Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. New posts: Mondays & Wednesdays.
French philosopher Pascal Bruckner says fundamentalist eco activists are steering society in a scary direction.
I’ve been thinking about fanatics. We ignore such people at our peril. But how many of us do anything other than murmur?
In communities everywhere, we take the path of least resistance. Rather than confronting the extremists in local organizations or on volunteer advisory boards, we retreat. Who needs the headache? The conflict? The high blood pressure?
But when reasonable people withdraw, exactly the wrong sort of individuals are left at the helm – and our collective ship veers off into la-la land. Pascal Bruckner’s philosophical treatise, The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse, says this is now happening in spades.
The political left, he says (which includes most academics and journalists), has lost its way. “Instead of being outraged by poverty,” it’s now fashionable to be “offended by the comforts we enjoy.”
Those who used to champion the working class, who used to care if old people were warm and adequately nourished, have abandoned the field. Mother Gaia is “the new proletarian that has to be saved from exploitation.” She is the “paragon of all the wretched.”
Rather than urging us not to panic, mainstream politicians instead fan the flames. Anxiety has, in Bruckner’s words, “been elevated to the status of a political virtue.” We’re told we’re “at the edge of the precipice.” That our descendants will pay for our ecological sins. That every meal we consume and every journey we make is a transgression against Mother Nature.
This is serious. And real. And right now. Environmental activists, says Bruckner, mix “partial knowledge” with “absolute intolerance.” It’s as though we’ve all forgotten that many historical calamities had nothing to do with ecological collapse:
if the extremists drown out the moderates, the new sobriety will have the bitter taste of concentration camps and prisons. In the wrong hands, the best of causes can degenerate into an abomination.
Our children might, indeed, have good reason to judge us harshly.
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“Above all, we have to save the world from its self-proclaimed saviours who brandish the threat of great chaos in order to impose their lethal impulses.” Pascal Bruckner, The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse