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Save the humans

Worry about yourself.

Worry about yourself.

Back in the 16th century there was a famous German Anabaptist prophet named Melchior Hoffman who not only predicted the end of the world, but the exact place it would happen.

Anabaptism sprang up during the Protestant Reformation as a branch of the Lutheran faith and, simply put, its adherents believed you couldn't be baptised as an infant because hadn't given your consent. As such you needed to be re-baptised, thus the word "Anabaptist" means, literally, "baptised over again".

Anabaptism's more radical (and violent) followers had a few other beliefs that didn't sit well with the Catholic church and monarchs of the time, so many thousands of them were beheaded, burned at the stake and drowned (quaintly known as the "third baptism") as heretics. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short (which you can listen to in fascinating detail here), Hoffman claimed Jesus would return to earth in 1533 and the End of Times would start in the German city of Strasbourgh (nice specificity, eh?). 

This obviously never happened, but the prophecy informed the teachings of his considerably more violent followers, Jan Matthias and Jan Van Leiden, who in turn preached the end of the world would happen in 1534, in the German city of Munster.

This led to the truly horrific and bizarre Munster Rebellion and the deaths of thousands and thousands of Anabaptists for whom, I suppose, the world really did end.

I started thinking about Munster and the Anabaptists recently while reading British author Ian McEwan's 2010 satirical novel Solar, which is about climate change.

The story follows a jaded Nobel-winning physicist who, at first, questions the legitimacy of global warning and the apocalyptic urgency of the warnings given by its believers.

"There was an Old Testament ring to the forewarnings, an air of plague-of-boils and deluge-of-frogs, that suggested a deep and constant inclination, enacted over the centuries, to believe that one was always living at the end of days, that one’s own demise was urgently bound up with the end of the world, and therefore made more sense, or was just a little less irrelevant.

"The end of the world was never pitched in the present, where it could be seen for the fantasy it was, but just around the corner, and when it did not happen, a new issue, a new date would soon emerge. The old world purified by incendiary violence, washed clean by the blood of the unsaved, that was how it had been for Christian millennial sects – death to the unbelievers! And for Soviet Communists – death to the kulaks! And for Nazis and their thousand-year fantasy – death to the Jews! And then the truly democratic contemporary equivalent, an all-out nuclear war – death to everyone!

"When that did not happen ... and in the absence of any other overwhelming concern beyond boring, intransigent global poverty, the apocalyptic tendency had conjured yet another beast."

The new wrinkle to the "End of the World" narrative with climate change and anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is that we instead have to "save the planet" which has always struck me as a classic case of mis-stating the problem.

We don't need to save the planet because it will be here, percolating, long after we're gone. The biosphere will remain, albeit altered to make human habitation impossible, yet strange new life forms will emerge. 

As the comedian George Carlin says in one of his famous routines, "The earth will shake off human beings like fleas from a dog".

To my thinking, Anabaptist prophets such as Hoffman, Matthias and Van Leiden had a better understanding of human nature than the entire conservation movement does today - they appealed to self-interest rather than virtue, yet allowed this self-interest to masquerade as virtue.

Saving yourself from the apocalypse was only possible by following their rules.

I strongly believe we need to do something about climate change and AGW, it's just we have the pitch wrong and until we tell people they're saving themselves, instead of the earth, I can't see much traction building.

To those of you who disagree - who think virtue will somehow overcome the ancient short-term self-interest of humanity - I offer you another quote, from another German, Arthur Schopenhauer.

"The true philosophy of history lies in perceiving that, in all the endless changes and motley complexity of events, it is only the self-same unchangeable being that is before us, which today pursues the same ends as it did yesterday and ever will.

"The historical philosopher has accordingly to recognise the identical character in all events and, in spite of all the variety of special circumstances, of costumes and manners and customs, has to see everywhere the same humanity. Throughout and everywhere, the true symbol of nature is the circle."

Amen, to that. 

You can follow Sam on Twitter here. His email address is here.

