Steven Craig Hickman
Of late the first signs of a truly global initiative seems to be rearing its head toward the world’s economic and climacteric crisis: Extinction Rebellion. One need not delve into the history of environmentalism, climate science(s), radical green, ecosophy, Deep-Ecology, Earth First, or any other numbers of groups, organizations, and political vanguards to appreciate that an ongoing threat and atrocity of non-action concerning the Sixth Extinction event in which many species will die out as in the previous five events. Besides the biodiversity of plant and animal life, even we as a species may well end up in the abyss beyond the tipping point of no return. As in many things I’ve always delved into the extremes of such thought, exploring both the dire predictions and the agonistic elements within it that provokes us out of our bourgeois complacency.
Edward O. Wilson an advocate of committing half of the planet’s surface to the non-human life-forms of the natural world in a step to salvage the bio-diversity of the planet from the ongoing Sixth Extinction event. In that work he identified the unique blend of animal instinct and social and cultural genius that has launched our species and the rest of life on a potentially ruinous trajectory. Our lack of understanding of ourselves and the rest of life than the humanities and science have yet offered were – and are, central to this project. As he suggested,
We would be wise to find our way as quickly as possible out of the fever swamp of dogmatic religious belief and inept philosophical thought through which we still wander. Unless humanity learns a great deal more about global biodiversity and moves quickly to protect it, we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth. The Half-Earth proposal offers a first, emergency solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem: I am convinced that only by setting aside half the planet in reserve, or more, can we save the living part of the environment and achieve the stabilization required for our own survival.1
Drastic to be sure, and possibly unrealistic; and, yet, extreme is what we need in this age of political malfeasance and mayhem. An age which is now labeled by environmentally inclined scientists as the Anthropocene. For most of my life environmentalists and climate scientists have grappled with advanced computer modeling to anticipate and forecast the threat looming on the horizon, a challenge that would, perhaps soon, need to be faced. Those days are past. Today, all around the world, the menace we worried about is no longer merely potential, but has rapidly materialized. Record-breaking temperatures on every continent. Rates of extinction so high that the only relevant comparisons are to planetary cataclysms far beyond human memory. Species and ecosystems scrambling to change their geographical range and—where they cannot move quickly, as with coral reefs—perishing altogether. Rising seas, forests ablaze, glaciers disappearing, superstorms. The underlying cause is well known. The increasing proportion of certain trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere (in round numbers, carbon dioxide [CO2 ] has risen from 250 to 400 parts per million, methane [CH4 ] from 700 to 1700 parts per billion) means a larger proportion of the sun’s energy remains in the Earth’s seas, land masses, and atmosphere, changing the movement of heat energy through the world’s climatic system. As global temperatures rise, the weather changes too. Not just the unbearable summer days that now plague cities across the planet, but highly variable precipitation bringing flood or drought, volatile temperature changes, and more intense storms. This is already taking a toll on everyone, but the heaviest weight of all has fallen on relatively poor and powerless people, as well as the other living things with whom we share this planet. The troubles caused by climate change are accelerating so quickly that we have no ledger capable of measuring them.2
The corporations, the Oil companies, the Coal Industry, and any number of other industrial era energy Leviathan’s deny their contribution to this sad state of affairs. Yet, the undeniable truth is that at its core the real culprit is greed and profit, the World System of Capital which has over the past few hundred years unleashed a ravenous and global assault on our planetary resources, forced indigenous populations in backwater Third World countries into a catastrophe of the commons, and stripped he earth of its natural resources at the behest of a small and powerful contingent of Oligarchs, Banking systems, and a wealthy minority. Why that wealthy minority did nothing, and what that means for our political futures, are the crucial questions of our time.
The Immortality Syndrome: How the Wealthy seek Anti-Aging Technologies
The Civilization and socio-cultural world view of Capitalism is at heart a realm devoid of life giving, life affirming sustenance, its main goal is profit – the unadulterated accumulation of Capital. It will not let anything stand in its way toward attaining that goal. In our own time that has come down to the truth of extinction and expendability. The upper 10% of the world’s wealthy who control the great behemoth’s of Industry and global multi-conglomerates do not care about the masses of humans who eek out a bare life upon this planet. Yet, there is one qualifier: the wealthy themselves harbor dreams of Immortality.
