Election 2022: Breaking new ground for the Greens in Blantyre

As a young schoolkid in primary three, David McClemont was given a homework exercise where he had to show he could use various words in a sentence. “One of the words was ‘witch’ and so I wrote ‘Maggie Thatcher is a witch’,” he recalls. “My teacher must have been quite left-wing, because I don’t remember getting in trouble for that.” Decades later, McClemont is trying to channel the same radical spirit as he vies for a seat on South Lanarkshire Council as the first-ever Scottish Green Party candidate in the Blantyre ward.

Originally from nearby Cambuslang, “where I grew up and lived pretty much all of my life”, McClemont moved to Blantyre around five years ago. “I love Blantyre – I’ll stand up for Blantyre,” he says. A common theme in both towns, and many of the other villages that make up South Lanarkshire, is the decline of their main streets. “They’re the centre of a lot of communities, the centre of activity in the town,” McClemont says. “You go into a lot of them and half the shops are boarded up. It gives the whole town a depressing look and feel. A lot of that is because the shops themselves are owned by huge companies that don’t really care if they’re getting rent at the moment – it’s just about keeping up the value of their asset. If I had a magic wand, I’d like the council to take over these unused shops and put the rent down to a level that could attract proper small, local businesses.”

The Scottish Greens’ manifesto, available in PDF format here.

The Greens have adopted ‘Think Global, Act Local’ as their lead slogan for the council elections. “We’re trying to stay focused on local issues, focused on what the council can actually do, as opposed to just telling stories, which is what some of the other parties are doing,” McClemont argues. Though recognising the pressure on councils as a result of cuts made in Westminster and passed down by Holyrood, he says: “We’re getting prepared for another round of cuts, but I don’t think we should accept it. We should resist where we can and stand up against it where we can – but I’m not going to pretend there’s an easy answer to that, at the end of the day.” He adds: “The ‘cost of living crisis’ seems to be the rebranded name for austerity … whatever happens, the answer seems to be to hammer the general public and the ones who can least afford it.”

One of the ways in which McClemont believes more money can be found for local services is by being “tougher” on housing developers. “There are areas where it’s really difficult to get timely GP services because we’ve had massive population growth and the services tend to lag behind,” he points out. “I’d like the council to be tougher on the developers and get them to, as they’re building houses, build some of the infrastructure to go with it. We have seen some of that – they built two new primary schools because they built so many houses, but they never built a secondary school, which they could have done with.” He is critical of the council’s cost-saving instinct to “sell patches of land to developers and let them build” in lieu of building council housing.

Under the co-operation agreement struck by the Scottish Greens and the SNP in Holyrood, the Scottish Government has committed to introducing some form of rent controls by 2025. McClemont, who lets out his flat in Cambuslang to a friend, welcomes the move. “Technically I’m a landlord – but I’d be quite happy to see rent controls come in,” he says. On the whole, however, he finds that few voters in the local elections are taking interest in the Greens’ work in government. “I’ve not really seen anybody bring it up that much,” he admits. “Personally, I wasn’t so keen on doing it. I didn’t even like the idea of having a Green as presiding officer because I was worried about it blunting the radicalism of the party.” Previously a long-standing member of the Scottish Socialist Party, he continues to identify himself as a socialist – in his spare time co-hosting the left-wing podcast Holyrude Ungagged – and believes most Green members, at least in South Lanarkshire, feel the same way.

The Scottish Green Party is running a candidate in most wards in South Lanarkshire.

Though unimpressed with the SNP administration which took control of South Lanarkshire from the Labour Party at the last elections (“I can’t say I’ve noticed a huge difference”), McClemont believes that Green councillors will find a lot of “common ground” with SNP and Labour colleagues. “In a minority administration, even one Green councillor could hypothetically end up holding quite a lot of power, depending on how finely balanced it was,” he says. “Our biggest hope is in East Kilbride East, where Kirsten Robb is running, who’s a fantastic local candidate. If she gets into the council chamber, I think she would really energise things. She works so hard for the community at the minute, doing stuff that the elected councillors probably should be doing. It would be great for her to get recognition for what she’s already doing. I think she would make a big difference.”

At present, there are Green councillors in only five of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, with most of them concentrated in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The party will be hoping that tomorrow’s election provides them with an opportunity to break through into the rest of the country – in Adam Ramsay’s words, “shifting the party from an endless reliance on the national winds being in its sails for Holyrood elections, to being able to build genuine bastions of support in specific local areas”. McClemont is happy to be part of that push. “The Scottish Green Party’s very welcoming and I think is the best vehicle for socialists in Scotland,” he says.


