3 September 2014
Some thoughts on the environment and politics, and other things
I am vain enough to think that my random thoughts are sometimes worth writing down. As a result, at any one time my world is normally drowning in pieces of paper, post-its and pads of scribbled notes on various topics.
Many of these notes are on the environment, something I think about a lot but haven’t written many articles about because I feel I don’t feel I’ve found the right language to talk about it without merely replicating the moaning and whingeing characteristic of most writings on it. Perhaps that is because this moaning and whingeing is the most appropriate way; nevertheless I’ve been seeking, perhaps naively, to look beyond this – for a better politics of the environment.
Here’s a few of those thoughts anyway - on the environment and other things from rationality to music in the Labour Party.
Even though our environment – the world around us – is crucial to our health and wellbeing – it is normally an afterthought to our politics. Taking it seriously would impinge on people’s jobs and our prevailing economic narrative of more and more growth which necessarily means intruding more into the environment through more production, more consumption and more ‘development’. What is undeveloped becomes developed. Some academics, journalists and activists make the point for doing something variously about air quality, climate change, habitat loss and species extinction with it, but there is no one there to reply, for it is a whole economic system that is responsible. That system, its interconnections and institutions are so powerful that there seems little prospect of any serious change happening, and our party politics remains stuck in narrow, fearful confines.
If you care about nature and the environment, you can join any number of charities and NGOs, and give your few quid a week to support their projects and causes, but in politics – the place where real change can happen – it is much more problematic. The Green Party should offer you a home, but instead you see an incoherent high spending party taking on whatever left-wing cause is passing at the moment and thereby losing its focus. The Greens seek sanctuary in that hard core of highly-motivated but narrow-minded left-wing activists and therefore sacrifice all hope of building something much wider and more powerful.
As Kant said, it is as wrong to deny God’s existence as to affirm it. The same goes for the idea of man-made global warming now. Climate change deniers ridicule advocates for inconsistencies and difficulties, but they are just as guilty, and probably much more so, for being just as adamant in the opposite direction – seemingly based on faith and desire rather than evidence.
For the ideology of globalisation, our elderly people are outdated, regressive in their attitudes, past any usefulness they may have had, a drain on our economic and social advancement, superfluous to the ‘new world of change’.
Maintaining respect and relationships across the generations is surely one marker of any civilised society, but it’s something we generally fail at.
As a people, the American Indians have been wrenched from their roots, stripped of their traditions and the meaning of their traditions, and forced to submit to their own existential and material defeat in its entirety. Over here in Britain, economic and social liberalism has largely stripped us of our roots and traditions too, though not nearly to the same extent as over there. Nevertheless, the symptoms of existential defeat – alcoholism, drug abuse, unemployment, welfare dependency, lack of care for the environment – are the same over here just as they are over there.
To be rational basically means to be right. Yet how is it possible to be completely right, about how things are, as a whole; and how they should be, as a whole; and how we can get from one to the other? It seems like a desperately ambitious project and except in a denuded, superficial way, is surely not possible; a fantasy. The whole is much too mysterious and unpredictable, so being safely rational must entail rather being critical and picking apart the big claims of others to big knowledge and great wisdom, exposing their lack of rationality.
In liberal politics, you can say what you want, as long as it’s the right thing.
Is ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ as good as it gets?
Far too much Labour activity seems to be devoted towards reinforcing the bonds within interest groups, scratching each others’ backs and telling each other what we like to hear – especially how great and righteous we are. We tell everyone else how great our friends are and they say how great we are, and everyone feels better about themselves. This is how the younger Labour elite that is largely dominant reinforces and reproduces itself. Under their aegis, the party sometimes looks more like a mutual support network than political party.