Ed Driscoll

Oh, That Return of the Primitive

“They sought paradise in a Scottish field — and found hunger, boredom and mosquitoes,” Roger Lewis writes in the London Spectator, in a review of a book titled The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans:

Evans, the author of this book, was one of those oddballs who rather looked forward to the apocalypse, because it promised ‘challenging times ahead’. If, in the not too distant future, famines and droughts more or less wipe us out, that will be our own fault for allowing population levels to reach an unsustainable nine billion — the predicted figure for 2050. How much better the planet will be with a select handful living in their villages of yurts, log cabins, teepees and straw-bale huts, the children gambolling happily ‘amidst the bracken and the trees’. The air will be cleaner. Wildlife ‘will make a comeback’. Neighbours will help each other out. People will be fitter as a result of their manual labour.

Evans couldn’t wait to create his retrograde society, where waif-like girls ‘with long, tawny dreadlocks’ would be doling out ‘bowls of bean stew from a steaming cauldron’. He sold his house, gave up his academic career and moved to a field near Inverness. He looked at an adjacent waterfall and thought it could ‘generate electricity’. He gazed at an acre of scrubland and believed he could ‘keep a few pigs and chickens’. He spotted a deer and, though he had no butchery or tanning training, imagined turning its hide into shoes and gloves.

Fair play to Evans: by the time he came to write this book he realised he was delusional.

Why do people believe the world is coming to an end? Steve Hayward of Power Line had a simple and concise answer to that question, during the period when the late Harold Camping, the Al Gore of evangelism, was a media sensation in 2011 after his apocalyptic vision didn’t pan out:

At least the religious versions of the end of the world come with a promise of redemption for man and nature. The secular apocalypse is usually without hope. Yet they share one larger thing in common: the deep, passionate commitment that the end is near. And when the end doesn’t come, instead of relief, there is disappointment. Fundamentalist preachers and environmental prophets-of-doom react the same way every time: they d go back over their math, and offer new predictions for the end. The preachers end up with dwindling congregations and radio audiences; the green prophets get appointed science adviser to the president.

People often ask me why environmentalists tend always to incline to apocalyptic conclusions about the state of the planet. “Because it makes them happy,” is my standard response. This is not tongue-in-cheek. There is something about certain kinds of personality types that derives a frisson of delight from contemplating the end of the world. And if you point out that the end of the world is not at hand, it makes environmentalists very unhappy, in part because it deprives them of the opportunity to play savior to the world.

Which also sounds a lot like another group that seeks doomsday, as Peggy Noonan writes in her latest column, drawing heavily from Graeme Wood’s recent blockbuster Atlantic article, “What ISIS Really Wants:”

ISIS has allure: Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are believed to have joined. The organization is clear in its objectives: “We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change . . . that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world. . . . The Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people.”

The scale of the savagery is difficult to comprehend and not precisely known. Regional social media posts “suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks.” Most, not all, of the victims are Muslims.

The West, Mr. Wood argues, has been misled “by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. . . . The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers,” drawn largely from the disaffected. “But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.” Its actions reflect “a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bring about the apocalypse.”

Mr. Wood acknowledges that ISIS reflects only one, minority strain within Islam. “Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”

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Mr. Wood’s piece is bracing because it is fearless—he is apparently not afraid of being called a bigot or an Islamophobe. It is important because it gives people, especially political leaders, information they need to understand a phenomenon that may urgently shape U.S. foreign policy for the next 10 years.

In sorry contrast, of course, are the Obama administration’s willful delusions and dodges. They reached their height this week when State Department spokesman Marie Harf talked on MSNBC of the “root causes” that drive jihadists, such as “lack of opportunity for jobs.” She later went on CNN to explain: “Where there’s a lack of governance, you’ve had young men attracted to this terrorist cause where there aren’t other opportunities. . . . So how do you get at that root causes?” She admitted her view “might be too nuanced of an argument for some.”

Yes, it might.

It isn’t about getting a job. They have a job: waging jihad.

Do Islamic terrorists and the doomsday fringe of the global warming cult have something in common? It’s not a coincidence that a few months before he died of a massive case of lead poisoning, the Washington Post ran the headline, “Osama bin Laden embraces his inner Al Gore.”

But to get back to The Utopia Experiment by Dylan Evans, who “sold his house, gave up his academic career and moved to a field near Inverness,” didn’t the London School of Economics-educated author realize that he was living out a 45 year old Monty Python sketch?

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(Via Tim Blair.)