Lew Rockwell:

A Man With Environ-Mental Problems


By John "Birdman" Bryant


Lew Rockwell is like all too many people I know -- he would be a really fine person if he weren't such an asshole.

But I come to bury Rockwell, not to praise him; for the latest descent of this man into the depths of the hinter opening of his alimentary canal leaves one aghast as to the compounding effect of ignorance and arrogance ("My Vice: Hating the Environment", lewrockwell.com, 11 Aug 2000). In particular, Rockwell sets himself up as the enemy of 'environmentalism', which would be perfectly fine if he were merely attempting to counter the extremes to which an otherwise good concern has been taken, to counter the Left's attempt to use environmental problems as a means of forwarding its agenda of Big Ugly Government, or to counter the bad science which the leftists in control of government have purchased with taxpayer money to support this agenda.

But no -- good sense is not enuf for Rockwell in his quixotic tilting at the eco-istic windmill. Instead he chooses to argue the proposition that men are everything and the rest of the universe nothing. For Rockwell, no object is good unless it is good for man, and furthermore, what is good for man is good if and only if Rockwell says it is good; and if you disagree, then, like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who could believe five impossible things before breakfast, Off With His Head!

In fairness, Rockwell comes close to being sensible in his concluding remarks, in which he states that

"From time immemorial until the day before yesterday, Western man has seen nature as the enemy, and rightly so. It is dangerous and deadly. For the sake of our own survival it must be tamed, cut, curbed, controlled. That is the first task of civilization. The first step to civilization's destruction is the failure to understand this ..."

But if Rockwell comes close to being sensible in these remarks, he nevertheless manages to miss it. Surely nature can be dangerous and deadly, but it can also be the opposite: While a hurricane can wreck a house, rainstorms -- of which hurricanes are one type -- also water the flowers, fill the aquifiers and wash the filth off the city sidewalks. Accordingly, it does not follow, as Rockwell concludes, that "for our own survival, it [nature] must be tamed, cut, curbed, controlled." Instead, the truth is that we must protect ourselves from nature's ravages, which is a far different thing from taming, cutting, curbing and controlling. We can protect ourselves against hurricanes by building stronger houses, but this hardly implies that we ought to engage in weather control. Of course maybe Rockwell was really referring only to such small things as farming and house-building, and not to such vast and usually-government-funded environmental tame-cut-curb-control projects as TVA, HAARP and Chernobyl. But from Rockwell's intemperate and hyperbolic rhetoric, he gives the impression of being someone only an organization as notorious for its tame- cut-curb-control projects as the Army Corps of Engineers could love.

Rockwell's basic problem is that, as the scion of a transition time between the age of religion and the age of science, he has positioned himself as a mugwump, with his mug on one side of the fence and his wump on the other. In particular, his half-arsed commitment to both science and religion has convinced him that he can cherry-pick the fruits of both, so that when he comes to something unpleasant in either he merely rejects or ignores it, instead of honestly accepting what logic would otherwise compel him to acknowledge. This sort of mental gymnastic, which I have called 'watertight compartments in the brain', permits contradictions and incompatible information to reside side by side in his cerebral convolutions without the tremors of tabes dorsalis or the cavitations of spongiform encephalitis.

To be specific, Rockwell is happy to accept the technological advances of science, but not the compelling evidence adduced by that same science that man is the product of a mechanistic evolutionary process, or that he is but a speck of dust on an isolated chunk of rock in a universe of incomprehensible size. And while Rockwell would undoubtedly reject such unshakable Christian beliefs of centuries past as that the earth is the center of the universe, that people can be possessed by demons, or that heretics and witches must be burned at the stake, he is quite comfortable with such ego-stroking and equally-absurd contemporary Christinanities as that man is the Special Creation of God, that only men have 'souls' (whatever they are), and that animals and plants were put on the earth for the good of man, and to be used in whatever way men might see fit, such as torturing them for fun and profit.

Now let's look at the above observations a little more closely. If Rockwell admitted what virtually all scientists and informed persons grant -- viz, that man is the product of evolution -- then he would have to admit that lower animals differ from man only in degree of development, and not in kind. In particular, Rockwell would be compelled to reject the myth that only men have 'souls', because whatever man has, animals also have, tho perhaps to a lesser degree. And if animals have 'souls' just like humans, then Rockwell can no longer treat the environment as fair game for a Roman holiday, but instead must recognize that animal rights -- if not equal with human rights -- then at least are positioned on some kind of sliding scale in proportion to their 'soulness'.

