March 03, 2006
Paleonihilistic anticivilizationism? Anticivilizationist Paleonihilism? (Nah, strike all that!)
Steven Malcolm Anderson where are you when I need you?
Let me back up. I still remember the good old "normal" days. When it was liberal versus conservative. Yeah, and now we have NeoCon, PaleoCon, HomoCon, Libertarian, libertarian, NeoLibertarian, NeoLiberal, Communist, Socialist -- and all Schisms Thereof -- and the usual Anarchist, Marxist, Communitarian, and please forgive my omissions, but I can't add fast enough.
What happens is that the more new issues, new realities, and new enemies with new tactics and ideologies arise, the old ideologies, old "isms" just plain no longer work.
I think Steven might agree that the spectrums, they are a changin'. . .
I'm feeling old right now. Because I remember thinking how cool it was to discover a new, three dimensional political spectrum based not on left versus right, Communism versus Economic Freedom, or any of that old outmoded stuff, but along the lines of totalitarianism versus anarchism. (Most people fall somewhere between libertarianism and authoritarianism.)
It's become painfully clear to me that yesterday's "new" formulation is outmoded.
Years ago, one of my Marxist professors said, "we have no argument with the [mostly American] pie. Our argument is that it's not being divided fairly." That used to be standard leftist fare, and it always took for granted industrialization and continued human development. What they wanted was to obtain power by any means necessary, so they could do a better job with "the pie."
Ever since the September 11 attacks, there has been a recurrent frustrating theme voiced on the right (and sometimes on the left; as in this refreshing example). On the right, this typically takes the form of questions along the lines of "How can socialists and Communists support Islamofascists?" The inconsistency is very frustrating, and it's caused many on the right to accuse the left of hypocrisy or simple anti-Americanism. While there may be some truth to the idea that anti-Americanism accounts for leftist support for out-and-out fascists, I think an additional, growing element is being left out. And I don't know whether it's reasonable to call it "left wing."
Not long after I found out about Steven's death, I wrote a post about anarcho-primitivism, -- yet another "ism" said to belong on the left. To call it "anti-American" is to state the obvious, but it's far, far more than that. It is anti-European. Anti-Enlightenment. Anti-Communist. It's even anti-Renaisssance, and arguably it is also anti-Medieval, because its proponents seek to wipe out human progress. They seek to roll back the human evolutionary clock tens of thousands of years -- all the way back to prehistoric times.
The proponents of this theory are quite honest about their goals, and they call it "Anti-Civilization":
ANTI-CIVILIZATIONElsewhere, the activists call themselves "species traitors":
Our reality has been defined by the work of specialists. The world around us has been charted, mapped, dissected, labeled, and caged. The goal being to remove humans from the community of life around us: to become the gods that we created. The totality exists by classifying and giving values, embodying a complete rejection of our wild, full selves.Wikipedia has an entry here.
While it's tough to call it a movement led by what would call "leaders" in the conventional sense, here are three (wiki-clickable) examples of what I'd call famous anticivilizationists:
It's not the famous clash of civilizations we've heard about; it's collapse that's the goal here. Anything that aids in the collapse of civilization is good, which means that Islamofascist barbarism and savagery should and must be embraced by anarcho-primitivists. (Which it is.)
Blogger Baron Bodissey has more background on the anarcho-primitivists, in a compelling essay called "Visualize Industrial Collapse":
To achieve their ideal society, to create their heaven on earth, four billion people will have to die. Who do you think those people will be? And who do you think will get to choose who goes, and who gets to stay? Somehow, I don’t think the Anarcho-primitivists and the Greens and the Gaia-worshipping feminists are going to volunteer to lay down their lives for the good of the Collective.NOTE: the post name -- "VISUALIZE INDUSTRIAL COLLAPSE" -- comes from an increasingly popular bumpersticker.
Obviously, the argument here is not over dividing the pie. It's with the pie. This philosophy pits civilization against anti-civilization, and it's not as simple as nihilism versus somethingism, because bad and as decadent as nihilism is, it's still a philosophy which is a product of civilization.
The anti-civilizationists will naturally support any "ism" which opposes civilization, so naturally they support Islamofascism, which, being medieval, is a step back. Only hundreds of years back perhaps, but in their view, it's a step in the right direction.
It's very frustrating to analyze this and create a spectrum, because the three dimensions are already taken. Maybe it's the civilizational spectrum versus the total darkness of paleonihilism, of uncivilization. Hell they've already labeled themselves as anti-civilizationists and species traitors, so why bother with a new label?
What, then, should "civilizationists" do? There's been a growing consensus lately that tolerance does not include tolerating intolerance.
Should civilization tolerate anti-civilization?
Now we come to the hard part. Whether civilization should "tolerate" its declared enemy and antithesis is a simplistic question. That's because, if we posit a spectrum, that does little to identify the point at which a person crosses over the thin and permeable veneer to become what we might call an "enemy" of civilization. The problem is compounded by defining what might be at the other "end" of this new spectrum. Is liberalism more "civilized" than conservatism? I'd like to think that classical liberalism (the thing I claim I want to "restore") might be more civilized than paleoconservatism. But even that would be hotly debated by the paleocons. Various humans might disagree over whether homosexuality is more civilized than barbarous, or vice versa. (And who are we talking about? Oscar Wilde, the Emperor Hadrian, or SA chief Ernst Rohm?) And would we put authoritarians and totalitarians in the middle somewhere? I'm not sure I'm at all comfortable with Benito Mussolini as a "moderate" in any spectrum. Are libertarians more against civilization than socialists? (That's a scary thought, but if we set up this spectrum, where are the "sides"?)
So, at the risk of simplifying the simplistic (and to ease reader eye strain), I'll conclude -- tentatively -- that anticivilizationists don't belong anywhere in the spectrum at all. They're just not there, and I wish they weren't anywhere.
Besides, Steven isn't there to put them there.
Leftism is going the way of the dodo, though there are still some remnants around.Should I see that as optimistic or pessimistic? I don't know anymore.
See the problem?
posted by Eric on 03.03.06 at 12:00 PM
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