Important words are often understood far too broadly, and it’s not accidental. Take as a common example, ‘arrogance’. Arrogance is a negative quality, but in ordinary ‘office-speak’ is very often used to encompass positive qualities, such as confidence or that charming species of self-aware conceit that sees one’s own vanity and laughs at it. These cases, positive and negative, are formally similar and so can be attacked and dismissed with the same world.
Who does this? It’s not merely under-confident people, who are much more likely to go the other way and masochistically worship arrogance, feeding from it. Rather the indiscriminate label of ‘arrogance’ tends to be used by those who seek to damage forms of confidence which threaten them. This they do by calling them ‘arrogant’. Whole societies can do this. Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer may have said quite a few nutty things, but they were right in their united condemnation of a general, society-wide ‘morality of resentment’ which seeks to bring down anyone who is exceptionally able or perceptive by condemning confidence and surety1; and over-praising humility, meekness and obedience.
There is another kind of shifty word play, opposite and complementary; overly restricting the scope of concepts. Here a complex matter, often vastly so, is reduced down to a few easily grasped and easily rejected ideas. Take, as an example, ‘Christianity’, or even more broadly, ‘religion’. A common attitude to both being ‘Bah! Bullshit!’ Centuries — even millennia — of culture, a mind-boggling range of ideas, traditions and experiences, millions and millions of people, all crammed into a little box of ‘God Doesn’t Exist’ and thrown into the stupid hole. Not that central and highly conspicuous aspects of, say, Christianity, aren’t vile, self-serving, absurdities — pretty much the whole Old Testament, for example, or just about everything that happens in the Vatican2 — but that’s just the point. Restricting concepts lumps the subtle with the crude, the wise with the sly, the beautiful with the gaudy, greatness with nonsense.
What we’re talking about here is blending black and white with shades of grey. Some things are shades of grey (Does he love me?), some things are black and white (Does he love me enough?) and as the superficial word-mind finds both similar, the shifty self can get away with switching them round to serve its purposes. When thousands or millions of people do the same thing, we find ourselves with a polluted language. Large parts of my book, The Apocalypedia, were written as a clean-up job. What follows is a little more scrub-and-polish — I’ll do another part next month.
You can’t get far reading dissident literature without complaints about hierarchies, pyramids of power with the point commanding the base via step-wise demotions. Obviously, as anyone anywhere who has worked on the lowest rungs know, the hierarchies we have are Bad Things. Peakpeople not only don’t know or care about basepeople, they are actively threatened by them; by their proximity to reality.
But has there been a society, an institution, a group of more than, say, twenty people, who were not hierarchical? Ever? Anywhere?3 The answer is no, because it’s impossible. Put fifty people together and those who are older, more confident, more aware or more able to deal with whatever task is underway at the time (for example an experienced sailor if all fifty found themselves in a boat) will arrange themselves into some kind of hierarchy. It may be a very shallow one, with only one ‘class,’ or it might be an extremely subtle one, with shades of power in different spheres blending and coalescing like organelles in a cell, but hierarchy it is.
Is this a problem? Again, no. It’s only a problem if you nurse resentment at not being old, confident, aware, gifted or knowledgeable — and that’s why there is indiscriminate rejection of hierarchies in the literature of the left. Not because the hierarchies we have aren’t insane — they are — but because those who reject the concept completely are terrified of their own lack of authority.
Insane hierarchies, the kind that rule the world, are different to sane hierarchies in one foundational respect. They are rigid. They don’t allow people to freely move up, down and across them, they fix ranks and statuses to titles or to money-scores, and they inflexibly create and violently enforce subjugating laws and the fraudulent power of higher-ups.
You could say, ‘okay, let’s just call these ‘rigid hierarchies’ hierarchies and those other flexible ones, societies or somesuch other thing’. To which I would say; fine! Use words how you like, I’m not saying you should speak as I do, but make some kind of distinction, or you’ll be unable to recognise truths obscured by a term or a concept which blends the sane with the insane.
