The Temperature Movement: The Reincarnation of a Perennial Anglo-American Obsession

There are two basic fields in which more than a century of critical writing and education has made no impact whatsoever on what for convenience I will call the Anglo-American progressives, some of whom apparently like to think of them as members of the Left.

Here is not the place to discuss the meanwhile virtual uselessness of the term “Left” in describing Euro-American political discourse — and eo ipso those who engage in it.

The first basic field is science — by which I mean the institutions of natural science who produce and propagate what we have come to call scientific knowledge. The second basic field is Business, sometimes called economics or at universities “macro-economics” and “micro-economics or business administration”.

I am not exaggerating. All one has to do is read what most people in print or online write and get posted about the economic and financial issues of the day and one can see that these authors do not even read the relevant financial press. There is rarely a word about how Business actually works or what daily decisions or actions in Business are taken and the context that this forms for the political or social environment these authors pretend to describe and analyse. What we have in the end are pretensious articles that are not even as entertaining as football commentary.

The same applies to natural sciences. For our activist writers and commentators we find that their notion of science is purely medieval — in the sense of superstitious and obsequious. This is no less applicable to gender theory than it is to climate theory.

One of the characteristics of Roman Catholicism which helped provoke the Reformation was its antipathy to literacy. Reading the fairy tales compiled in the form of Holy Writ was prohibited and even possession of such canonical work could incur lethal penalties. The clergy knew why no one should be allowed to read what was supposedly the “word of God”. The Reformation in all its variety and ambiguity actually did not improve the situation. While it is true that Holy Writ was then published in the vulgate, and vernacular, the overarching principle was not life or even critical interpretation of the texts but “by faith alone”. Protestant clergy — at least in the Lutheran and Calvinist forms that came to prevail after the Counter-Reformation — were no more keen on critical thinking among their parishioners than their Roman Catholic predecessors.

This slightly late-Medieval culture with its bigotry and intellectual terrorism anchored itself in Britain and its New England colonies of North America. Undisturbed by the secularism of the French Revolution, vicious in the suppression of the Haitian Revolution, and full of loathing for every other social movement whether south of the Rio Bravo or East of the River Elbe, late-Medieval culture became the rock upon which George, Thomas, John, and the other apostles of colonial slavery and indigenous genocide built their Church.

Although there was always an ecumenical and modernist Church competing with this deeply authoritarian and feudal State, it has always been marginalised or persecuted except when international struggles distracted the State or enhanced the domestic struggle.

On the one hand US regime, founded as it was on slavery, had an addiction to free labour (meaning actually forced or unpaid). On the other having shared in the annihilation of the original inhabitants to take their land, they needed new bodies. This meant the Anglo-American medieval culture had to risk contamination by those who had other cultural and social values — some of whom, like the Germans after 1848, fleeing repression after their failed revolutions, with genuinely modern ideas. As long as these people could be bought or otherwise subborned, the cultural threat was minimal. However, toward the end of the 19th century waves of immigrants went to North and South America and were not easily suppressed or assimilated.

Hence on the eve of the Great War the Anglo-American elite who control the US regime were faced with two problems a) making money by investing in the mass slaughter in Europe and b) maintaining the loyalty of people who still had some social and cultural affinity with the countries from whence they had immigrated. Two approaches were adopted to deal with this problem.

The first approach was the invention of “the melting pot”: the supposed blessing by which all these inferior Europeans came to Anglo-America to build a great nation on the foundation of formally defunct African slavery and for the benefit of the ruling families of America’s ancien regime. I have discussed this point in numerous other places.

The second approach was temperance and drug prohibition with its attendant police repression. Officially the “American Dream” had civil liberties guaranteed in a written constitution — guaranteed to all whites and corporations. However, in order to profit from the imperialism-induced mass slaughter in Europe it was necessary to take all these recent Europeans and make them Americans — if only Americans second and third class. So while retaining the form of civil liberties, the regime turned to its Puritan traditions (including lynching and witchburning) and introduced laws to control the use of alcohol — to prohibit it. The real targets of temperance were not drunkenness (albeit understandable in the US) but the European immigrants who had beer and wine cultures that also constituted social organisation. Prohibiting beer and beer halls which were central organising venues for German immigrants and wine which was a significant part of Italian social life, gave police a pretext to bust immigrant organisations without formally violating constitutional “rights”.

Prohibition in the US is almost always described as a misguided religious objective or overly zealous concern about public health. This is simply nonsense. Prohibition was a reapplication of laws that had already been in force for the regulation of African slave labour. It is absurd to believe that the very people who for over a century were incapable of achieving enforceable workplace health and safety standards suddenly achieve the capacity to prohibit alcohol nationwide for public health reasons.

Prohibition, more extreme even than the prohibition of pornography and prostitution, was the central device introduced by the Anglo-American elite to circumvent the demands for a general application of the Constitution to all citizens regardless of race, colour, national origin, etc. It was the pretext for introducing a Metternich type police state which would then develop into a fascist system in the course of the 20th century.

This particular form of police state — only comparable to the Catholic Inquisition — defies easy explanation for European observers because they are generally blinded by the American Dream and have little actual knowledge of how the US regime is constituted and managed. It is a police state which is semi-privatised and based on reactionary Puritan ideology from about the time of the Thirty Years War. However, this police state has been more effective than that of Metternich because it is not recognised as one. Moreover it is a State which has successfully cultivated through mass media, film and fashion an intellectual cadre unmatched by anyone except those of the Roman Catholic Church.

Taking this preface with some patience, let us turn to the so-called “climate crisis”.

Proof it seems that this is a movement promoted by its “five-minute men” and “dogs of god”, every constructive doubt as to the alleged climate science and our impending damnation is answered by louder preaching. This is the only way I can interpret interventions after my last remarks (see: If the poles of Mars are melting and Extinction Promotion) The tactics comprise grabbing people, showing that they have seen the sins of the world and are in the process of confessing and doing penance. At the end of these pulpit ejaculations we are reminded, if you don’t believe him — it is still true. This is the science of witch hunting.

If some preachers are to be believed, then economic inequality, forced labour (still no mention of the US military and NATO), social strife etc are the results of climate change. Are we seriously to conclude that when we all put on our hairshirts or join some neo-Puritan sect that climate change will stop and then all the violence of Europe’s past 500 years of global terror will stop? This is highly unlikely, illogical and grossly unscientific by any measure.

So what is really being advocated by the clique of XR-types, such as those the honourable author from Los Angeles asks us to praise?

Let us leave the religious hysteria for a moment. I began by saying the “progressives” have no critical understanding of science or business. In none of the debate have any of these preachers told us who pays for this science we are to believe or who the actual beneficiaries of the treaty and convention provisions are which we sinners treat with generous or even vehement scepticism.

Does it make a difference if the corporate-sponsored science also promotes financial market solutions? Does it make a difference if an already oppressive economic system with fiscal and moral police harassment is enhanced by the general privileging of the owners of energy and other natural resources to extort the rest of us for our alleged “sinfulness” in exhaling CO2 or driving cars where there is no public transport? Meanwhile NATO continues its rampage against the resource-rich poor and the big economic competitors of Eurasia!

This climate preaching is as vile as that of Jonathan Edwards and as insane as Wahhab and Cotton Mather.

Jonathan Edwards

Cotton Mather

If the fanatics who wittingly or unwittingly preach for the silent but no less powerful ruling class are not capable or willing to declare their allegiances, intellectual, economic or political, then they may have to settle that discrepancy when they meet their maker.

The rest of us who have transcended the Late Middle Ages should feel no obligation to acknowledge their “angry god” let alone fall into that imaginary deity’s hands.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..