Protect Our Mother Nature

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PROTECT OUR MOTHER NATURE

Repeatedly in history, conceptions of nature have served as ideological justifications for political theory. The most obvious example is the Hobbesian state of nature against which even the most oppressive government appears perfectly legitimate. Whereas in most cases of political theory, nature looks like an incompetent savage or unreliable tramp, some anarchist lines of argument instead offer versions of nature as infinite, loving, or otherwise better than the artifices to which it is implicitly opposed. Whether for or against nature, depictions of the natural world in political theory consider it in cultural units of meaning, a combination of icons and stereotypes that change not only our understanding of nature, but also of the units of meaning being referenced. In the early twentieth century journal Mother Earth, a construction of nature comes together, in a publication interested mostly in anarchist and feminist goals, that worshipped nature as a huge, consuming, feminine super being. Certain traits in the construction of nature in this journal form an account of nature as a particular type of femininity to be admired, a move laden both with direct strategic value and creeping implications for the idealizations of womanhood.

In order to establish the desirability of the journal’s goal of a world without artificial systems of control, the opposition of nature and artifice is a crucial first step. While it may seem tempting to define these terms, this neglects the primary function of both as catchalls with nebulous referents and amorphous structure defined only by their opposition to one another. The process of dividing the categories begins in the very first issue of the publication, in the foundational article ”Mother Earth”. The article mythologizes that “Man issued from the womb of Mother Earth … out of his efforts there arose the dreary doctrine that he was not related to the Earth, that she was but a temporary resting place for his scornful feet and that she held nothing for him but temptation to degrade himself.” This creation story of the present political situation clearly opposes the natural, which was original, to the artificial, which is only an egoistic and recent edifice. Nature as mother, of course, means artifice must be opposed, and thus becomes child, making the entirety of the anarchist argument parallel to motherly chastisement. In the same issue, “Without Government” bemoans government solutions as inevitably late and insubstantial, suggesting an analogy with illness where “the symptom of the disease was hidden” and only on its appearance would the government act. In this metaphor, artificial solutions to the world’s problems are only attacks on a flurry of symptoms as they slowly manifest themselves in increasingly visible ways, thus the profound animosity the journal expresses towards ‘Comstockery’. Regulation of sexuality becomes a direct example of the child trying to limit what mother had given to her children. Volume three number five offers an analogy for group resistance of bees on a tree branch, “it is only needful that one bee spread its wings, rise and fly, and after it the second, the third, the tenth, the hundredth, for the immobile hanging mass to become a freely flying swarm of bees." The writing makes humans already bees in a thoroughly naturalized world upon which systems of domination such as the state and religion have only been imposed in a superficial sense. All we need to do, in this account, is realize the situation, and spread our wingsto fly back into an expansive and beautiful nature. This fetishization of nature provides a clear contrast between the world of that which the anarchafeminist politics of the publication oppose and the ‘real’ world of nature that underlies and surrounds the injustices of artificial living. The question then becomes, in order to prove the insufficiency and downright failures of artifice by comparison, what is the...
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