Talking of which…
Another overly extended word. Here the common idea, usually expressed by materialists, is that everything is natural. Atomic power, plastics, neonicotinoids, pointy shoes, Kajagoogoo, BBC 3… they’re all built from atoms, and atoms are natural, therefore they are natural. The entire universe is natural, and so anything that happens within it must, ipso facto, be natural as well.
You’re free to have such a lax entry policy for the concept of nature, but if anything can get in, the idea becomes meaningless. It’s like saying ‘cool’ means anything cooler than the centre of the hottest sun in the universe; the word is rendered useless and we find we need to look around for another one. The only problem is, with natural, all the others have been rendered meaningless in the same way.
The most common non-ridiculous use of natural usually means something like ‘according to the principle of nature’ or, connected with this, ‘benefiting the non-human world’. Not that either of these are easy to rigidly define either (very little is) but we all intuitively understand what they mean. The principle of nature — how it operates, the forms it takes, and so on — tends towards group co-operation, balance, sensitivity and what you could call ‘fractal’ beauty — a difficult to conceptualise harmonious blend of chaos and order. There are exceptions to all these qualities, but they prove the rule. When we say someone is behaving ‘naturally’ we normally mean that she is somehow benefiting her fellow creatures, is in tune with her environment and / or expresses subtle qualities of intelligence and presence. Conversely, when we say someone is behaving ‘unnaturally’ we normally mean that he is rigidly self-serving, closed off from the context (e.g. very tightly focused on one tiny part of it), hyper-ordered or a total mess.
The main reason people don’t use the word ‘natural’ precisely in this way, to refer to the actual principle of nature, is that very few people are acquainted with it. They may enjoy walks on the beach, they might even study insects or have hiked the Hindu Kush, but these are all formal experiences. Certainly they can and do confer natural feelings and sensibilities — the more you experience directly of wild, untouched, nature, generally the more natural you become — but they’re still not, in themselves, enough to rid man of his unnatural ideas and feelings. This requires a psychological revolution, moving from ways of thinking and feeling that are in tune with the man-made world, to those that draw instinct from the non-human earth. Not the wilderness out there — although that too of course — but that in here.
Until the wild source of nature is divined, in the body, there will always be an unnatural attraction to excessive anxiety, inflexible conceit, over-stimulation, disruptive emotionality and a mad reliance on the abstract mind. Even the greenest of eco-warriors are not immune to such unnatural ways.
Talking of which…
Humans are superior to animals. Hear me out. No animal feels wonder at its own existence, wets itself laughing or weeps tears of complete psychological rupture. How do I know this? Firstly, by attending to animals, which express their inner life just as clearly — if not more clearly — than humans do. Secondly, by attending to my own conscious experience, the source of the intense wonder, hilarity and sorrow that are denied animals, along with the fears, desires, frustrations and physical pleasures we evidently do have in common. Of course I don’t expect you to believe me; if you have paid attention to either, you’ll agree and if you haven’t you won’t. That’s all there is to it.
People who criticise ‘anthropocentrism’ — the idea that humans are superior to animals (or to nature) — generally haven’t really observed either animals or themselves. If they did they wouldn’t assert that humans are not superior to animals, that ‘we are part of nature and not above it’, all of which are only half true.
Half true in the following three ways. Firstly humans and animals are ‘equal’ in that every animal (or species) has its own ‘superiority,’ something it does better than any other animal. If we use ‘agility’ as a measure of superiority, then humans are far below squirrels, if physical sensitive is the scale, we’re smashed by catfish. In this sense it is stupid to speak superiority; but the superiority we are addressing here is the ‘superiority of superiorities’ — consciousness.4
Secondly, we are equal to animals because we are, clearly, animals; and that is clearly good. I don’t know about you, but I love being an ape and am constantly frustrated that the unnatural human world prevents me from getting good at apeishness; at spontaneity, physical sensitivity, hardiness, animal beauty and connection to the wild, my home.
