Theater of Cruelty


Disasters, Pandemic! 2, Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergencies
ECOLOGY / Will we succumb to the temptation to want ignorance? The eco-revolution must either be global or it is nothing.


The Covid-19 pandemic brought risks to light that only a few had foreseen – a hundred years after the Spanish flu. Many questions emerge about our new life with the pandemic. But also the summer heat, forest fires and floods raise new questions about our vulnerability.

In Denmark, the Danish Emergency Management Agency has defined a disaster as something you «cannot handle with the emergency preparedness you have available». But as Kristian Cedervall Lauta also points out in his book «Disasters», disasters also produce an experience that provides opportunities for learning and new insights – about «dealing with climate crises, biodiversity, new technologies, war and collapse».

Lauta's intention with the book is to start a conversation about what it is «we should change in order to keep living». And then he asks, “What did you learn? COVID-19 us about Denmark and the Danes? Were we evil or good, solidary or greedy, who were vulnerable, what kept society afloat, and what could our institutions do? Who was right and for what? ”

As a law professor specializing in disaster, Lauta brings forth many descriptions of the circumstances of disasters and accidents. In a concluding chapter, Lauta explains what disasters tell us about the future. Lauta points out that authorities were aware of the danger of pandemics, which could threaten the functioning of society – and yet the whole world stood unprepared. Lauta concludes the book with a categorization of risks and begins by stating that one must naturally dare to face the danger.

In a section entitled «Indirectly our fault: climate change, biodiversity losses, pandemics», Lauta points out the dilemma facing national decision-makers: as a security issue, they must safeguard the nation's interests, but in reality the risks outlined can only be solved globally.

In the section «Clearly our fault: stupidity, terrorism and technology», the big unknown is precisely the technology, which «with every step towards more potent and effective technology also (carries) a risk of abuse or error».

Lauta puts his trust and hope in the UN's 17 World Goals and concludes the book by referring to a Chinese sage: "It should all work out if we all remember to look up and help each other move one stone at a time."

The perfect storm

Where others refer to ethics and belief, the climate movement maintains that it is the research results of science that we must take as our starting point when we must orient ourselves into a future with predictable climate change.

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI and the philosopher Jürgen Habermas co-authored the book Dialectic of secularization. In it, the two authors joined a tradition of reducing confidence in the results of science. The tradition appears as an echo of Kant, who argued that one must "abolish knowledge in order to create space for faith." For – as Zizek refers to the philosopher Kant to believe – "only faith can save our freedom and moral autonomy".

The will-not-want-to-know – which has manifested itself worldwide as populations refused to take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously – can be identified by two main currents found in both right-wing populists and in "some leftists in various forms". , including the direct deniers and in the refuge of conspiracy theories ».

The basic question we – as Zizek sees it – must ask ourselves is: "Will we succumb to the temptation to want ignorance, or are we ready to really think through the pandemic, not only as a biochemical health problem, but as a problem that is rooted in the complex whole of our (ie humanity's) place in nature and of our social and ideological conditions – a decision that could lead us to behave «unnaturally» and have to construct a new normality ».

In the wake of Trump's various excesses, Zizek argues that we need to change the world radically if we just want it to remain as it is. If we do nothing, then our world will soon become unrecognizable to its inhabitants. But rather than the Pope claiming that what is needed is a whole new ethical dimension, we should work together to understand "all the dimensions of the crisis we are in". We must avoid pointing out only a simple dimension, e.g. the organic – instead we need to develop a holistic understanding.

Zizek argues that the global capitalist system is approaching the perfect storm. The international conflicts, the anti-racist protests combined with the health crisis and the ecological and economic crises, by virtue of the many struggles, create fertile ground for an enormous potential for liberation.

Malm's war communism

The many natural disasters are interconnected and interconnected. The researcher at Lund University, Andreas Malm's errands with the book Corona, Climate, Chronic Emergencies is that he wants to illuminate the deeper connection between Covid-19 the pandemic and climate change. As with the floods, heat waves and forest fires – they can be traced back to global warming. The mentioned expressions of global warming are man-made.

Malm has what he calls an eco-Leninist plan: he has found inspiration in the "war communism" that the Bolsheviks introduced the Russian workers to before the October Revolution in 1917. Malm's book is therefore also subtitled "War communism in the twenty-first century". ».

But how and by whom does Malm imagine that war communism should be organized in society?

Since then – after the revolution – the Bolsheviks sought war communism practiced through workers' councils (Soviets). According to Malm, the purpose of "war communism" was to force the world community to carry out reorganizations of the societies so that the exploitation could be stopped and the population could be introduced to live meaningful lives. Today, Malm imagines that such a development must take place with the state in a participating central role.

But how and by whom does Malm imagine that war communism should be organized in society? And how should such a society be prepared? And how does Malm think that the establishment of war communism will affect the personal authority and freedom of man? Such questions blow in the wind.

Russia in 1917 – with a large impoverished and war-torn industrial working class – can of course not be compared to the society we know today. Russia – a backward country – was the weakest link in world imperialism. Only for a short period did Russia provide an opportunity to occupy a position as a vanguard in the world revolution.

Today, the world community appears completely differently economically, politically and culturally complex. At the same time, civilization is in a struggle for existence. Nationalism, right-wing populism, cultural impoverishment with drugs, sexism, entertainment and consumption threaten ordinary humanism, which had otherwise recovered from the horrors of World War II. The old Trotskyist formulation «the crisis of humanism is an expression of crisis in the revolutionary leadership», needs to be updated to that extent, Malm notes.

But how to mobilize the working class and other social groups today in 2021 is the big question. And who else can even imagine a new society or just a transitional society without the involvement of workers and craftsmen?

Just as the Russians' subsequent vision of "socialism in one country" – at the expense of internationalism – offered no sustainable vision that could contribute to a worldwide paradigm shift, so do isolated eco-societies in themselves. The eco-revolution is either global or it is nothing. Global warming and biodiversity know no physical or geographical boundaries – the scenarios are per. global definition.

The window to a space of freedom

Today, the world sees a diversity of isolated initiatives that collectively paint a picture of a regenerative, resilient, inclusive, more equal, and sustainable society within the planet's boundaries.

Finally: The philosopher Ernest Block pointed out that the window of a freedom room in 1917 was open for a short while before the window was slammed in and has been closed ever since. Can we spot a window today and if we can, is the window open and, if so, how long will it be open?

Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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