“False is the dawn that promises anything
False is the hope and the talk of eternity and spring …
… The stars are strange and this isn’t home”
In the Den; Hum (2020)
This song by Hum is fitting for the times we live in. Quite a few ‘sustainable’ and other ‘experts’, with shared worldviews of mostly an ecosocialist cut of sorts, openly dabble with grand societal schemes to improve upon the world we live in. And that doesn’t feel ‘like home’.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s first try to fathom some of the ideas that emanate from the desks of (governmental) institutions that ostensibly carry some kind of scientific and/or political clout.
Take for instance a recent study by the PBL - Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency with the grandiloquent title Netherlands Climate and Energy Outlook 2020 Summary. In it, the following is mentioned:
“The situation for 2020 was determined on the basis of the latest statistics for the first part of the year. For the second part of 2020, two scenarios were designed that differ in two ways: 1) the extent to which the Netherlands will be able to limit the size of a second wave of COVID-19 infections, and 2) the amount of electricity that is produced in the Netherlands (which is highly relevant for the emission levels) and whether this autumn will be relatively warm or cold.
The scenario analyses show that the Urgenda objective [climate litigation case in the Netherlands; see this comment] can only be achieved under certain circumstances, namely if the second wave of corona infections is extensive (scenario Low, see Figure 1), the last months of the year are not too cold and production levels at Dutch power plants will not be too high. Until now, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have mainly been visible in mobility and transport, industry and, to a lesser extent, also in electricity generation. The built environment and agricultural sector, as yet, are not showing any strong effects.”
The Dutch are well known for their preachiness (said the son of a Dutch reformed pastor), not to mention the trading skills we ‘happily’ shared and still share with the world. Both are present in this quote.
The preachiness lies in the ‘hopefulness’ for extensive corona infections and the ‘required lockdowns’ and the ‘benefits’ those bestow on our country. And thát automatically delivers us a carbon trading platform within Europe and the rest of the world.
That also means that a climate lockdown seems a viable and tempting future option as to ‘protect the planet and its citizens’.
Obviously, that is only suggested here. But it will definitely work as an inception gizmo for potential future freedom limiting steps. As in the movie Hot Fuzz so funnily is repeated time and again: “For the greater good.”
Indeed, the Green Left party leader in the Netherlands proposed the idea of a Climate Management Team that would deliver mandatory expert advice to the Dutch government very much like the Outbreak Management Team does now on COVID-19.
All this ‘soft’ (or not so ‘soft’) authoritarianism we have been made accustomed to in the past year via all the corona-strictures, is not really new. Indeed, for quite a few decades many studies have urged the global society ‘to come together as one’.
Let’s rewind the clock to 1972, when Only one Earth: the Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet. An Unofficial Report Commissioned by the Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was published, which contains the following illuminating gems:
“Where pretentions to national sovereignty have no relevance to perceived problems, nations have no choice but to follow the course of common policy and coordinated action. … All require the adoption of a planetary approach by the leaders of nations, …. It is no small undertaking, but quite possibly the very minimum required in defense of the future of the human race.” (p. 217)
“…But it is only in our own day that astronomers, physicists, geologists, chemists, biologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, and archeologists, have all combined in a single witness of advanced science to tell us that, in every alphabet of our being, we do indeed belong to a single system, powered by a single energy, manifesting a fundamental unity under all its variations, depending for its survival on the balance and health of the total system.
If this vision of unity –which is not a vision only but a hard and inescapable scientific fact– can become part of the common insight of all the inhabitants of planet Earth, then we may find that … we can achieve just enough unity of purpose to build a human world. In such a world, the practices and institutions with which we are familiar inside our domestic societies would become, suitably modified, the basis of planetary order.” (p. 219 – 220)
Sounds familiar? Of course it does! The tediousness of this imagery is such that I respectfully decline to analyse the newest shoot on the tree of global governance namely The Great Reset of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Because there is no real need to do so.
It is the same old same old we have also seen with the (in)famous utopian brief The Limits to Growth; A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Humankind also published in 1972 (p. 188):
“Every day of continued exponential growth brings the world system closer to the ultimate limits to that growth. A decision to do nothing is a decision to increase the risk of collapse. We cannot say with certainty how much longer mankind can postpone initiating deliberate control of his growth before he will have lost the chance for control.”