Even now many of them seek to escape the coming extinction of the human species through space-faring technological plans to go off-world. Others seek to transcend our biological heritage and invent artificial means of immortality through transhumanist visions of techno-capitalist AI, Robotics, and externalizing the human bios into machinic systems. Such mad schemes of the artificialization of the human species as cyborg, android, and other immortalization programs were once the dreams of cartoon artists and writers. Not anymore.
Various hypertechnological innovators, investors, and Silicon Valley type entrepreneurs have for the past couple decades invested heavily into these various insane pursuits of escape. Peter Thiel back in 2006 gave Cambridge anti-aging researcher Aubrey de Grey $3.5 million under the auspices of the Methusaleh Foundation, a non-profit headquartered in Springfield, Virgina, that awards scientists who are working on life-extension therapies. “Probably the most extreme form of inequality is between people who are alive and people who are dead,” Thiel told The New Yorker.
In 2010, Thiel and his partners at Founders Fund, a Bay Area venture capital firm, invested $500,000 in Halcyon Molecular, a biotech start-up whose 28-year-old founder has a “dream to create a world free from cancer and aging.”
Brian Singerman, an early employee at Google who founded the iGoogle team, came to Founders Fund after having what he describes as an “epic six hour epic dinner with Sean Parker.” Parker, an executive general partner in the firm, recruited Singerman shortly after.
Equal parts brilliant and idealistic, Singerman is adamant that aging is a problem that can be solved. The fund’s portfolio has invested in about 14 health and biotech companies all interested in solving life’s ultimate problem: death.
“We have a company that’s charged with curing all viral disease, we have a company that’s charged with curing several types of cancer,” he says. “These are not things that are incremental approaches. It’s all fine and good to have a drug that extends life by a certain amount of months or makes living with a disease easier. That’s not what we’re looking for. We are not looking for incremental change. We are looking for absolute cures in anything we do.”3
Singerman, who graduated from Stanford, believes there are two basic elements of curing aging: first, you have to cure the stuff that kills you. The second part, of course, is figuring out the processes by which the body deteriorates. Finding complete, fast, and cheap DNA sequencing methods are a main focus of the fund.
“I’m not going to say we’re going to cure aging before next week,” he says. “That’s just silly. But do I think that within the next 10 years we’ll have the cure for several forms of cancer? I absolutely do. Do I think that in the next 10 years all forms of viral disease will be wiped out? Absolutely, we have a shot. Do I think that we’re going to stop the aging process within the next 10 years? No, but do I think we’ll have a much better understanding of how to get to that point? Absolutely.” (ibid.)
The truth behind all this fantastic immortalization is the wealthy minority themselves whose dreams of immortality and escaping death through any means necessary is driving such mad schemes.
How Did We Get Into This Mess?
Neoliberalism, far from revealing biological laws, describes a system that creates its own reality.
There is no need to define the term neoliberalism anymore. It’s apparent that the progressive Left has used this term to talk about that 10% upper-crust world of wealthy elites across our planet for decades. To traces it back into its various components of libertarian free-market economics, or the political and corporate control mechanisms, propaganda machines, mediatainment conglomerates where the fantasylands of hyperreal modernity emerged like a Disneyland of the Hollywood jet-set is fairly well documented in hundreds of publications, books, essays, blogs, etc.. No, I’ll not go there.
The truth is that the wealthy have created a world-wide system of corruption that seeks to control not only society, but its wealth beyond all necessary forms of life. The so called free-market is dominated by powerful agents – corporations and oligarchs – who use their position to demand special treatment: contracts, handouts, tax breaks, treaties, the crushing of resistance and other political favours. They extend their power beyond their trading relationships through their ownership of the media and their funding and control of political parties.
These free-marketeers, pirates and bandits, all, have sought through their ideological and political malfeasance to instill a mythology of freedom. Freedom of the kind championed by neoliberals means freedom from competing interests. It means freedom from the demands of social justice, from environmental constraints, from collective bargaining and from the taxation that funds public services. It means, in sum, freedom from democracy.4
The present swing to the Right in politics as a grass-roots populism based of fear and economic insecurity came about through years of mainstream party corruption and stupidity. Both the Progressive Left and the Conservative Right became so enmeshed in their subservience to their masters, to the Oligarchs and Corporate powers through various lobbies and money funds, job offers, etc. that the age old – and, supposed, protections against such malfeasance was overlooked.
