Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Education for the Species--Part II

[In this section, we explain that the man-made extinction of the species is an outcome of primarily modernist thinking and high-culture which is now shared by the elites globally]
Ideology and hegemony
For his book Hegemony or Survival, Chomsky used the subtitle America’s Quest for Global Dominance, suggesting that the prospect of human survival depends primarily on how humanity responds to the hegemony of the United States (US). No doubt, with its absolute military control over the planet and the space around it, and its nuclear hardware capable of vaporising much of the planetary system, the US has represented the peak of the 'cold and calculated savagery’ with which humans have proceeded to destroy themselves. Moreover, using its military control, the US has thwarted almost every effort to get the planet on some track of recovery. For example, in the last few decades, it has not only ignored the Geneva Convention on warfare and the United Nations (UN) resolutions on terrorism, it has walked out of the Kyoto Protocol on the environment, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, and the convention on biological warfare among others. There is some basis, then, for viewing US hegemony as a principal agent for the imminent extinction of the species.
However, the US has not been alone. The ideology that governs US hegemony over the planet had precedents throughout the history of the Western world. As Chomsky (2005, x) notes, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger, rated to be one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century by many scholars, viewed Nazi Germany as the most ‘metaphysical of nations.’ After constructing the spectre of the Jewish–Bolshevik conspiracy to take over the world, eminent Western intellectuals thought that ‘extreme measures’ were necessary for ‘self-defence.’ ‘As the Nazi storm clouds settled over the country in 1935,’ Chomsky continued, ‘Martin Heidegger depicted Germany as the “most endangered” nation in the world, gripped in the “great pincers” of an onslaught against civilisation itself, led in its crudest form by Russia and America’ (Chomsky 2005, x). According to Heidegger, Germany stood ‘in the center of the Western world,’ and must protect the great heritage of classical Greece from ‘annihilation,’ relying on the ‘new spiritual energies unfolding historically from out of the center.’ Hence, the catastrophic war was needed to protect the ‘great heritage of classical Greece’ (Chomsky 2005: x).
When it was attacked by the Japanese in Pearl Harbour, the US unleashed its own ‘legitimate exercise of self-defence against a vicious enemy’ (Chomsky 2005, xi) with a 1,000-plane daylight raid on defenceless Japanese cities, culminating in the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Chomsky notes:
The paroxysm of slaughter and annihilation did not end with the use of weapons that may very well bring the species to a bitter end. We should also not forget that these species-terminating weapons were created by the most brilliant, humane, and highly educated figures of modern civilization, working in isolation, and so entranced by the beauty of the work in which they were engaged that they apparently paid little attention to the consequences (2005, x).
As Chomsky has pointed out, the basic problem is much deeper and historical in character than the immediacy of a current rogue state (Gettys 2014). Thus, even if the current neo-liberal phase represents the ‘extreme end of the traditional US policy spectrum,’ these policies have ‘many precursors, both in US history and among earlier aspirants to global power.’ ‘More ominously,’ Chomsky continued, ‘their decisions may not be irrational within the framework of prevailing ideology and the institutions that embody it’ (2003, 4). This is the crucial point—these are rational decisions taken in a civilizational mode, these are products of the most sophisticated thinking pursued for hundreds of years in great centres of learning. In that sense, there is a direct correlation between the culture of enlightenment and the untimely extinction of the species.
Beyond US hegemony, there is now growing concern that humanity might well be led to a species-terminating global war originating in West Asia. After bitter plunder and strategic warfare conducted by the West for over five decades, this region has now spawned powers, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), that not only have the armed resources for acquiring local state power, but have the determination to achieve global dominance just like Nazi Germany. In fact, their ideologies go beyond that of Nazism to actually seek the end of the world. Graeme Wood (2015) reports that
we can gather that [ISIS] rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.
It is instructive to note in this connection that the prospect of species termination is not restricted to avowedly hegemonistic violent states and their ideologies. Thus, Chomsky mentions the apparently benign and peace-loving country, Canada, to understand the real scope of the concerned ideology. Speaking on the energy policies of the Canadian government under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Chomsky observed that
It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it’s shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result (Cited in Lukacs 2013), such destruction of the environment continues across the world, including in India. And, the destruction of the environment puts immense pressure on available resources such that access to the remaining resources enhances the prospect of catastrophic war.

(To be continued)

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