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  1. SleepingDog says:

    Whether your teacher was left-wing or not, they might clue you in to misogynist uses of the word ‘witch’. The problem with the somewhat plastic Scottish Greens is that they promote selected humanisms (like some watery socialism) but their manifesto is mostly about tinkering with the system, within which they seem a little too comfortable, and constantly outflanked by more radical groups. Being a better alternative to dinosaur parties is not really enough.

    1. Niemand says:

      A once great movement that seems to have lost its way completely. The odd thing is the Greens don’t seem to talk about environmental matters much more than other parties these days. I remember well the arguments years back – how do you actually get elected to a position of power if you do not have a general policy platform? Or in fact should the Greens aspire more to be a lobby group with a basically single focus? I think it almost inevitable that a party founded on a commitment to one area – ‘green’ environmentalism, will find it very difficult to transform itself into a part of general politics. Though as you say they could have done this with a truly radical platform but the trouble now is their very watered down green politics approach is mirrored in most other parties anyway. And then there is the focus on gender politics that resulted in the loss of one of their best people that they really do not seem to care about at all (Andy Wightman) . . .

      I have voted Green years back but wouldn’t consider it now. I even still have an old Ecology Party badge!

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Niemand, well, indeed. I have not seen the Scottish Greens acting as if their house was on fire, and their apparent support for gender identity theory seems at odds with biology, whereas a truly environmental political movement should be committed to the authority of life sciences in public policy (and not a regression to the subjectivism of early psychology). The tree of life, and all that. But we should distinguish the (perhaps inevitably corrupted and compromised) political party from the political movement, which is global, and often younger, braver, more radical, more competent and/or energetic. My view is that we should take biocratic decision-making out of the sphere of political parties, somewhat like technocratic and scientific decisions are often made by global consultations of the qualified (in public health, say). You cannot have public health on Earth without a healthy environment. But we can and should move away from the anthropocentric values (humanist or theist) which have created our current emergencies and degradations.

        As for voting, well, I still gave the Green candidate my number 1 vote today. We will not get to a biocracy in one step.

        1. Niemand says:

          Yeah, excellent post SD. It was always a feature of green politics that it cut across party politics anyway. Sometimes this led to some rather unholy alliances (e.g. middle class Tories supporting ‘Swamy’s’ efforts) but as you say, really, the crisis we face or even the whole arena of ‘biocratic decision-making’ should be taken ‘out of the sphere of political parties’.

        2. 220507 says:

          ‘…a truly environmental political movement should be committed to the authority of life sciences in public policy.’

          Aye, but your problem is that, in matters of public policy (res publica), life scientists can justifiably claim no greater authority than any other citizen.

        3. 220507 says:

          Your concept of ‘biocracy’ reminds me of Habermas’ account of technocracy as depoliticisation; a system of expert decision-making that excludes the public from the decision-making process and diminishes its power to contest decisions in matters that pertain to public affairs; a form of domination that undermines democratic self-determination.

          It also reminds me of the contention of decolonisation activists like Shev Visvanathan and Boaventura de Sousa Santos that technocratic decision-making conceptualises ‘knowledge’ too narrowly, thus excluding science that’s cognitively divergent from that of the European Enlightenment, and that hegemonic Western science has had a destructive impact on indigenous wisdom and non-Western cultures. Rather than defer to the authority of life sciences funded largely by Big Pharma and the military-industrial complexes of the ‘developed’ world in public policy-making, such decolonisation activists prescribe the development of institutions of public decision-making that recognise the plurality of knowledge and the right of different forms of knowledge to co-exist.

          As an alternative to and a defence against ‘biocracy’ or any other form of authoritarianism, both critical theorists like Habermas and decolonisation activists like Visvanathan and de Sousa Santos clarify an alternative: what’s sometimes now called ‘smart’ democracy; the cultivation of a democratic intellect that empowers every citizen to contribute knowledge towards the identification and resolution of social problems, including those that lead to the degradation of life.

          ‘Smart’ democracy requires institutional innovation in the direction of empowerment, inclusivity, accountability, and pluralism. It also requires sensitivity to structural inequalities or ‘hierarchies’ of wealth and power, which enable and sustain privilege, authority, domination, and injustice (cognitive, evaluative, and practical), and the co-creation of more and more democratic spaces in our civic lives in which diversity, dissonance, dissensus, and autonomy can thrive.

  2. David Shane says:

    Such a wonderful post about politics and It would be so beneficial for people in Blantyre

    Thanks for sharing informative information


  3. 220507 says:

    It’s interesting, the role that the concept of ‘nature’ plays in the discourse that is green politics.

