Friday 27 April 2012

The Personal Costs of Spurning Green Misanthropy

There is a darkly humorous scene in the Wachowskis’ film The Matrix in which the sentient computer program called Agent Smith explains his epiphany about the true nature of human beings:

I’ve realised that you are not actually mammals. Every mammal on the planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area ... Human beings are a disease, a cancer of the planet. You are a plague. And we are … the cure. 

In those lines the Wachowski siblings encapsulate, if inadvertently, the raison d’ĂȘtre of Greenpeace. Perhaps this is because the same crypto-Marxist misanthropy that informs The Matrix is at the core of Greenpeace International. In his latest book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout, Patrick Moore explains that even in Greenpeace’s earliest days there were fantasists who spoke privately of the need for a “religion of the environment where people simply have faith in the gurus”.

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Sunday 22 April 2012

The Labor Sideshow

Shortly after the ALP’s resounding victory in the 2007 federal election, psychologist-activist Steve Biddulph wrote a triumphalist missive for the Sydney Morning Herald assuring us that “Rudd and Gillard are not in power for power’s sake” and that together they would make Australia “a better place for the people in it”. Moreover, the irresistible charm of “Kevin and Julia, as Australia already calls them”, might actually “herald the end of the Liberal Party itself”. According to Biddulph’s scenario, by 2014 federal politics would be a battle between Labor and the Greens, conservative politics having “withered away”. Sideshow: Dumbing Down Democracy is Lindsay Tanner’s take on why the fairytale went wrong.

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Friday 13 April 2012

Tacitus made it up

Review of Christopher B. Krebs, A Most Dangerous Book (W.W. Norton & Company, 2011)

Christopher B. Krebbs, author of A Most Dangerous Book, describes Cornelius Tacitus (56 AD – 117 AD) as the “the leading Roman senator” of his time and “the greatest historian in Latin literature”. Tacitus nevertheless played fast and loose with the truth when it suited him. He wanted to score domestic political points in his Germania by contrasting the treachery of Roman affairs with the simplicity, integrity, courage and freedom of the Germani: “The – often only implicit – antithesis between Imperial Rome and life in Germania pervades the whole of Tacitus’ account.” Trouble was, all those fabulous sociological details about the Germani were bogus. Tacitus simply made it all up, borrowing from standard Roman stereotypes about foreigners.   

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Saturday 7 April 2012

The Psychosis of Millenialism

The customary bookends of human existence are the golden age or paradise of childhood and the private apocalypse that marks every individual’s End of Time. The intervening period, which comprises the balance of our lives, allows us to be productive and responsible adults. For the most part we muddle through life in a matter-of-fact way with our alarm clock switched to what Richard Landes calls Normal Time. In the midst of modernity, says Landes, Normal Time frequently allows for “the bourgeois joys of earned financial success, unpretentious love and family intimacy”. All solid and even worthy attainments, no doubt, but lacking the exhilaration of life experienced on Apocalyptic Time, in which “everything quickens, enlivens, coheres”. Appearing at the most extreme point in Landes’s millennialist continuum are the active cataclysmic agitators with their taste for both “sacred joy” and “sacred violence”, seeking right here and right now both paradise and the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it.

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