Friday, July 31, 2009

Eureka!! British Media Finally Realizes Seriousness of Threat Posed to Freedom by Green Socialists and Green Fascists

Blunt warning about greens under the bed

Once the lure of communism seduced the idealistic. Today’s environmental ideologues risk becoming just as dangerous

Britain is, thankfully, an ideologically barren land. The split between Right and Left is no longer ideological, but tribal. Are you a nice social liberal who believes in markets, or a nasty social liberal who believes in markets? Anthony Blunt’s memoirs, published this week, reveal a different age, one in which fascism and communism were locked in a seemingly definitive battle for souls.

Blunt talks of “the religious quality” of the enthusiasm for the Left among the students of Cambridge. There is only one ideology in today’s developed world that exercises a similar grip. If Blunt were young today, he would not be red; he would be green.

His band of angry young men would find Gore where once they found Marx. Blunt evokes a febrile atmosphere in which each student felt his own decision had the power to shape the future. Where once they raged about the fleecing of the

proletariat and quaked at the march of fascism, Blunt and his circle, transposed to today’s college bar, would rage about the fleecing of the planet and quake at its imminent destruction. If you squint, red and green look disarmingly similar.

Both identify an end utopia that is difficult to dispute. The diktat “from each according to his ability, to each according to his means” sounds lovely on paper. Greens promise a world in which we actually survive a coming ecological apocalypse. A desirable outcome, undoubtedly.

But the means to these ends seem similarly insurmountable. Both routes demand an immediate suspension of human nature.


Ideologies often credit man with either more nobility or more venality than he deserves. In reality he is a mundane creature. He wants a home for himself and those he loves, stocked with food. And he wants to have the right to control his own destiny, own his own stuff, and to acquire more if he can without interference or fear of imminent death. Such low-level acquisitive desires support high concepts: property rights and the rule of law, without which there would be no foundation for democracy.

My desire to live a free, mundane life is a fundamental cog in our messy, glorious, capitalist democracy. It is built on millions of such small entrenched postitions. Red-filtered, my desires are despicable and bourgeois and must be beaten out of me with indoctrination or force. Green-filtered, my small desires are despicable acts of ecological vandalism. My house is a carbon factory. My desire to travel, to own stuff, to eat meat, to procreate, to heat my house, to shower for a really, really long time; all are evil.

The word evil is used advisedly. Both the green and red positions are infused with overpowering religiosity. Dissenters from the consensus are shunned apostates. Professor Ian Pilmer, the Australian geologist and climate change sceptic, could not find a publisher for his book Heaven and Earth, which questions the orthodoxy about global warming. He is the subject of hate mail and demonstrations. It is entirely immaterial whether he is right or wrong. An environment that stifles his right to a voice is worse than one that is overheating.

Even within the convinced camp, dissent from certain party lines is frowned upon. Nuclear power is the cheapest, greenest alternative to fossil fuels that we possess, yet it is anathema to advocate its proliferation at the expense of wind and sun. Fans of nuclear are the Trotskys of the movement, subject to batterings by verbal ice pick.

The great ecological time bomb is population growth. By 2050 the United Nations’ demographers expect the world’s population to reach 9.2 billion, compared with 6.8 billion today. That’s 2.4 billion extra carbon footprints. Half measures seem futile. We all hope for some new technology to rescue us. But what if it never materialises? The logical position is to be a cheerleader for swine flu, but not in my backyard. Do we have to pray for swine flu to ravage foreign children, to save our own from frying in the future?

We are at the early stage of the green movement. A time akin to pre-Bolshevik socialism, when all believed in the destruction of the capitalist system, but were still relatively moderate about the means of getting there. We are at the stage of naive dreamers and fantasists. Russia was home to the late 19th-century Narodnik movement, in which rich sons of the aristocracy headed into the countryside to tell the peasants it was their moral imperative to become a revolutionary class. They retreated, baffled, to their riches when the patronised peasants didn’t want to revolt. Zac Goldsmith and Prince Charles look like modern Narodniks, talking glib green from the safety of their gilded lives.

Indulge me in some historical determinism. We, the peasants, are failing to rise up and embrace the need to change. We will not choose to give up modern life, with all its polluting seductions. Our intransigent refusal to choose green will be met by a new militancy from those who believe we must be saved from ourselves. Ultra-green states cannot arise without some form of forced switch to autocracy; the dictatorship of the environmentalists.

The old two-cow analogy is a useful one. You have two cows. The communist steals both your cows, and may give you some milk, if you’re not bourgeois scum. The fascist lets you keep the cows but seizes the milk and sells it back to you. Today’s Green says you can keep the cows, but should choose to give them up as their methane-rich farts will unleash hell at some unspecified point in the future. You say, sod it, I’ll keep my cows thanks. Tomorrow’s green, the Bolshevik green, shoots the cows and makes you forage for nuts.

