Tuesday 2 October 2018

The Devil's Imagination.

The Final Solution To The Climate Question? The ordinary citizen labours under the huge disadvantage of an inadequate imagination. Against those who are able to envisage the most appalling behaviour; conceive the most heinous crimes; the ordinary person stands defenceless. Small lies, told in little matters, are no match for the gross impudence of those who possess the Devil’s imagination.

THE ONLY TRULY outstanding insights the Nazis ever shared with the world were those pertaining to propaganda. The most memorable of these was Adolf Hitler’s explanation of “The Big Lie”.

“[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily, and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters, but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously … the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down.”

“It would never come into their heads”. The ordinary citizen labours under the huge disadvantage of an inadequate imagination. Against those who are able to envisage the most appalling behaviour; conceive the most heinous crimes; the ordinary person stands defenceless. Small lies, told in little matters, are no match for the gross impudence of those who possess the Devil’s imagination.

Consider the behaviour of the tobacco industry. It discovers that medical science has identified a causal link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Their product, if used as demonstrated in countless movies and television advertisements, has the capacity to kill the people who purchase it. What to do? The ordinary citizen would, naturally, expect the industry to either shut itself down voluntarily, or, be shut down by the regulatory authorities. After all, retailing a poison to unsuspecting customers is self-evidently immoral.

What the ordinary citizen failed to account for, however, was the Devil’s imagination. With billions of dollars at stake, the tobacco industry devised an extraordinarily effective defensive strategy. The evidence linking cigarette-smoking with lung cancer was, they insisted, contested. The science wasn’t settled. More research was necessary. To outlaw smoking – a perfectly legal personal habit – would be a gross over-reaction.

Decades later, the smoking of cigarettes is still perfectly legal. Governments have found the courage to warn smokers of the dangers, but nowhere has there been a government brave enough to ban tobacco-smoking outright.

So successful was the tobacco industry’s self-preservation strategy that the fossil fuel industries copied it. As the scientific community’s warnings about anthropogenic global warming grew in volume, the global suppliers of coal, oil and natural gas argued strenuously that the evidence was contested. The science wasn’t settled. More research was required.

The crisis confronting Big Coal, Big Oil and Big Natural Gas was, however, much more serious than the one which confronted Big Tobacco. Historically-speaking, capitalism and the burning of fossil fuels are joined at the hip. Curtail one and you curtail the other. Any effective strategy for dealing with global warming could not help but reduce the power and reach of the capitalist system. But, as Vice-President Dick Cheney so succinctly put it: “The American way of life [by which he meant the global capitalist system] is not negotiable.” It was, once again, time to summon up the Devil’s imagination.

Hence the Fossil Fuel Industry-inspired “Big Lies” that anthropogenic global warming is either a scientific “hoax” or a “left-wing plot” to bring down the capitalist system. Earth’s climate is always changing, they argue. Long before human-beings made their appearance, the planet was, by turns, boiling hot and freezing cold. If, and the word “if” is emphasised, the planet is going through another warming period, then 1) it’s not our fault; and 2) there’s nothing we can do about it except adapt the best way we can. After all, with just a tiny fraction of the technology they now possess, human-beings made it through the Ice Age!

Which is all very well, as far as it goes, but not even Big Coal, Big Oil and Big Natural Gas are stupid enough to believe their own propaganda. Indeed, their own scientists were among the first to realise the danger which industrialisation’s vastly increased emissions of carbon-dioxide posed to the planet. Their Big Lies have bought them some time – but that’s all.

Besides, the rest of the capitalist system’s major players aren’t as easily gulled as the broad masses who voted for Donald Trump. The Devil’s imagination will have to come up with something much more effective than simply “muddling through”.

And it would need to be a little more sophisticated than simply buying up land in New Zealand. The consequences of runaway climate change promise to go well beyond the capacity of the “One Percent” to manipulate and manage. From the multiple crises unleashed by global warming there is simply no way that the safety and survival of the global ruling-class can be assured – not on a planet overburdened with nine billion increasingly desperate human-beings. It might take them a while, but eventually enough of the living dead will make to the front gate of Peter Thiel’s bunker.