    ‘Nature’, in this discourse, refers negatively to the ‘nonhuman’ environment. It’s that pristine state of purity or innocence that would exist uncorrupted by human influence if that influence were to be removed. As such, it functions as one of a pair of dichotomous (and peculiarly European) metaphysical absolutes: ‘man’ and ‘nature’, ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, ‘mind’ and ‘body’, ‘material’ and ‘spiritual’, ‘art’ and ‘science’, ‘subject’ and ‘object’, ‘fact’ and ‘value’, ‘made’ and ’found’, ‘good’ and ‘evil’… The irony is that this ‘nature’ is itself a ‘cultural’ product, a ‘social construction’, an ‘ideology’ [of capitalism] rather than the ‘natural phenomenon’ its apologists say it is; it’s something that, quite literally, masquerades as itself.

    But we now understand (such being the condition of knowledge in the contemporary world, which has gone beyond the paradigm of universal and absolute values that fueled both 18th-century scientific rationalism and its grand narrative of historical progress towards the triumph of those values and 19th-century anti-scientific romanticism and its grand narrative of promethean apocalypse) that these supposedly discrete and independent ‘absolutes’ – man and nature – exist in such interdependent processes or praxes that their division into the mutually exclusive human and nonhuman realms of ‘man’ and ‘nature’ is no longer coherent or intelligible.

    Maybe, given this understanding, we should abandon talking in terms of ‘man’ and ‘nature’, the ‘human’ and the ‘nonhuman’ and the manichaean conflict between the two, and talk of life in more bionomical terms instead, as an inseparably interwoven and ever-evolving structure, a kind of holistic Geddesean triad of environment, function, and organism.

    1. Niemand says:

      I think you are talking about only a certain attitude to green politics there as in my experience it very much is more along the lines you propose already. There is very little of the ‘natural’ world, in Europe anyway, that is not shaped by man’s hand in some way. At the same time the idea of the pristine wilderness where mankind has had no easily discernible impact, or any at all, still exists and is important to a degree so worth protecting. There is something deep inside us that likes and needs such places to exist and you cannot wish it away or dismiss it with rhetoric or ‘theory’. But yes, it needs to be understood in context.

      1. 220509 says:

        Indeed, I had in mind the sort of auld-farrant green politics that objectifies nature as ‘nature’ over and against the human subject (e.g. in and through the positive life sciences).

        There is, of course, also a postmodern green politics that’s been an important factor in the deconstruction of the dichotomy between ‘the human’ and ‘the nonhuman’’ the ‘cultural’ and the ‘natural’, etc., which calls into question the assumption or prejudice that things like gender identity (for example) are objectively fixed or given by ‘nature’ rather than as a product of our social relationships and the economic structure that shapes those relationships.

        I’d suggest that the psychological or spiritual need for a pristine wilderness that you identify as ‘naturally’ inherent within us, however deeply felt, is likewise a product of our socialisation.

        1. Niemand says:

          Well I don’t know, but does it matter that it is part of our socialisation? We are social beings as a biological fact so it follows that so is socialisation – it is what human beings do and will always do and our attraction to the wilderness is part of that, though it is a very long-standing and widespread aspects of societies across time and globe. But I wasn’t claiming that our desire for non-human wilderness is directly innate necessarily any more than gender identity is innate (though tell that to those who claim we have a gendered soul that explains the apparent fixed profundity of the trans state of mind, an idea that is very recent indeed and has no hard evidence at all).

          1. 220510 says:

            No, the old ‘nature or nurture’ question doesn’t matter anywhere outside the ethical context of ascribing agency, responsibility, and (accordingly) praise or blame. The question troubles us ultimately only because we want to be able (for reasons of power) to praise or blame, reward or punish, others for stuff that happens, and we can’t justifiably do that if that stuff isn’t caused by the free nature or ‘person’ of the agent herself but by the impersonal psychological and/or sociological forces that allegedly determine or ‘nurture’ her actions. Free will – the idea that we, as humans, somehow transcend the determinism of our biology and enculturation – is thus an absolute and indispensable presupposition of moral judgement and its possibility.

            It’s also a question that abolishes itself (along with morality and all its other consequences) in the paradox of infinite regression, in which biological facts (truths of nature) are supposed to be socially given (true by convention) as a biological fact (a truth of nature). That way madness lies!

