|This article, written by Olli Tammilehto and translated by Timo Vuorio, has been published in Finnish in Suomi magazine, 6-7/1985. You can republish it in English or in any other language but you should first inform the author.|
The limits of governmental power
Alternative to biologism
Population bomb: smoke without fire?
According to the well-known Finnish writer Pentti Linkola the only way to prevent the extinction of man is fascism. Linkola, the "visionary" fisherman and ornithologist, has come to this conclusion "empirically" by "bright and clear thought", "brightened by reason and knowledge".
But what are the premises for this conception, consequences of which are stained in human blood? Do they converge with the ideas of other environmentalists and Greens? Are they as undisputed as Linkola claims them to be, undisputed "by the light of experimental and practical knowledge"?
"It is clear that we all are in an express train to hell. But hell – is not it nice that we the Finns are sitting in the first class!" – Alpo Ruuth, a well-known Finnish writer, as quoted by Linkola
Linkola: "The composition of the Greens seems to be the same as that of the population in general – mainly pieces of drifting wood, people who never think".
Linkola: "A minority can never have any other effective means to influence the course of matters but the use of violence".
Linkola: "Alternative movements and groups are a welcome relief and a present for the society of economic growth".
Linkola: "We will have to study the structures of our society with Osmo Soininvaarás (a Finnish green politician) accuracy and learn from the history of revolutionary movements – the national socialists, the Finnish Stalinists, from the many stages of the Russian revolution, from the methods of the Red Brigades – and forget our narcistic selves".
"It is charming that opinions like this are expressed, too". – A Finnish industrialist
Pentti Linkola gave an introductory speech at the meeting of the Finnish Greens at Turku in the beginning of June 1985. In his convincing style he presented the threats of doom and the absurdities of both mainstream and alternative cultures, well known to any environmentalist and praiseworthy reported even by the mainstream media. But Linkola's recommendations for action were less familiar to the audience:
You must learn from the Nazis. "We will have to form a very tight and disciplined organization with clearly outlined and obliging policy, and preferably with uniform external tokens". The member "has to learn to harden his own heart when necessary. He will have to learn to ignore minor interests for the sake of bigger interests. He will have to learn to be feared and hated". "The word 'soft' has to be erased from the Green's vocabulary once and for all". "A tight elite with a strong leader figure" is needed. Among other things "centralized governance, strict birth control and radical reduction of education and cultural institutions" will be part of the policy of the new Fascist Party. Linkola suggested that a part of the movement should murder corporation executives and other major criminals.
Linkola did not make his recommendations for the sake of provocation. He told that he was "extremely serious" and exactly that he was. And this was not the first time that Linkola admired Adolf Hitler. He has presented similar ideas since the late 1970́s. Linkola has many supporters among eco-activists. He has often given speeches at key meetings of the associations of young Finnish environmentalists, the Finnish Nature League.
Linkola has to be taken seriously for another reason also: some fifteen participants in the Green meeting raised their hands to show that they totally agreed with Linkola. Furthermore, many, among them the ecological writer Eero Paloheimo, said at the meeting that they found Linkola's analysis correct but disagreed with his conclusions. Are these supporters more logical or just less brave thinkers than Linkola? And how has the prophet found these "self-evident matters"?
Linkola's first premise can be formulated this way:
His presentation was titled "It is Only about Survival". Then what causes the threat of man's extinction? Linkola points up two factors:
So what is the reason for this ongoing raping of the earth? Linkola claims that in Ethiopia "like grasshoppers, over-dense human populations have destroyed the tree stand and hay and have rummaged the soil into a sandy desert". On the other hand he states that "every level of (technology) is logically and undeniably more destructive than the previous". So apparently the prophet's third premise is:
But why does mankind just keep on growing and why does technology just keep on "developing"? Linkola does not analyse this in length, but some parts of his presentation give us hints of his views: "Man, Homo Destructivus, has always destroyed the conditions of life maximally, to the degree that the technology of the time allows". "Technology is an automaton". "The concrete course of events is always much more simple than what the majority of people believe, determined by just a few material facts and laws of nature".
In Linkola's collection of essays "Toisinajattelijan päiväkirjasta" (WSOY, 1979. "From the Diary of a Dissident") there are many biologistic emphases – i.e. there is a tendency to reduce everything to biology. This leads us to Linkola's fourth premise:
So the human species is heading towards its destruction as inevitably and following similar laws as a star that first turns into a red giant, then into a white gnome and eventually into a black hole. So what? The world is full of dying.
