Editors’ Note: The following article was written nearly a year ago in response to a supplement in the November I, 1987, issue of Earth First! The greater part of the supplement attacked the author, Murray Bookchin, for some six columns. After an orgy of personal recriminations, unfounded accusations. and sheer falsehoods, Earth First! refused to print this response. Its existence was merely mentioned in passing in a later issue by the editor of Earth First!, David Foreman, near the end of his column, “Around the Campfire.”
These attacks continued into the next issue. The passages quoted here are drawn from articles by R. Wills Flowers, Chim Blea, and Foreman in the November 1 issue. Because the quotations adequately depict the tenor of the attacks directed against Bookchin, we do not reproduce them in their entirety here. Readers of Green Perspectives who would like to see the original articles may write to Earth First!. P.O. Box 2358, Lewiston ME 04241, requesting the Nov. 1, 1987, issue and enclosing $2.
Owing to a continuing demand for copies of Bookchin’s response, the article is reproduced here in its entirely, apart from several sentences asking about the identity of Miss Ann Thropy. ”
Now that readers of the November 1 issue of Earth First! have been warned that I am the “Pope of Anarchy” who is plotting a “Redgreen Putsch” to engage in a “pogrom” (no less!) against “biocentric or nonleftist ecologists,—-let’s end this utter nonsense and get down to the issues these childish invectives are meant to obscure. I address the following remarks not to the Arizona Junta and its entourage of “warriors” (to use Foreman’s description of himself and his supporters) but to the well–meaning, sincere, and thinking people who make up Earth First! as a movement.
I wrote “Social Ecology versus ‘Deep Ecology—— [Green Perspectives #4–5] neither to assert the “superiority” of social ecology over “deep ecology” nor to engage in an “ideological turf war’ with anyone, as Professor R. Wills Flowers puts it in the Nov. 1 issue. Quite to the contrary: if “turf’ were an issue, Bill Devall and I would not have initiated a friendly correspondence, despite our differences, that I had hoped (as I believe Devall hoped) would yield a creative and collegial interchange of ideas. But to subject a critic to psychoanalysis and character assassination seems to be a common way for the Arizona Junta and its “warriors” to cope with complex criticisms.
No, the “central thesis” (to use Flowers’s words) of my article is a more serious matter than a turf war. What shook me profoundly and removed any illusion that a commonality of views could exist between “deep ecology” and social ecology was the laudatory interview Devall conducted with David Foreman [Simply Living, vol. 2, no. 12, n.d.]. In this interview, Foreman bluntly declared that “the worst thing we could do in Ethiopia is to give aid [to the starving children]–the best thing would be to just let nature seek its own balance, to let people there just starve.” This odious mentality that degrades social issues like civil war in Africa and the role of colonial regimes on the continent into “natural” ones reminds me of the pitiless ideology I encountered in the 1930s during the upswell of German fascism. I am not yelling “fascist” at a cop like a typical 1960s radical, as Professor Flowers puts it. I opposed this form of behavior twenty years ago, and I still do today. I am talking about a genocidal ideology used by big and little Hitlers to justify the extermination of people on seemingly “natural” grounds.
What ended my interchange of views with Devall was the stunning fact that he said nothing whatever in reply to Foreman’s chilling advice. He asked no further questions, voiced no objections, hardly even seemed to gulp, as far as I could judge. Does Devall accept Foreman’s position, then? Does George Sessions accept it? Does Ame Naess? No one should be silent, in my opinion, when such vicious stuff emerges in what professes to be an ecology movement– indeed, in a self styled radical one at that.
And what do those good gentlemen think about Foreman’s demand that we close our borders to Latin Americans (of which more later) because they put “more pressure on the resources we have in the USA——? Shall we kick “them” out to spare “our” forests and water including Indians, whose ancestors came to this continent thousands of years ago? If so, how many little Hitlers will “we” need to round “them” up? What detention camps, police, military forces, and coercive institutions established by the State will “we” need to expedite “their’ removal–that is, until “we” need “their” labor to harvest “our” crops and feed “our” faces? They will keep coming, you know, because “our” corporations, banks, and oil magnates destroyed their revolution in Mexico three generations ago and inflicted a terrifying hell upon them. Although they did this with the aid of their own bourgeois thugs, it was “ours” who guided them. Much of the land “we” occupy was stolen from “them” by ,,our” own thugs in the last century, particularly land in the Southwest and in California. where the Arizona Junta and its “warriors” have their stamping grounds.