            The ‘wild or domesticated’ question likewise abolishes itself. ‘Wilderness’ is paradoxically a way of domesticating wilderness. We name and worship wilderness as ‘wilderness’ as a way of appeasing the threat that its unspeakable chaos and ‘unknowability’ – that its utter otherness – poses to our need for order and control. ‘Wilderness’ and our feeling for it as expressed in poetry, music, and art is way of taming or domesticating or ‘dewilding’ that wilderness.

            Postmodern green politics seeks (among other things) to aid the deconstruction of ‘wilderness’ and the fateful dichotomy that lies at the heart of European and eurocentric culture between the ‘wild’ and the ‘domesticated’, the ‘nonhuman’ and the ‘human’, ‘nature’ and ‘culture’. Postmodern green politics seeks to overcome the alienation of ‘man’ and ‘nature’, not by the promethean Enlightenment project of progressively conquering of nature through science and technology, nor by regressing to some sort of pre-Enlightenment low-tech rural idyll, but by queering the current relationship between the two and fomenting through its negative dialectics conditions conducive to the Marxian state in which man is naturalised and nature humanised and both become two sides of the same coin that is life.

          2. Niemand says:

            What if nature doesn’t want to be humanised? Is not that idea very human-centric? There is nothing wrong with places on this Earth that are absent of human intervention / presence. We may well call them wildernesses but it matters not what we all them as you could argue they are none of our business and should be left alone. Of course any attempt at ‘re-wilding’ is doomed if you think you could create such a place it is wrong to suggest such places do not exist and there is still a good case for saying keep out. Even where there is minimal human presence, the peoples who live there live in a way that is deeply harmonious with their environment (in the rainforests of Borneo for example or the Andaman islands) and their world view is very different indeed to modern ‘civilised’ man. Again, we should leave them alone.

            And some literature does not try to tame / appease the wilderness at all, quite the opposite – have a look at Algernon Blackwood who very much embraces its unknowability.

          3. 220512 says:

            Every idea is anthropocentric, even the idea of ‘wilderness’, which we can only think of as an absence of humanity. Is it not equally anthropocentric to say that nature ‘wants’ or ‘doesn’t want’ this or that, as if ‘nature’ possessed will – i.e. is driven teleologically, by ‘ends’ – on the model of ourselves? Man is the measure of all things because (God being dead) it’s the only measure to which we can have access.

            Of course there’s nothing wrong with there being places on Earth where man is absent. But that absence itself is a humanisation of nature, the only sense in which a wilderness can be ‘there’ for us as wilderness. It’s the old paradox of whether or not a tree that falls in a forest makes any noise if there’s no one there to hear it falling. The noise which that falling tree makes can only ever be potential; it needs a listener there to realise it. LIkewise, for as long as the dichotomy between man and nature, domesticated and wild, etc. operates in our universe of discourse, the very notion of ‘wilderness’ will be a humanisation of nature. We can no more escape this humanisation than we can escape our own skins. And that’s ultimately why the very notion of ‘rewilding’ is absurd; rewilding is itself a form of domestication; it’s we who make wild places ‘wild’.

            Humanisation is how we appropriate our environment to our consciousness as an ‘environment’ in order to make for ourselves a habitable world; the world we know (and the only world we can know) is a kind of cognitive ‘map’ by which the life we manifest negotiates its survival. The question isn’t *whether* we humanise nature or not (as humans we’ve no choice in that matter); it’s a question rather of *how* we humanise or objectify it as ‘nature’ in order to sustain life. It’s a question of which stories or ‘myths’ we tell ourselves in the creation of a habitable world

            The alienation of ‘man’ and ‘nature’, on which is predicated the aforementioned sort of ‘auld-farrant green politics’ that objectifies a non-human nature over and against the human subject (e.g. in and through the positive life sciences of the Enlightenment culture of modernity – the very life sciences that SD seems to think should be privileged in a ‘biocracy’), is part of the problem. ‘Man naturalised/nature humanised’, as envisaged in the deconstruction of capitalist ideology in which that alienation of man and nature finds its apogée, is the solution to which postmodernity is tending.

