I have a modest suggestion that I want to make to angry white males. I’m not angry at you. I think you’re being abused and exploited, but in contrast to most people who are being abused and exploited at a systematic scale, you don’t seem to understand what’s going on right now. You know who you are. If you spend your days rambling in the Zerohedge comment section, if you have an SUV decorated with an exotic collection of bumper stickers, if the sight of Greta Thunberg or Ocasio-Cortez throws you into an unimaginable rage, if you base your masculinity on your car and the huge amounts of meat you stuff down your throat, if you have your own unique theories about what exactly is causing the Earth to warm up, then I want to talk to you.
As I said, I think you are being abused and exploited. I also think your anger is misdirected. You’re barking up the wrong tree and turning a blind eye to the people who are actually screwing you over. More importantly, you’re taught to argue and bicker with people who are stuck in almost the exact same situation as you. As angry white males, you are being exposed to a systematic disinformation campaign, that serves to use you as attack dogs for a small oligarchy of wealthy oil barons and other billionaires.
The past week I have joined some of the protests of the Extinction Rebellion in the Netherlands. The obligation to act for me is twofold. On the one hand, the ones who suffer the consequences of the unfolding catastrophe are the ones who can’t make their voices heard: Non-human species and people who will be born in the future. I don’t think I will ever forget the warmest day we’ve ever had in the Netherlands. The butterflies were hiding under the leaves of my plants, desperately seeking shadow. The male insects who are exposed to such heatwaves are sterilized, so heatwaves like these do irreversible damage to our ecosystems. With two consecutive droughts, Dutch nature has now suffered irreversible damage. Witnessing the severe heatwave has had a psychological impact on me.
On the other hand, there’s the haunting suspicion that we now live in the last period where we still have any genuine chance to make reforms and reign in the catastrophe. You can look at our future as a band of possibilities, but as we move ahead in time, that band increasingly begins to narrow. Someone in my position in the year 2040 will have far less influence on how the catastrophe unfolds than I do today.
We have to spend our lives, pressing the breaks in any way we can. If we all choose the path of least resistance, we end up with a society of high-rise skycrapers where people spend their whole lives slaving away at office jobs until the machines end up unable to deliver us any food. I can’t devote my life to struggling to stay somewhere in the middle of a pyramidal societal structure with rapidly growing numbers of dead bodies at the bottom and delusional elites who tell themselves that they’re about to solve the problem.
There are to some degree personal benefits too. I’ve had the rare opportunity to meet some genuinely interesting and intelligent people. Police damaged my shoes, so I had the opportunity to meet a translator of scientific articles, who invited me over to his house and gave me his old shoes. Unfortunately however, the movement also comes with some of the baggage that modern leftist movements in general tend to suffer. As an example, the movement wants to be unified yet decentralized and without hierarchy at the same time. This leads to endless hours long discussions.
To me, Extinction Rebellion doesn’t so much serve as a movement that’s going to achieve its aims and reduce emissions to net zero by 2025. That will never happen, there is too much inertia in our industrial infrastructure for that. Scientific studies suggest we now have a 5% chance of staying beneath two degree of warming. Instead, it’s an opportunity to bring small groups of dedicated and like-minded people together, who will then go on to take decisive actions that will genuinely put pressure on governments to move away from the path of least-resistance and implement policies that genuinely end up rapidly reducing our carbon emissions.
That’s why blocking roads is useful, it doesn’t just generate economic damage, but it also generates a space where people come together, where the conventional rules of society temporarily do not exist. The road blockade we created in Amsterdam on Monday, is an event I will never forget. Something very beautiful came into existence there. I had spent an hour, wandering through Amsterdam, looking for a way to sneak into the original blockade, but police stopped me everywhere.
I should note that for people who are tasked with physically defending a status quo that benefits a small minority of wealthy people at the cost of the lives of billions of people and numerous wild animals who will have to live with the consequences of the destruction of entire ecosystems, they carried out their unenviable task in a dignified and restrained manner. In other nations this may work differently, but the Dutch police do not demonstrate active hostility towards protestors, they merely carry out their orders.
At some point as I wandered through Amsterdam, I saw a small group of protestors, who were aiming to block the road to prevent a bus filled with arrested protestors from leaving the scene. At that point, I rushed to those protestors and we stood hand-in-hand, blocking the road. The noise became deafening, the police activated their sirens and we began to yell our slogans. The police pushed us, but I stood my ground, my shoe became damaged in the process. I told the officer who pushed me that he will understand why we are protesting twenty years from now.
