The New Continental Philosopher

In case you missed it, last night’s media event by INTEGR’s rising political star, Lena Ebner, represents a watershed moment in the history of post-Mistake Europe. An event of this magnitude occurs only once a generation. Billed as “a response to the new imperialism,” what actually streamed was nothing less than a cogent new political philosophy, neither right nor left, dominionist nor green. You owe it to yourself to watch the whole thing, but let me attempt to set the stage.

You are, I am going to assume, familiar with Elodie and the Bloc Franco-Iberia. You’ve been to parties and played Canonical/Non-Canonical with friends. If you are fortunate to work in the arts and entertainment field, you may even have gone so far as to have participated in a Canon Committee. . (Full disclosure: I have works in the Canon, and made nominations which have been rejected. I consider myself a Canon fan, even if Elodie’s defense of it causes me to roll my eyes from time to time). The Franco-Iberian Seeding campaign is unique in that it bills itself as a sociological experiment first and foremost, with “Earth’s best ideas” as the underpinning.

I must confess that what transpired was Ebner undermining, sapping, and then exploding the Franco-Iberian project, and doing so, in retrospect seems head-smackingly obvious. INTEGR put forward a new vision of humanism, declaring that the old models (particularly the Canon model) represent nothing more than clinging to pre-Mistake thinking. The “aristocratic spirit of seriousness” and “Ancien Regime of Western rationalistic technocracy” have motivated the politics of this age, with the agents of the state and entertainment serving as gatekeepers for what is “good” and what is “bad” for “the people.” If this seems obvious on its face, what is not obvious was the way Ebner revealed the subtle intertwining of political authority, consumer culture, and economic power.

Ebner did not just haul out hoary old sociopolitical experiments from the early Reconstruction, she constructed an agenda designed to correct the system. What she articulated was a three-strand skein: Effective and transparent governance, political activism on behalf of the disenfranchised, and environmental resilience. Before you snort and deride this as ancient Franco-Leftism, I’d point out that INTEGR also revealed that they have pulled this off, at least regionally.

Ebner laid out how INTEGR’s program has turned around the Rhine basin with some compelling data that I had not seen before, and I suspect was not public prior to the presentation. This same region, the area that Franco-Iberian commentators have been deriding as under the control of delusional hippies and starry-eyed anarchists, made a credible case for being Europe’s greatest post-Mistake success story. This is one I think the FI’s cheerleaders will have a hard time dismissing. They have tried dismissing Ebner before as an trivial clown (albeit one with legal credentials), swooping in to make celebrity appearances at disaster sites before fluttering off to the next crisis, but it seems Ebner may be more like the spider than the butterfly, tying her centers of activism with thin, silky strands of political philosophy.

I suspect Ebner has managed to pull off something like the People’s African Union – creating oases of transparency and effectiveness staffed by people of a like mind. But instead of mining tungsten and uranium, she has attracted bioengineering startups and produced lawyers intent on gaming the Confederation’s court system to the benefit of refugees from Asia and the Americas. Certainly Franco-Iberia has some lovely cities in Nice and Barcelona, but the container-housing and maker-fabriks of Cologne may represent a more democratic alternative.

If nothing else, Ebner has caused me to take a sidelong glance at my own views of the FI Seeding’s motivations. I had bought into the line that a colony founded on good cultural and political principles would make a more successful humanity on a new world, but now I find that idea rings a bit false. Have I instead been endorsing the latest form of European imperialism, one which siphons resources off this planet to go pillage a new one? Have I been too fast to dismiss INTEGR as a utopian phantasm, and might they not be on to the better model? The question vexes me, because I remember saying once, with complete seriousness: “I understand that a Bangladeshi laborer is going to die this year from environmental factors, but a Parisian poet is going offworld to determine the future of our species.” If this is not imperialism, then what can imperialism be?

We ignore Ebner and INTEGR at our own peril. I suspect they’re out to remake the world in their own image, and will construct their society with our without our participation.