THINKING ABOUT TOMORROW

Did Ecological
Wisdom Arrive Too Late?

A Comment

by Tom Baugh

 

Ecological wisdom may well have arrived too late. The transformational politics[1] of the Green movement, and the best interests and actions of many may not be able to change society quickly and fully enough. Environmental catastrophes are now upon us and will get worse, much worse[2]. Societies will be destroyed, communities flattened, and refugees in their millions will wander the earth[3]. Natural resource wars will grow increasingly frequent, despotic governments are the thing of the present in many places and the near future in other places[4], and fanatical religious organizations will struggle in bloody contest to gain control, all in the name of gods, of course[5]. Many of us will die! None of this is fiction, simply a very possible and not too distant future. In great part, this may come to pass because ecological wisdom has arrived, as an integral aspect of Western and westernized cultures, too late.

I’ll continue my vegan leanings,

and take my tofu grilled,

and wonder what happened to

the country that gave me such a thrill.[6]

Are Greens any more aware than others of the onset of the era of despotism and the implications of despotism and what author Mark Budz[7] refers to as ‘ecocaust’? Maybe, a bit more than others. However, thinking about the unthinkable (to use a term once applied to nuclear war by Herman Kahn[8]) is hard to do, even for Greens. For example, consider the comments on politics 2008 and beyond, by several Green thinkers in the spring 2007 issue of Green Horizon Quarterly. With the exception of Tony Affigne[9] and Ted Glick[10], the other authors leave the impression that all remains much as it was in the past. But that is not the case. World environments are changing and some of them are changing even more rapidly than the most dire projections of the most informed among us. Even Affigne and Glick (who seem to understand that time is very short, indeed) seem to feel that enough time remains to pursue political ‘business as usual,’ in a world much as usual. That is an extremely dangerous assumption. ‘As usual’ is gone, and gone forever. The time to transform Western culture and societies is rapidly slipping past. Under these conditions, can we expect the continuation of liberal democratic systems that will even allow movements such as the Green Party to try to ransform anything socially, let alone politically?

A half-mad
puppet President

dancing to an
odd tune in his head,

strings pulled

by angry, ugly
men and women

all in God’s
name[11]

The US, as a democratic political entity, is nfortunately ripe for a change of form of government. Many are working to see liberal democracy give way to something else. And that ‘something else’ is not as delightfully integrated as the Ten Values of the Green Party.[12] The ease with which the powers that be were able to accomplish the coup of 2000 that put the fascist Bush administration into power, the failure of the people of the United States to recognize the coup, and the lack of any real resistance on the part of the political opposition to the coup is mirrored in the failure of any effective resistance in the US to the war in Iraq.

A comic opera
Congress

supine, almost
moribund

consumed by
greed

guided, if at
all, by the pay-off.

The initiation of the war against Islam, eagerly adopted by the Christian right in the US, the development of a parallel government with the Office of Homeland Security, the serious infringement on civil rights by the Bush Administration, the suspension of habeus corpus, the attempt by the President to have the Congress suspend the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 and, when that failed the establishment and federal funding, arming and employment of private militias such as Black Water Inc.,[13] have all passed over the heads of the American people, at least most of them. These are typical fascist actions[14] and the US is ripe for some form or another of fascism, including the Christian fascism so carefully recorded by Hedges[15].

Through its history, the US republic has demonstrated an ability to absorb and transform substantial social and political pressures from diverse centers even from radical margins. Internal and external pressures have, however, pushed governance close to authoritarian rule on several occasions, especially during time of war. This time, those pressures may push the US over the edge. The people of the US, including a large slug of ageing Americans, are jittery and worried about change and the directions it may take.

The people are also very spoiled. I hadn’t thought much about this until the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attack on the US at the World Trade Center. On ‘9/11,’ while many of the people of New York were behaving with, reportedly, great and memorable heroism, the people of the Georgia community where I was living at the time, were queuing-up in long line of cars and pickups at all of the filling stations. The people of this Deep South community were behaving in panic in response to a false rumor that gas would be rationed. I’ll never forget the contrast, heroism in New York and panic among the supposedly tough progeny of the South. I came to think of them as the ‘phony rah rahs.’

You, the cannon
fodder of the

next Crusade.

Sons and
daughters of George Bush’s

faithful rural
brigades.

The ‘phony rah rahs’ were not alone in their panic. There are also those who are frightened to speak out against the Bush/Cheney gang. They are mostly younger and professional and, because of their age, smelling of reproductive pheromones and wet diapers. Their primary concern is attainment, achievement, and gathering those caches of ‘nuts’ that present a more comfortable and more physically promising future. I used to meet with some of them every once in awhile to share ‘soup’ and I rapidly learned how empty they are.

You are
righteous in your bearing

righteous in
your striving,

righteous in
believing that you have some meaning.

