(Image: AAP/David Crosling)

Chutzpah is characteristically seen as a Jewish thing. But if Chris Uhlmann’s latest column for The Age is any indication, the happy-clappies are getting into the act, too. 

In the sadly declining op-ed pages of the old grey groaner, Uhlmann has one of those pieces that were current 20 years ago, lambasting the environmental movement as a new religion, a cult of nature, apocalyptic, etc.

He believes this to be a religion of despair, not hope, and kicks off with a comparison with the Shakers, the 19th-century Christian movement that practised celibacy and eschewed child-having as they waited for the end-times.

Chutzpah, as I say, because as we all know, Uhlmann is one of those, a would-be priest, underpinned by religiosity. He tilts at wind turbines as frequently and successfully as that other Christian knight Don Quixote, and believes that the wellsprings of post-war Christian society were poisoned by the Jewish Marxist intellectuals of the Frankfurt School

So he’d know apocalyptic cults. And his timing is magnificent, the article landing the same day as a joint communique by 11,000 scientists urging the world to take drastic action to avoid climate catastrophe. What Uhlmann described as religious in nature — reducing meat consumption, rewilding farmland — is exactly what these scientists describe as that which needs to be done.

So it’s the usual thing. These people defer to science whenever they (or God forbid their kids), get sick, moving heaven and earth to get the best specialists, the new treatments, etc. But when catastrophe is diagnosed on a global scale, suddenly it’s a religion.

Religions that offer hope do better than those that offer despair, Uhlmann advises the global climate emergency movement, showing just how little he understands it.

We have hope, but it is hope out there in the world, hope that is implicit in action. It’s people like Uhlmann that are so desperate for the sweet, sweet drug of hope that they seek it out first, willing to conform their beliefs to whatever will offer it.

He doesn’t even understand his own religion: an apocalyptic cult that faced annihilation by an empire, and eventually became it. He doesn’t understand the Shakers, whose radical insistence on plainness of style, in furnishing and architecture, contributed to the rise of an egalitarian sensibility. If you want to see what the Shakers became, check out IKEA, and the implicit idea that a table is a table is a table.

But above all, Uhlmann doesn’t understand that some of us are resilient, and can face the prospect of disaster, and its avoidance, without the need to have a god to save us. Hoiked out of the ABC and into a Nine run by fellow clappy Peter Costello, Uhlmann’s presence on the pages of The Age represents the further decline of the paper, and the decline of the right into myth, tilting at windmills, and checking the wells for poison. 

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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