgery in a farmhouse up a mountain on the Albanian-Kosovo border, without heating or lighting, 20 miles from a road. Tell me how you get on.)

Neil's special contribution is to move it forward in time so as to blame NATO; it was originally meant to have happened during the war, when the area in question was well ahead of the forwardmost positions held by 5 Airborne Brigade as was, but he's transferred it into the postwar so that "NATO police" could be there.

(Also, there are no NATO police in Kosovo, or indeed anywhere else - they work for the UN.)

Not my special contribution - that of Carla del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the NATO funded "court" who admitted in her bio to having known of this atrocity for years
http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/ips040108.htm

Except that there is no reason whatsoever to believe it happened during the war. Indeed many of the disappeared suspected of being in this or in other acts of NATO police genocide such as the 210 unarmed civilians murdered in the Dragodan Massacre outside our military HQ are known to have been alive & free when NATO took over. Obviously when the Yugoslavs were maintaining security the KLA could not operate safely as they could once they became our "police".

They were NATO police - the occupation agreement said that NATO should disarm the KLA & run a non-racist policing operation so NATO swore in the KLA, by units, as our police & sent them out, under their authority, to engage inn genocide, ethnic cleansing & worse.

Officially the EU is investigating this but in practice are doing nothing. This received massive, top of the news coverage by every single newspaper & broadcaster which is not at least 100 times more Nazi than the BNP - that is to say the bastards all censored it.

Also http://www.slobodan-milosevic.org/news/ips040108.htm

So perhaps Yorksranter & Nomad might now like to apologise for being genocide deniers & acknowledge that the BNP, whatever their faults, do not approach in Nazism the obscene racist savages running this country. Or perhaps they are happy in that condition.

And to be fair let me acknowledge that for once Guthrie made a reasonable request rather than jumping in with both feet.

All this febrile foamy-mouthed paranoid ranting, with wild and unproven charges of "genocide" and monomaniacs posting long screeds of verbiage - it's just like being on Usenet, except on blogs there's no killfile. The horror, the horror...

Ah well, as the old saying goes, "don't feed the trolls".

Neil, your source for 'kidnap & dissection of 1,300 Serbs', even taken at face value, does not even claim let alone provide evidence for that. The figure given there is 1,300 Serbs *missing*, along with 5,000 Albanians *missing*.

The rest, along with any evidence that the membership of the Labour, Tory, and Lib Dem parties are aware of let alone complicit in this alleged atrocity (thus making them 'obscene, lying, racist, genocidal, child raping, organlegging Nazi filth') is entirely your own.

Ah well.
INterestingly enough, Neil seems to be in the same company as John Pilger, whose fascist desire to uncover hidden stories of oppression by the rich and governments lead to the writing of various books which I read and helped push me towards a more radical viewpoint.

it's just like being on Usenet, except on blogs there's no killfile.

Actually, if you install the Greasemonkey extension for Firefox, it's possible to use Javascript to implement killfile behavior for comment threads. Prewritten versions exist for some of the more heavily-trolled left-of-center blogs.

And Fred, I believe it's "Trotskyist." Unless you're a Stalinist.

And much as I detest the dark green crowd, occasionally I too briefly long for the collapse, especially in a thread full of AGW denialists. Bring on the Thunderdome.

'To say that the right-on peace movement was ambivalent about the Miners Strike would be a serious understatement.'

While I accept that may have been true of people you were knocking round with at the time - I do recognise the picture you paint, but its a partial view - it does a great disservice to the 'classic CND' types who did great if quiet work supporting the miners, let alone the punky peaceniks I knew.

Except that there is no reason whatsoever to believe it happened during the war

s/b Except that there is no reason whatsoever to believe it happened?

If you ignore the evidence then you can claim not to have sen it. Nomad & yorksranter have made the comparison between NATO genocide deniers, Holocaust deniers & those who say proof of fraud in the the CAGW claims abundantly clear. All of them believe that anything government don't want you to hear about must be suppressed. The battle over freedom is actively not between left & right but between statists & liberals.

"Actually, if you install the Greasemonkey extension for Firefox, it's possible to use Javascript to implement killfile behavior for comment threads. Prewritten versions exist for some of the more heavily-trolled left-of-center blogs."

Thanks, mds. I've dl'd and installed GM. Are there any ready-rolled 'kill scripts' you know of, or do we have to write our own? Lots of scripts at http://userscripts.org/ but I'm not quite sure what to look for.

Oinnseach, the classic blog killfile script is at http://snowplow.org/martin/greasemonkey, named killfile.user.js. Though meant to be general, it frequently isn't. If you search for "disemvoweller" or "pie filter" at http://ok-cleek.com/blogs, you'll find some blog-specific versions. There's also one avaible for the site Sadly, No!, but I've misplaced where I got that one. At least there are several coding examples available.

All that said, I don't yet have any such script working on Mr. MacLeod's site. It hasn't usually been worth the bother, unless AGW comes up.

... unless AGW comes up

I think we can narrow it down a bit further than that. I'll be more strict in future.

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