Empty Days

Sunday, June 27, 2004



Wars of ideas.

Meantime, while rummaging through the internet, stepped right into something extremely Houellebecquian - by which I mean "transmutated to form barely recognizable".

Apparently there is some movement in UK called Living Marxism that militates against the established leftist ideology of the elites by espousing an extreme form of liberalism (apparently the origine of the group goes back to 1970's trotskyism, which later transmutated to Radical Communist Party, only to end-up as a far-far-left (far-right?) ultra-libertarian formation with catholic connections - don't ask me how, I am confused myself). It is so virulent and iconoclastically unleftist (once again, I am confused) that it promotes techno-industrial progress over environmentalism, local resolution of international conflicts instead of intervention by the West (Bosnia, Rwanda) going as far as to blatantly deny any major causes for humanitarian worries in these particular cases, and promotes genetic cloning over amelioration of Third World conditions, as well as complete liberty of speech to all including vocal racist groups, Holocaust-deniers, and neo-Nazis.

Nice list :-0

What is interesting in all of this - to my mind - is the virulence of reaction to current "progressive" ideologies dominating public discourse in the West. While I got the above list-of-crimes from a clearly leftist site dedicated to policing precisely this kind of iconoclasm in the public domaine (LobbyWatch), it is hard to figure out from this very negative (and very likely quite skewed) portrayal what the real impetus of such a group might be - the properly insane mixture of ultra-marxist Cultural Revolution origines and Catholic Church affiliations today is really too strange to fathom.

I would gather the impetus for this wild mixture is something like a whole-sale rejection of censure in all its forms - especially in the highly moralizing, politically-correct form currently prevailing in the public scene. And this is indeed a perfect illustration to Houellebecq's message: people are looking for a way out of an ideological dead-end, and the ways they are choosing are oftentimes as pathetic as they are chaotic. But what else is there?

Indeed - leftism is very hard to argue against, with its high humanist ground of which it made a public tyranny; and its militant utopism (or a sort of one-dimensional, forced idealism) perpetually fighting for a universal full-stomach in all corners of the world for lack of better ideals. The inherent pessimism implied in this ardent struggle for universal (and universally impossible) comfort is enough to cause bizarre extrapollations of dissent and somewhat inarticulate protest. What promising new ideas may one offer for a society predicated on nothing but increased comforts and increased consumption? Living Marxism is still a clearly leftist outgrowth for it puts all its hopes in science-progress-technology as the highest expression of western civilization - preferring to forget the shadier sides of this glorious monster (hence full support of current industrial societies without regard to any constraints). But this ideal is as paltry and limited as the one that gave it rise - that of universal social progress (or let's put it frankly: paradise) which is inherent to all leftist ideologies. Far-right, libertarian, catholic? Who cares - as long as at least science may be hoped in.

As Houellebecq sharply remarked (and this is pretty much the corner-stone of his outlook): "We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what's more, we continue to export it."

In regards to which, here's a quote from a leftist article militating for precisely this utopian export:
Consumption

The 'North' (or first world or the western world) comprises only 25% of the world's population, yet consumes around 75% of global resources. Pre-existing political and economic structures, the legacy of more than 500 years of European colonialism, have resulted in a situation where the Northern countries, through the activity of Northern based companies and individual lifestyles of people in those countries, draw vast levels of resources from Southern countries. This drain of basic commodity resources and raw materials has greatly undermined the capacity of Southern countries to feed themselves. We are also witnessing a lowering of work conditions as more businesses locate 'offshore' into the Southern countries.

If the consumption levels of the Southern countries equalled that of the industrialised North, the demand for natural resources would triple, even with zero population growth. Research shows that 'if everyone were to adopt the lifestyle of a typical North American, we would need at least two more planets to produce the resources, absorb the wastes and maintain the life-support systems' (Friends of the Earth Sustainable Societies Program: Beyond Slogans in Action on Sustainable Societies: the FoE Experience, June 1997). The solution to this dilemma is to increase consumption in the South while simultaneously reducing it in the North, as too immoral to afford different consumption levels on different groups of people. Local control of development and effective technology transfer is fundamental to achieving this. As almost all current technology transfer occurs for the purpose of profit, the results of current initiatives will only enforce current inequity. Even in the North, where there is a growing gap between rich and poor (and hence environmental impact), inequity in consumption is a key social issue. Enclaves of high consumers in the Southern countries means that there is global commonality between 'haves' and 'have nots'. In effect, consumption is determined by class. Against Nature, supposedly coming from a left-wing analysis, does not address this issue.

