Anti-vaccine sentiments have long been associated with a demographic you could call the “Alt-Greens”: that is, “greenies” whose attitudes go beyond supporting national parks and climate action and include things like spurning mainstream medicine and non-organic food.
NSW’s Northern Rivers has been one of Australia’s least vaccinated regions for decades. In the Tweed, Byron and Lismore council areas, one in four health workers have decided not to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
The presence of “alt-Green” ideas in the far-right occasionally earns a mention; George Monbiot discussed it in his recent lament on the intrusion of conspiracy theories into “the left.” Yet the parallels between alt-Green and fascist ideas are fundamental, not coincidental.
Fascism and the Alt-Greens
The Nazi Party implemented a number of Green policies well before they became mainstream. Hitler became a vegetarian before WWII and publicly identified as one from 1942. He had a penchant for showing gruesome depictions of animal slaughter at the dinner table to dissuade his meat-eating colleagues.
It wasn’t just Hitler. Himmler advocated banning the hunting of wolves. Göring was an avid forest conservationist. In announcing a ban on animal experiments, he railed against those who “still think they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property.” The Nazis even banned boiling lobster and crabs.
Philosophically, these measures had their roots in the “revolutionary conservatism” of the inter-war years. Its adherents saw modernity as a cruel, inhuman and reduced state of being.
Buttressed by the intellectual authority and political support of philosophy professor Martin Heidegger, Nazis and other revolutionary conservatives wanted to recover what they deemed had been lost in modernity: something about true “Being in the World,” “the spirit of the people,” and an “aesthetic harmony” with nature.
This is where it gets tricky for both the alt-Greens and the far-right. How far back do you have to go before “modernity,” or whatever fall from grace you identify, to arrive at “the real thing”, or to “Make X great again”?
Is it enough to ensure pharmaceuticals and pesticides are regulated based on the available evidence, or do you reject modern medicine and industrial agriculture entirely? Do you regulate immigration numbers based on the real limits of infrastructure and economic capacity, or do you carry out a holocaust against minorities?
The nostalgic goal is so vague that it can justify any kind of drive to power. In 1943, with Nazi Germany’s lebensraum (“life-space”) encompassing almost all of Europe, Heidegger wrote approvingly, “The will to grow, heightening, is part of the essence of life. All preservation of life serves the heightening of life. All life that is limited to its preservation is already in decline.”
This distain for the preservation of life can be seen in some (but not all) criticism of Covid mitigation measures required to protect our health system and reduce strain on health care workers. Throw off the shackles! Overcome your enemies! Become truly alive again!
But for how long? Recent Covid protests dubbed themselves “freedom rallies,” but, we have to ask, freedom to what? “The right to overwhelm our health system,” as the Nursing and Midwives Union put it?
Every generation faces its major challenges. The solutions can only come from using the evidence to recognise the problems as they are, not from wishing ourselves back to a “greater” time, before those problems existed.
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