What is behind the current fascination with all things “green:” green jobs, green energy, organic “green” foods? As for much that is wrong in today's society, I trace the green cult back to the revival of Rousseauist philosophy in the 1960s. What is Rousseauist philosophy? Jean-Jaques Rousseau was an 18th Century French philosopher whose influence is still greatly seen in current social welfare programs, the education of youth and the criminal justice system. Rousseau's most famous maxim: “Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Innocuous enough? But at the heart of his philosophy is a rejection of “original sin.” You see, Rousseau believed that Man was essentially born inherently good. It is civilization (i.e. society) that has corrupted Man. Nature is the all redeeming force in the world. (I follow Jack London who saw the great beauty in Nature, but also it's ugly and deadly side.) Rousseau heavily influenced those behind the French Revolution. The results became clear. Once the French had thrown off the tyranny of the monarchy, the streets ran red with blood. Without civilization, Man returns to His baser/animal instincts. William Golding's classic novel “The Lord of the Flies” in the penultimate example. To a lesser degree the increasingly annoying reality series “Survivor” proves how in Nature the moral or good does not win, but the ruthless and cunning.
Far from being a negative influence on Man, civilization, specifically Western Civilization has brought us great advances in science, medicine and art. All of which stemmed from Catholicism. I recommend Thomas E. Wood's incredible study: “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization.” In the 1960's Rousseauist philosophies once again reared their head in the counter-culture generation. Many of those who would later enter the worlds of politics, social work and education came under the influence of the neo-Reousseau wave. This trend was evident in the embracing of Eastern religious philosophies (even Thomas Merton got caught up,) the rejection of Christian moral values, and the promotion of Socialist and Communist ideologies (the popularity of Mao's “Little Red Book,”) that promised a utopian society free from the constraints of Christianity.
What does all this have to do with the current green mania? Well, I think you can see the contemporary roots in Al Gore's goofy global-warming scare tactics. This idea again makes the Enlightenment mistake of putting Man at the center of the Universe. But it goes a step further and adds Rousseau to the mix: Nature is all good and civilization is evil. Now, the buzz-words: green and organic have become the new sacred. The adherence of some to paper as opposed to plastic verges on the fanatical. And the organic craze has no basis in fact. (There are currently no FDA restrictions on the use of the term “organic.) Some believe that by stripping civilization's influence over our food is somehow healthy. In truth, advances in agriculture have made once arid land fruitful and greatly increased production through the use of insecticides and herbicides. One of the most horrifying results of the new green insanity is the increasing rate of malaria deaths in the emerging world. Malaria was once almost all but eradicated due to the use of insecticides. But the manufacture and distribution of such insecticides has been severely curtailed in the Western World. A bad philosophy: what harm can it cause? Can you hear the children scream. And now we must live with the global results of this failed view: plummeting birth rates in the Western World, rampant and forced abortions, costly and worthless environmental restrictions and the reemergence of deadly diseases in the developing world.
What essentially brought about this article is the recent Solyndra scandal. And if you dig deep enough this same Rousseauist philosophy is at the root. In other words: Man is all good; civilization is evil; Man must return to Nature. Also at the heart of this philosophy comes a certain arrogance. A sort of gnostic knowledge about how the Universe works. And now in the US, we are ruled by one of the most arrogant of all leaders. He, himself emerged from the neo-Rousseauist enclaves of the 60s and 70s. I think President Obama believes that Western Civilization is the cause of the world's ills and that by returning to a more “natural” (i.e. green or organic) state: the Earth can be healed. But like many of his generation, the President is the one that must be healed. He has rejected God and replaced him with a failed ideology of Man's perfectibility by a return to Nature.
*My Master's Thesis at SSU analyzed the philosophies of American author and adventurer Jack London.