Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wrath of the Yurt

I like a lot of what John Quiggin has to say. That's why I find it disturbing when he lapses into an unprovoked ad hominem swipe at people living in yurts. Not only is it disturbing but distinctly peculiar.

Of course we're all supposed to understand that Quiggin isn't really talking about yurt dwellers when he refers to yurt dwellers. It's code. The label of yurt dweller is supposed to allude to some undefined fringe of political-economic non-conformists.

I have a problem with that. It is holding people up to ridicule, not for what they believe but for a mocking image of their (presumably) idiosyncratic personal attributes that is arbitrarily substituted for their opinions. This is what we used to refer to as stereotyping.

Exactly who is being ridiculed is left ambiguous. By a process of elimination, it is not the climate-change deniers on the right nor is it the "sensible" ecological modernizers in the center who Quiggin is mocking. That leaves the tree-hugging enviros on the left metaphorically dwelling in those patchouli-infested yurts. Like Naomi Klein. Or Herman Daly. Or Tim Jackson. Or Duncan Foley.

The trouble with the yurt dweller label is that it is infinitely expandable. To Senator Inhofe, people who accept the scientific consensus on climate change are yurt dwellers. Nicholas Stern, John Quiggin, William Nordhaus, Al Gore, the IPCC. Yurt dwellers all.

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