The climate change connection
What you think about climate change says more about your political beliefs than it does about anything else. If this strikes you as odd then it should. After all, a thermometer doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. It reads the same for both. If you want to know how this happened then it might be useful for you to understand something about the history of slavery in the New World.
What on earth does one’s attitude about climate change have to do with the history of slavery? Bear with me for a moment and hopefully I will establish the connection for you.
In the early days of the colonisation of the Americas, settlers soon learned that free labour from oppressed peoples was highly advantageous to colonial survival and prosperity. At first such slaves were called servants and they were mostly white. But before long African slaves were being imported.
Seven year periods of indenture quickly evolved into a lifetime of soul-crushing servitude. Before long slavery as it was practised in the new world became the worst kind of human cruelty in the long and shameful history of slavery.
This new and brutal form of slavery created a climate of fear and disquiet among slave owners. The prospect of slave revolt was always in the air, and was more than hypothetical. Terrifying stories of actual slave rebellions circulated among fearful slave owners. That’s when something happened and, for the sake of brevity, I will oversimplify.
The wealthy white slave owners figured they could handle the prospect of a possible slave revolt if they could enlist the help of poor white people in fighting them off. So they promoted the false idea that the poor white folk were mentally superior to the poor black slaves, and taught them to hold black slaves in contempt.
This became fairly easy to do because the poor white folk were already downtrodden, and feeling superior to black slaves made them feel less wretched about themselves. If poor white people could think of other human beings as fundamentally inferior to them it took their minds off their own miserable condition.
And it worked, too. Poor white people who used to be friendly with poor black people suddenly hated them instead. And they found it easy to hate them. And they discovered they liked hating them, too. Hatred can become habit forming.
So rich white people suddenly found themselves in possession of a wonderful new tool they could wield like a weapon. That tool was called hatred. They noticed they could very easily get poor people to hate just about anything they wanted them to hate.
Eventually rich white people noticed it didn’t necessarily matter what colour the poor people were. White or black, if rich white people wanted them to hate something, they could sometimes do it.
In fact, back then rich white people even got black slaves to hate abolitionists. It didn’t always work, but sometimes it did. That’s how addicting hatred can be.
Today, of course, it isn’t only rich white people who spread lies calculated to control people. Everybody can get into the act. But the biggest practitioners of this kind of propaganda are called Republicans, or GOP for short. And they are mostly controlled by rich white people. Some things never change.
Today you can notice that Republicans spend most of their time spreading hate. Don’t believe me? Go to the Twitter feed of Donald Trump junior, or the “Truth” social feed of his father, or listen to the speeches of Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene. They all have malicious scowls on their faces much of the time. And they are constantly trying to get people to hate. Hate, hate, hate. There’s big money in hate.
For instance, the lie that climate change is a hoax, or the result of natural causes, or that it isn’t caused by humans, is promoted by rich people who own oil companies, and they find climate change very inconvenient to their principal goal, which is making money from fossil fuels. So they spread hatred directed at people who know climate change is real and deadly dangerous, like climate scientists and people who listen to climate scientists. And it works, too.
And that, brothers and sisters, is why what you think about climate change says more about your political beliefs than it does about anything else, and what that has to do with the sad history of slavery. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.