Friday, June 15, 2007

The thrill of being forced

In the great game of Dominance & Submission which makes up our human existence (and that of most other pack animals), I like to think of myself as a Dom, a Top, an Alpha. Probably this is to do with the testosterone which courses through my male veins. I like to be in charge, or more specifically, I loathe being ordered about, especially when it's 'for my own good'. This in turn fuels my right-wing libertarian political viewpoint.

However, many people do not share this view, and naturally appreciate the firm smack of authority. It makes them feel secure, wanted and part of something greater than themselves, It also helps diminish death anxiety. The converse is also true. Studies show that people become more authoritarian when they are anxious.

I was reminded of this whilst reading an article on spiked-online, which quotes Al Gore on climate change:

‘The climate crisis also offers us the chance to experience what very few generations in history have had the privilege of knowing: a generational mission; the exhilaration of a compelling moral purpose; a shared and unifying cause; the thrill of being forced by circumstances to put aside the pettiness and conflict that so often stifle the restless human need for transcendence; the opportunity to rise…. When we do rise, it will fill out spirits and bind us together. Those who are now suffocating in cynicism and despair will be able to breathe freely. Those who are now suffering from a loss of meaning in their lives will find hope.’

So Big Al enjoys 'the thrill of being forced'. Indeed it fulfils his 'need for transcendence'. It's funny how often those in positions of power often turn out to be subs.
This appeal to authority has other implications for contemporary eco-warriors. In the old days, and particularly during the Christian dark ages, people solved problems about the world through appeals to authority. If it was in the bible, then it was true. If the bible was a bit sketchy, or inconsistent, then further proof would be provided by reference to Plato, or Aristotle. No-one actually checked the information. No-one did rigorous observations of the world. so for hundreds of years people believed that the world was flat, and that geese were born from barnacles.

However, there has been another thread to western civilisation. Since Aristotle first wrote about Empericism some 2300 years ago, through the Muslim polymath Alhacen, via Dr Mirabilis in the West, to Karl Popper in our time, the scientific method has been developed. After the renaissance, scientific thinking became our dominant way of dealing with the world. This fuelled the industrial revolution, and lead us to the world of today, where at least in the West, we are living longer, healthier lives than anyone in the history of Mankind.

But Eco-Masochists like Gore want to turn the clock back. Their science is merely appeals to authority. The IPCC report has lots of scientists contributing so it must be right. George Monbiot writes in the paper, so he must be right.

This world of plenty and change frightens Eco-Masochists. They don't want unlimited horizons and the freedom to achieve our dreams. They want a 'compelling moral purpose', so that they will be able to 'breathe freely' and 'find hope'. They want to be bound by regulations and slapped promptly when they transgress. They want state interference with every aspect of their lives, so that they feel cared for, and less scared.

I think that Bertrand Russell put it best: 'If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing'

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Blogger Nick Ryan said...

I think you are a very contrary fellow. But I'll smack you if you like?

Actually, that communitarian sense of purpose *may* come about. If said climate change predications come about. And, if they do, we ain't swamped with climate refugees and begin tearing each other apart for scarce resources.

Lots of "ifs" there. Damn, I'm no good as a columnist. I need to rant with "definites"...

5:18 pm  

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