But Linkola does not close the case here. He wants to save "life – even unconditionally". Linkola's earlier writings suggest that he is not so interested in rescuing particularly the species of men, but he thinks that the extinction of man would be the end of countless other species, too, which would be intolerable. But then again he thinks that emphasizing the absolute value of the nature, regardless of man, would make "other people ... hopelessly ... irritated". So we can assume that his next premise – for practical reasons – is this:
The bad is by definition something that anybody tries to avoid. So why do people not try
to avoid their
own extinction? Linkola has the explanation ready: "Man's psychic structure is such that most
repress these facts" (the premises no. 1 and 2). "Without any doubt irrational faith is a key part
of man's biological characters – and a solid part of man's mechanism of self destruction". These claims actually follow from the premise no. 4, because when everything is explained with biological causes, nothing in the realm of cognition, if such even exists, can have any effect in reality.
The consequence of the premise no. 4: Men do not realize the threat caused by the growth of population and the technological change, or if they do, this does not lead to any action.
So is all hope lost? In spite of everything stated earlier, Linkola gives us a tiny bit of hope: "the chance of one in a million". He knows that there are not just ordinary people but also "a number of clear-sighted individuals" who "lack the irrational faith, they are some kind of mutations". They are freaks of nature, the product of some random biological process, and surprisingly the above biological laws are not valid for them in full measure.
But what can this mutant minority do to prevent destruction? Linkola has it that "a minority never has any weight – as long as it is a minority". If this were literally true the situation would be hopeless because Linkola clearly does not believe that these visionary mutants can ever be a majority. The context reveals what the prophet-fisherman actually means:
So how can the support of the majority be gained? The consequence of the premise no. 4 means that education will not be of any help. To Linkola the only choice is the use of violence. When discussing the nazi movement's rise to power Linkola states: "Man has respect for power, and nothing else but power". But the state has the police and the military force, the machinery of violence, under its command, and this machinery is inevitably much stronger than the warriors of survival. Accordingly, following Linkola the state has the support of the majority. Thus we need the premise no. 8:
A minority that has taken over the state power has some weight on the basis of the item 7. But does it have enough weight so that the necessary changes for survival can be executed? Linkola knows that it does:
With the government that has the support of the majority, people can be forced to behave against their biological characters mentioned in the item 4.
Here the visionary mutants and the supporters they may already have gained will probably begin to get ready for the coup d'état, prepare the big takeover. But there is still one more obstacle to get over: in addition to man's extinction all mutants are likely to consider many other things bad, murder for instance. As according to Linkola man's survival and non-violence cannot be pursued at the same time, a state of paralysis may occur – especially as preparations for the coup d'état will surely and immediately cause bad things, but the great good, the survival of man, will only come true in the distant future, and even then it is just a possibility. So to justify his ecofascism Linkola needs one more rule:
A man of hard physical labour as he is, the prophet has been too busy to present all the
points of his
thought clearly, which makes it harder for us to understand him. So the above is just a
humble attempt to find a clear train of thought on the basis of his presentation – surely there is a coherent thread in Linkola's thought. And in very deed: the ten premises we have discovered obviously lead to the conclusion that a fascist party and a terrorist organization must be formed.
However, Linkola does not require unquestioning faith in the prophet's visions: "the premises can be debated on". So do Linkola's 10 premises stand when criticized?
The premise no. 5, the value of survival, is hard to deny. Rejecting this premise would be kind of stepping outside mankind. Nobody who has any idea of WMDs will seriously deny Linkola's premise no. 1 that there is a threat for the survival of mankind.
The easiest way to avoid Linkola's unpleasant conclusions would be to deny the premise no. 2 i.e. the significance of environmental destruction. But this would require a strong belief in progress and strict mental hygiene. In any case I cannot deny this argument and very likely most people in the environmental movement cannot either.
We can assume that even most supporters of Linkola are willing to deny the premise no. 10: the end justifies the means – including murder. But if we deny this and accept the rest we are left in despair.
The premise no. 9 is easily accepted in Finland because Finnish society is heavily built on the state. However, the premise must be specified so that it is question about the governmental power of most other countries as well. Communist, social-democratic and populist parties have failed time after time when they have tried to change the society in accordance with their strivings solely by governmental force. Extensive changes have occurred for sure, but in most cases they have not been the changes that were desired.
So what is needed in addition to or instead of the use of governmental power to guarantee
Presumably autonomous action of the majority of people, action that does not take place
because of the
threat caused by the state-controlled machinery of violence. But this would mean that people's
the efforts for reform, and also to the minority that started those, would not be founded on the
and showing of governmental power. Thus the premise 8 would be false, too. This premise has
denied even by those who are not willing to rewrite history. For example, the majority of Poles
the Solidarity movement in the 1980s even though the governmental power was strictly in the
the communist party.