Yes. this kind of demographics is indeed the “litmus test (to use another of Foreman’s expressions) that overrides all the pious rhetoric, the “biocentric” philosophizing, and the costumed theatrics: do we want to give food to Ethiopian children, or will we merely engage in posturing and pious lamentations amidst the outright starvation in the “Third World”? Until I know what the “deep zoologists”——to characterize deep ecology for what it seems to be– really think about this scaring and concrete issue (the Arizona Junta has made Its views loud and clear), I am obliged to regard all their equivocations, academic papers, and anthologies as ideological foreplay for reaction and an authoritarian state.
Another issue that is central to my article is the various plaudits for AIDS that appear in Earth First!. Who is hiding behind the pseudonym “Miss Ann Thropy”—-and why a pseudonym in the first place? Why be so coy? … Why such reticence about speaking up, about being forthright like good muscular “warriors” in a “warrior society” (again, the language of David Foreman)? On such issues, silence is essentially complicity, and equivocation is opportunism.
Finally, I call to the attention of the largely decent people in Earth First! another, more recent issue. Does a criticism of Foreman, Abbey, “Miss Ann Thropy,” and the rest of the “warriors” in the Arizona Junta constitute an attack on Earth First! itself? I have exercised the greatest care in distinguishing Earth First! as a movement from the Arizona Junta and its guardian “warriors.” There is not a line. not a phrase, indeed not a word in my article that attacks Earth First! as a movement. I repeatedly made a distinction between the Junta and the movement at the national Green conference at Amherst~ both on the podium and on the floor. I even corrected an erroneous citation in the Utne Reader that had me saying that “most” Earth Firsters! are “ecofascists,” pointing out again in my response that a distinction must be drawn between the movement and the Junta.
This did not prevent Andrew Caffrey from appearing on television and raising the clamor that I was “attacking Earth First!” at Amherst. Foreman himself, not to be outdone by one of his fellow “warriors,” repeats this blatant falsehood in the Nov. 1 issue of Earth First! by writing that a “full scale attack [!] was launched on Earth First! by one of the most noted proponents of ‘radical ecology’ in the United States, Murray Bookchin, at a major national Green conference.”
Do Earth First!ers accept the implicit contention that criticism of the Arizona Junta and its “warriors” is an attack on themselves? Are the Junta and Earth First! interchangeable entities? Have Foreman and the Junta replaced the membership so that any criticism of the two necessarily constitutes a criticism of Earth First! as a movement? In short, is Earth First! acquiring an aristocracy and a system of top–down control in which a line will be laid down that everyone must follow or else be forced out of the movement and invited to form his or her own organization?
Anarchism, I may add, knows no “Popes.” When I speak or write, I do so for myself. I have no organization that follows in my wake. The one organization to which I belong–the Vermont Greens–includes many different tendencies, and I would never regard a criticism of my views as a criticism of the Vermont Greens. Indeed, the feisty people with whom I work would be justifiably outraged if a criticism of me were taken as a criticism of the Vermont Greens as a whole.
The Nazi Issue
Professor R. Wills Flowers is palpable evidence that one doesn’t have to be very bright or knowledgeable to make it as a professor these days. Not that them aren’t any bright and knowledgeable professors around. But no one in Earth First! should be overawed by an academic title, a claim to have “spent two decades in various aspects of ecology,” or pompous sermons spiced by crude, often scandalous remarks.
