Wednesday, 17 December 2014

New Statesman - Joe Public v the volcano

This is an older draft I didn't quite get around to publishing. The short version? To make humans take care of the environment, use totalitarian techniques.

And yes, it's Zizek.

New Statesman - Joe Public v the volcano
"It is instructive, here, to return to the four elements of what the French Marxist philosopher Alain Badiou calls the 'eternal idea' of revolutionary politics. What is demanded, first, is strict egalitarian justice: worldwide norms of per capita energy consumption should be imposed, stopping developed nations from poisoning the environment at the present rate while blaming developing countries, from Brazil to China, for ruining our shared environment.

Terror firmer
Second, terror: the ruthless punishment of all those who violate the imposed protective measures, including severe limitations of liberal "freedoms" and the technological control of prospective lawbreakers. Third, voluntarism: the only way to confront the threat of ecological catastrophe is by means of collective decision-making that will arrest the "spontaneous" logic of capitalist development (Walter Benjamin, in his essay "On the Concept of History", pointed out that the task of a revolution is to "stop the train" of history that runs towards the precipice of global catastrophe - an insight that has gained new weight with the prospect of ecological catastrophe).

Last but not least, trust in the people: the wager that the large majority of the people support these severe measures, see them as their own and are ready to participate in their enforcement. We should not be afraid to encourage, as a combination of terror and trust in the people, the resurgence of an important figure in all egalitarian-revolutionary terror - the "informer" who denounces culprits to the authorities. (In the case of the Enron scandal, Time magazine was right to celebrate the insiders who tipped off the financial authorities as true public heroes.)"

I can imagine it now. Children denouncing parents for throwing recyclable plastic in the general rubbish. Neighbours denouncing neighbours for burning the BBQ too long. Workers denouncing bosses for printing too many documents. Companies firing employees for the same thing.

It's a bizarre spectacle to imagine. But is the larger point that for all our good will about the environment we will ultimately need a Big Other to be accountable to? I'd like to think not.

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