As a matter fact many of Linkola's kindred spirits, too, are willing to deny the premise no. 8 as they believe in education and avoid violence. But these people who believe that thinking is like picking different flowers do not realize that here Linkola's entire mental construct begins to crumble: if we believe in education, we actually deny the consequence of the premise no. 4 and believe that the consciousness of the normal man (as opposed to the "visionary mutant") can affect the course of history. So the premise no. 4, i.e. biologism, has to be rejected, too.
What are then the causes for the population growth and technological change – in addition to physical conditions?
By no means are the poor people of the Third World driven by their biological reproduction instincts like automatons. They make children very intentionally, because children increase their chances of survival both now and in the future when they are aged. Also an inhabitant of an industrial country often buys a private car after considering it carefully if this is necessary in order to make a living. No propaganda against high birth-rate and motorization will make them change their ways simply because denying oneself a number of kids or a car would certainly harm the person himself but there would be only a small probability that it would further the public welfare.
But what it is then that affects people's intentional choices? Obviously a factor to the change of which Linkola seems to be entirely blind: the social sphere that immediately surrounds the individual, and all the hierarchies built into it. Linkola makes lots of statements about changing the structures of power on macro or state level but in the micro level he sees everything fixed. In reality social life and social structures do change and they can be changed on this level, too. A good example is the decrease of birth rate in most industrial countries and also in some developing countries, which has occurred when one's survival has no more been dependent on a large number of children. In other words, the decrease of birth rate has taken place because of the change in social circumstances. The cause has not been coercion or the increase of standard of living as such.
When we dismiss Linkola's biologism and opt a view emphasizing social factors instead, a whole new world of possibilities opens. Awakening of social awareness and the liberation of people take the place of force and oppression. Creating new social movements to dissolve centralized power replace the centralized coup d'état.
The fruitful processes – the growth of awareness, the emergence of counter hegemony and liberation from the oppression of social structures – support each other, and eventually cause the unwanted social mechanisms to vanish, the social structures that support the growth of population and technological change of the present kind.
But one serious question remains to be answered. Have the world population and the technology in its current destructive form reached a level that is intolerable ecologically, now or at least when the fruitful changes really begin to work? So do we simply have to allow famines and other cruelties to decrease population? Things like erosion or the widening of deserts, the extinction of forests and chemical catastrophes would suggest this. But what if Linkola's premise no. 3 is wrong, too? It might be that population growth and technological change as such do not cause the accelerating pollution of the environment and destruction of ecosystems.
There sure is an upper limit to the population that the world's ecosystems can take, and the decrease of population in the long run is desirable for many reasons, but the recent environmental disasters – or the prevention of them – is not among these reasons. For example, the erosion and the widening of the Sahel desert in Africa and consequent famines have not taken place because of overpopulation. Actually the ecology of the region is heavily overstrained because peanuts are raised so that the productivity of Europe's farm animals can be stretched to the extreme, because cotton is planted so that Europeans can pursue the latest whims of the fashion industry, and because cattle is raised there for overweighed Europeans.
The Ethiopian situation is similar. Erosion is the consequence of over-intensive farming and use of forest. This is not the result of overpopulation but of social factors and the fact that coffee and vegetables are raised on wide areas for Europeans. These agricultural products are not exported in order to buy food for people but to pay for weapons. A reason for weapons trade is the fact that the superpowers have chosen the Horn of Africa as an important scene of their war games. The Ethiopian army, armed with Soviet weapons, is the biggest in black Africa.
Today's technology and its current course of change are ecologically destructive. But it is false to assume that the technological change (or "development") can only be stopped – it can be redirected also. The current direction is not determined by its supposed ability to serve people's needs in the best possible way. Within present social institutions technological development work seeks tracks that serve the exploitation of man in the best possible way. And it is not a sheer coincidence that the same technologies exploit nature effectively, too. Different social contexts produce different technologies. There are examples of this already today.
The appropriate technology groups in the Third World create new technology based on
initiatives, and this technology saves natural resources, too. A good example is the
Lorena-stove that uses
50% less wood than traditional methods of cooking. The developers of the stove at the
Guatemala were inspired by the liberation pedagogue Paolo Freirie. The stove is built from raw
easily accessible locally, and its instructions are spreading mouth-to-mouth around the Third
I met Roberto and Armando Caceres of the CEMAT in Nairobi in 1981. They were educated men and very well aware of problems concerning ecology and developing countries. In them I saw no sign of the weakness that Linkola so much loathes in Finnish environmentalists. But Roberto and Armando did not see eco-fascism as a solution. They knew personally what fascism is. Many of their friends had disappeared into concentration camps.
I have not heard of Roberto and Armando ever since. I do not know if they are still alive.
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