The key idea in the above is evolution, and Rockwell would no doubt attempt to bolster his religious-based anti-evolutionary creationism by citing the disputes over evolution which have been engaged in by scientists themselves (For more information on this subject, see the excellent books by Richard Milton, which ought to be mandatory reading for any literate person). Altho I have treated this matter in a lengthy paper which I am unable to summarize in 25 words or less (forthcoming in a new edition of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Religion, Science and Superstition ...), I can say that scientific disputes over evolution are primarily over the mechanisms of evolution, and not over whether evolution occurs. But even if it is not possible at present to elaborate all these mechanisms -- which thereby necessarily leaves at least some degree of doubt about evolution's possibility -- it is the simplest of simple matters to prove that God- mediated creationism is, to put it politely, nonsense. This may be done by demonstrating that God does not exist: As I put the matter in Mortal Words v1, "Raise you middle finger to the sky and say, 'Hey, you big over- praised, over-blown mother-fucker, if you are so God-damned powerful, then strike me down here and now, asshole!' When nothing happens, the point is proved, QED."

But even as Rockwell fills the air with declarations that man is the highest animal while conveniently ignoring that it is man who does the classifying, he remains blind to the fact that his basically selfish and human-centered environmental philosophy may actually be self-defeating. For in Rockwell's eagerness to drain all wetlands because he regards them as swamps, and chop down all rainforests because he believes they are jungles -- all, it may be noted, for the purpose of lining the pockets of that mythical creature of libertarian fantasy, Economic Man -- he fails to account for the fact that environment is itself a valuable property even tho we often cannot put a sticker value on it. For example, we need 'swamps' to catch and filter our water, and 'jungles' to supply us with vital raw materials ranging from wood to medicine; so when we poison, slash and burn our way thru these resources in order to create 'value' for humans, we have in fact done largely the opposite. This, I might add, is particularly the case when we rely on the sonorous ukases of mostly- government-funded science, whose conclusions are all-too-often skewed to support the cause du jour, but whose reliability is as much in doubt as the desirability of the 'fresh air' of air conditioners, the 'liberating act' of smoking, the genetically-modified and otherwise plasticized direct-from- the-laboratory-to-you food so common on supermarket shelves, and all the other bizarrely-unnatural scientific wonders with which Rockwell is so enamored.

What I am getting at is what I said at the beginning of this essay -- that Rockwell's problem is not so much that he is against 'the environment' as that his philosophy is a collocation of ignorance and arrogance which does not even serve his own selfish interests or those of his fellow humans: Ignorance in his failure to see that 'environment' is genuinely valuable in even the narrow way that he understands value (Oscar Wilde's remark about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing leaps to mind here), and arrogance in holding that mankind -- and thus The Great Rockwell -- has a mandate from God Himself to bulldoze, pave and build over everything in sight. As to the latter, Rockwell's attitude calls to mind the famous observation of Jonathan Swift that 'We have just enuf religion to hate, but not enuf to love one another': Tho Rockwell accuses environmentalism of being a religion whose tree-huggers, spotted-owl sycophants and other nutty nature-lovers he despises, Rockwell's own Randy Religion of Selfishness is brimming with hatred of anything that gets in the way of so-called 'progress' without any recognition that the study and preservation of nature is one of the best ways to attain progress, and that keeping nature intact is one of the best ways of avoiding the possibility that progress will prove desirable only if one can keep far enuf upwind.

In conclusion, it is ironic that Rockwell is apparently a Catholic, which I surmise from the many articles about Catholic subjects which have appeared on his website. That is, Rockwell poses as a free-market and anti- government advocate, yet he is a member of an organization which has been a major player in government for much of the West's history, which has monopolized religion whenever possible with the help of its political power, and which has attempted to suppress the competition in the way in which governments (and other monopolies, for that matter) have traditionally suppressed competition, ie, with extreme brutality. If, therefore, Rockwell has been misled by the human-supremacist and anti- naturalist philosophy of this organization which places man (and the Church) above the natural order of things, then he should ask whether this might not be due to the Church's being a lot less interested in providing enlightenment to its followers than it is in acting as the agent of a self- serving and self-perpetuating parasitic bureaucracy which depends for its existence on selling the services of a middleman between God and man where no middleman is needed.

Or to put it another way, the fewer the Rockwells, the more pleasant the environment.

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