What all these global mise-en-scènes of grand utopian design share is the ostensible mastery, via science - more to the point: scientism, of ‘all the problems facing humankind’ and their perceived interdependencies.
This was coined ‘world problematique’, which covered vastly different topics such as social injustice, malnutrition, poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, population growth, (the obsession with) economic growth, inflation, the energy crisis, damage to the environment, political corruption.
The core tenet of the scientistic fallacy is that every legitimate method of acquiring knowledge consists of or is grounded in the purported exhaustive methods of the empirical sciences.
Thus, scientism holds the claim that science alone is capable of elucidating and resolving all human problems —the ‘world problematique’— whereby all human affairs, including what it is to be human, can be reduced to scientific discovery and confirmation (see e.g. this critique).
All this scientistic brouhaha reminds me of A Short Story of the Antichrist by the Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov.
It’s an incredibly well written narrative, but perhaps difficult to stomach considering our 21st century sensitivities. Be that as it may, Vladimir Solovyov, in his story, attributes to the Antichrist a book entitled The Open Way to Universal Peace and Prosperity.
And that book, within the story, has a surprisingly globalist, modern, scientific ring to it, with an unfeigned message about the centrality of rational planning to the benefit of us all.
In short: we should opt for the ‘reasonable decision’. We must choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organised world, where God may be worshipped, but within the private sphere only. The essential work must be done by us. Solovyov describes the book as follows:
“It was a work that embraced everything and solved every problem. It united a noble respect for ancient traditions and symbols with a broad and daring radicalism in socio-political questions. It joined a boundless freedom of thought with the most profound appreciation for everything mystical. Absolute individualism stood side by side with an ardent zeal for the common good, and the highest idealism in guiding principles combined smoothly with a perfect definiteness in practical solutions for the necessities of life.”
Who could be against such wide-ranging and inclusive perspectives? And that is Solovyov’s whole point: no one can! Even I find this book’s description in the story reasonable and sensible and attractive.
Unless, of course, God is worshipped not just within the privacy of one’s mind, perhaps with like-minded people, but praised publicly for His actual dealings with human history in and through Christ.
Here, I think, the scientistic worldview we are so clued in clashes with the orthodox worldview of God as the Creator and Sustainer of our world, including us.
And that is exactly what Solovyov tries to illuminate through his narrative. Our hybris is confronted with God’s reality and love, especially in the celebration of Easter.
But, obviously, this is all weak myth making to (post-)modern eyes and ears.
Therefore, I suspect/fear that international society will develop along the lines James Scott links, in his monumental Seeing like a State, to the most tragic episodes of utopian social engineering we again see coming to the forefront because of:
- the simplified (scientistic) administrative ordering of nature and society;
- the high-modernist ideology, that is the self-confidence about scientific and technological progress, a faith that borrowed the legitimacy of science and technology, whereby it became uncritical, unskeptical, and thus unscientifically optimistic about the possibilities for the comprehensive planning of human settlement and production;
- the rise of an authoritarian state that is willing and able to use the full weight of its coercive power to bring these high-modernist designs into being;
- the rise of a powerless civil society that lacks the capacity to resist these plans.
‘Resisting plans’ seems a call to political action tout court, but that I think is mistaken. If we want to avoid the pitfalls of history Scott and many others have identified, we should give up the self-willed loneliness of doing things our own way and forcing others to do so as well.
And this exactly is the point where Solovyov’s work challenges our own incredibly naive high-modernist ideology that knows next to nothing of human evil.
More precisely: we are wilfully naive and blind about the evil we harbour within us. Eleonore Stump sums up, in her book Atonement, the remedy as only found in Easter:
“On the Thomistic account of love, … God’s love is not a light thing, limply validating anything human beings do as long as they like doing it. On the contrary, … God loves human persons enough to want to be united with them. But to be united with God is to be made like God in order to be in communion with God. God’s love can therefore be wild as well as gentle. Hebrews says, “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). As fire sets other things on fire, so God’s love enables human spirits to blaze in love too, by consuming in them what is ruined in self‐willed loneliness and leaving the loveliness that is left in them to flourish in beauty which is like God’s own. … when, for the sake of making wrecked human beings beautiful again in union with God, Christ suffers and dies on the cross, when Christ lets the beauty of his human psyche be disfigured by the invading human evil, the consuming fire of the love of God is manifest.”