A number of environmental groups do target 'population' as a key issue in the environmental debate. This has sometimes lead to them adopting problematic positions on immigration, population control and social justice. FoE reiterates that the issues of population cannot be addressed in isolation, and doing so will lead to flawed solutions.
That's a brilliantly clear article and it is a brilliant illustration of what kind of ideology the idea of social justice is predicated upon - consumption. Yes, consumption and nothing else. The impossible yet shining ideal is in fact "the lifestyle of a typical North American to all" (there can be no question about it - everyone drools over this ideal all over the world; or do they?... see - you can't even ask the question, dude!)

But what is this magical universally desired "lifestyle"? It's simple - it's capitalism, consumption, production, industry, capitalism, full-stomach, consumption, comforts, capitalism, production... Globalization and Leftism are not at odds, this is what should be remembered. They both spring from the same source, are both children of the same world. The system of comforts - the one in which it has become impossible to live for it has nothing else to offer but full-stomach ad nauseum. Have and have-not's are both calculated according to this shiningly hollow ideal. This is also the limit and the dead-end of all "progressive" thinking today.

Can this be stopped? Is there an end to the ever-growing emptiness and emptying-out? Of course not. The idea of universal balancing-out of distribution of wealth and resources is absurd - a pure, unadulterated utopia. Self-constraint, limiting of "local development" in industrialized countries is absurd - it won't happen for the sheer drive of markets and the inherent ever-accelerating competition to increase wealth. For the ideal that is behind this monstruous, essentially purposeless, acceleration is the very same driving the "moral leftist" up the wall and right into the pit of his "typical lifestyle": comforts, full-stomach, consumption.

In the end it is the maddeningly self-serving Living Marxism with its optimistico-isolationist take on the realities of our world that is closer to truth (and sheer madness) than the ever-bleeding hollow heart of the "typical North American leftist" wrapped in his universalist moral cushions. What do we really have to offer to those slaves of ours on whose brown limbs, jungles, mountains and oceans we prey unrestrained - except a small piece of our flat fattening pie?

Yes, there's a crisis of leftist ideologies waiting around the corner - and strangely enough it is not Bush and his tanks that heralds it.

***

PS. Also found a french essay on Houellebecq that actually tackles the very heart of his problematic - which is not sex (unfortunately it's not that simple) but the predicting power of his sheer sociological insight. Case in point: description of Islamico-fundamentalist carnage portrayed in his Platform (haven't read this one yet) which later effectively took place in Bali - in precisely the same settings and for the same reasons.

PPS. I guess it's important to add that while one can look straight at what's happening, it's not exactly possible to just ditch the whole thing and pretend you know better. I don't know better. All I know is that countries that throw themselves into the wide-open arms of natural capitalism (the so-called "democracy" in today's parlance) are immediately bagged like cats-in-the-bag into the same purposeless system of sheer wealth-acquisition that starts by destroying human ties in cities (I've seen that up close) and ends by relegating non-urban populations to the dogs (Russia, Eastern Europe, China). No alternative to this purely materialistic outlook currently exists anywhere except in tightly ideological islamist circles and the poorest corners of the Third World - where urbanisation has not yet spread the cult of western comforts and people are still backwards enough to believe in all sorts of things except tv's and computers (and I am afraid I am idealizing).

This is why I so loath those "universalist" grob-trotters full of travel-cheques and wanton curiosity - they spread the virus into the farthest recesses. Sex-tourism bad? I say backpacking is just as bad if not worse. But what can you do? Exactly - nothing. So let's just quit whining about that colonization guilt already, shall we - can't you see you perpetuate the same pattern... (but of course you can't).





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