          4. Niemand says:

            Hm, but it all feels a bit reductive since it is impossible for human beings not see the world through human eyes and thoughts so everything is ‘constructed’. The idea of a wilderness is of course our invention but that does not mean it does not exist or that we can by ‘re-wilding’ make a place more bio-diverse and ‘wild’ in the sense of species mix, density of flora etc and in a way that wouldn’t be possible if it had the presence of humans dominating as it was before it was re-wilded. It is a kind of re-balancing. I do a lot of tree planting and one small woodland I planted in 2005 (in an open ex-grazed farm field) has grown very well and is now full of much more wildlife than it used to have (birds, mammals, insect, vegetation). It is ‘wilder’ in the sense there are more wild things there as in ‘wild animals and plants’, and no-one goes there except me (though that is luck more than anything). It is in its own modest way, a little bit re-wilded even though it is a totally human-constructed place (as it was before). And it is now running its own course, uninfluenced by man (or at least not much influenced now). But it is most definitely not ‘domesticated’ – it was before but now much less so. So I reject the idea that re-wilding is absurd, it just depends on what you mean by that. There is also a fringe aspect to re-wilding that suggests that it us who need re-wilding, in our brains.

            My answer to the tree falling question is a straightforward yes it makes a sound that will heard by any creature nearby. It will also make a sound whether anything hears it or not. Maybe this deliberately misses the point of the so-called paradox but you do not need something to hear something for sound to happen.

          5. 220516 says:

            It’s difficult to avoid the constructivist conclusion (that learners construct knowledge, rather than just passively take in information, as they reflect upon their experiences, build their own representations, and incorporate new information into their pre-existing representations or ‘schemas’) once you’ve conceded the anthropocentric and (further) culture-relative nature of human experience.

            The world is not ‘given’ in human experience; it’s constructed in and through its appropriation to our understanding. It’s a cultural rather than a natural artefact. What the world is really like, in itself or ‘beyond our ken’, is unknowable. What we know, and all that we can know, is nature ‘humanised’ or appropriated to our understanding as our representation.

            Your ‘rewilding’ of land that was formerly grazed is likewise a humanisation of nature, an appropriation that domesticates it to your ecological understanding or schema. And it’s this accordance of your tree-planting with your ecological understanding of nature that makes it ‘right’.

            Of course, we’d all like to believe (and have others believe) that our understanding/schema/construction of the world is the ‘true’ one, in the sense that it corresponds to the way things ‘really’ are ‘in themselves’ or quite apart from what we or anyone else thinks of them. But this is a comparison we can’t make, for the reason that no one can step outside their own understanding of them to see how things ‘really’ are. Again, what the world is really like, in itself or ‘beyond our ken’, is unknowable. The best we can aim for is coherence between any new information that comes our way and our existing schemas, with truth being less a matter of correspondence between our understanding and some reality that supposedly transcends that understanding and more a matter of continually rejigging our schema to accommodate anomalous experiences; that is, a matter of continually learning while never finding out for sure.

            Finally, how can you know that a tree does or doesn’t make a sound when it falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear it when there’s no one around to hear whether it does or not? The thrust of the paradox is that neither the claim that it does make a sound in the absence of a listener nor the claim that it doesn’t make a sound in the absence of a listener can never be verified without there being a listener there to verify it. And the point is not whether the falling tree makes a sound or not in the absence of a listener; it’s that, in the absence of a listener, we can never know whether it does or not.

          6. Niemand says:

            I don’t know what you mean by ‘domesticated’ in this context. All I can do is repeat what I said: in my understanding the field in question is now obviously less ‘domesticated’ than it was before the trees were planted when it was very much domesticated grazed farmers field. Increasing bio-diversity is one of the key aspects of re-wilding and this has incontrovertibly happened. The problem I have with some of what you write (fascinating as it often is) is that it is often a recipe for doing nothing rather than something – if you tie yourself up in the notion that everything is contingent, constructed and never ‘true’ then that is a recipe for circular inertia, no commitment, no action, – you may want much greater local democracy come independence (for example) but it strikes me this is a deliberate way of never committing yourself to the basic idea as you know full well what you want will never be stated before any vote. So this contingency is actually a way of saying you are not in favour. So, in essence it matters not whether you call the woodland I planted re-wilding or not, but to most people it is now a richer, wilder (more wildlife) and in a very small way, better for health of the planet / biosphere.

            I take a very simple approach to the tree question – the laws of physics tell us that it is literally impossible for a tree to fall silently no matter who is or isn’t there (it isn’t doing this at a quantum level) so I know it will make a sound and I don’t need to hear it to confirm that. It is contingent on nothing. This is one of the basic principles of science – we don’t have to continually test proven principles governed by scientific law, until and unless that law is overturned by new empirical evidence. I do not understand what we gain by saying unless someone is there to confirm it we cannot be sure it made a sound, because we can.

          7. 220518 says:

            I’m using ‘domesticate’ in the sense of ‘bringing under the control or cultivation of our understanding (wherein we dwell)’. To understand wilderness as ‘wilderness’ is just another way of domesticating it.