Please don't take it personally if I do not reply to your email as they come in thick and fast depending on the topic. Please know, I appreciate you taking the time to write and comment and would offer mummy hugs to all.

47 comments

  • You are assuming that the survival of our species is a good thing. On the available evidence there is considerable doubt about that

    Commenter
    randomguy
    Location
    galapagos Islands
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 7:49PM
    • The comment above is a perfect example of the common link between Green philosophy and anti-humanism - the bizarre notion that the Earth itself, a lump of rock with chemicals sprinkled on top, is somehow more moral and virtuous than the humans who presently inhabit it. But I'm yet to see an act of kindness or selflessness performed by a tree, or a rock, or even an animal. Humans are no more selfish - in fact on average we're less so - than the animals that we've somehow come to project as being virtuous and morally upstanding. Sometimes we're not very smart - this is definitely so - but we learn fast, and we'll adapt. Go Humans!

      Commenter
      Matt
      Location
      Hobart
      Date and time
      August 15, 2013, 10:03AM
    • I would dearly love to see all the annihilationists and population reductionists really lead by example over the next 12 months. In an orderly fashion or course via a well orchestrated schedule! We don't want too many corpses rotting in crowded laneways spreading disease to all the pro lifers all in the same week now do we!
      (sorry what!?! oh you were not talking about yourself personally. Just the "other" people. Oh silly me.)

      Commenter
      eyeswideopen
      Location
      earth
      Date and time
      August 15, 2013, 9:06PM
  • there was a certain religious nut from US in the 90s, a certain brian r*** (no known relation to the pm). he would scold the females in the audience if they were too 'made up' and ordered them to go home, empty out their purses and throw out all their lippy and jewelry and anything else they might be ashamed of before god's ogling eyes. i reckon i know what he meant now and i reckon he was getting off behind that pulpit. if you're out there brian, thanks to you my life has been blighted by a crippling fetish involving ladies sections and certain accoutrements.

    Commenter
    beno
    Location
    campin'out
    Date and time
    August 14, 2013, 7:53PM
    • Either I'm stupiid or this whole thing is a disjointed exercise designed to show you read a little history, a little philosophy and get contemporary issues.

      Commenter
      hired goon
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 8:20PM
      • I think it indicates Sam can google and read bits and pieces on Wikipedia but he just cannot write (or think).

        Commenter
        GOV
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 5:27AM
      • I wouldn't be too hard on Sam. The Fairfax press is not about facts but about pushing a "vision". They don't need accurate reporting as much as convincing spruiking.

        Funny though, I just read Diary of a Man in Despair by Reck-Mallleczewen, who died in Dachau. He was an opponent of the Nazi regime did an extensive study of the Munster Anabaptists. He thought they were prototypes for the Nazi's. In fact, he regarded Nazi Germany as having eerie similarities with the community set up in Munster by the Anabaptists. Nice to see Sam attributing much "wisdom" to early Nazi wannabees

        It's true though, that the Catholic Church "took em out", but it was helped by the Protestants who also thought them dangerous nutjobs. One instance of early ecumenism.

        Commenter
        Fluvox
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 8:17AM
      • Oh, and another thing.

        When you mix green and red you get brown.

        Think about it.

        Commenter
        Fluvox.
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 8:32AM
      • Having actually listened to the pod cast in question I'd suggest that the whole thing is not a disjointed exercise designed to show that Sam reads a little history, a little philosophy and gets contemporary issues.

        Commenter
        Nyd
        Date and time
        August 15, 2013, 9:51AM
    • Humans are inherently selfish and so don't generally care about the welfare of others. The future is the future and what many humans can't see they don't care about. Or humans make pictures of what should be like Logan's Run or Alien or Star Wars.
      Humans are a doomed species. I'd like to think that cephalopods end up ruling the world with their intelligent and tasty beings as the dominant creature and food source.
      I think I need a Star Wars and calamari weekend.

      Commenter
      M
      Date and time
      August 14, 2013, 9:15PM

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