Leaving aside the petty quibbling Professor Flowers rains on us about the precise meaning of the word “ecology” as a mere biological science (if it were, it would put scores of thinkers out of business, from Bateson to Naess), his basic criticism rests on an appallingly simplified interpretation of German fascism. According to Professor Flowers, we’ve all been deluded over the real “substance” of Adolf Hitler’s intentions between 1933 and 1945, when the Führer finally blew out his brains in his Berlin bunker. Hitler, Professor Flowers tells us. really was just a dirty old “anthropocentrist” who was hell–bent on “development” and “looked on Eastern Europe in much the same way mulitinational tycoons look at a rainforest.” That “most Eastern Europeans and Russians” were relegated to nonhumans because they stood in the way of the Führer’s “development” schemes reflects the practical needs that confront developers everywhere——the trade–offs, you know, between what stands in the way of a developer’s plans and what can be retained. That this picture looks uncannily like the most vulgar type of Marxist economic and productivist explanations of history seems as far removed from Professor Flowers’s thinking as his knowledge of German fascism generally. Hitler’s extermination program of the Jews is largely buried in the wash: in fact, many writers have “concentrated” too strongly on the “dehumanization [!] campaign the Nazis launched against the Jews and other non-Aryans. Yet few have noticed a basic anthropocentric hypocrisy: what is accepted as a matter of course when humans are doing it to animals becomes ‘unparalleled evil’ when humans do the same to other humans.”
I will not try to describe the nausea I feel as a human being and as a Jew when I encounter what is little more than an unfeeling smirk in response to what happened to a whole people more than forty years ago. If “biocentricity” and “anti–humanism” ever showed their ugly faces, it is in these icy remarks by Professor Flowers–remarks in which Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jewish people as a whole takes the form of a viciously reactionary reproach. Note well that this reproach is directed not so much against Hitler as against the Jews who doubtless got what they deserve inasmuch as they have an “anthropocentric” and “humanistic” religion. More than one person I’ve met in the “ecology movement” has said this in barely veiled attacks upon Judaism as the very source of “anthropocentrism” and “humanism” in history.
Bookchin, Professor Flowers implies, is no different in principle from Hitler because, as an “anthropocentrist,” he gives “blanket [!] justification” to human intervention into nature. Bookchin’s theory of social ecology regards “humanity as the apex [!] of evolution” because “he glue[s] his ‘social ecolgoy’ to the thoroughly hierarchical [!] and now discredited ‘evolution–as–ladder’ paradigm which, as Stephen J. Gould has clearly shown, is not only wrong but is the Big Daddy of reactionary doctrines: a frequent justification for the very class domination, racism, and other intrahuman nastiness that social ecologists’ see as their main targets.”
To respond to this buckshot argument, which scatters its pellets all over the place, would require a full–size article in itself. Suffice it to say that one would have to be brain–dead to believe that Hitler was simply another “developer” in town or even another “multinational” salivating over a rain forest. Mein Kampf was required reading for every youth and even literate youngster in the Third Reich, not only a best–seller among German adults. It was not merely a propaganda stunt for focusing on Jewish scapegoats, as so many of us believed fifty years ago. Adolf Hitler had murder in his eyes when it came to the Jews. and this murder derived from a form of deep zoology that fostered the most extreme and deadly racism in history.
To paint Hitler’s attempt to exterminate the Jewish people–a project he envisioned on an international scale!–as part of the overall murders the Nazis committed has a very ugly undertaste of indifference to a historically terrifying phenomenon whose scale is waning into the dim mists of the past. To gain some perspective on Nazi anti– Semitism, which Professor Flowers buries in the racism that marked German fascism as a whole, we should take note of the following facts. When Armenians were faced with Turkish genocide early in this century, they had only to convert to Islam if they wished to save their lives. Even American Indians had the opportunity to fight back, and an aroused public opinion often came to their rescue when cowboys and the cavalry invaded their lands. During World War II, Russian prisoners of war could join General Vlasov’s SS–groomed army and enjoy relatively comfortable living conditions. Poles were reasonably well–fed, as things went, in those bitter years of hunger. Ukrainians, starved as many were, had a way out if they “volunteered” to work for the Third Reich (as many did), even as concentration–camp guards. I could go on with this account for every people in Europe with data that would submerge Professor Flowers and more than fill a full issue of Earth First!