            I’ve no doubt that your tree-planting has increased biodiversity (which I can agree is a good thing – for auld sceptics like myself, diversity and pluralism is ‘eudaimonia’ or the highest good) and conformed the land you’ve planted to our understanding of a ‘wilderness’ in all sorts of other ways as well. But its still just another way of domesticating that piece of land, of conforming it to our cultural expectations of what a ‘wilderness’ should be. People with alternative cultural expectations of what a ‘wilderness’ should be might equally have turned or ‘domesticated’ your former grazing into a barren desert rather than a fecund woodland. What counts as ‘wild’ is not given in nature; it’s culturally conditioned.

            As far as activism is concerned, scepticism is its own praxis. At a personal level, the practice of scepticism promotes mental tranquillity or peace (ataraxia) through the suspension of belief (epoche). As a social level, it promotes equality by undermining all attempts to claim a special moral authority (‘truth’, ‘rightness’) for what one says. Basically, scepticism is in itself an ongoing resistance to hegemony as such, a perpetual campaign of decolonisation, a democratisation of truth and justice against dominant (and would-be dominant) ideologies. Sceptics pursue this resistance through relentless critique in word and deed of whatever’s ‘given’ in both theory and practice. It’s a philosophy of ‘non-commitment’ and is none the worse for that; it helps us dodge ‘the curst conceit o’ bein’ richt/ That damns the vast majority o’ men’.

            On our falling tree: yes, we may assume (as theory would have us believe) that it will make a noise whether there’s anyone around to hear it fall or not, but how can we verify that assumption? The point is that it can’t be verified, even in principle. Whatever the science tells us, we can never discover whether it’s true or not.

          8. Niemand says:

            But someone converting it to a desert would be going against what would become of the habitat if it was truly left alone as that is not the ecosystem of the particular location (northern hemisphere climate, fauna and flora etc). So that would make no sense in terms of re-wilding. Planting trees is much much closer to what would happen naturally which is forestation by mostly deciduous trees dominated by oak – this is what would happen to many landscapes in much of Britain, eventually. So the desert argument is nonsensical and irrelevant and would only make sense in areas where deserts were the norm. It is one of the fundamental principles of rewilding that you attempt to re-introduce things that would happen of their own accord in that environment, not just any old ‘wild’ thing.

            The problem I have with the idea of ‘relentless critique’ is that it becomes an end in itself. It is much easier to complain and I have become heartily sick of deconstruction as the people who do this, often as a kind of living, have a vested interest in doing so and the last thing they want is for people to actually do things that address any of the critiques as they would have nothing to attack (though of course they find something else or say it’s not good enough when that does happen). In film studies, the whole deconstructivist critique that caught on in the 70s was so obsessed with everything but the experience people had of film itself that it verged on suggesting no film was ever worth making as it is always mired in just about every sin imaginable (sexism, racism, colonialism etc etc). As a result, such criticism became more and more distanced from those who make films who looked on in dismay and despair (if they took any notice at all). The grave danger of deconstruction is that it destroys the very thing looked at and the people doing it become parasites – they live off the product whilst at the same time killing it, and of course, never actually make anything themselves (what is the point – it is all compromised?), except reams of words, incomprehensible to most but sucked up by other parasites like so much sweet poison, who then regurgitate it ad infinitum till it becomes a set of shibboleths no-one can disagree with without censure. Bollocks to that.

            I think you mistake what science actually is. Proof follows theory – sound being produced by colliding objects is not ‘theory’, it is scientific fact, it is proven like the speed of light is a fact. We don’t need to keep measuring the speed of light to know it is a constant. Yes, you could say anything is possible, even if improbable to an almost infinite degree, even things happening that totally contradict scientific law but what exactly does that prove or in what way is it helpful? It is a philosophical conceit of no real value.

          9. 220519 says:

            That’s what we might call a ’laissez-faire’ conception of wilderness: the world as it would be if we left it alone.

            My point is that the laissez-faire conception is not wilderness itself (which is utterly beyond all conception – for the very act of conceiving it is to humanise or domesticate it and abolish it as ‘wilderness’) but a way of appropriating wilderness to our understanding as ‘wilderness’, and that this is true of all possible conceptions of the same.

            And my beef is that the laissez-faire conception of wilderness is incoherent: we can’t take our minds off to see what the world is ‘really’ like; we can’t take our humanity out of nature; in our human condition as learners, we can only humanise nature in whatever ways we find most satisfying to our needs; and the the only authority with regard to what our needs are is ourselves.

            I share your disgust with poseurs. The whole point of immanent critique is deconstruction; it’s to release the contradictions that are inherent in our current understanding of phenomena like wilderness so as to let those contradictions destroy that understanding ‘from within’. The whole point of immanent critique is to trouble our understanding, unsettle us, sting us our of our complacency, so that our understanding can evolve, so that we can remain learners operating in a world of heterodoxy rather than believers languishing in a world of orthodoxy. Postmodernist poseurs wallow in their own complacency, committed (absurdly) to the metanarrative of ‘postmodernism’ rather than the micronarratives of postmodernity.

            In contrast to the poseurs, ordinary unpretentious postmodernists work towards the deconstruction of metanarratives and bringing into focus, in their writing and in their community development work, the more modest and ‘localised’ narratives. This issues in a progressive politics that’s grounded in the cohabitation of a whole range of diverse and always locally legitimated ‘stories’ rather than some universal overarching moral or eschatological ‘truth’ or any grand all-encompassing theory like ‘postmodernism’. Genuine postmodernists seek in both their writing and their ‘grassroots’ political practice to undermine all metanarratives of universal ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ so as to let flourish the diversity of human experience through a multiplicity of theoretical standpoints and practical lifestyles.

            Proof (verification) does indeed follow theory. Theory tells us that a tree falling unheard in a forest will make a sound. But how do we verify the theory that tells us this? We can’t, since the sound cannot be heard. That’s the thrust of the paradox: there can be no truth (or falsity, for that matter) without verification, which is a humanising intervention.

          10. Niemand says:

            So why do scientists not feel the need to keep verifying the speed of light? Light that might travelling in the far flung places of the universe that could never be further verified. They don’t because it is proven and the verification stage is over, the theory proven. Same with objects making sound according to other laws of physics we no longer need to verify. So sound *will* happen and there is no paradox.

            ‘The whole point of immanent critique is to trouble our understanding, unsettle us, sting us our of our complacency, so that our understanding can evolve’. OK so I don’t have any issue with this except at what point do we achieve any kind of stability, something human beings and indeed all life wishes for as a condition of harmonious living? No-one actually likes or wants to be *constantly* challenged and why should they? They have every right to say go away and leave me to get on with what I have / want to do. Alway being made to feel unsettled and ‘stung’ is no recipe for a well-functioning society. It reminds me of my workplace – a new version of some document template comes out every half year as a constant reminder of ‘improvement’ despite the fact the previous version was fine, but other permanently moving goalposts make it ‘necessary’ (and those goal posts are being moved by the same kind of people who demand use of the new template). But it rarely is any improvement in any of it, quite the opposite – it creates unnecessary work, pisses people off and stops them from doing core activity, making them very cynical and quite probably resistant and they find they can ignore it and nothing happens, so they do. ‘Stop with the constant revolution, now!’ would be my banner on the march.

          11. 220519 says:

            But no theory is ever conclusively proven; that’s axiomatic in science. Every theory is susceptible to refutation in consequence of further observation and experimentation. In fact, this susceptibility to refutation – or falsifiability – is the characteristic mark of a scientific (as opposed to a pseudoscientific) theory. One of the big problems with conspiracy theories of all kinds, for example, is that they are unfalsifiable; likewise with metaphysical theories (theories that pertain to the principles by which our understanding of things are structured in our world-making).

            Anyway, the problem still remains: traditional scientific theory predicts that a falling tree will make a noise regardless of whether there’s anyone there to hear it fall or not; but there’s no way in which that prediction can be verified or falsified, which means that neither the assertion or denial of the claim that it will make a noise can be determined to be true or false.

            There’s no point at which we achieve stability. According to the theory of evolution by natural selection, instability is what drives mutation, mutation feeds diversification, and diversification is the key to the ongoing survival of life in the chaotic complex systems that (at least, according to chaos theory) comprise the environment. Analogously (applying the same constructive schema), instability is what drives our learning, which (as I said above) is a matter of continually rejigging our the preconceptions we carry into every encounter to accommodate new information and anomalous experiences. That’s how life, in both its material and conscious aspects, thrives in a dynamic universe; by innovation and change. Living isn’t harmonious (that’s a cultural prejudice that belongs to the same universe as Aristotle’s celestial spheres); it’s dissonant. And as I keep saying, the trick is to devise political institutions within which this dissonance can be accommodated short of conflict, as constructive interaction, rather than institutions that try to conjure out of – or impose upon – the diversity and dissensus of postmodern society some artificial harmony or consensus.

            Of course, not everyone likes to be constantly challenged by change and uncertainty; Erich Fromm, in his Escape from Freedom, explored some of the various ways in which people guard their preconceptions against the challenge of new information and anomalous experience (especially in their encounters with ‘Others’), and partly explained the rise of authoritarianism in Europe in the 20th century in terms of this ‘need’ for the security blanket of cognitive stability. And, you’re right; people who don’t want to learn, but would rather stay as they are and have always been, like their fathers before them, when men were men and darkies knew their place, have every right to be left in peace. But, politically, it’s never a good idea to leave dominant truths and orthodoxies unchallenged in their hegemony, however comfortable and complacent people feel with them.

          12. Niemand says:

            I think you falsify by suggesting people (or me) don’t want to learn or is a recipe for fascism etc. That is very different to being relentlessly challenged and ‘stung’, especially when one doesn’t necessarily agree with the reasons behind the challenge to change something. It is a truism that nothing stays the same for long and we have to accept this or go mad, but again that is very different to an ideological commitment to constant revolution, a willing to always change rather than an understanding that things will alway change sooner or later. ‘Permanent revolution’ as a political ideology hasn’t exactly worked out well when adopted has it? And I don’t see any more benefit in it than the opposite – refusal to change even given new knowledge.

            But we go round in circles as is inevitable at the end of a long exchange but I think comparing the idea that science comes to fixed conclusions until new evidence proves otherwise (a point a made myself earlier) is somehow comparable to the mindset of a conspiracy theorist is rather bizarre. And the point is, scientific ‘fact’ has indeed been verified until further notice. Without further notice we can be sure the tree makes a sound. We could say we cannot be sure it won’t or that it won’t rain chickens tomorrow, as literally nothing is *incontrovertibly* certain unless it has already happened, but I have to ask the question again, what value does that have? What value does assuming huge improbabilities could happen have? I would argue those who do that have the mindset of a conspiracy theorist.

          13. 220521 says:

            But life is relentlessly challenging to our preconceptions as it presents new information and anomalous experiences that we have to ‘domesticate’ in order to maintain the coherence of our understanding/the phenomenal world we create for ourselves to inhabit – unless we hide from that challenge in dogmatism and defend our hiding-places with intolerance towards any heterodoxy that threatens its security.

            I’m often criticised here for my ‘laissez-faire’ approach to activism, for my complacency or ‘fatalism’ in accepting that ‘things will always change sooner or later’ anyway, as a consequence of their inherent deconstructive tendencies, and that these tendencies need only be ‘unblocked’ or ‘liberated’ through the subversions of immanent critique in thought and deed for the world to change. Now I’m being criticised for advocating ‘disturbing the peace’ as an alternative to leaving the world alone, to wallow in its complacency, out of some kind of respect for the right of people to be left alone in their fatalism and for the sake of a well-functioning society… I must be doing something right.

            And no one’s comparing the mindset of a scientist with that of a conspiracy theorist. On the contrary, I contrasted the sceptical mindset of the scientist (which I consider a good thing) with the dogmatic mindset of pseudoscientists like conspiracy theorists (for example).

            The nub of our dispute (the point of departure of this long exchange) is whether the phenomenal world – the world that presents itself in one’s understanding, the world as it’s experienced, the world in which we live and work and have our being, the only world we can know – is a) a construct, an ordering of information governed by ruling paradigms or distinct sets of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and procedural rules or b) a ‘given’ whose order is independent of the means by which we come to know it. If it’s the former (as I assume), then we can have no ‘wilderness’ or ‘nature’ that isn’t itself (paradoxically) a human artefact.

            The practical consequence is that, if there’s no non-human or ‘given’ wilderness or nature to which we can ‘return’ or with which we can ‘reconnect’ (or, according to an alternative paradigm, ‘colonise’ or ‘conquer’), we are free to construct whichever ‘wilderness’ or ‘nature’ we need in order to thrive, constrained only by the ruling paradigms (and their hegemony) that define and delimit our behaviour. The political struggle ceases to be a struggle between ‘truth’ and ‘error’, ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and becomes instead a struggle between rival paradigms, none of which is ‘true’ or ‘false’, or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, relative to some unknowable reality, but which are only more or less useful to our thriving as forms of life.

            My contention is that any paradigm that predicates an alienation of ‘man’ and ‘nature’ is harmful to our thriving, both individually and collectively, and needs to be subverted at every turn and in all of its manifestations.

  4. edward chang says:

    I wonder if he spends much time doon the cawther?

    1. 220510 says:

      Or the ‘Caleddwr’, as the Britons of Ystrad Clud cried it in the original Cumbric.

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