The radical sentiments which increasingly clung to the Luddites are at some distance from the pro-government toadying of today’s greens. This derives from a key difference in the make-up of the movements. In short, the Luddites were a popular movement. Their cause was one which resonated with many working men, hence the diversity of workers hauled to the scaffold in June 1812. As the radical pamphleteer and journalist William Cobbet remarked of the rampant conspiracy theories doing the Westminster rounds: ‘And this is the circumstance that will most puzzle the ministry. They can find no agitators. It is a movement of the people’s own.’Power to the People? Luddites. Power to the Elites? Environmentalists. Your thoughts?
The greens by contrast are not ‘a movement of the people’s own’, a problem which has been reified as human nature. ‘(W)e are inherently selfish’, concludes one prominent environmentalist commentator, ‘(b)ut the question is whether or not this nature is subject to the conditions that prevailed during our evolutionary history. I believe that they have changed: we can no longer be scrutinised and held to account by a small community. We need governments to fill the regulatory role vacated when our tiny clans dissolved.’ Far from defying the state’s canons and muskets, the greens rally to its side: greater intervention in people’s lives is what’s needed, because we simply cannot be trusted to behave in the correct responsible manner. This expresses contempt for the mass of the population, for our motives and interests. Human needs and aspirations, self-interest and self-respect underpinned and developed through the Luddite protest; for the hairshirts of the environmentalist cavalcade, our needs and interests are the problem. Top-down regulation is the answer.
7 Mar 2008
Environmentalists vs. Luddites
A thoughtful essay at Spiked: