The pragmatically extremist core of the green movement has never been compatible with the mainstream of the same. Where middle of the road greenism is basically an extension of the democratic party, "extremist" (read: realistic, if we want to solve the problem) greenism has never fit into the leftist family of brands. Part of the reason for this is that, like the right, "extreme" greens refuse to praise the worker, the common man, "the people" and assume that, if power is simply turned over to these unfairly oppressed people, all things will turn out for the best. The assumption is that an elite of moneyed psychopaths holds us all hostage, and if we just overthrow them, the workers will do what is right.
Pragmatic greens recognize, like far-righters do, that in the past millennium what we've seen most commonly is not domination by a cruel elite, but the creation of cruel elites to control the mob that, having dominated the select few who can think, now cruises without a clue - and that always brings out the demagogues, in the same way that fresh blood in water attracts sharks. What, you have no direction? Not to speak too forwardly, but I'll help - for a fee. And absolute allegiance. Those words, fifty years later, turn into the ruins of Soviet Russia: a once-cultured nation, now bereft of its genetics and values system, turned into a conformist machine which impoverished its population and killed the best of them. While there are signs that Russia is returning to health at the hand of Mr. Putin, there are also signs that something is missing - something which can never be recovered, a certain European-ness and also moral concept of civilization that is forever lost. It is perhaps true that Russia has forever joined the third world, not as much externally, but internally, as its own attitudes have come to have third world expectations and, lacking discipline, needs for third-world-style authoritarian rule.
It goes this way with every mass revolution. Some wise guy stands up and says, "It's them" - the wealthy, or powerful, or good-looking, or gifted; take your pick, or combine - "they live well, while we starve. They oppress us! If we crush them, we will live in paradise!" And so the mob surges forward, and while they certainly murder a few people who deserve it, like decadent nobles and sex predator clergy, for the most part they exterminate or disable the few people with the brains to help them. Keeping your thumb on the fast-forward switch, you can see how in another generation, when the impetus of the revolution has run down, there are no more spoils left to divide, and no more excess wealth upon which one can feast. The nation is collapsing, and the revolutionaries are betraying each other in a desperate attempt to keep a grip on not wealth itself but the slippery concept of how to produce it on a consistent basis. At this point it becomes clear: being able to work a farm or factory does not imply being able to run one, from a design and decision perspective. Since the people are without direction, the demagogues rise, and soon authoritarian rule prevails.
Rightist authoritarian rule tends to be idealistic, and thus susceptible to problems because only a few people can actually understand the whole of its reasoning, thus underlings are without a clue how to make decisions until a generation has passed; mass revolts produce a different kind of authoritarian rule, close kin to "power for power's sake," but something closer to "power for paranoia's sake." When civilization comes unknit, and the rule of strength prevails, those who wish to endure take one of two courses of action: (a) hide or (b) gain more power than anyone else, and subjugate them, eliminating the constant threat. Hiding leaves one open to random predation, but becoming strong enables the group to not only survive but have a sense of planning for the future as well. It is this benevolent impulse that produces a climate of vicious leaders, and the generations shaped by this become true sociopaths, caring not about power for the sake of avoiding predation, but wielding power like a sick joke, pursuing it for the thrill of it and oblivious to consequences. When such men kill, they do not do so to make things better, as ideologues do; they do so to keep themselves from being bored.
Of course, these scenarios are extremes; what about mundane sorts of government, the day to day stuff we find ourselves dealing with in times of peace? Ah - like most mediocre things, they are hard to diagnose, as they give us few truly offensive statements and most of their incompetence is covered up by the time required for it to take effect. Much as when one works in the fields, a simple error is revealed in minutes, but a fundamental hour might not come to light until the next season, modern governments make a multitude of understandable tiny screwups and a few assumptions that create infinitely greater damage in the long term. By that time those who remember the decisions being made are dead, and the new generation knows only that something difficult happened, and endures it. There is no recollection of "we could have done it another way." This is where one encounters the conflict that divides the green movements worldwide: they realize fairly radical changes need to be implemented to prevent the train wreck that is industrial society's exploitation of its environment, but they also realize these changes will not fit into the realm of mundane decisions which governments and voters expect. How does one make a law that says we must expand no further, and must make thousands of decisions across the board in favor of the environment, for once?
For this reason, the greens are - like the rest of Europe and America, at least - divided by philosophy. One philosophy is the dominant one now, which says we must look after the interests of people and never curtail their rights, their desires, their hopes and dreams. The other, which is popular only in extremist circles, says that we must look not at individuals but at the effect of the whole of humanity, and only in that mindset can we see the damage and plan to control it. In this second mindset, instead of seeing uncountable individuals, we see one individual, divided up into many small organs. We don't wish to destroy any organs that we need, but ultimately, what matters is the health of the whole, not the health of any one given organ. Organs are a means to an end, and that end is the whole. Thus individual organs are expendable, if expended to preserve or strengthen the whole. This type of thinking is completely alien to our modern society, and thus is also foreign to the mainstream greens, who are notable both for their opposition to it and their total lack of success in delaying environmental apocalypse. They won't cross the line of the individual, and thus they cannot restrain humanity as a whole, since it is composed of - nay, driven by - individuals each seeking their own wants, desires, hopes, dreams.
The "extremist" greens have thus stumbled across the most important barrier in the modern time: like right-wing parties, they are willing to curtail the rights of the individual for the health of the whole. Further, like right-wing parties, they recognize that the worker would be something other than a worker if he or she knew anything significant about government; thus simply handing society over to "the people" is a recipe for continued selfishness, and not its abatement. They're in a tough place, these greens, since they've seen enough to realize what must be done, but have no idea how to advance their political agenda. Mainstream right- and left-wing parties capitalize on this by accusing greens of having a lack of political vision. And in some ways, they're right. Greens have an environmental vision, but in order to get to the place where they can put it into operation, they have to add to it a political vision, namely a plan for how the whole of society operates such that it can find reasons to want an environmental policy, and thus act on it. There's another problem, too.