Not so with the Jews. Apart from Jews here and there who could count on the Nazi appetite for larceny and buy themselves off, the entire Jewish people of Europe down to the last child was doomed if Hitler could have his way. Hitler’s version of deep zoology was so frantic that it even shook Goebbels, the Führer’s famous propaganda minister, who wrote in his diary for March 27,1942, “the Führer is the unrelenting protagonist and advocate to a radical solution [of the “Jewish question”]” (Goebbels Tagebücher aus den Jahren 1942–42, pp. 142–43). Even a Catholic nun recently beatified by Pope John Paul H was snatched from her sisters and killed in an SS murder camp because she had been born a Jewess.
As a people, the Jews were not so numerically significant that they interfered with Hitler’s “development” plans for Lebensraum, or “living space.” Nor were the racism directed against them and ultimately their mass murder part of a propaganda ploy, as Professor Flowers seems to imply–like the Nazi version of “socialism.” Quite to the contrary: the whole program of extermination was venomously “biological” and executed in the deepest secrecy, often with “code words” that kept the knowledge of anti–Semitic genocide from the German public–that is, until many witnesses began to spread the word among the good citizens of the Third Reich. Indeed, so avidly did the Führer and his SS pursue this project, rooted as it was in the Nazi version of deep zoology, that even the European railroad system was seriously disrupted by transports of the Jews to murder camps– transports whose trains were direly needed to supply war materiel to the German military machine. Although this disruption spanned the most crucial years of World War II, from 1942 to early 1945, it went on and on, even to the frustration of German army commanders who were grimly in need of troops, supplies, and ammunition.
The Nazi version of deep zoology can be seen not only in terms of Hitler’s unswerving attempt to exterminate the Jews as a “race,” irrespective of age, intermarriage, or conversions to Christianity. Rather, the Nazi version of deep zoology was vastly expansive. It reached into the German family itself. reducing women to breeders of men for the army and men into “warrior” cannon fodder. The Hitler Youth were thoroughly indoctrinated in a crude biologism that stressed, ironically, the virtues of wilderness, wildlife, and the rugged joys of a comradeship formed around the campfire. Teutonic paganism and “folk tribalism” were given so much emphasis that they led to protests by priests and religious parents– usually to no avail. I know this not from Toland, one of the biographers of Hitler on whom Flowers seems to rely, but from direct discussions with Germans who were obliged to join the Hitler Youth and from Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
I have hiked. camped, and lived for weeks in nearly all the. major national parks and forests of the United States. I am in no way accusing Earth First! of Nazism. The importance of wilderness and wildlife in shaping a sound naturalistic and ecological outlook does not have to be demonstrated to me. But it becomes very troubling to me indeed when such a naturalistic and ecological outlook becomes polluted by Malthusianisin, xenophobia, misanthropy, and general denunciations of human beings—-reinforced by cracks of a bullwhip and references to a warrior society. The growing anti–rationalism in the ecology movement–an anti–rationalism that draws no distinction between analytic and organismic forms of reason–also disquiets me, as does the new emphasis on the Super–natural– which actually undermines an appreciation of nature for its own sake and the fecundity, creativity, and richness of natural evolution.
Viruses and AIDS
Readers of Earth First! will have to consult the volumes of my writings, from 1952 (“The Problem of Chemicals in Food’) to my latest book on urbanization (1987), to ascertain if I ever gave “blanket [!] justification” to human intervention into nature. If they do, they will discover that professors do not have to be very bright or knowledgeable to make it in the academy–provided they know how to lie in their teeth. One may quarrel over how much human intervention into nature is justifiable and in what ways, a view that even Sessions and Devall express when they write: “Humans have modified the earth and will probably continue to do so. At– issue is the nature and extent of such interference” (Deep Ecology, p. 72).