Unless, of course, 90 percent of those human-beings could be made to disappear. What would it take? Just one billionaire and one brilliant bio-chemist who believes with all his heart that the planet’s survival depends upon a sudden and decisive crash in the human population. The attraction, from the billionaire’s perspective, being that he gets to decide who will perish in the world-wide viral pandemic his mad scientist has cooked-up – and who will be given the vaccine.

If such a terrible final solution to the climate question has never come into your head, then it is only because, to your credit, you lack the Devil’s imagination.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 2 October 2018.


Jens Meder said...

But would not even the Greens agree, that a negative or at least stabilized population growth rate together with a relatively higher capital savings and investments rate (into less polluting productivity) would reduce pollution and poverty ?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

There are direct links between the scientists who favoured eugenics and those who prostituted themselves for the cigarette companies. Some of them were in fact the same people. It wouldn't surprise me at all if there were links between those and "scientists" who deny climate change. I put scientists in quotes there because I once was told that 30,000 of them had signed a petition or an open letter or something saying that climate change didn't exist. So I went and had a look. If the number of scientists was 1% that would have been an exaggeration. There were all sorts of people from engineers to chiropractors on that thing, few if any of whom had any qualifications to judge. Never underestimate the cynicism of capitalists, who are willing to destroy the world as long as they have their safe haven gated communities.

peteswriteplace said...

Climate change yes, global warming has not been proven. Big lies, little lies, all bullshit!

Nick J said...

Evil concept a mad scientist and a mad billionaire. Neither would inherit anything but misery, the deal is Faustian.

We the people of the planet will not stop consuming our biosphere, organic or oil until it's gone. We literally eat both, and with the demise of oil we are going to be minus billions. Money will go with the people, no use being a billionaire, laws and rules will become valid with bullets.

That is the enormous elephant in the room. We in NZ might just get by with a little foresight, foreign billionaires won't be of any assistance, rather they are surplus bodies in the lifeboat. Oil depletion is well known, as is the fact that renewables don't scale to meet our energy needs. A real Green party, a same NZ government Left or Right would have no higher priority. Without address we will have no nation worth living in.

Sam said...

In that case, do not disrespect authority or the elderly. You know, the kind of people who built everything. Civilisation typically are largely built to support the existing power structure & customs, and their moral lessons generally make more sense when built that way. But also therefore often make no sense in the context of other times and cultures.

Like the British empire to a large degree it was about telling people the aristocracy could do as they pleased and that everyone else had to submit or suffer horribly, with the Monarchy as stand-ins for God. Likewise, a story like this is basically about old men who were religious authorities telling their contemporaries to be nice to them or they'd suffer divine wrath.

Scientists and there donors have no reason to think that any of the people they trap can ever actually think of a way out, they just don't have anything better to do and don't care how miserable they are. As far as the scientist knows they'll all be just floating there in a sensory deprivation "life boat" thinking for eternity, with no way to die or even go mad.

Guillaume said...

See: https://www.monbiot.com/2018/10/01/deathly-silence/

sumsuch said...

Best case ever for a Scandinavian-staunch socialist govt (though that was as deeply centred on the bureaucrats). But of course here in Holyoake's NZ that happens at the crisis when it would be far too late. Why we need talkers of the strongest force. Instead of Grant and Jacinda.

I think it's most exact to view all these magnificent mod-cons and comforts as a lateral joy-blurp. Nothing to knit the brows about. To be philosophical. How else can you view it historically, biologically? Despite Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road' being ahead in most of our windscreens. I know I, a descendant of gray morality borderers, has enjoyed the material stuff immensely. Whilst also suffering immensely from removal from a survival framework.

As I suspected from Thatcher it was always just about fiddling the books.

You're 15 years behind professional paranoiac, and, in this matter, see-er, Alex Jones.

sumsuch said...

Why demo-cracy and climate-change go hand in hand as the priorities.

Believe me, my greatest hope is some technological trick that transfers Armageddon to my nephews and nieces' old age rather than mine. But, let's be cheery about it like a habitual smoker.

Self-interest creates its own justifications, so our rich nitwit rulers will come up with a comforting idea to allow what is necessary for them to survive. Despite their numb-nuttery bringing us to this place.

Why I, and everyone not crazy, prefer dedicatedly selfless MJS to whatever sort of limited Roger Douglas was.