Right and Left? Nope.

HELGA INGEBORG VIERICH·SATURDAY, APRIL 21, 2018

“..The watchwords of the nineteenth century have been, struggle for existence, competition, class warfare, commercial antagonism between nations, military warfare. The struggle for existence has been construed into a gospel of hate. The full conclusion to be drawn from a philosophy of evolution is fortunately of a more balanced character. Successful organisms modify their environment. Those organisms are successful which modify their environments so as to assist each other.” – Whitehead AN. 1925. Science and the modern world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p 265.

The political battle is not between right and left. It is between the interests of industrial businessmen and the interests of everyone who seeks to protect fellow citizens and the natural world from the predation of extractive industrialization. There is no “communism” and no “capitalism” – people in both political systems are manipulated to believe that it is the politics that runs the economy. It is not: the economy runs the politics.

All government policy (left or right) can do is tweak the scale of oil-based mechanization and transportation, and the degree of protection afforded to citizens and to the environment. It is the industrial economy that is destroying the natural world, that is creating oceans of plastic and climate change. It is deeply deceptive to frame the interests of whole countries as predominantly “capitalist” or “communist”.

The conflict is made to appear political, and even nationalistic; and the illusion is created that this can be resolved by military means. It can not. It is only resolvable by constraints imposed on the scale of industrial extraction, or by resource depletion and collapse. Even within nations, and with institutions of government and education, by framing it as merely “right wing” vs “left wing” or “conservative” vs “liberal”, we are encouraged to lose sight of the real problem, which is the gulf between the rights of the exploited (humans, animals, ecosystems, planetary atmosphere, water, and soils) and the rights of corporate and financial institutions whose survival is predicated on the process of continued and accelerated exploitation.

It is so very tempting to call the first merely by the term “proletariat” and the second merely by the term “capitalist”, but Marx saw through a glass darkly. This is not a conflict between social classes; it is not even caused by people with opposing interests; not about good or evil people, nor about the rational humanism of the Enlightenment verses some violent and ignorant past. It is caused by the growing awareness of the long term risks involved in an economic system that requires the accelerating conversion of 1) natural resources into the built structure of civilization and 2) earth’s biomass into a simplified biological supply chain for a human population explosion.

This is a conflict, played out as if it was political, played out as if it was ideological… but it is not caused by “tribalism” or “different” ideas in people’s heads. It is about our basic relationship with our ecosystem as well as one another. The solution is not to tolerate more “diversity” of viewpoints, or more “free speech”. The solution is a shift to sustainable and regenerative cultural ecology. This conflict pits science, rationality, and humanism against an unsustainable and environmentally destabilizing cultural ecology. Ultimately, of course, it is about the survival of our species.

Denying all that today increasingly means denying science. Or, worse, playing games of scientific oneupmanship.

In addition, you see some people equating the suppression of racism, sexism, and bigotry, with “political correctness” or even with the suppression of “free speech”. Of course closing down open discussion is no solution to real issues, however making the debate about moral failings or about intolerance on the part of phantasms of “left” and “right” wing politics turns a crisis of economic reality and ecological catastrophe into a mere exercise in political philosophy.

These ideological shenanigans conceal the economic reality of land grabs, exploitative labour practices, pollution, genocide, and politically motivated military adventures.

If you can acknowledge, that the causes of social inequality, of racism, and of war, are cultural, and not “natural”, you will be “liberal”. You will not see the poor as responsible for their own poverty, you will not see economic systems as if they represent the level of cognitive evolution of their populations, and, finally, you will understand that cultures avoid collapse only when they incorporate measures to mitigate long term risks to human beings and to the planet’s life support capability.

You might even understand that there are triggering points that have in the past caused massive ecological collapse and species extinction, and that our industrial processes are approaching these critical trip-wires

If you don’t acknowledge these things you will be “conservative” in today’s strange logic. You will be committed to what you imagine to be “traditional” gender roles, hostile to affirmative action, hostile to family planning, and you will see individual and regional poverty as the result of intellectual and moral failings, you will confuse economic diversification with biological – especially cognitive – evolution, and you will be sceptical of environmental concerns. You will question whether we even “need” wild animals, let alone wild ecosystems. You will certainly be sceptical about the dangers of the greenhouse effect. In other words, if you are conservative, you romanticize the buoyant exuberance of the early industrialization, and you can only do so by denying that the planet has a pulse and our current civilization is close to stopping the beat.

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