Monday, September 17, 2007

Apocalypse-induced Goodness

I enjoy as much as anyone poking fun at PC and environmental extravaganzas (see the post below). I really believe that PC is as much a sign of our civilisational malaise as of our respect for Rights. Likewise, the new triumphant Environmentalism is hysterical and the cry of frightened children for Big Daddy Government to occupy every space, including and especially the private one.

Nevertheless, I can see some point in both. Political Correctness may fill the yawning gap left by the departure of good manners, and become a useful social hypocrisy. The new environmentalism may stimulate the development of far more efficient technology and liberate us from our petro-bondage to wacky regimes.

Frank Ferudi sees the latter, at least, as filling a far deeper need. He goes back to the foundation of capitalism on a transcendental religious creed and the promise to defeat scarcity. The victory was won, but capitalism has never been able to furnish a replacement for the moral system that it abandoned as it walked away from the battlefield. He cites Jurgen Habermas:

Habermas wrote of a ‘self-defeating process’, where the more that the influence of classical morality diminishes, the more that economic and hedonistic satisfaction come to be seen as significant. Yet this tendency for replacing traditional morality with ‘consumable values’ ends up undermining morality further still. The cumulative impact, according to Habermas, is the steady erosion of the traditional moral values that gave meaning and motivation to behaviour in capitalist society. He warned that the ‘remains of pre-bourgeois traditions, in which civil and familial-vocational privatism are embedded, are being non-renewably dismantled’.

(Only a German could put it like that. But the point is a good one.) We're living on resources that not only cannot be renewed, but ran out some time ago. (OK. That's just as bad, but you get the point, doncha?) Environmentalism is a puritan response to a socially corrosive hedonism. It seeks to make up the 'meaning shortfall' by positing the Apocalypse as a ... restraining influence.

That makes sense, and does account for the religious fervour of its acolytes. Does it matter that its 'superstructure' is spurious? Well, it matters to me, but that's neither here nor there. Will it have the lasting power of the Church of Scientology? It well may. It attracts the same sort of people.

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