Climate Crisis, Elite Panic, and Mass Exclusion

John Davis’s interesting article in Counterpunch,

Are We Moderns Or Terrestrials?
7 February 2019

Describes the idea of “social triage” practiced by a global wealth elite, to exclude the mass of Earth’s people from the finite natural bounty our planet can supply to humanity; this drive being accelerated by the obvious threats of the accelerating Climate Crisis. Davis writes:

In [the book] Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime, 2018, Bruno Latour, the French philosopher and sociologist, writes, “To the migrants from outside who have to cross borders and leave their countries at the price of immense tragedies, we must, from now on, add the migrants from inside who, while remaining in place, are experiencing the drama of seeing themselves left behind by their own countries”.

Davis’s article reminds me of earlier sallies on this topic.

The most prescient, to my mind, was Tony Judt’s essay The Social Question Redivivus, which appeared in the journal Foreign Affairs in 1997 (and is still behind a paywall) and was reprinted as the last selection in Judt’s book Reappraisals, Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century (Penguin Books, 2008). Except for the mention of Climate Change, Judt’s 1997 article laid out a very detailed exposition of the same form of triage as Davis (and Latour) now describe 22 years later.

I wrote a short gloss on Judt’s books and this topic in particular as

Tony Judt, Edward Snowden, And “The Excluded”
1 July 2013

Also, on the idea of triage being practiced by the global wealth elite to separate “the excluded” from the finite bounty of the Earth, a very similar idea formed the core of Joseph Heller’s 1994 novel Closing Time (Simon and Schuster, 1994), which is both a reminiscence of their youth by WWII generation Brooklyn NY Jews, and a scathing satire of late 20th century American political attitudes. In the novel, a nitwit President of the U.S. plays a video game called Triage, which is actually a command console connected to an underground technological complex (based on the Reagan Administration idea of an underground mobile MX missile complex) for secretly controlling the day-to-day process of manipulating both selected individuals and the population as a whole, and ultimately of mass exclusion by nuclear war.

Davis notes that the basic practice by wealth elites of working hard to exclude the mass of people from prosperity, and to enslave them, is ancient. His (and Latour’s) point is that climate change is adding pressure to that elite drive for mass immiseration.

The implication of the above is that some form of serious and vigorous populist movement that successfully addresses climate change despite elite opposition (combining geo-technical strategies of direct mitigation, individual and societal adaptation, and — obviously — economic justice, a.k.a. “socialism”) is necessary for an organized human survival with decency.

We all know the problem. Our challenge (which may be tragically beyond us) is to triumph over the Climate Crisis and the elite selfishness driving it.


The Volcano Behind Oakland

“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”
(Genesis 3:19)

“I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.”
(Ezekiel 28:18)

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”
(text by Augustus M. Toplady, 1740-1778, music by Thomas Hastings, 1784-1872)

The Volcano Behind Oakland
12 August 2013

Have Fun and Be Kind.


My comments on Frank Rich’s (NYT columnist) article about accepting lack of privacy (as technologically and socially inevitable) and viewing Edward Snowden as unimportant (deluded rather than heroic), are included in an article by Swan’s editor Gilles d’Aymery (which includes a web link to Frank Rich’s article).

Blips #137 (by Gilles d’Aymery)
12 August 2013

Also in the August 12 issue of Swans is a letter (by Darrell Johnson) to the editor on the Snowden Affair, privacy, and government overreach beyond the 4th Amendment, which cites my views (favorably).

Darrell Johnson’s letter to the Swans editor on the Snowden Affair
12 August 2013

The earlier article of mine, which is cited in Blips #137 and was probably in Darrell Johnson’s mind, is:

Tony Judt, Edward Snowden and “The Excluded”
1 July 2013

Some of my comments regarding the Snowden Affair were among those I posted on my blog (and are cited in Blips #137).

The Damned Human Race (Still)
1 August 2013


Last night I read Tony Judt’s essay on Hannah Arendt (1), and it all became clear to me:

They were all “chance survivors of a deluge,” as she put it in a 1947 dedication to [Karl] Jaspers, and wherever they ended up, in New York, Paris, or Rome, they were constrained, like Camus’s Sisyphus, to push the boulder of memory and understanding up the thankless hill of public forgetting for the rest of their lives.

Today I read Judt’s book review of Camus’s last novel Le premier homme, first published in 1994.

It occurs to me that this sums up Judt’s work as well: Chance survivor of a deluge, constrained to push the boulder of memory and understanding up the thankless hill of public forgetting for the rest of his life.

That is what I detest in Rich’s article, his recommendation we just go along with it and “forget about it.” He is the self-satisfied voice of the thankless hill of public forgetting, the hypnosis serving enslavement. That is why Manning is being judicially buried and Snowden is being hunted for the same end, because they have made widely memorable that which authority wanted buried from public awareness and, now that it is exposed, submerged into public forgetting as quickly as possible.

1. Tony Judt, “Hannah Arendt and Evil,” 1995, first published in the New York Review of Books, also in the 2008 book of Judt essays, Reappraisals, Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century, (Penguin).


Tony Judt, Edward Snowden and “The Excluded”

“If ignorance is bliss then America is paradise.”

Tony Judt, Edward Snowden and “The Excluded”
1 July 2013

A magnificent display of conscience goes largely unnoticed by minds conditioned for captivity with trivialities and illusions that suppress critical thinking, and atomize society.