If the choice is between ecological meltdown, or a more immediate curtailment of our freedom, where do those of us who are neither red nor green, but a recalcitrant grey, turn? Back to those small desires, and a blinkered hope that the choice never becomes so stark. If it does, I’ll take my chances with Armageddon.

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Planned for Saturday September 12, Climate and Cap

italism is the first seminar organised jointly by Green Left and Socialist Resistance, the ecosocialist currents in two of Britain’s left parties, the Greens and Respect. This energetic and open day of discussion will bring experts, campaigners, radical activists and others together. The event will be in the Friends’ Meeting House, London, NW1 (at Euston).

The plan for the day

After registration at 10, the opening plenary will addressed by Romayne Phoenix, from Green Left, and Ian Angus, editor of “The global fight for climate justice”, a new book being launched next month. Romayne is a Green councillor: Ian is one of the Socialist Resistance advisory board.

Before lunch, at least three workshops will be held, all with plenty of time for questions and discussions, to give the context for the combined economic and ecological crises. Amongst those planned are:

1. Crisis and the response: with Sean Thompson, author of new pamphlet on the Green New Deal, and the Scottish Socialist Party’s Raphie de Santos, co-author of ‘Socialists and the Capitalist Recession’

2. Gender, ecology and ecosocialism: with Sheila Malone, co-editor of ‘Ecosocialism or Barbarism’

3. Alternatives to the market: with a panel invited including Derek Wall, former principal speaker of the Green Party

The interaction and sharing of experience will deepen in the afternoon, where participants in major struggles for climate and social justice will be speaking. The discussions will include:

1. Voices from the Global South: facilitated by Ian Angus

2. Direct action and prefiguration; with speakers from British direct action campaigns

3. Sustainable cities; with invited experts including the Campaign for Free Public Transport

4. Alternative production: with speakers from the Swedish and British trade union movement struggles for sustainable manufacturing.

The closing plenary will provide an opportunity to see how anti-capitalists in Respect, the Green party and elsewhere on the left can deepen their co-operation - both in the run up to the Copenhagen demonstrations at the end of this year, and next year’s general election. ‘Socialist Resistance’ editor Liam MacUaid will discuss strategies for uniting reds and greens while Green Left’s Andy Hewett will discuss the tasks going forward to Copenhagen. The event will close at 5.30pm.

How to register

You can register in advance and make two savings: get one-third off the price of your ticket, and a further two pounds on the cost of the book being launched at the conference. Tickets cost 6 pounds unwaged (4 in advance) and 12 pounds waged (8 in advance). To register, make your cheque payable to ‘Resistance’ and post it to PO Box 62732 London SW2 9GQ.

Find out more

Visit for updates on the event. You can register on that site for updates, and to take part in the preparations of the event. If you have any questions or comments send an email to seminar at ecosocialism dot org.


The Alliance for Green Socialism is a political organisation devoted to the building of a peaceful, environmentally safe and socially responsible world. A world in which diversity is both respected and celebrated. A world in which relations are based on mutual understanding and not force, where rights and a decent life are available for all, not just the rich. The AGS believes this can come about by the development of a democratic, socialist and environmentally conscious society. Our two basic principles are summed up in our name.

Green is for a world where the serious issues of pollution and global warming are properly dealt with. This means tackling the oil-driven system of big business, which drives us into successive wars and conflicts.

Socialism is the opposite of such a system in which the needs of the people take priority and the power of big business is curbed. A key element in this being an expansion of various forms of public ownership, from taking the railways back into the state sector to an expansion of cooperatives.

Linking these two indivisible themes is a commitment to openness and democracy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is Economic Freedom a Positive Byproduct of America's Immigrant Roots?

[Readers should take note that during the early 20th Century "between 1935 and 1942", risk-taking "European refugees brought more than $5 billion to the U.S..." See Adrian Wooldridge, The Evolution of Wealth: Discerning a distinctly American style of affluence, Book Review of Larry Samuel, Rich - The Rise and Fall of American Wealth Culture, Wall Street Journal (July 31, 2009) at: ].

The Hypomanic American

By Emily Bazelon

New York Times Book Review

December 11, 2005

For centuries, scholars have tried to explain the American character: is it the product of the frontier experience, or of the heritage of dissenting Protestantism, or of the absence of feudalism? This year, two professors of psychiatry each published books attributing American exceptionalism to a new and hitherto unsuspected source: American DNA. They argue that the United States is full of energetic risk-takers because it's full of immigrants, who as a group may carry a genetic marker that expresses itself as restless curiosity, exuberance and competitive self-promotion - a combination known as hypomania.

Peter C. Whybrow of U.C.L.A. and John D. Gartner of Johns Hopkins University Medical School make their cases for an immigrant-specific genotype in their respective books, "American Mania" and "The Hypomanic Edge." Even when times are hard, Whybrow points out, most people don't leave their homelands. The 2 percent or so who do are a self-selecting group. What distinguishes them, he suggests, might be the genetic makeup of their dopamine-receptor system - the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.