This problem is broader in implication and easier to trigger. It's that one gets called a "sociopath" for endorsing any type of action that, in order to make the whole healthier, is willing to limit what any given individual can expect. If you suggest limiting population, you're a sociopath. Euthanizing the elderly, the retarded, the hopelessly criminal - you're a sociopath. Even telling people they cannot have giant cars, or oversized houses, is viewed as socially defective, violent, psychotic reasoning. This is how prevalent the barrier of the individual is. It does not apply to any known individual, but the idealized individual, meaning any of us and all of us. Bizarrely, the prohibition does not address outcomes but intentions; you are seen as sociopathic if you desire to use a certain method, because it is a banned mode of thought, regardless of what positive outcome it will produce. It's blasphemy to even speak it. Naturally, in such a situation, most people give up on broader change and focus on having enough money for a house in a gated community, with air and water filters, radiation sheeting and health plans for the inevitable cancers. That is "survival," and it's the softer option than dominating one's opposition, which is nearly impossible since their numbers are so great. That is, if one assumes that the rest of society is one's opposition, something that to this writer does not seem entirely accurate.
The slur "sociopath" operates by the same principle as the terms atheist and theist: if you are not one, you must be the other, since they are opposites - correct? Nevermind that pantheists and polytheists exist, as we can group those under "theist"; this dichotomy does not admit any variation in the definition of God. If your god(s) require no belief, then you're an atheist; if you believe, but not in gods, then you're an atheist. In short, either believe in the singular God of the dominant religion, or be lumped in with the "non-believers." My way, or the highway. They're either with us, or against us. A binary worldview - this also extends to sociopathy, which is the opposite of being a good citizen. Nevermind that there are reasons to criticize society; it recognizes only one definition of good, which is its own, and any methods or ideas outside of its own method are thus seen as deviant. In our society, the founding principle is that the individual is supreme. Therefore, anything which seeks to limit the "freedom" and "needs" of the individual is sociopathic, fascist, amoral, etc. Anything which is not what already exists is by predefinition an illness which requires diagnosis and excision. For this reason, the term "sociopath," normally applied to those who feel no concern for the consequences of their actions, is applied to those who feel so much concern for the consequences of our collective action that they are willing to limit our abilities as a whole. It makes more sense to say that the people who believe individuals should never be limited, even if they are destroying the world, are sociopathic, but no one will mention that on television.
Where did this kingdom of the individual start? To see this, we have to look not only at belief systems, but the sociopolitical shifts behind them. Clearly the highest degree of value is placed on the individual in non-idealistic, materialistic (meaning: addresses only physical reality, not a second spiritual "world" like dualistic systems) religions like Judaism, but the point of this exercise is not Judaism but the behavior of placing emphasis on the individual. It's likely that as Christianity expanded in Europe, Judaic ideals went with it, encouraging a focus on individual drama, personal relationship to God, and expectation that if one acted well reward would come. However, this is only part of the picture, because simultaneously, other revolts were occurring. Ever since the domestication of livestock, technology had been allowing human beings to magnify their own ability through the use of tools, equalizing the war-strength of a hero to that of the hidden sniper taking aim at him. Arrows, guns, the internal combustion engine... and finally, as all open land ran out and it become required to get all items of sustenance from others, money. Each of these means narrowed the gap between the genius and the idiot, the priest and the con man, the warrior and geek. If in any society there are a fortunate few of high ability, and a large mass of those with lesser ability, this technological progress amounts to a rebellion of the many against the few.
It is the order that these people created that calls "sociopathic" anything which limits the abilities of the individual; this is because a crowd is formed only when every person thinks only for their own self-interest, and thus dumbs down the intent of the crowd to the lowest common denominator, causing it to act as if of its own accord. Crowds demand rights of the individual, because each wants to be able to hatch whatever scheme or indulge whatever weakness she is keeping hidden behind social politeness. Crowds demand democracy, because each wants to feel important but is dependent on others for his source of power, therefore gladly grants others the same rights and plans in secret to manipulate them. Crowds insist upon "proof," that being the demonstration of something to the point where every idiot gets it, requiring that the questions to be proved be re-adjusted to deal with simpler topics. Crowds love public image displays, because every single person can see the "proof" offered by image, and agree, which allows those who can to manipulate behind the scenes. Interestingly, Plato offered this diagnosis among the ancient Greeks: democracy breeds self-importance in every individual, and thus they act as an unthinking mass, responding only to public image and demagoguery. For this reason, they're easily manipulated, not by a conspiracy, but by the invisible but pragmatic bribes of an oligarchy of the wealthy. When the two candidates you see on TV differ by inconsequential but dramatic "beliefs," and when all the newspapers report the same basic news, but you feel something is missing, remember Plato - he realized quickly that "sociopathy" is how a crowd labels behavior that will take away its power.
Returning to the question of environmental politics, it's clear that there is no way to "prove" that our damage to the earth is worsening; those who don't want to believe will pull out some "study," however flimsy or lacking any grasp of the meaningful questions that would solve the debate, and loudly proclaim that the study has not been "disproved" and therefore the debate is open. This passive tactic is designed to outlast an adversary by insisting upon the impossible: change my mind, and then I'll stop resisting your attempts to change my mind by reason. Because people are persistent, and act for individual reward, this behavior nullifies debate on the issue time and time again by dragging it into a standoff. And with a standoff, those who favor no radical change rule over those who do. Why? Because to brush aside the passive tactics of those who desire no change is "sociopathy," of course.
May 1, 2005