But you are as
empty, and

as meaningless
as one can be.

The extension of adolescence and the expectations of rapid rewards and entitlements of middleclass youth just entering voting age should also be of exceptional concern. With very little encouragement, young men and women with this mindset could be encouraged to accept the promises of order and reward from authoritarian governments. There is little interest among these youth in the insecurities that attend liberal democratic systems. They are arrogant from over-protectiveness, they want it now, and they will not be denied. Offer them what they want, and they’re yours. The expectation of rapid and exceptional reward for routine and mundane tasks, and the assumption of privilege is a dangerous combination of variables.

Youth.

You think you
offer hope?

Nope!

To a great extent, the panic, fears, and emptiness make US citizens more than willing prey to the manipulations of a fascist administration and the reliability of order, of trains that run on time. It is obviously quite easy to lie and to manipulate a shallow, frightened people.

Fascism will not be kind to Greens or to any of the other forms of political expression outside of its authoritarian fold. Socialism? Nein! Communism? Nein! Libertarianism? Nein! Democracy? Nein! Or perhaps we should say, Jesus loves you brother but not if you are a socialist, communist, Libertarian, or Green!

Greens might ask, however, if the movement can and does continue under the conditions described above, what form can and will it take and what will it contribute to an increasingly chaotic world? How can Greens project the politics of hope into a future that looks increasingly hopeless? If this analysis is correct, the Greens will not only be denied the ability to govern as a political party but may face questionable continuation as a sociopolitical movement.

Perhaps Greens should now be rethinking the role of the Green Party in light of a rapidly and radically changing world. Perhaps the time has come to consider how a Green Party and the sociopolitical movements that support it are going to survive the realignments of governments from democratic to despotic and, most likely, fascist. Perhaps more thought might be given to the post-ecocaustal form of the Green movements and Green politics.

To come even this far, Green leadership is going to have to change, and change rapidly. A colleague observing the July 2007 Green gathering in Reading Pennsylvania, said that from behind the crowd of those listening intently to speaker Ralph Nadar one could see row after row of bald white male heads. Green intellectual leadership is primarily white, bourgeois males who became politically aware and involved when the US was a liberal democratic republic. Times have changed and in order to respond to a nation and world that has also changed, the old leadership must quickly step aside and, as my colleague said, the new leadership must include many different hairstyles and the races, ethnicities, genders, and personalities underneath them.

So, ecological wisdom may have arrived too late for today but perhaps not for tomorrow. Could it be time for Greens to reconsider their pre-political past and develop and reinvigorate those nurturing[16] green communities out of which the political movement grew? These communities may help insure a Green tomorrow? But this can only occur with new leadership.

Now, however…

the world waits

for events to
turn

for cities to
burn

for plagues to
churn.






[1] Woolpert, S., C.D. Slaton, and E.W. Schwerin, eds. 1998. Transformational politics. Albany. State University of New York.

[2] Hansen, J. et al. 2007. Dangerous human-made interference with climate: A GISS modelE study, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 7, 2287-2312.

[3] Conisbee, M. and A. Simms. 2007. Environmental refugees: The case for recognition. London. New Economics Foundation.

[4] Oelschlaeger, M. 1994. Caring for creation: An ecumenical approach to the environmental crisis. New Haven. Yale University press. p. 13.

[5] Hedges, C. 2007. American Fascists: The Christian right and the war on America. New York. Free Press.

[6] from Baugh, Tom. 2005. The Hot Dog Stand. Western Carolina Women. June, pg. 13.

[7] The term ‘ecocaust’ was apparently coined by author Mark Budz.

[8] Kahn, H. 1962. Thinking about the unthinkable. Cambridge, MA. Avon Books

[9] Affigne, T. 2007. Greens should aim for Congress and the White House. Green Horizon Quarterly 4(3): 8. Budz, M. 2003. Clade. New York. Bantam Books.

[10] Glick, T. 2007. A sea change but still so far to go and so little time. Green Horizon Quarterly 4(3): 18-20

[11] Baugh, Tom. 2005. Baugh, Tom. 2005 (June). Western North Carolina Woman. The hotdog stand. Pg. 13.

[13] Scahill, J. 2007. Blackwater: The rise of the world’s powerful mercenary army. Emeryville, CA. Nation Books/Avalon.

[14] Paxton, R. O. The anatomy of fascism. New York. Alfred A. Knopf.

[15] Hedges, C. 2007. American Fascists.: The Christian right and the war on America. New York. Free Press.

[16] Rensenbrink, J. 1999. Against all odds: The Green transformation of American politics. Leopold Press, Raymond, Maine. Inc.

Please cite this manuscript as T. Baugh, 2007. Thinking About Tomorrow. http://www.greeninstitute.net/subpages/baugh_thinking.asp

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