Examining the "right-wing Green" critique of current-day America (Part Four)
By Mark Wegierski
Based on a draft of a presentation for the 2013 Conference of the Polish Association for American Studies (PAAS) (Eating America: Crisis, Sustenance, Sustainability) (Wroclaw, Poland: University of Wroclaw, Department of English Studies), October 23-October 25, 2013. The paper was accepted for publication in The Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 8 (2014), but additional work on the paper, necessary for publication there, was not completed because of unforeseen personal circumstances.
The right-wing Greens have also sharply criticized various globalization tendencies, such as so-called Free Trade, outsourcing, and the bringing of cheap labor into America, especially through illegal immigration. They argue that policies of so-called cheap labor serve mostly the interests of "the plutocracy" (or what today have been called "the one percent"). They point out that supporters of the recent "amnesty and immigration surge" legislation have included some of the wealthiest persons and companies in America, who are part of various pro-immigration lobbying efforts that have spent close to 1.5 billion dollars (US) since 2007.
The right-wing Greens lament the disappearance of millions of American industrial jobs, many of which have now apparently been shifted to places like China. They argue that the maintenance of "hard industries" is still important for the future of any great nation.
On July 1, 2013 (Canada Day) the right-wing Green criticism of immigration was offered unexpected support by David Suzuki, a prominent Canadian environmentalist usually identified with the Left. During an interview with a Quebec reporter, he openly stated that "Canada is full", and that the country – in those southern areas which were easily habitable -- was near to exhausting its carrying capacity. He also made the argument that Canada, by drawing in the more enterprising people from Third World countries, was doing a disservice to possible progress in those countries.
In 1988, The New York Times had commissioned an op-ed piece from Edward Abbey, the famous environmentalist and radical writer, on immigration issues. However, after they saw it, they refused to publish it, nor did they even give him his kill-fee (the fee paid to commissioned authors if their article remains unpublished). "Immigration and Liberal Taboos" (1988) is a quite pointed argument for immigration restriction, on the grounds of environmental preservation as well as national interest.
In the October 1998 issue of Harper's, there had appeared a remarkable ecological /environmentalist article, "Planet of Weeds" by David Quammen – "Earth will soon support only survivor species – dandelions, roaches, lizards, thistles, crows, rats. Not to mention 10 billion humans. A grim look into the future by David Quammen."
One of the favorite books of the right-wing Greens is the French author Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints (1973), a dystopia which portrays Western civilization overrun by mass Third World immigration. Some of the dystopian science fiction cinema products which are suggestive of right-wing Green concerns, include: Silent Running (1972); Soylent Green (1973); The Road Warrior (1981); Blade Runner (1982); District 9 (2009); Dredd (2012); and Elysium (2013). One should also mention the unusual environmentalist film, Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi term for "life out of balance") (1982).
The right-wing Greens frequently cite Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962) as an inspiration. They also certainly appreciate the ecological dimensions of J. R. R. Tolkien's writing.
The right-wing Greens point out that traditionalist philosophy shares with ecology a profound disgust with the late modern world, a critique of current-day capitalism, and an embrace of healthy and thrifty living -- rejecting the current-day, ad-driven, consumption culture of brand fetishism and profligate waste. The commonalities and convergences of traditionalism and ecology have been pointed out by, among others, British political theorist John Gray (formerly at Oxford, now at LSE) in his insightful essay, "An agenda for Green conservatism." (in Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment (1993)). John Gray has also published, among other works, a sharp indictment of globalization -- False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism (1998), which a reviewer has characterized as written "with all the dash and recklessness of a Polish cavalryman". In 2012, Roger Scruton, often considered one of the leading conservative thinkers of the contemporary era, released his book, How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for an Environmental Conservatism (2012), which was a revised edition of his earlier work, Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously About the Planet (2011).
The right-wing Greens are somewhat linked to the American Agrarian thinkers today, typified by Wendell Berry (who is also an acclaimed fiction writer), Bill Kauffman, and the website, frontporchrepublic. Rod Dreher coined the term "crunchy cons" to describe a subset of pro-ecological traditionalists. The grand old figure of American conservatism, Russell Kirk, certainly had so-called "bohemian Tory" tendencies, and criticized the automobile, for example, as "the mechanical Jacobin".
The right-wing Greens argue that Western welfare-societies are the very opposite of premodern "stable-state" (or "steady-state") societies. They suggest that had the resources offered by the consumptionist welfare-state over the last fifty years been carefully husbanded or shepherded, they could have possibly lasted for centuries -- relative to previously available material standards of living for most of human history and humankind. They suggest that the Western-derived, socially-liberal, multicultural, consumptionist welfare-state might well be only a very brief episode in human history, before some kind of massive dissolution into chaos, or, possibly some sort of new re-integration, takes place.
The right-wing Green outlook argues for a re-examination of many central ideas of current-day America, in hope of a more stable-state society. It believes it offers a possible way out from the current-day mega-crises and mega-dilemmas.
(An earlier version of this essay has appeared at Quarterly Review (UK) (April 22, 2015).)