This critique was written as passionately as Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire, and I feel that Abbey would approve of some parts of the book, such as Bruckner’s section about cars, or the extreme human extinction plan. When Bruckner lamented, “On a planet over which seven billion people will soon be swarming; isolation,slowness, calm, and contemplation are becoming once again luxuries for the few who are prepared to pay fortunes for them” (12), it reminded me of Abbey’s sadness about the commercialization of natural parks and the increase in mega-cities. Some of Bruckner’s sentences also have a biting, sardonic tone similar to those of Abbey’s, especially when he Unlike Abbey’s book, however, I had a much more difficult time reading Fanaticism. I felt that Bruckner was unnecessarily wordy (who uses “insouciance” these days?). His vocabulary contributed to his dramatic flair, which I believe he employed to mock catastrophism. He also used wild comparisons: his comparisons of catastrophism to religion portrayed religion in a negative light (I was reminded of the Great Awakening and the “hellfire and brimstone” sermons). And the sentence: “The long list of emblematic victims–Jews, Blacks, slaves, proletarians, colonized peoples–is gradually replaced by the Planet, which has become the paragon of all the wretched” (16) seemed very extreme, as did Bruckner’s references to Hitler and Rwandan genocide. In addition, Bruckner used so many obscure references that I sometimes felt like I was missing out on an inside joke.
- The Hegelian master-slave dialectic (9): a reference to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and his Phenomenology of Spirit; according to the all-powerful Wikipedia: “the essence of the dialectic is the movement or motion of recognizing, in which the two self-consciousnesses are constituted each in being recognized as self-conscious by the other. This movement, inexorably taken to its extreme, takes the form of a “struggle to the death” in which one masters the other, only to find that such lordship makes the very recognition he had sought impossible, since the bondsman, in this state, is not free to offer it.” From this, I gleaned that the essence of a dialectic is a struggle between two self-conscious beings to attain recognition, and that those two beings are intrinsically linked.
- the duellists in one of Goya’s paintings (11): I looked this up to get a better picture of the scene that Bruckner described. the original picture is called Fight with Cudgels and is an oil mural from 1820.
- viaticum (15): a term used for the communion administered to a person who is dying (wikipedia)
- Paco Rabanne (65): A french fashion designer
Overall though, I agreed with his criticism of apocalyptic ecology, and some of his sentences really resonated with me. I felt a shock when I read his “Brief Contemporary Lexicon” (46-7); I had always associated words like “ethical” and “sustainable” with a positive connotation, but Bruckner revealed that those words are used to beautify an ugly reality.
There were also some specific sentences that I really enjoyed:
- “What is [the carbon footprint], after all, if not the gaseous equivalent of Original Sin?” (2)
- “Just imagine whales, trees, and carrots applauding the elimination of human beings!” (14) I liked this sentence just because I imagined a whale trying to clap and it made me laugh.
- “An artificial coma as a solution to the planet’s problems.” (15) The flat way that he restates Diamond’s ludicrous plan emphasizes its ridiculousness as a solution.
- “Let’s be clear: a cosmic calamity is not going to be averted by eating vegetables and sorting our rubbish.” (32) I liked this sentence because, whoo boy, the sass.
- “The expert has spoken: let the Brazilians, Indians, and Chinese resign themselves to rotting away in their mire, the salvation of the planet is at stake. Too bad about those starving bastards who’d like to improve their fates a bit! Putting the Earth back on track is well worth sacrificing a few billion Asians and South Americans.” (59) Again, so much sarcasm, and he mocks the apocalyptic mindset as well.