Ultimately they did not force us to disperse, they had too few officers present for that and did not want violent escalation to occur. At that point everyone sat down and we began distributing food to each other. The police retreated to the original blockade and we slowly followed them. Then as we moved to the original blockade, people who had witnessed the whole scene began to join our new blockade.
Our blockade, that began with perhaps twenty or thirty people, began to attract more and more people. We attracted children, students, elderly people. A place in the middle of Amsterdam emerged, where the normal rules of society did not apply: A temporary autonomous zone. People began dancing and playing music, food was shared freely, there was singing and solidarity. At one point, a space was made in the middle of the crowd where a sustainable fashion show was held. It was as if history began to fold in on itself: The egalitarian paleolithic tribe was reborn in the middle of late stage capitalist Dutch society. The police officers present stood there passively, smiling a little and watching the spectacle unfold.
About an hour later, the police received the order to disperse us. Most people who heard the news left the scene, but me and others who were willing to defend the blockade sat down in front of the police. We sat down in front of the police, arms locked together in solidarity. We had men and women of all ages and backgrounds, united in defense of our living world. The protestors sat down, shouting: “We are nature, defending itself!” At that point, the police walked towards us and I was picked up, I think I was the first person they threw into the bus. They dropped us all off in the middle of nowhere, a place chosen to be as far removed from public transport as possible.
Normally, I do not pray, but earlier that day I had asked for the strength I need, to demonstrate my devotion to nature. Overall, the whole event that day, culminating in the spontaneous emergence of a temporary autonomous zone, was a transcendental experience for me. I will remember these events for the rest of my life. Compared to most of Western Europe, the Netherlands does not have a protest culture, so these events are unusual for our country. The veneration of nature for me is central to my spiritual beliefs. To have a group of people who are surrounded by police on all sides, located in the middle of the capital city of the nation that began modern capitalism, proclaiming that they are nature defending itself, is for me a significant spiritual experience.
Mazlow’s pyramid of needs has been much discussed, but in recent years, the pyramid has been updated, to place self-transcendence at the top of the pyramid. What is self-transcendence? It is the innate human desire to find something valuable higher than the self, that we are willing to devote ourselves to. Historically, this role has been fulfilled by religion. Religions are tasked with presenting us an image of something greater than ourselves, that we should demonstrate our devotion to. Unfortunately, the religions are impoverished, in the sense that they make an absolute claim to the truth that they can not live up to. This led to the spiritual vacuum that characterized the 20th century.
In the 21st century, the spiritual vacuum is increasingly filled by a new devotion, a devotion to nature, the living world that has evolved over billions of years and ultimately gave birth to us. A lot of people are growing aware of this. The Extinction Rebellion movement is home to progressive catholics who pray together in the middle of the road blockade. Within Christianity, there is a growing movement of pantheism, a recognition that divinity manifests itself in the world around us.
It lies within human nature to pursue sacrifice on behalf of others. We find this sacrifice within modern environmentalism. The modern radical environmentalist movement is characterized by a willingness to sacrifice ourselves on behalf of the non-human species who are facing violation by human greed and our devotion to future generations whose quality of life will depend on our willingness to restrain our own greed and selfishness.
So, to the angry white males, I want to ask them to consider whether they devote themselves to the right cause: Isn’t a man’s responsibility to make sacrifices for his children, to defend them? The children fear what happens when we destroy mountains to dig up coal, when we destroy entire forests to make way for cattle pastures, when entire villages have to be destroyed because the machine demands the coal beneath the people’s feet. The children fear the giant holes in the Siberian permafrost, the methane bubbles that emerge from the water. They fear the dying coral reefs that have turned a ghostly white color, the forest fires that swallow entire villages, they fear the grass that turns an ugly yellow color, they fear the empty skies where insects used to fly, they fear the haunting silence left behind by the birds who have disappeared. That’s why the children are out on the streets. That’s why teenage girls are willing to suffer your verbal abuse.
Critics (again, mostly angry white males who derive their sense of self-worth from their car) tend to argue that the radical green movement is filling a spiritual void. They insist that Greta is our God, or that we must be fooled by a small elite who want to impoverish and deindustrialize first world nations. I think these critics are correct in arguing that the modern radical green movement fills a spiritual void. However, the modern radical green movement simply fills a spiritual void that it used to fill before the emergence of Abrahamic religions, that place divinity outside of our world. The Ancient Germans used to devote themselves to Nerthus, a female personification of Earth. The devotion to Nerthus lasted for over a millenium and took on various incarnations.
All of this lies deep within our human psyche. A devotion to nature will not just help us preserve a habitable planet, but it will help us fill the spiritual void that came into existence when, as Nietzsche observed, the Christian God died. The big secret of the wealthy is that their material opulence serves to insulate them from an internal void. William Blake once said that the fool does not see the same tree that a wise man sees. You should not envy a wealthy man, because his yacht or his private jet do not help him see the same tree that you can see. Even in the reflection on an insects’ wings as it lands on my knee, I catch a glimpse of something much bigger than me.
The reality that the angry white males want to brush over, is the simple fact that we have done immense and irreversible harm to nature. The influx of huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an unprecedented pace is one of the main ways through which we have caused this harm. Between 1890 and 2017, 84% of butterflies have disappeared from the Netherlands. Fifteen species of butterfly have gone extinct in our nation. If you want to catch a glimpse of divinity, what better way could there be than to look at the butterflies that fly through the meadows on a summer afternoon?
The destabilization of our climate causes droughts, the Netherlands has now faced two consecutive droughts. These droughts have been so severe, that the damage they caused to nature is considered irreversible. So, I want to ask to the angry white middle-aged males who harbor such hate for Greta: What is your explanation for this exactly? Did George Soros send people down to the Dutch nature reserves, to kill all the dragonflies there? Did the ecologists scoop the fish out of the streams, to get more subsidies? Does the government secretly sow stinging nettle seeds at night, to justify a tax on meat?
The angry white males want to blame third world overpopulation for our situation, but how exactly do the people in Nigeria or Kenya cause huge amounts of ammonia to rain down on our Dutch soils? That happens because we lock millions of pigs in tiny cages, to sell to the Chinese and make money. An average Kenyan family emits as much CO2 in a year as you do with one intercontinental flight. How exactly do you want to hold these people responsible when you watch the Great Barrier Reef die?
I ask myself, what do these people genuinely expect would happen? When you look at a graph like the above, do you ever consider the possibility that maybe it’s not just a conspiracy to raise taxes on white trash or implement a world government, but simply a bad idea for us to burn fossil fuels that have remained undisturbed for millions of years? The ocean is acidifying at a pace much faster than in the past 300 million years. We don’t have a good precedent for what we’re doing today. What’s so extreme about simply keeping these coal, gas and oil deposits that have stayed in the ground for millions of years undisturbed?
I get the impression that these guys are not rational. These middle-aged white men base their entire self-image on the car they drive, they spend every coffee break yapping endlessly to each other about their car, the problems it suffers, its various qualities, endless factoids and numbers in regards to how it compares to some other car. They meet up with each other at special events, to show off their cars to each other. They compare used cars to women who had sex. This isn’t just a device to them, they psychologically identify with these objects. It’s a device that helps them feel adequate and confident, it generates a psychological shield in traffic for them. The fossil fuel industry gave birth to a demographic of people who psychologically identify themselves with its machinery.
It’s not just a psychological disorder we’re witnessing here however. In defense of the angry white males, they were duped. In 1965, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, warned of the disaster that would eventually happen, if they keep adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. In the 1970’s, the American fossil fuel companies figured out through their own scientific research that climate change would soon become a huge problem, so in the 1980’s they began to set up a huge multimillion dollar disinformation campaign, designed to convince middle-aged angry white men that surely the government must be trying to reduce carbon emissions to somehow take advantage of Joe Sixpack. These people knew. They knew what was going to happen, they knew they were causing a catastrophe and they decided to lie to you about it.
Working class white men once recognized themselves as part of an oppressed social class exploited by a small elite of robber barons, but today we face the situation where middle-aged coal miners who cough up blood think their real hero is Donald Trump and their enemies are people who want to keep a mountain intact.
Dear angry white male, you’re being exploited and abused, but it’s not by some pink-haired overweight lesbian with an apartment full of cats. You’re exploited by the exact same people as the rest of us, but in contrast to the rest of us, you’re given trinkets if you’re willing to serve as a lap dog for the billionaire class. And here’s a hint: Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Rush Limbaugh and the guys on Fox News are not going to tell you who is exploiting you.