The genetic variation that gets neurons firing along the dopamine circuits seems to have been disproportionately prevalent in the kinship groups that over generations walked the farthest 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, from Asia across the Bering Strait into the Americas. This genetic makeup, Whybrow argues, may also be present to a high degree among the 98 percent of Americans who were either born in another country or into families that came to this country in the last three centuries. If the genetic marker cuts across immigrants of all origins, it's not about where you come from, it's that you came at all.

Why aren't Canada and Australia, where many immigrants and their descendants also live, as hypomanic as the United States? Whybrow answers that behavior is always a function of genetics and environment - nature with an overlay of nurture. "Here you have the genes and the completely unrestricted marketplace," he says - with the anything-goes rules of American capitalism also reflecting immigrant genetics. "That's what gives us our peculiar edge."


The Hypomanic American

By Annie Murphy Paul

Feb. 27, 2 005

Boston Globe Book Review

A psychologist argues that America is rich because a lot of us are a little bit nuts.

THE PEOPLE WHO come to see Alden Cass, a therapist with a practice in Manhattan, make their living from the market: bankers, brokers, traders, financial advisers. They're a special breed. ''These guys love risk,'' says Cass. ''They eat it for breakfast.'' His clients think, talk, and act fast. They need just a few hours' sleep. They're prone to reckless behavior, sexual promiscuity, extravagant spending. They exhibit all the signs, that is, of what psychologists call ''hypomania'': an energetic, ebullient state that is a milder form of the mania associated with bipolar illness.

Cass claims that the majority of his patients are hypomanic, and though he treats them for the problems that hypomania can produce - depression, burnout, substance abuse, wrecked relationships - he also recognizes its advantages. ''These people have a boldness and a self-confidence that sets them apart from the average citizen,'' Cass asserts. ''Hypomania is great for business.''

John D. Gartner, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University, agrees. In his new book ''The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness And (A Lot of) Success In America'' (Simon & Schuster), Gartner contends not only that most of today's successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople are hypomanic, but that many of our history's leading figures, such as Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford, had the condition as well. The United States has more hypomanics than other countries, Gartner claims, and these people are largely responsible for the nation's power and prosperity.

''Energy, drive, cockeyed optimism, entrepreneurial and religious zeal, Yankee ingenuity, messianism, and arrogance - these traits have long been attributed to an 'American character,''' Gartner writes. ''But given how closely they overlap with the hypomanic profile, they might be better understood as expressions of an American temperament, shaped in large part by our rich concentration of hypomanic genes.''

Might - or might not. Gartner himself allows that his book rests largely on unproven assumptions, but doesn't back away from his conviction that they're correct. Hypomania, he proclaims, ''has made us what we are.''

The most striking element of hypomania, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is a wildly elevated and expansive mood. Such episodes last at least a week, and during them hypomanics feel like masters of the universe. Buoyed by a sense of their own importance, they are restless and excitable, throwing themselves with abandon into work or pleasurable activities like shopping or sex.

This state closely resembles the initial stages of full-blown manic depression, or bipolar disorder. But instead of spiraling into debilitating manias and then into a paralyzing depression, hypomanics generally experience only the invigorating effects of the onset of mania and usually emerge from it without professional help (though sometimes a period of mild depression follows).

''If you ask most hypomanics, they don't experience the condition as a problem,'' comments Gartner, who says he is himself hypomanic. ''When they're experiencing hypomania, they feel vital, alive, energized. Their best self, their healthiest self, is their hypomanic self.''

Indeed, while hypomania has been the subject of relatively little research and clinical attention, there are a handful of studies indicating that people in a hypomanic state are more flexible and creative in their thinking, are more motivated and productive, and have more positive expectations for the future. And while there is a large speculative literature on the connection between manic depression and artistic creativity, Gartner claims that ''until now, there has never been a serious suggestion that the talent for being an entrepreneur and mania, the genetically based psychiatric disorder, are actually linked.''

''American entrepreneurs are largely hypomanic,'' Gartner declares, but the story doesn't begin and end with today's would-be Donald Trumps. The United States is a land of immigrants, he observes, populated by those whose ancestors were energetic and optimistic enough to leave a familiar homeland for strange shores. This self-selected group, Gartner surmises, likely included many hypomanics. In addition, studies have found that immigrants generally have higher rates of bipolar disorder. Because there is a genetic link between the disorder and hypomania - the relatives of manic-depressives are more likely to be hypomanic - America's long history of immigration, Gartner concludes, has made it a ''hypomanic nation.''