This is a far cry from the “noninterference” that is so often touted in Earth First! and the “misanthropy” Foreman celebrates in “Around the Campfire” with an allusion to Patrick Henry–a man who, as a product of the eighteenth–century Enlightenment, would have regarded Foreman as a buffoon. Leaving aside the question of who will decide how much to “modify” in nature and what kind of society is needed to resolve these questions in a ecological way, what beliefs do all these gentlemen actually have in common? Are Sessions and Devall misanthropes? Or do their views have a “misanthropic flavor,” to use the words of Chim Blea in her “Cat Tracks” column of Nov. 1? Do Sessions and Devall believe that Eskimos should have snowmobiles, for example, and can we serve such “vital needs” (to use Devall and Sessions) without the industries and energy resources needed to produce them? The whole business gets sillier and sillier as one explores the real and potential differences that have produced the unholy alliance between the Arizona Junta and deep zoology.
But it is by no means a “silly quibble to ask whether AIDS and smallpox organisms have rights.” to use Professor Flowers’s condescending remarks on this issue. Indeed, the “rights” of viruses are one of the sizzling “issues” raised by “anti–humanists” and their papa, David Ehrenfeld, who earns high praise in the literature of deep zoology. I didn’t raise this issue: Ehrenfeld did, and so did the professorial establishment of “anti–humanism” that writes for the academic press. I feel obliged to ask if Ehrenfeld’s “Noah Principle” is part of deep zoology? Is every living thing, including the AIDS virus, plague bacillus, and smallpox virus to be preserved because “Existence is the only criterion of the value of parts of Nature,” as Ehrenfeld puts it in The Arrogance of Humanism (p. 208). Do Sessions and Devall. accept Ehrenfeld’s notion that “for those who reject the humanist basis of modem life, there is simply no way to tell whether one arbitrarily [?] chosen part of Nature has more ‘value’ than another, so like Noah we do not bother to make the effort”? (p. 208)
These astonishing formulations, in fact, center on the “need” to preserve the Variola virus, the pathogenic agent of smallpox, which is characterized by Ehrenfeld as an “endangered species” because of the smallpox vaccine (p. 209). Like Devall and Sessions, Ehrenfeld guards his endangered rear–end with qualifiers like “arbitrarily chosen,” counterposing wild extremes and answering the problems this procedure raises with even wilder answers that are suitably hedged by qualitifers.
The “beauty” of the Noah Principle, in fact, is precisely its mindless simplicity. Mere existence, you see, is the only fact that confers “value” on an organism. Equipped with this guiding maxim, we no longer have to think about the consequences an organism—-or who knows? maybe an institution or a social system like Nazism– produces in the biosphere. Like Noah responding to God’s command. we simply collect two of everything, even of deadly pathogens. After all, it exists, so we rescue it. Inasmuch as Ehrenfeld is writing in the sanitary comfort of his New Jersey home (a reasonable assumption of how this man lives), I am obliged to ask in the name of simple decency and conscience which group of people is likely to become a host for smallpox and plague: people of color in the “Third World,” or the “beautiful people” of the “First World”? As it happens, “Third World” people are the real victims of these microbes while “First World” people are the beneficiaries of vaccines and viruses.
One can go on endlessly with the sickening dilemmas, shady qualifiers, and carefully chosen subordinate clauses that express pious sympathy for suffering people while otherwise dooming them to death in the name of a Noah Principle, the conservation of “nature” that is often little more than corporate greed, and a “we” -against- “them” mentality that reflects the competitive image the marketplace foists on the natural world. The “sympathy” voiced by Foreman is all the more tasteless because it serves to remove any sense of guilt from advocates of this position, just as a hanging judge’s verdict is closed with the pious remark. “May God have mercy on your soul.” Amen, brother– but stop voicing little pieties when you promote a lethal ideology that validates the death of millions.
What Is Social Ecology?
