Pushing the limits of mainstream oikophobia?

Via an email, I learned that the University of Michigan is hosting an event that I am going to miss. (Boo hoo!)

Ted Rall [discussed infra] will be speaking, as well as hawking and signing copies of his latest book -- "The Anti-American Manifesto." Which means that if I weren't busy that night, I might be able to pull of an Official Classical Values Interview with Ted Rall. Imagine! I could get all warm and cuddly, and gently beseech him to please not shoot me when the revolution comes, and tell him the Tea Party people are basically nice folks who are considered anti-American by some of the same people who support the administration he wants to overthrow. So in terms of simple relativism, he should be nicer to them, and at least agree that maybe they don't need killing. A pity that our hypothetical conversation will never take place.

Due to a schedule conflict, all hope for peaceful coexistence was lost!

Here are the details. Perhaps someone else who reads this blog can attend:

Rall will be a guest speaker 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Michigan Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery, Room 100.

This is the Ohio native's second visit to Tree Town.

"I spoke at the Michigan Theater a few years ago to my biggest crowd ever -- 1,200 people, with my name in lights -- amazing," he says. "I loved it and was sad that my main reason for visiting -- applying for a job at the University of Michigan -- didn't pan out.

Some people get very unhappy and throw tantrums when things don't pan out, and Rall's call for revolution may be one of them. Were I one of those elitist snots who believed in the principle of co-optation, I would have wanted him to keep his United Features Syndicate job. And I would at least want him to get rich off his latest book, which isn't doing all that well at Amazon, where it has a Bestsellers Rank of 15,927.

According to at least one serious left-wing analysis, Rall's transformation from successful radical leftie cartoonist into outright revolutionary may stem from the loss of his job at United Feature Syndicate more than anything else:

Some people who've followed Rall's work over the past 10 years will probably view a book about dismantling the U.S. political and economic systems as coming out of the blue. With this book, he transforms himself from an outspoken yet traditional American leftist into a revolutionary agitator who recognizes there's no hope in the nation's destructive system. Some people may view Rall with suspicion because he appears on the "dismantle-the-system" scene practically out of nowhere, espousing programs that are radically different than the potential strategies and solutions he was promoting not too long ago.

Toward the end of the book, Rall explains he wasn't always a radical (of course, few of us can say we we've fought the system since our teenage years). As recently as six years ago, Rall wrote a book titled Wake Up! You're Liberal! in which he scolded leftists who romanticize revolution. "Revolutionaries rarely rule; revolutionary principles rarely become law," Rall wrote in the 2004 book. "Once you shake things up, the uncertainty principle goes into overdrive. If possible, it's better to reform than to revolt." (emphasis added)

Boy, how Rall has changed his tune on the value of "revolution" and "revolt"! He still fully endorses the "uncertainty principle" in his new book, although he now believes it's not a deal-breaker. He argues it's up to revolutionaries to be prepared to fill the power vacuum during the period when the state collapses and uncertainty is rampant. An even better scenario, though, would be for activists "to step into the breach before the current system collapses; if we fail, even worse forces will replace them," Rall says.

Rall says he hated the title of Wake Up! You're Liberal. "I didn't say that I was a liberal--just that you are. Which is still probably true," he writes in The Anti-American Manifesto. "But I have concluded several times throughout my life that nothing short of the radical actions I call for in this manifesto would be sufficient to save us, our nation, and the world with its plants and animals--and I have been afraid to say so."

What led to Rall's political transformation? Was it related to his employment situation, when he got laid off in April 2009 from his job as an executive editor at United Feature Syndicate? Rall writes in The Anti-American Manifesto: "My boss, Lisa, had been trying to harass me into quitting for months: insulting me at meetings in front of my colleagues ..., assigning me Herculean tasks she knew I couldn't perform ..., attempting to humiliate me by making me do shit work previously assigned to entry-level employees."

It sounds as if Rall's experience at United Feature Syndicate was extremely painful, and one that further opened his eyes to how large corporations often mistreat their employees. Did this experience radicalize him on the issue of corporate wrongdoing?

Or perhaps, Rall had always held the radical beliefs expressed in The Anti-American Manifesto and getting laid off from his full-time corporate job at United Feature Syndicate emboldened him or created a situation in which he had less to lose by getting his "revolutionary" manifesto published.

Is this a case of a spoiled brat who wants to bring down the whole country just because he lost a good-paying job? I hope not. I like to think that people's thoughts and beliefs are what they objectively think and have arrived at by some sort of rational processes. Otherwise, all thoughts and beliefs become suspect, and subject to change depending on one's changed circumstances.