The third partial way that ‘we are part of nature and not above it’ is true, is that all animals are conscious, to some degree. They all feel some kind of joy, delight, love and pain, including what we would call acute emotional pain. It’s dreadful for anyone with any sensitivity to watch an animal suffer and it’s heartbreaking to see the extraordinary grief of higher (yes, higher) animals, and inspiring to see the lengths that they will go to avoid this pain and to protect their own.
But. Dogs, apes, whales and elephants can suffer as much as humans? Sure about that are you? What about rats? Can they suffer as much as elephants? Molluscs as much as cats? Plants or bacteria — do they suffer at all?5 Viruses? What about, for example, the famous Spider Wasp, which paralyses spiders, lays its eggs in them which then hatch out and eat it from the inside; how much is the spider actually suffering here? Is it the horrendous agony that we think it is — or are we anthropomorphically (which is a form of anthropocentrism) applying our consciousness to theirs? Do people who protest against the ‘anthropocentric world view’ ever really look at these things? Why is the hierarchy of sensitivity and consciousness in nature almost impossible for ecotists, ecoshists, ecoids and ecotards (another hierarchy) to accept?
The obvious truth is that humans can feel more than any animal. In fact some humans can feel more than other humans. Unfeeling humans we rightly disparage as animals; perhaps not as baby orangutans, but at least as snakes or beetles or worms, all of which are, quite naturally, terms of insult for us. Does that mean that beetles and worms are hateful, stupid, disgusting — anything other than miracles of nature? No, they are wonderful. It means they are less conscious than we are. Just as there is a scale of conscious sensitivity in the animal world, so there is in the human world, at the bottom of which are those people who do not feel much wonder (everything around them strikes them as unremarkable; only the rare and the strange worthy of note) or much joy (excitement at getting and winning takes its place) or much sorrow (mere depression and anxiety, rather), who don’t laugh very often (certainly not as much as they did when they were children) or cry very deeply (just when the usual drama-buttons are pushed) or even react much to loud noise, harsh light, clashing colours and so on (sure signs that someone lacks subtlety and awareness). Actually this is most people — have you noticed? — but there’s still a scale, the existence of which translates, at least analogously, onto the animal kingdom, which is why those towards the bottom of the scale say ‘animals and humans feel the same’ (because they can feel no higher than an animal) and, secondly, why we, at least those of us capable of genuine empathy, feel absolutely gutted if we run over a deer, upset if find a dead mouse, miffed if we step on a beetle, not too bothered if we fork a worm and completely unconcerned about pulling up a dandelion plant to make way for some carrots or killing a flu virus. We recognise in animals a hierarchy.
As I say, this should all be obvious, but it’s not for almost the same reasons to those advanced above on the subject of hierarchies. We humans, on the whole, are afraid of our own superiority and so we exalt this weird ‘humility’ that puts us on precisely the same level as animals. We do not want to be truly and uniquely human; insanely, outrageously, miraculously conscious, joyous, sensitive, loving and sorrowful — and responsible — so we define ourselves as animals and define animals as humans.
Now, you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned abstract intelligence, language, foresight or memory. These things, or versions of them, are often advanced as some kind of superiority we have over the rest of nature, if not quite so much nowadays, or quite so explicitly, certainly for most of our civilised past. ‘Man is the rational animal’ — ever heard that one? Aristotle, one of the first human computers, taught the world this, and many so-called ‘philosophers’ since have agreed. Rationality, we are led to believe, is what places us above our pets, that confers upon us a unique ‘dignity’, and this (Chomskyan, Hegelian, Cartesian) ‘human nature’ is indeed the worst kind of bullshit.
Our much vaunted rationality may indeed enable us to do all kinds of stupendous things that animals cannot do, one or two of them even quite useful, but it is in no sense meaningfully intelligent, or even just meaningful. It is merely clever, like a computer. Human computers (aka scientists and scientific philosophers) believe that rationality is a cause of consciousness, whereas in reality it’s the other way around; the revolution in consciousness which made and makes us human created our power to be rational. This rational power, at the beginning of the civilised era, then took over our consciousness and has been dominating human affairs ever since, up to and including the collapse that we are currently living through. The rational [egoic] mind has completely covered the earth with an ugly image of itself, which we call the world, suppressing both our animal nature and our human nature; turning us into mindless, denatured automatons.
