Harbingers of the Neo Dark Ages

That term’s still trademarked to me, btw ;)

Beyond all the huffing and puffing about climate change, and putting the science of it to one side for a moment, I can’t help but view the debate as one pitting North against South. It’s extremely difficult for anyone in the Global South, for example, not to view the strident demands of the Western developed world with anything other than cynicism. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the West has been churning out great clouds of pollutants into the atmosphere and yet, now that the developing world is catching up, a boom is being lowered. Copenhagen captured that entire tussle quite succinctly, I thought.

But what does this have to do with the Neo Dark Ages™? I think the most important thing to note about the original Dark Ages was that it was more a state of mind than anything else. The social and mental climate affected economics, technologies … ideas. It was Dark (and only in Europe, btw) because that was the prevailing social climate. And now, and unfortunately, I can see the same encroaching mist of repression cover, not only the smallest continent in the world, but the world itself. And, as a citizen of that world, I find it most troublesome.

So, let’s begin with climate change and democracy via this article. Nico Stehr (Professor for Cultural Studies at Zeppelin University, Germany) and Hans von Storch (Professor at the University of Hamburg) plot out the case against democracy from various climate change scientists and it’s frightening to read.

“We need an authoritarian form of government in order to implement the scientific consensus on greenhouse gas emissions” according to the Australian scholars David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith [in] their book The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy. The well-known climate researcher James Hansen adds resignedly and frustrated as well as vaguely, “the democratic process does not work”. In The Vanishing Face of Gaia, James Lovelock emphasizes [sic] that we need to abandon democracy in order to meet the challenges of climate change head on. We are in a state of war. In order to pull the world out of its state of lethargy, the equivalent of a global warming “nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech is urgently needed.

Now, I hope your spidey sense is tingling. Whenever a system of representational government is attacked to pursue one particular agenda item, you know your “trusted” sources of information have feet of clay. This is true whether we’re talking climate change or national security.

(As an aside, one thing I was thoroughly sick of, was the hammering of the Australian citizenry about being “green”. We were constantly harassed to reuse, recycle, and reduce and, all the while, the biggest polluters in the nation — the heavy industries — were being given a free ride. I didn’t mind helping to minimise my footprint on the Earth but what really galled me was the sheer inequality of the measures, as if industry and its polluting ways didn’t exist. As an exercise to the stalwart Australian reader, please investigate how much water is being used by household Victorians versus how much water is being used by various Victorian industries. The results will surprise you and make you just a teensy bit angry when next the politicians start talking about Stage 3/4/etc. water restrictions for domestic users. But back to our scheduled programming ….)

Doing away with democracy under the guise of saving the planet? You can see where the monsters of the future will come from, can’t you? And the saying of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions comes even more sharply into focus.

I don’t care how good or pure your intentions are, you CANNOT advocate doing away with democracy as a prelude to saving yourself or your world. Hitler began his political career by (rightly) railing against the Treaty of Versailles and the corruption of the complicit Weimar Republic and look where that led us. Stalin’s famous purge may have begun because he wanted the Soviet Union to be united in case it was involved in war. Pol Pot got started as a reaction against a crackdown on left-wingers by the incumbent right-wing Cambodian government. It’s easy to have the best of intentions — “the way my country has been treated is unfair”, “I want us to be united”, “I’m only fighting for equality” — but it doesn’t take very long for the best of intentions to devolve into repression and brutality. (Read about Mobutu Sésé Seko — a personal friend of the charismatic Patrice Lumumba — a person of such potential, and see what he wrought.)

But if you think this era of repression is being played out only in the arena of science, you’re mistaken. As if to make sure that even my thick head gets it, Chris Floyd adds liquid nitrogen to the ice bath by citing Wednesday’s New York Times (how anyone can think that’s a “liberal” paper is beyond me):

In a sweeping opinion, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the presidential war power to detain those suspected of terrorism is not limited even by international law of war.

Not “convicted”, merely “suspected”. “Not limited”, not even by “international law”. We’re talking indefinite detention, with the inevitable side order of torture, on mere suspicion of one perspective on wrongdoing. Could I be “suspected” of terrorism (by my public criticisms of various national policies on this blog)? Could you? If you were a cook for the wrong side of a civil war before the United States even intervened in the country, like Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani? If you were a scared teenager who threw a grenade when an armed force attacked your village, not even killing anyone, but being framed for murder of a soldier, as Omar Khadr did? If you were an activist who lent an overseas visitor your mobile to make a private phone call, like Syed Fahad Hashmi? And, before you narrow in on the word “noncitizen” in the first paragraph of the NY Times article, I’d like to remind you that Syed Fahad Hashmi is a US citizen, yet he’s been held in appalling conditions and solitary confinement for almost three years, with the only evidence against him being given by the man to whom he lent his phone!

I can see a huge rolling back of freedoms and civil liberties in so many spheres of life — climate and environment, civil liberties, privacy, security, personal consumption, family care. Thousands of people gave their lives so we may take these things for granted, and now they’re being stolen from us without anyone saying a word.

So, here’s something from me: the next time someone approaches you about some way of “protecting” you or your family from an heinous consequence, do me a favour. Ask what the cost is. You may find, as do I, that — in almost every single case — it’s too high for society to bear.

ADDITIONAL: Meanwhile, if you’re of the “well, I haven’t done anything wrong, so I’m safe” line, have some sympathy for a Slovakian electrician who “unknowingly carried plastic explosives on a flight from Bratislava to Dublin” recently. High points from the New York Daily News:

[T]he man uwittingly had the explosives in his possession for three days before Irish security officials were contacted … Slovak authorities placed real bomb parts in nine passengers’ bags [but only eight] were detected …. [T]he electrician … boarded his flight … unaware that he was in possession of … enough [plastic explosive] to blow up the plane [in] mid-air …

The man didn’t find out he was carrying a bomb until Irish police, acting on a Slovak tip, raided his flat Tuesday. Police said they were led to believe the man might be a terrorist, until Slovak authorities told them of the security screwup [my emphasis --ksa].

A major Dublin intersection was closed and neighbors [sic] were evacuated while Irish Army experts inspected the explosive. The man was released without charge after several hours’ detention.

There, doesn’t that make you feel better? If nobody said anything though, how would the poor man have ever defended himself? Where will he go for his next vacation? Do you think he’ll be flying? And aren’t you just slightly more anxious after reading that? Feel that brain of yours closing up a little more? Feel the FUD getting nearer? That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.

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