Social ecology is not a body of views that was hatched by “the dogmatic Left to attack the Deep Ecology/Earth First! movements,” to use Chim Blea’s lurid language in “Cat Tracks.” There is no “Red Putsch” in the offing, no “coordinated attempt by American Redgreens to launch a pre–emptive strike on the Green Greens in the United States.” much less a “pogrom,” unless it exists in the fevered imagination of Chim Blea, whose column voices these absurd warnings. If Earth First!ers have reason to be concerned about anything in Blea’s prose, it is the accuracy of the information she dispenses in her column. This “cynical Earth Firster! of the misanthropic flavor,” as she calls herself. makes a complete hash out of the factions that exist in the German Greens. The German Realos (or “Realists”) have tried to denature the Greens into a conventional political party with a moderate middle–class program. These are not the “Green Greens” or Fundies (“Fundamentalists”) whose radical environmentalism Chim Blea professes to admire–the faction that wants to close nuclear power plants immediately and withdraw from NATO, and that participates in direct action as well as electoral activity. Let it be known, then that these marvelous Fundies or “Green Greens” are –horror of horrors!–supported by the so–called ecosocialists or “Redgreens” like Thomas Ebermarm and Rainer Trampert of Hamburg. Indeed, without the support of the Hamburg Left Greens, the influence of the Fundies or “Green Greens” would be greatly diminished in the German Greens. Chirn Blea, to put it bluntly, couldn’t tell Germany and the German Greens from Tasmania and the Tasmanian Labor Party.
All of which raises the question of what direction the ecology movement in the United States and Canada will go in if it follows the outlook fostered by deep zoology and the Arizona Junta in Earth First! Both morally and socially, the movement is faced not with a shift to the right or the left but with a long march backward into the Pleistocene, where it will lose itself in self–indulgent whoops and howls that “speak” not even to animals, much less to human beings. What is at stake is whether we will fall down on all fours and bay at the moon or whether we will develop our ideas and our movement in forms that address people who are concerned with ecological breakdown. Nor will any clarification of ideas within the movement occur by grossly distorting positions–notably claims that social ecology is a form of “dogmatic leftism” that is “fixated on capitalism.” People have only to read the literature of social ecology to discover for themselves that such claims are cynical and scandalous falsehoods and are as demeaning to readers of Earth First! as they are to the people who express them in the periodical.
Coyotes should be respected for what they are, and the balance of nature should be respected for what is. Out of this primal “first nature,” which is largely a product of biological evolution, we have created a terribly unfinished and self–destructive –second nature,” or society, that is largely a product of social evolution. This second nature has formed us in a way that is now less than what human beings could be–free, rich in mind, emancipated in spirit, and ecological in outlook and practice. Our social lives have yet to be completed. They cannot be left in a terrifying gap between innocent animality and a cruel caricature of “humanity.” There is no way to go back to animal innocence. Indeed, to even try to do so would be to regress into a privatistic withdrawal from the world and from the need to solve its growing problems. Rather, we have to unite both of our “natures “–animal first nature and social second nature–into a new synthesis that takes our two natures into account: a “free nature” in which humanity’s consciousness can be brought into the service of natural as well as social evolution. To be human and to be conscious in the fullest sense of the word are no less natural than to be a bear or a coyote that fulfills its own potentialities as a life form.
I have no reservations about expressing this ecological humanism, a view that in no way should be confused with Henryk Skolimowski’s Teilhardian theistic humanism or Ehrenfeld’s appalling degradation of the word humanism to mean self–serving “anthropocentricity.” I have little doubt that Professor Flowers, the Arizona Junta, and its guardian “warriors” will seize these words and completely distort their meaning. Buzzwords are growing up all over the ecology movement that produce adrenaline before many people have the faintest idea of what they mean or the contexts in which they are used. “Humanism” is now ipso facto bad, and “biocentricity” is ipso facto good. Hence my remarks are addressed to those people of sensibility who can read and understand what I mean–and hopefully, in fact, join with me in an exploration of a social ecology that goes beyond bumper sticker slogans and dreamy pieties. Ironically, the Arizona Junta. its guardian “warriors.” and its academic deep zoologists can ultimately only be effective–all its Yippie theatrics aside–in thoroughly marginalizing the ecology movement. in closing off its message to people of color and victims of oppression, and in reducing it to an elite group of privileged whites. Thereafter, all the ecology movement’s promise for renewal and reconstruction will disappear, to be replaced only by environmental reformists and small bands of heckling critics.
