Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monbiot, denialogues, three dimensional politics

Interesting piece from George Monbiot in today's Guardian.

"American conservatism could be described as a movement of denialogues, people whose ideology is based on disavowing physical realities. This applies to their views on evolution, climate change, foreign affairs and fiscal policy."

He goes on to deal with the conservatives' policy on sex with its resultant increase in sexually transmitted diseases, but his insight resonates with what I have written about the Political Compass work, which adds an authoritarian-libertarian axis to the traditional left-right axis. This helpfully brings political studies out of the stultifying unidimensional left right polarisation into a two dimensional plane, but I think there is a need for a third dimension to express any political ideology's relationship to physical and biological reality.

This could be called the Ecological Realism (ER) Axis, and would be placed at mutual right angles to the other Political Compass axes, forming a truly three dimensional framework for politics.

At one end of the ER axis are those who are inclined to take a scientific or evidence based approach to the world. At the other end are those who take a purely ideological view of the world. Climate change sceptics/skeptics (i.e. denialists) would be found here, along with fundamentalists of many types. Here be idealists, in the philosophical sense, those whose thinking is based on some abstract concept, rather than physical reality.

There is an interesting paradox here, an inversion of the popular understanding of the situation. For the past three decades,Greens have been characterised as "idealists" by those who mould the public's view of the world. Now, in this development of the political framework, we are positioned at the realist end of the spectrum.

The paradox can be resolved relativistically. Vis a vis a neo-conservative who is still prattling about the absolute virtues of a free market, even the most idealistic deep green, with her heart set on sustainability, is a realist. This same deep green, in dialogue, say, with a deep green who is engaged in drawing up sustainable policy for Government to implement in the next three months, might take up a dismissive approach to the policies under consideration. "You are just tinkering with the system. The whole system needs to be changed", they say. This absolutism pushes her to the idealistic end of the scale.

The resolution of Realo and Fundi greens is to be found in the dimension of time . Fundi greens are looking at how things should be in 100 years time. Realos are looking at how things might look tomorrow, if we are to start developing sustainability.

Either way, greens of all tendencies have a better grasp on reality than the right-wing idealogues of denial, or denialogues, as George Monbiot calls them.

To round off, here is an old limerick which I have updated:

A Climate change sceptic from Deal
Said though I know pain is not real
When I sit on a pin and it punctures my skin
I dislike what I think that I feel.

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