So while rationality does separate us from animals, it is a second-order power; and again, if exalting this shoddy cleverness is ‘anthropocentrism’ then fair enough. The point here is that the word also covers that from which rationality emerges, consciousness, which the eco-left are unwilling to explore, which is why they focus on rationality as the lie that it is and denounce those who hold to its spectacular and ruinous achievements as arrogant. It’s a clever trick, hiding the big (wide, deep) truth by accurately criticising the small (narrow, shallow) lie, but a confusing and disabling one.
This word means the rule of older men over a family and, by extension, a culture and it is, according to feminists and those inclined to their viewpoint, A Very Bad Thing. The obvious problem here is that ‘patriarchy’ includes all older men with power, and it excludes all women. Ken Loach? Patriarch. Noam Chomsky? Patriarch. The old guy who does everyone’s front gardens round our way, who all the neighbours respect? Patriarch. Margaret Thatcher, however, Hillary Clinton, Teresa May, Christine Lagarde, Mary Barra — they can’t be patriarchs, can they? Or perhaps they can? I’ve not heard of a feminist arguing that by enthusiastically joining in the male world, adopting male styles of thinking and, essentially, becoming men, women can be patriarchs also, or at least integral parts of the patriarchy.
If that argument is being advanced somewhere — and I‘d be quite surprised if it was — then fine, use ‘patriarchy’. More useful, however, would be to talk of maleness, male ways of thinking, the insane male mind and so on, but of course feminists are completely unable to do this because they are psychologically — and thus ideologically — bound to the absurd notion that no such thing exists. Men, according to feminists, do not think, feel and perceive as men do, because that would mean that must be better than women at some things, particularly those things honoured by the the world they have built; such as intensely abstract thinking, system-building and so on. Feminoids want a piece of that, so they go to quite outrageous lengths to ‘prove’ that men and women are identical and there’s no reason why women cannot be great businessmen, great army generals, great lawyers and great politicians, which of course they can; by becoming patriarchs. The source of maleness, male genius if you like, is still denied them though, which is why there are no great female philosophers, great song-writers or great theoretical scientists and there never will be.
Not that great theoretical scientists hold a candle to the intelligence of, say, my mum. That the world honours them more than her (or the many women like her) is because male-styles of intelligence are held up as the standard — a standard which unnatural feminists struggle to claim, abandoning female-styles of intelligence and thereby undermining the only thing that ever could or ever can challenged the insane male world.
It was the insane male mind that created the insane male world. Naturally this led to insane old men insanely controlling society. Describing the problem as ‘groups of old men in charge’ is like saying gentrification is caused by beards. Very useful if you want to open a coffee shop in Harlem and don’t have a beard, because then you are, by definition, innocent.
- How many true geniuses have there been who were perfectly well aware of their brilliance, their extraordinary powers, their preeminence? A case can be made for all of them, certainly very many — Ovid, Shakespeare, Mozart, Goethe, Wilde, etc, etc.). Likewise spiritual masters, many of whom, in the teeth of popular bromides about ‘no enlightened person calls himself enlightened’, have declared themselves to be world teachers, sons of god, guru and so on.
- Papa Frank being something of an almost unheard-of exception
- Are there any cultures on earth that don’t use terms of deference for the old?
- Explanation of why consciousness is more important than any other attribute requires another essay. For now I’ll direct you here and hope you can connect the dots.
- It has been claimed that trees scream when they are cut, that orgies of awareness flutter through mycelial fibres — and that might be the case. We live in an extraordinary living universe, for sure, but is a carrot capable of as much pleasure as a donkey? Obviously not. If you disagree, try treating a donkey like you treat a carrot, and see how it makes you feel.