I can fully understand why thinking and sensitive people respond to envirorimental reformism by creating militant direct–action groups that will “get something done.” This has been my view for decades, as anyone who knows me or has even dipped into my writings must know. I can also understand the fear of cooptation that such people have, and their need to retain an uncompromising stand against any attempt to make them bend to the status quo. But I do not understand why such well-meaning people–Foreman no less than others–have responded to a one– sided view by adopting another that is equally one–sided. If you like wildlife now, for example, you have to hate “humanity”–as though “humanity” were more than an abstraction today that is not composed of women as well as men, people of color as well as Euro–American whites, poor as well as rich, the exploited ‘Third World– as well as its “First World” exploiters.
This kind of one–sided thinking has appeared over and over again. In the late 1960s, SDS shifted over to a lunatic Maoism that was no more effectual than the formless liberalism of an earlier time. Yet this did not prevent many SDSers, faced by the bankruptcy of both extremes, from becoming manipulative political brokers in the 1970s and money–minded stockbrokers in the 1980s. Will this be the fate of the ecology movement in the United States and Canada? Will Malthusianism, anti-humanism, mindless biocentrism, and denunciations of a mythical “humanity” become the new Maoism of the resurgent ecology movement, and will deep zoology, with its buzzwords and its bumper–sticker slogans, become its “theoretical” underpinning?
For my part, I hold neither to “biocentricity” nor to anthropocentricity.” As an opponent of hierarchy in any form–be it a hierarchical vision of nature, a way of structuring society, a way of relating between people, or, yes, a way of thinking–I oppose the whole idea of centricity as such. This is especially the case when centricity is used to justify the “subordination” either of nature to humanity (as in Marxism and liberalism) or of humanity to nature (as in deep zoology). For Professor Flowers to willfully distort my ideas and accuse me of promoting a hierarchical viewpoint scandalously illustrates the cynicism that permeates his article in Earth First! For him to add that I am “fixated” on capitalism is to recycle the very criticism that I have voiced against Marxism for its narrow class analysis–and to ignominiously throw it back at–me in total ignorance of what I have written for over a generation. I dare not guess what Professor Flowers learned when he read Toland’s account of Hitler, but he would be well advised to acquire even a glancing knowledge of my own work if his academic credentials are to be taken seriously.
Social ecology rests on the basic minimal claim that our entire endeavor to dominate nature stems from the domination of human by human–not from agriculture, from technology per se, from a vague thing called industrialism, from religion, from anthropocentrism, from humanism, or from whatever buzzword one chooses to pull out of the bumper–sticker slogans of deep zoology. Which is not to say that agriculture, technology, religion, and the rest are unimportant. But they should not be used to distract us from the all–important fact that social domination, particularly hierarchy as well as class exploitation, has given rise to all the religious. moral, and philosophical justifications for the domination of nature, the destruction of wildlife, and the destruction of human life. Every ecological problem that we face today apart from those caused by nature itself has its roots in social problems. To bury this all–important fact under a razzledazzle of secondary factors like religion and philosophy, to cite only a few that pop up in deep zoology, is utterly obfuscatory. Only the complete substitution of hierarchical society as it has developed over thousands of years with all the moral, spiritual. religious, philosophical, economic , and political paraphernalia that has accompanied that development–by an ecological society can finally bring nature and a fulfilled humanity into harmony with each other. Indeed, it is only in an ecological society, free of all hierarchy and domination, that this fulfilled humanity can find its ecological role in developing a free nature–one in which nature is rendered fully self–conscious by a species of its own creation and by rational faculties that have emerged from its own evolution. This places such fulfilled humanity neither at the apex of a hierarchy, as Professor Flowers would argue, nor at the bottom, nor in the middle, any more than it places blue–green algae at the bottom of an “‘evolution as–ladder’ paradigm,” in Flowers’s bright words. Almost unknown to himself, the professor is so deeply riddled by a hierarchical mentality that any function–be it bluegreen algae’s oxygen–producing capacity or human consciousness–is implicitly ranked in his own mind as above or below, rather than for what it self– evidently is in its own right
