Would you advise someone to flap towels in a burning house? To bring a flyswatter to a gunfight? Yet the counsel we hear on climate change could scarcely be more out of sync with the nature of the crisis.
The email in my inbox last week offered thirty suggestions to green my office space: use reusable pens, redecorate with light colours, stop using the elevator.
Back at home, done huffing stairs, I could get on with other options: change my lightbulbs, buy local veggies, purchase eco-appliances, put a solar panel on my roof.
And a study released on Thursday claimed it had figured out the single best way to fight climate change: I could swear off ever having a child.
These pervasive exhortations to individual action — in corporate ads, school textbooks, and the campaigns of mainstream environmental groups, especially in the west — seem as natural as the air we breath. But we could hardly be worse-served.
While we busy ourselves greening our personal lives, fossil fuel corporations are rendering these efforts irrelevant. The breakdown of carbon emissions since 1988? A hundred companies alone are responsible for an astonishing 71 percent. You tinker with those pens or that panel; they go on torching the planet.
Apparently this needs restating, again: you can’t be ‘racist’ against white people.
Sure, you can be prejudiced, discriminatory, dismissive and rude towards white folk. But racism is a structure of oppression based in material relations which entails the wielding of violence against a specific ethnicity. White folk are simply not subject to these forms of structural violence - because the (overwhelmingly white) ruling elite wields this partisan violence as both a racist ideological tool, and as a class wedge to maintain social control over the working-class by sowing division between different ‘races’.
So let’s be specific - you might find things which criticise 'white people’ childish, pointless and offensive. But don’t you dare fool yourself that they’re remotely equivalent to the material violence which black, Latino, Muslim and Asian folk are subject to as a matter of routine.
On the one hand, I get really irritated with many modern “apolitical” hippies who have absorbed so much neoliberal individualism that they think all of the world’s problems can be solved with positive attitude and good vibes – they are removed from all socio-political reality and tend to float in a bubble of economic privilege. On the other hand, I’ve become kind of disillusioned with much of the left’s resistance to adapt to different material conditions – we are not going to win over the working class of today with 1917 larping and newspapers heavy with Marxist jargon (at least in much of the Western world, which is what I can personally speak for). I make these complaints both as someone invested in hippie/raver subculture and as a leftist committed to world transformation beyond class society; the merging of these two traits was a driving force behind this blog, as I wanted to help reinvigorate a cultural-political connection that’s been seemingly dormant for decades (and is only starting to revive as of recently with the solarpunk movement).
It’s a real shame that Murray Bookchin came down so hard on what he described as the “mystical” elements of environmentalism and feminism, because I feel as though an aesthetics revival is overdue on the left – especially within social ecology. Not everyone gels with the “mystical” vibes that Murray was criticizing (most won’t, in fact), but to categorize all cosmic yearning into the same box as the aforementioned neoliberal hippies is a tad reductionist. There are those of us who crave story, purpose, color, and other such “mushy” shit in our worldviews; there’s nothing inherent to anti-capitalism that demands that we rid ourselves of these cravings. In fact, I can’t stress enough that they are intensely useful to the cause.
I’ve gone into more detail on this topic in a @leftist-daily-reminders post that outlined my support for a “dual power” tactic – we need to create parallel institutions for the people of the world to pour their support into, adapting the language and aesthetic choices to the given area. I also support intentional communities that try to break away from society and consciously present an alternative to laypeople. The class struggle should always be firmly about putting power into the hands of the people, and that will mean diversity in the details. Diversity in the details, united in anti-capitalist purpose. I’m not suggesting that we revitalize a solarpunk/Starhawk aesthetic where it doesn’t apply – just that there are many places where it will apply and that we on the left need to be more open to a unified front with it. Rather than coldly refusing to engage with any positive visions for the future (”The socialist society of the future will be built by the people of the future; we shouldn’t anticipate the details.”), we need to be enthusiastic in our visions for the post-capitalist future. After all, how else are we going to get the people on the train without a clear picture of the destination? (or at least a relatively clear picture of the destination, beyond just “communal control over the means of production”)
The Star Wars prequels tell the story of a neoliberal Jedi Council that ignores the needs of Anakin, who is eventually lured towards right-wing populism by Palpatine/Darth Sidious. When Obi Wan later declares that Senator Palpatine is evil, he’s not wrong, but he fails to recognize the major part the elitist and hypocritical Jedi Council played in all of it. Anakin Skywalker transforms into Darth Vader, and with this transformation we see right-wing populism evolve into fascism. Obi Wan, during his time in isolation on Tatooine between the two trilogies, leaves behind his liberal idealism and radicalizes, fully understanding the necessity of using force to defeat fascism and training Luke to take on Darth Vader.
My Latest: On the myth of the “Alt-Left,” identity politics, and liberalism.
The conflation of the left with liberalism is a method of neoliberalism in the preservation of capitalism. It is within this conflation of leftism and liberalism, whether subconsciously through lack of proper political education or purposefully for the obfuscation of their own centrist positionality, the liberal creation of the “alt-left” is part of the historical assault on the left by those willfully apt to compromise with fascism. This conflation, or equalization if you will, of the left with the alt-right — or, as most leftists refer to them, neo-nazis — illuminates the dedication to inaction that is so deeply inherent to liberal politics.
To claim an “alt-left” is to position something as “alternative” to a main framework of larger ideology. However, this logical progression falls flat when examining what exactly this particular “alt-left” is alternative to: the center.To whom does the “alt-left” exist? Liberals, who sit at the center, comfortable in their inaction and collusion with the right. Liberals, who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously described as preferring “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” The “alt-left” is not a problem, James Wolcott, because it does not exist. If anything, liberals operating under the framework of neoliberalism, more dedicated to capital than protecting the lives of the marginalized, are the biggest problem to my liberation as a Black queer socialist warrior. So please, continue to cheer ‘go, State, go[sic]’ as you vilify the only functioning piece of resistance in a country built on the degradation of my ancestors, and is sustained through my exploitation.
democrat: imperialist??? nah Hillary isn’t an imperialist what a— [trips] [hundreds of thousands of US-backed coups spill out of jacket] w-what a fuckign i these arent Hillary’s im just [gathering them up frantically sweating] listen i just listen fuck [thousands of neoliberalisms scatter across the floor] shit fcuk she’s holding them for a friend just listen