Some mental health experts endorse many of his ideas. Psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison ends her recent book, ''Exuberance'' (Knopf), with musings about the influence of immigration on Americans' characteristically exuberant temperament. ''Individuals who sought the new, who took risks that others would not, or who rebelled against repressive social systems may have been more likely to immigrate to America and, once there, to succeed,'' she writes.

But Jamison, who recorded her own struggles with manic depression in ''An Unquiet Mind'' (1995), thinks that Gartner may take his ideas too far. ''Certainly there have been studies, long before his book, suggesting that there is a disproportionate rate of bipolar illness in immigrant populations, which is not surprising, really, when you think about the energy and the optimism and impulsiveness that drives people to immigrate,'' she said in a recent telephone interview. ''Now, does that mean that most Americans are hypomanic? No, that means - at least from my point of view - that a very real minority may be hypomanic, though perhaps a very important minority.''

Others in the field are less receptive to Gartner's conjectures. ''Gartner is trying to use a few fascinating cases to explain an entire country's economic behavior, and that's a bit of a stretch,'' says Jon McClellan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington in Seattle who has written about the dangers of overdiagnosing bipolar illness. Besides, he adds, ''I'm really bothered by this notion that we're genetically superior to people from other countries. That's an argument that's been used for all sorts of bad things, and we should be very careful about making it.''

What's more, McClellan notes, Gartner's claims go beyond what the rather meager research on hypomania can support. (For example, estimates on the prevalence of the condition range from as low as .1 percent to as high as 10 percent.) ''Scientifically,'' he says, ''the evidence just isn't there.''

Peter C. Whybrow, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at UCLA, agrees - though he has his own theory about how Americans' genes make them different. He has just published a book, ''American Mania: When More is Not Enough'' (W.W. Norton), that he describes as ''the flip side'' of Gartner's cheerful depiction of a country full of enterprising entrepreneurs. But, Whybrow explains, ''I use the word 'mania' metaphorically, not literally.'' In contrast to Gartner's largely upbeat assessment of American culture, Whybrow's book warns that our innate desire for all that's new and exciting has spun out of control, leading to rising levels of anxiety, depression, and obesity.

In the book, Whybrow traces the unique character of the United States - what he calls ''America's astonishing appetite for life'' - not to hypomania but to a genetic variation, found more frequently among Americans than among other peoples, that inclines individuals who have it toward taking risks.

''We don't know enough about the genetics of hypomania to say that it's what drives the American temperament,'' says Whybrow (himself an immigrant from Britain). ''But we do know that in the American population you find a much higher prevalence of the D4-7 allele, which is the risk-taking gene. I think the factor that distinguishes the inhabitants of the United States is much more likely to be a novelty-seeking gene than some form of manic-depressive illness.''

Gartner concedes that his book is partly ''speculative.'' While he points to studies suggesting that the United States (along with Canada and New Zealand) has the world's highest incidence of manic depression, he acknowledges that there is no data available on countries' relative rates of hypomania. And he admits that his ''pilot study'' - in which he diagnosed as hypomanic all 10 Internet CEOs who responded to ads he placed on various websites - is far from conclusive.

''What I'm doing is putting certain things together, drawing an inference,'' he says. ''I'm saying: 'Look, isn't it interesting that the countries that have been havens for immigrants also have the highest rates of bipolar disorder? And isn't it interesting that those are the countries that have the highest rates of new company creation?' Yes, it could be coincidental - but in science, we say that the simplest explanation is usually the right one.''

But as controversial as Gartner's book is among scientists, it is likely to find even less of a sympathetic hearing among historians. ''The Hypomanic Edge'' offers case studies of well-known Americans who Gartner believes to be hypomanic. Some of them are contemporary, like Craig Venter, the brash scientist whose company won the race to decode the human genome. ''My self-diagnosis: I probably have a very mild case of manic depression,'' he is quoted as telling the author. Others died centuries ago.

Gartner makes his most vigorous case for a posthumous diagnosis of hypomania on behalf of Alexander Hamilton, the founding father and immigrant from the West Indies. Unable to conduct an interview with the man himself, Gartner turned to five of Hamilton's biographers, who he claims recognized typical hypomanic characteristics - ''restless and impatient''; ''unusually active at work and other pursuits''; ''supremely confident of success'' - while declining to identify them as signs of pathology.

One of these biographers was Richard Brookhiser, author of ''Alexander Hamilton, American'' (1999), who Gartner reports was ''cool to the idea of diagnosing'' his subject. But Brookhiser said in a recent telephone interview that he simply doubts the usefulness of such diagnoses.

As a student of American history, he said, ''you have to be willing to use anything that comes to hand if it looks promising or if it's going to teach you something or take you further into the minds of these fascinating people. You just have to be careful about imposing psychiatric terminology from the 21st century on people who will never be able to answer back.''

Annie Murphy Paul is a writer living in Cambridge. Her book ''The Cult of Personality'' was published last September.