To be honest, I sometimes wonder whether I would hold the same views that I hold if I had children. I have been told that at least on some issues I would not, but there is no way to test this theory other than to have a child, and then see whether it makes me change my mind on such subjects as drug legalization. (I doubt it would, but how can I say that with any certainty?)

But let's suppose Rall is one of those people whose intellectual processes are ruled by his personal life. Doesn't that give weight to the elitist co-optation idea that he should be indulged? It's a scary thought.

Scarier than that (at least from my admitted pro-civilization bias) are the thought processes of the guy who praises Rall's book on the back cover -- one Derrick Jensen:

Speaking of Jensen, he wrote a blurb that dominates the back cover of Rall's book. Jensen says:
"This great book lays the foundation for the revolution we all know is necessary. This is the book we've all been waiting for. Pick this book up. Read it. And then get ready to fight back."
Inside the book, Rall describes how "deep-green types fantasize about a collapse scenario that will save the world without anyone having to lift a finger." Jensen certainly could be categorized as a "deep-green type," but, as far as I know, he's never said the industrial world would collapse without a struggle and terrible hardship. In fact, Jensen and Rall seem to be on the same page about life on earth getting quite untidy and dark before there can be a recovery.

Rall writes: "Collapse of the U.S. government will be a multidimensional disaster. People, infrastructure, and institutions we count on will be destroyed. How will we live without water treatment plants, heating fuel, and industrially manufactured medicines?" Jensen might argue such a scenario is where we need to head in order to wean ourselves off our unsustainable industrial culture.

Derrick Jensen is a leading proponent of anarcho-primitivism, an idea so self-evidently wrong that I don't think most readers of this blog would think it deserves serious attention beyond what I gave it in a couple of posts. If, as these people advocate, civilization is destroyed, it is self-evident that many millions would die. I think it is self-evident that that would suck. Those who think it would be wonderful would do us all a big favor if they stopped to consider whether they, too, want to die along with the millions who would be doomed if they manage to destroy civilization.

But in some circles, guys like Jensen are considered "visionaries" who are "changing the world":

"We're going to watch the end of the world on television until the TVs go out." Who's this cheery fellow? It's Derrick Jensen, the green thinker and writer who's out to tell us not what we want to hear but what we need to hear. Call him an anarcho-primitivist, a bomb thrower, or a person without hope--a stance he celebrated in the classic essay "Beyond Hope"--but don't call him weak-kneed. "I don't feel particularly courageous," he says. "If you asked any 7-year-olds how to stop global warming, they'd give you a pretty straightforward answer. I'm just writing what a lot of people are thinking, but don't say aloud."

Read interviews with Derrick Jensen in Counterpunch, No Compromise, and the Chelsea Green Bookstore.

Read them if you want to vomit. What bothers me the most about silly ideas like demanding an end to civilization is not so much that occasional cranks come up with them, but that they are considered respectable. That was my biggest objection to Bill Ayers. Not that he thinks what he thinks, but that he is respectable, even mainstream.

This nutcase makes Ayers almost look sane, because so far as I know Ayers does not advocate ending civilization; he's merely a Communist and an anti-American.

I would hate to see wanting to destroy civilization become a respectable mainstream idea. I mean, it's one thing to be an oikophobe, because, bad as that is, at least it tends to be limited to siding with the people who are against your own culture. Here's the definition according to a piece titled "Oikophobia
Why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting":

The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined a term to describe this attitude: oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: "the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' " . . .

There is one important difference between the American oik and his European counterpart. American patriotism is not a blood-and-soil nationalism but an allegiance to a country based in an idea of enlightened universalism. Thus our oiks masquerade as-and may even believe themselves to be-superpatriots, more loyal to American principles than the vast majority of Americans, whom they denounce as "un-American" for feeling an attachment to their actual country as opposed to a collection of abstractions.

European "oiks" tend to promote "transnational institutions over national governments," while American oiks (like Ayers) simply side with our enemies.

But wanting to bring about the end of civilization itself? I would argue that carries even oikophobia too far.

How can advocates of civilization ever hope for peaceful co-optation? Is there no hope? Jensen argues that there is not, or at least there should not be. Hope is something we should give up on:

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there's a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they--those in power--cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself.
Damn, I hate it when people can't be bribed or bought off! Especially when their goal is the destruction of human civilization.