In recent years the extreme New Right, Alt-Right, Neoreaction, etc. have all been critical of socialism, liberalism, and various other forms of egalitarian beliefs, including the Judaeo-Christian origins of modern democracy. Whether these authors and ideas can be termed fascist or not remains for the reader to judge. These extreme ideologies have for years spawned a deep-seated hatred and criticism of equality, liberal capitalism, ‘economism’, and socialism in a theoretical and analytical manner. For these denizens of the Right the difference between liberalism, socialism, and Communism is almost negligible, because all of these ideologies rest on premises of universalism, egalitarianism, and the belief in economic progress. Many on the extreme Right are authors who officially and ‘unofficially’ enter into the category of anti-egalitarian, anti-socialist, and anti-Communist intellectual tradition, and who, in addition, unanimously share the view that modern mass society equals totalitarianism.
Various tracts, apologies, and political introductions have been meted out over the past few years by apologists and critics alike. Works like Elizabeth Sandifer’s Neoreaction a Basilisk: Essays on and Around the Alt-Right, Thomas J. Main’s The Rise of the Alt-Right, David Neiwert’s Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump, Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right, Michael Malice’s The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of American Politics, and Tomislav Sunic,’s Against Democracy and Equality: The European New Right among so many others that should be listed (and maybe I’ll create a bibliography of books, blogs, and recommended sites etc. at some time in the future). What do all these books share in common? What has spawned a new wave of alternative political thought on the Right that has so disturbed the progressive Left in recent years. Most progressives seem to lump all these alternatives into one umbrella term: Fascism. But this is ludicrous, and we need to delve deeper into it and understand why both the extreme Left and extreme Right have become the enemy of democracy in our time. What does it portend?
This post is not the place to go into such a lengthy investigation, one that I hope to pursue in the near future. Rather I seek only to touch base with the drift of its ideological keys, the basic outlay of its concepts and platforms.
A Short History of White Supremacy
One extreme is the platform of the New Right in Europe and the U.S.A. that as one of its proponents, Greg Johnson states: “The North American New Right is a “metapolitical” movement modeled on the European New Right, but adapted to our own circumstances. The goal of the North American New Right is to lay the metapolitical foundations for the emergence of a White Republic (or republics) in North America.”5 Whether one terms it fascism or the politics of White Supremacy is a matter of choice, either way it puts race and an aggressive politics of White Supremacy at its core.
This separation of Whites from other races is a sordid history whose origins – at least as concerns our modernity, lie in fifteenth-century Europe, on through colonial times when the early British settlers carried racist ideas to America, all the way to the twenty-first century and current debates about the events taking place on our streets.6 Here in the good ole U.S.A. the debates between assimilationists and segregationists, racists and antiracists, are charged with antagonistic and prolonged struggle and intimately, if not intricately, woven into the very fabric of our republics history. Kendi in his short work elaborates this heritage of racist ideas through five key figures: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis, saying,
[they] were arguably the most consistently prominent or provocative racial theorists of their respective lifetimes, writing and speaking and teaching racial (and nonracial) ideas that were as fascinating as they were original, influential, and/or contradictory. (ibid., Intro)
At the core of this heritage of White Supremacy is the two-fold debates surrounding assimilation and segregation. Jim Wallis in a pointedly religious metaphor tells us that racism “is America’s original sin and must be named as such… racism lingers far more pervasively in implicit and covert ways in American institutions and culture, in often unconscious attitudes, and in the very structures of our society.”7
Again this is a wide and deep-seated history with many things that need to be broached beyond the length of this post. I seek only to inform the reader that our present plight is multifarious, complex, and chaotic. Anyone pretending to understand the crisis humanity is undergoing must delve into a wide-spectrum of micro-histories if she would even begin to approach the truth in its larger sense of global socio-cultural matrix. Something I can only hint at rather than cover in detail.
The reason for brining up both the economic and racist debates is simply put because the upper-crust, the 10% of wealthy elite who control most of the world’s wealth are themeselves racist and control the political, social, and ideological strings that have created the World System that is destroying our planet, using the structures of social control to establish their right to impose their austerity upon the vast majority of humans to keep their system in place.