Let me give you a simple example. How do you think Joe Sixpack benefits from an abolition of the inheritance tax? “It’s unfair because you’re paying taxes over money that was already taxed!” Joe proclaims, as his saliva drips on his mustard-stained wifebeater. But do you know how many Americans who died in 2015 were left with any estate tax? Just 0.2% of all people who died.
So, if you think the estate tax should be abolished, as Trump wants to achieve, have you ever considered that maybe Fox News and other propaganda channels have succeeded in turning you, the angry white male, into a happy little lap-dog for an oligarchy that leaves you coughing up blood in a coal mine or pissing in a bottle in some Amazon warehouse? Have you ever considered that Trump inherited his money from his dad, who inherited it from his dad, who was basically a pimp who made a fortune through prostitution during the gold rush?
Alright now, here’s another example. Americans for Prosperity is a think tank, that used fake “carbon cops” with badges in green Smart cars with flashing lights, who wrote citations for “carbon crimes” like running a lawn mower. Who funds Americans for Prosperity? The Koch brothers. What does this think tank spend its time doing? It organizes astroturf rallies against carbon taxes and against inheritance taxes.
How did the Koch brothers get so rich? Their father founded an oil refinery business, his sons expanded it to become a big party in the American fossil fuel industry. Why was their business so succesful, how did they turn into America’s second richest family? They stole oil from Native American reserves. Because they were afraid of being prosecuted for their theft, they began creating a network of think tanks and lobbying groups, that eventually also began to sow doubt about global warming.
So dear Angry White male, please understand the following: When Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, or David Icke, or Lord Monckton or any of the other Angry White Male Messiahs teach you to be angry at the Rothschild family, or at Al Gore, or George Soros, or the Rockefellers, don’t you ever wonder why they never want to talk about these people? How often do you hear Paul Joseph Watson or Alex Jones explain that the second richest family in America has spent decades funding bullshit suggesting that the Earth will not warm up from their carbon dioxide emissions, when these industries have been researching the problem for decades? Have you ever considered that you’re being lied to? Have you ever heard them mention anything about the Walton family perhaps, the richest family in America, who use a network of charitable foundations to avoid paying estate taxes?
Do you think the goal here of the environmentalists is to squeeze Joe Sixpack dry, to rob him of his hard earned money? No, that’s not what anyone is suggesting. Listen to the environmentalists and you will hear them explain that they want to reform the economy in a fair manner, that benefits everyone except for the super-rich.
Listen to what George Monbiot explains, how farm subsidies are given to Arab oil sheikhs, Texan oligarchs and other billionaires, to keep herds of sheep on huge tracts of lands while you and me live in small overpopulated cities. If you got rid of the herds of sheep, the forests would regrow spontaneously and start sucking huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Or, consider how air travel mostly benefits a small elite of the population. How many journeys to tropical islands does a coal miner or a Wallmart greeter make? Not a whole lot. The climate change activists continually emphasize that the wealth gained from fossil fuels is unequally distributed: It mostly benefits a rich minority in non-Western nations, while poor people in Africa now suffer most of the harm and eventually all of us who are not part of the global 1% will suffer the consequences.
But now look at what your big heroes are arguing. Pompeo proclaims that it’s great that the Arctic sea ice is disappearing, because it opens up new shipping lanes. These people first make policies that open up the Arctic to oil production, then join the companies that will extract the oil. Here’s a very simple suggestion: Have you ever considered that perhaps the Trump administration is filled with millionaires and billionaires with ties to the fossil fuel industry, who see climate change as little more than a great opportunity to earn more money? Do you think these people have you best interest in mind?
So, my suggestion would be to the angry white males that they’re barking up the wrong tree: Your friends are not your friends and your enemies are not your enemies. Here you have a billionaire who pays you some lip service by telling you Mexicans are rapists, but then he goes on to perpetuate a system of entrenched inequality that leads to the annihilation of life on Earth. Why are you so easy to manipulate by these charlatans?
For every Joe Sixpack out there, I want to make it very clear: I don’t care if you’ve spend twenty years polishing your pickup truck and rolling coal. I don’t care if you’ve spent your entire life clogging up your arteries with bacon and processed meat made affordable to you through a system of subsidies that enriches a small minority of wealthy landowners while slowly poisoning you. It’s all forgiven, nobody holds it against you.