But isn't that, too, a form of hope? He continues in such a way that he sounds almost hopeful about losing hope, and maybe about getting even with his father:

When you give up on hope--when you are dead in this way, and by so being are really alive--you make yourself no longer vulnerable to the cooption of rationality and fear that Nazis inflicted on Jews and others, that abusers like my father inflict on their victims, that the dominant culture inflicts on all of us. Or is it rather the case that these exploiters frame physical, social, and emotional circumstances such that victims perceive themselves as having no choice but to inflict this cooptation on themselves?

But when you give up on hope, this exploiter/victim relationship is broken. You become like the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Putting aside for the moment the fairness of that moral comparison, didn't the Jews who fought back have the hope that at least they were killing a few Nazis on their way out? And that history would judge them to be brave and righteous, on the side of good and against the side of evil? I may be wrong, but I think a good argument can be made that laying down one's life to oppose evil involves hope -- even if that hope only takes the form of killing some bad guys. So I think his view of hope is wrong in the mechanical sense.

Jensen strikes me as another classic example of one of those people driven by a passionate moralistic belief that I am at a loss to understand; that man is evil and earth is good.

What I would really like to understand is why this planet is so infinitely better than the species that happens to dominate it right now that the former must be "saved" at the expense of the latter.

It strikes me as a highly judgmental, earth-centric, and naively moralistic view -- the childishly simplistic essence of which boils down to this:

Earth good, man evil!

I cannot understand what theory would make the earth ineradicably "good" but its creature man ineradicably "bad." Why would a good planet give rise to an evil creature? It can't be that nature is itself indifferent to evil, for that would mean the concept of goodness comes from man, which means man's badness becomes suspect. (Which is bad!)

And if we additionally consider that ending civilization would mean the death of millions, isn't it disingenuous to invoke the memory of heroic people who fought against a system responsible for the death of millions of some of the most civilized people in Western history? This is not just my opinion; Jewish Nazi victims have been called "one of the most civilized and intelligent communities in modern Europe," and "more civilized than most of the Gentile societies in which they were embedded." It was German barbarism that stood in stark opposition to Western civilization, not its victims.

Not that a little point like that would matter to a guy who wants to end civilization, but I can hope, can't I? (At least spitefully....)

While I'm on the subject of hope, I guess I should also express the hope that guys like Rall and Jensen aren't being funded and promoted with my tax dollars.

posted by Eric on 11.30.10 at 02:27 PM


Teenage Rebel + Unabomber - ordnance skills = Rall

LS   ·  November 30, 2010 3:59 PM

Wow, Eric, this one was a humdinger! You really made clear the irrationality behind the anarcho-primitivist mindset.

John S.   ·  November 30, 2010 4:55 PM

Ted Rall is a failed social worker. No, really! His talent with a pencil outweighed his talent as a bureaucrat, but his insanity rules them all.

John Burgess   ·  November 30, 2010 9:38 PM

John, thanks, but I don't think that there's anything clear about anarcho-primitivism.

Irrationality seems to be the whole point.

Rational argument is impossible.

The guy who assassinated Pim Fortuyn was typical:



They'd probably say that rational argument is part of the problem. Such attitudes lead to civil war, but fortunately they are in a minority.

Eric Scheie   ·  November 30, 2010 9:49 PM

I would hate to see wanting to destroy civilization become a respectable mainstream idea.

See, they're just a little too sincere and dedicated and good.
Or at least, that's how our social, moral and intellectuals feel.

It's an article of faith that we're "destroying" the planet. It's an underlying assumption in so many things made by lefties. The one example that always makes me laugh is Ben Affleck's rant against people in Dogma, "He gave you this planet and you destroyed it!"

So while all smart believers in the community based reality don't really want billions to die, well, it wouldn't really be a totally bad thing.

They always want to go backward not forward.

Veeshir   ·  December 1, 2010 4:00 PM

Eric, Lazarus Long (Robert Heinlein) said it best:

There are hidden contradictions within the minds of people who “love nature” while deploring the “artificialities” with which “Man has spoiled ‘Nature.” The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of “Nature”--but beavers and their damns are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver damn (erected by beavers for beaver’s purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purpose of men) the “Naturist” reveals his hatred for his own race--i.e., his own self-hatred. In the case of “Naturists” such self—hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate. As for me, willy-nilly I am a man, not a beaver, and H. Sapiens is the only race I have or can have. Fortunately for me, I like being part of a race made up of men and women-- it strikes me as a fine arrangement and perfectly “natural.” Believe it or not, there were “Naturists” who opposed the first flight to old Earth’s Moon as being “unnatural” and a “despoiling of nature.”
SDN   ·  December 1, 2010 10:38 PM

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