Against this world wide death praxis of the wealthy elite a new trend has arisen online and at the grass roots level, one that seeks to redefine our lives and shape our future. The Extinction Rebellion (XR) seeks to spark and sustain a spirit of creative rebellion, which will enable much needed changes in our political, economic and social landscape. Endeavouring to mobilise and train organisers to skilfully open up space, so that communities can develop the tools they need to address the deeply rooted problems of the United States. Working to transform our society into one that is compassionate, inclusive, sustainable, equitable and connected.
It seeks a new world where we can build thriving connections within our society and environment, bringing hope and enabling us to decide the direction of our lives and futures. An inclusive world, where we work consciously to ensure fair processes of collective decision-making, where creativity is prioritised, and where our diversity of gifts are recognised, celebrated and flourish.
It demands that Governments around the world must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.
It demands that Governments must enact legally-binding policies to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth of resources per year.
Extinction Rebellion does not trust our Governments to make the bold, swift and long-term changes necessary to achieve these changes and they do not intend to hand further power to our politicians. Instead they demand a Citizens’ Assembly to oversee the changes, as we rise from the wreckage, creating a democracy fit for purpose.
XR people demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.
Extinction Rebellion’s long term strategy is to, in alliance with other movements and thousands of people, inspire and be part of instigating a national and International, coordinated economic and governmental disruption on an unprecedented scale that lasts indefinitely, until the government feels forced to concede to the four XR demands. No one has ever tried to launch a rebellion of this kind in history for any reason. There is no way to overstate the danger we face from climate change, and on their own, our institutions have proven themselves incapable of addressing the crisis.
Most of all the time is short, and as they tell us we are losing the battle. “If we continue to only focus on lobbying congress and/or individual fossil fuel infrastructure fights on their own, without also planning and building for a national, coordinated rebellion, we will never bring about the systemic change we need.” As their preamble states it,
This type of rebellion is premised on extensive research that shows conclusively that if 3.5% of the population in any country is actively engaged in sustained resistance over a concentrated period of time, governments inevitably concede or collapse under the pressure. The research shows that governments simply can’t endure this many people engaging in serious disruption if it lasts for an extended period of time.
This is only surprising to most of us because we don’t realize yet that it’s only because many thousands of us cooperate that the government can run and that the system can operate. The moment enough of us withdraw our consent and refuse to carry on daily activities, the whole structure can’t work. If millions of people simply stayed home in a general strike for a week, for example, while thousands of others blocked key infrastructure nationwide, the government and industry would not be able to go forward. They don’t teach us this in school. They don’t teach us how much power we have collectively. But those who have successfully used nonviolent people power by the thousands are showing us the way. (here)
Against the top 1% a new battle cry is haunting the world. A world the wealthy elite have ripped apart. A World System that has degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomizing, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness. I’m an old man whose heart goes out to the young born in our time. What we’ve done to the earth, our home, is beyond recall. The system of economics and racist heritage of White privilege has left the planet in ruins not because we were superior, but because Whites had the technological power of a weaponized and warrior ethos that sought to conquer the earth as if they owned it. The whole heritage of race, economics, and property relations has brought about in our time an endgame civilization that may or may not survive the coming decades and centuries. It is up to the young who will inhabit what we’ve ruined to rebel against this state of affairs, and from within our failure, our ruinous wastelands of capitalism, to rebuild the earth without such a system of destruction. Is it too late? Let’s hope not, let’s hope with the courage of hopelessness that it is not too late to turn things around. That the young will awaken across this planet, this earth; and rebel against extinction, everywhere.
- Edward O. Wilson. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Liveright; 1 edition (March 7, 2016)
- Joel Wainwright, Geoff Mann (eds.). Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future. Verso (February 13, 2018)
- Eric Markowitz. Inc. Immortality: The Next Great Investment Boom: here.
- Monbiot, George. How Did We Get Into This Mess?: Politics, Equality, Nature . Verso Books. Kindle Edition.
- Covington, Harold; Devlin, F. Roger; Bolton, Kerry; Bowden, Jonathan; de Benoist, Alain; O’Meara, Michael; Kurtagić, Alex; Faye, Guillaume; Evola, Julius. North American New Right, Volume One (pp. 1-2). Counter-Currents Publishing. Kindle Edition.
- Kendi, Ibram X.. Stamped from the Beginning (Kindle Locations 154-155). PublicAffairs. Kindle Edition.
- Jim Wallis. America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America (Kindle Locations 274-277). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition