I’ve been reading an excellent book, which I highly recommend called Pyschological Roots Of The Climate Crisis: neoliberal exceptionalism and the culture of uncare by Sally Weintrobe, a psychoanalyst. It explains the concept of ‘Exceptionalism:’
“An exception is a ‘refusnik’ who clings to these core false beliefs:
· I am entitled to see myself as ideal
· I am entitled to have whatever I want
· I am entitled to use omnipotent (magical) thinking to rid myself of any moral unease about holding these beliefs”
Exceptions are encouraged by neoliberal economics to take what they want, because as the perfume advert says, ‘I am worth it.’ But as Weintrobe says, there’s a bit of exceptionalism in all of us, and we do ourselves no favours denying it. Not everything is someone else’s fault. This goes to the heart of the climate debate about responsibility. We can rightly blame the oil companies for trying to stop the climate science leaking out and subsequently trying to obfuscate it. But there is the argument too that if we didn’t have fossil fuelled cars there wouldn’t be such a demand for their products. I know at this point someone is bound to say that electric cars were developed in the early 20th century but were suppressed by the oil companies, which probably rings true. But it’s not just cars. It’s a great deal of what we consume. So we all have a responsibility, and the only question is who can leverage that shared responsibility to maximum beneficial effect? Some people, e.g. politicians do have more responsibility, but since they are more likely to feel entitled in the ‘exceptional’ sense, they are prone to weakness when it comes to taking practical measures, i.e. actually doing anything which could threaten their position.
It helps if you feel you are omnipotent, like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk, or even Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert who in a House natural resources committee hearing asked an official of the Forest Service “We know there’s been significant solar flare activity, and so . . Is there anything the National Forest Service can do to change the course of the moon’s orbit, or the Earth’s orbit around the sun?” (Guardian 11th June 2021) Gohmert clearly has a grip on reality, perhaps taking a leaf out of that dolt’s book who suggested injecting bleach to prevent Covid. This may be an extreme example, but it does illustrate the sense of omnipotence some of our species possess, whilst trying to deflect the consequences of their exceptionalism. More seriously, there are those who think techno-fix geoengineering on a global scale will solve the climate crisis. Rather than having to do anything themselves.