I will not enter into the implications of deep zoology and its use by xenophobic elements in the Arizona Junta, notably Edward Abbey. who fears. as expressed in The Bloomsbury Review (April–May 1986), that the immigration of Mexicans into the United States threatens to “Latinize” our “northern European” (Aryan?) culture and force us to “accept a more rigid class system. a patron style of politics. less democracy and more oligarchy, a fear and hatred of the natural world. a densely populated land base, a less efficient and far more corrupt economy, and a greater reliance on crime and violence as normal instruments of social change.” I will leave it up to ecologically concerned people to decide how much of this applies to the United States; to Holland, with its intensely dense population; to England. with its ossified class system; to Calvinist Scotland, which can hardly be celebrated for its love of nature; and to a group of American cities that are famous for settling social issues with “crime and violence,” especially Dallas (Jack Kennedy), Memphis (Martin Luther King, Jr.), and San Francisco (Bobby Kennedy). That Abbey’s piece opens with the generous remark that “the immigration issue really is a matter of ‘we’ versus ‘they’ or ‘us’ versus ‘them’ is a problem that I do not have to answer. but it requires an answer from Sessions, Naess, and Devall. Do they agree? If not, let us hear the reason why. If they do, why do they exclude Garrett Hardin, with his noxious “lifeboat ethic,” from their pantheon of Malthusian heroes?
Racism today usually wears a cultural face rather than a genetic one. Hardly any of our domestic fascists preach a gospel of racial fascism, except so far a blacks are concerned. It is no longer fashionable to speak of Jewish “racial inferiority”; rather, such cults as the Aryan Nation speak of a “Zionist conspiracy” to control the United States. Needless to say, since most Jews are viewed as Zionists by our homebred fascists. what can the Aryan Nation do? Get ’em out? Kill ’em? –and strike a blow for “Aryanism,” a blow that was actually undertaken by The Order. whose pistol–toting thugs murdered a Jewish radio personality who had spoken in favor of civil rights.
Mexicans–and Indians, 1 may add—-do not need the evocative account of their stolen lands and place names in the Southwest that Foreman penned in the Nov. 1 issue of Earth First!, nor his rhetorical offer of a rifle and a thousand rounds of ammunition. to recognize when they
are being asked to disappear in the name of “radical environmentalism.” Their oppressors do not only live in Mexico; they occupy far too many boards of directors in U.S. concerns. To hear the Arizona Junta bemoan their plight at home and then try to ship them out of the country that their ancestors once lived in is a hypocrisy that defies anything Chim Blea could impute to me.
What ultimately counts in the whole mess created by the Arizona Junta, its “warriors,” and the deep zoologists is whether an ecological humanism will replace the ecobrutalisin that is slowly polluting the ecology movement. If the movement reduces ecological issues to zoology at one extreme or to new forms of religious Super–naturalism at the other, if it cannot fight the wanton destruction of wildlife without fighting at the same time the wanton destruction of human life; if it cannot maintain a simple decency and ethics that renders discourse possible and fruitful, I for one want no part of it.
Deep zoology has degraded its own spokespeople an surely as it threatens to degrade the ecology movement itself. The clumsy lie, the character assassination, the distortion, the lack of compassion for the suffering of humans as well as animals, and the diluting of social issues in the name of a “naturalism” structured around “dog–eat– dog” competition–all are things I cannot abide. I’m much too close to seventy to be worried about my ideological “turf,” my status, or my influence in a movement that threatens to degenerate into an environmental version of the Wild Bunch rather than welcome caring people. If we cannot “reenchant” humanity, we win never “reenchant” nature. How the Arizona Junta, its ‘warriors,” and its deep zoologists with bullwhips expect to save wildlife and nature without showing any concern for people is utterly beyond my comprehension. ¤