Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"eco-nationalism", identity politics and sustainability

rhizome | I recently had the interesting experience of discussing Rhizome with a self-professed "eco-fascist"--not someone, as you might at first think, who is interested in a strong central government to ensure that humans don't damage the environment, but rather someone trying to apply green wrapping paper to what is admittedly a "white nationalist" agenda.

As I explained as patiently as I could, combining white nationalism (or "majority rights" or "eurasianism," among other euphemisms these groups like to use) with "eco" or other trappings of an environmentally-friendly agenda is internally contradictory. I decided not to embark on the futile task of convincing this man of the general error of his ways, but only to illustrate the fundamental incompatibility of ultra-nationalism and any claim to sustainability.

After more thought, however, I realized that this fundamental infirmity extends to more than just white nationalism, but to all identity politics are fundamentally unsustainable. Look around--identity politics is deeply entrenched, indeed.

All identity politics presume hierarchy. Without a hierarchal power structure, there is no ability to enforce the definition of "in-group" vs. "out-group" and the concomitant preferential treatment of the in-group. It simply won't do, for example, for white nationalists to have the Italians, or heaven forbid the Jews, to presume that they qualify as "white"! This same hierarchy that enforces the group definition, however, necessarily produces peer-polity competition between it and other such hierarchies (because the "out-groups" will form their own "in-groups" in response--creating competing hierarchies), and these groups must then grow and intensify to avoid being out-competed (or, in ultra-nationalist terms, "out-bred"). This is the Problem of Growth, and reveals as false any claim of sustainability by these identity groups.

So, if identity politics are necessarily unsustainable, does that relegate us all to a formless, tasteless, meaningless future? Far from it! The only incompatibility between those qualities and characteristics that make humanity vibrant and meaningful with sustainability is when people seek to use abstractions of of purportedly intrinsic characteristics and qualities to divide or exclude on the basis of differences. Instead, networks are more efficient where they embrace these differences without seeking to impose uniformity (the multitude), leveraging the differences in perspective, understanding, and connections. In some senses this may sound like standard multiculturalism, but it incorporates the important difference of the rejection of hierarchy either within this multitude or as a means to define this multitude. Fist tap my man Dale.