Prince Charles recently visited a Mumbai shantytown and praised its "sustainability" in which residents recycle their waste and build their own homes out of whatever materials come to hand. There is of course a word for this form of "sustainability", it's called grinding poverty.
he could have seen that same form of "sustainability" in London. But people do not recycle their wastes and use found objects as building materials because they are environmentalists, but because they have no choice. When posturing hipsters in the United States dig through trash cans for food, they're Freegans. But when people who have to dig through garbage cans for food do it, we call them impoverished.
But Charles' attitude is typical of the dementia of the left, which confuses poverty with moral superiority. But the idealization of poverty is the liberalism of fools. The left started out by claiming that materialism provided a saner perspective on human existence, yet the left is abandoning even that in the pursuit of some New Age notion about moral superiority emerging from misery and deprivation. The left once denounced such thinking as cruel and superstitious. Now it is embracing it wholesale, and urging Westerners to use the Third World as a model for how to live.
The left has gone past the idea that their campaign is to improve the lives of the poor, by reorganizing the mechanisms of wealth distribution, to a call to keep the poor in their place, and for everyone else who isn't an entitled environmental activist with a busy schedule of promoting cardboard housing, to join them in that state. Going from materialism to anti-materialism, the left is reaching a pitch of inhuman insanity that even the most radical socialists would not have recognized.
In 1984, Orwell depicted the rise of the ultimate totalitarian state as being organized by socialists determined to end class warfare by permanently removing all social mobility. The society of Oceania is characterized by a ruthless hostility toward the remnants of the Middle Class or the Outer Party, who exist only to be cogs in the bureaucratic machinery of terror, constantly spied on and at risk of torture and death. The vast majority of the population are Proles, lower class workers who are denied education or any chance at advancement. They exist to serve as worker or soldiers. That is the vision that the repressive left has had for too long. A small elite ruling over a vast impoverished working class. Orwell saw the danger of that vision being translated into an actual system, creating another tyranny with a vast gap between the upper and lower classes.
Under the influence of that philosophy, the left has gone from talking about making lives better for workers, to actually openly championing making lives worse for them. Environmentalist agitation has become a repressive mechanism for promoting poverty, inflating the cost of products and destroying manufacturing. Push the cost of products high enough, kill enough jobs, and you destroy the middle class and push down the working class into outright squalid poverty in "sustainable slums". It almost seems as if environmentalism is the missing link in Oceania. A name that could have been taken from another environmental ad warning us that a polar bear dies every time we buy a new pair of sneakers.
Even the Communists promised to improve basic living conditions through more efficient production, though they failed miserably because they decoupled individual initiative from economics. But they at least paid lip service to the idea that they were trying to improve the standard of living through industry. In the sway of environmentalist mania, the left has gone them one better, by fighting to make manufacturing less efficient and therefore products much more expensive. Over the long run this can't help but lead to poverty and impoverished living conditions. If everything from food staples to vehicles to children's toys is more expensive to make and harder to come by, our standard of living will drop even further.
In response to this environmentalists prattle on about "Green Jobs". Cap and Trade is touted as promoting jobs, which it will, mainly on Wall Street, as brokers laugh themselves silly and stuff their pockets with cash looted from productive businesses and ordinary hardworking Americans, and the brothers of congressmen who can pull off a 100 million dollar earmark to make windmills. This brand of sustainability is the radical extreme away from the "self-organization" touted by Prince Charles, but it's what environmentalism looks like under the hood, whether it's in the US or the EU. It's not self-organization, it's government regulation in cooperation with radical groups in order to destroy jobs and funnel money to those who are in a position to take advantage of the situation.
Green Jobs are a myth, but the countless jobs lost through the hard work of environmental activism are unfortunately not. While environmental activists show off the foam houses that they build, the underlying message is that we need to be ready to live that way too. And when they champion Do It Yourself over Wal-Mart. But what they utterly ignore is that the lifestyle of sustainability that they're pushing is a privilege, an entitlement that their class allows them to indulge in. That's the difference between hipsters who look through the garbage for food, in order to champion sustainability, and people who look through the garbage for food, because it's better than starving to death.
Environmental activists posture as anti-materialists by using the props of poverty, without the substance. But poverty is not a trendy lifestyle. It's not a choice that Harvard graduates can make, before going to work at an environmental initiatives thinktank which is tasked with drawing up recommendations for the Federal Government through a grant in a stimulus program. Real poverty is a poverty of choices. Capitalism has helped fight poverty by creating choices and in the process has empowered the poor, far more than the trash eating hipsters and their thinktanks ever could or will. Environmentalism on the other hand, represents poverty and the end of choices. The left has used environmentalism to make war on capitalism and the middle class, and their ability to make choices that will empower them. Instead the left treats poverty as virtue and economic empowerment as an evil.
It's a twisted road from socialism to anti-materialism, from inveighing against capitalism for denying workers a chance to enjoy the products of their labor, to denying workers the chance to even labor, let alone enjoy those products. Prince Charles, like so many environmentalists, is enraptured with primitive standards of living, fancying them as being more moral than those of his own country. But this worship of poverty shows a pronounced distaste for his own country's working class, which has managed to cross the line into the middle class. He would much rather see his countrymen spending their free time trying to turn salvaged materials into roofing, than sitting at the local pub.
This contempt for the middle-class is widespread among the left, which would rather see them as "proles" and kept in their place. The rise of the middle-class tends to betoken more democracy and undermines the ability of a political elite to maintain its monopoly on power. Reversing democracy requires destroying the middle-class. But how do you destroy a political class that represents the majority? It helps to have a crisis at your disposal. A global crisis. With the welfare of the earth itself at stake. Moral authority doesn't come any bigger than that. But by transitioning from fighting for the rights of people, to fighting for the rights of polar bears, the left has become posthuman and inhuman, concerned not with people's rights, but with an imaginary mandate to determine the fate of the entire planet.
The left is no longer pretending that it wants to make life better for people. Now it's actively trying to make life worse for them. The environmentalist perspective places people as biological organisms, endowed with no more rights than capuchin monkeys or three-toed slots or the brown rat. Humans are just another organism who are consuming too much. Cut down on the consumption, reduce humanity back to a standard of living in which they are more vulnerable to disease and premature death, and you have made the world a better place. Prince Philip or Prince Charles style.