Though attended by a large number, the "Peak Oil UK" conference organised by Depletion Scotland on the 25th April had a familiar look to it. On view were representatives from the media, environmental groups and oil-related academia as well as concerned individuals such as myself. Also, the sight of Colin Campbell and Matt Simmons as speakers and even Mike Ruppert in the audience gave it all a kind of kindred feel to it all.
However, one individual stood out a mile and in complete contrast to these groups and that was Nick Griffin, chairman of the British National Party. For non-British readers, a description of the BNP is in order. Being a far right wing party, they are somewhat similar to Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front party of France which has enjoyed recent electoral successes. However, since immigration is not such a hot issue in Britain as it is in France, the BNP's electoral successes are confined to local government elections. No BNP member sits as an MP in the House of Commons and this is unlikely to in the current political-economic climate.
Their distinctive theme is "Britishness" with the emphasis on "whiteness". One could imagine they desire a Britain that existed before the mass immigrations of our post-war period and they plan to reclaim that by a policy of repatriation of "non-native" British people (i.e. mainly those of African and Asian descent). The only historical change to this repatration policy has been the change from forced to optional repatriation with financial inducements. How this can be peaceably achieved with the cooperation of the destination countries is beyond my understanding.
But back to Peak Oil and the BNP particularly. Since Peak Oil is a genre generally associated with those left of the political spectrum, their presence can be regarded as all the more surprising. After all, their less right wing counterparts such as the Neocons of America and the Christian Right do not generally regard Peak Oil as a big issue. What is going on?
If in doubt, ask. So, I went up to Nick Griffin, confirmed his identity and then asked why he was here amongst all these left-wingers. His measured answer was that though Peak Oil received minimal coverage in their manifesto, they see it as a long-term issue which may well make its way up to the top of their policy list.
What an irony, I thought to myself. Not even the Green Party in Britain has put Peak Oil on their election agenda, but the far right BNP may beat them to it. Is not Peak Oil full of surprises? Then again, maybe not. Let me explain.
Peak Oil is a paradigm shift. People will be forced to look at their lifestyles and the way they conduct their day to day living. Indeed, as many predict, this shift may well be from that of somewhere above abundance to that of somewhere above subsistence. I personally do not think that is such a bad thing if it weans us off materialism but still provides us with a living where legitimate needs are still adequately met.
However, it is the transition to this more simple lifestyle that worries me. It is how human nature reacts to his fellow man when resources become scarcer and the blame game begins. The BNP are no doubt familiar with Adolf Hitler. Indeed, many in their ranks idolise him and regard the Holocaust as a lie. What the BNP are aware of is that economic paradigm shifts lead to political paradigm shifts. Thanks to the short-sightedness of the Versailles Treaty after the First World War, Germany was put under such duress for reparations that hyperinflation and economic collapse ensued and drove desperate people to desperate measures. They had a choice between the two extremes of socialism - the Communists or the Nazis (National Socialists). Hitler won and rose to power as the paradigm shift of hyperinflation had its devastating way.
Hitler blamed the Jewish Bankers for Germany's predicament and also preached a gospel of Aryan supremacy over other races. Why did the German people swallow this and vote the Nazis into power? Because as history has shown over and over again, hardship brings out the worst in us as well as the best. When resources become scarce, certain numbers of people psychologically withdraw into their perceived peer groups and automatically distance other groups. In such circumstances, if they think they lack life's necessities at the expense of another group, prejudice and bias will ensue. The instinct to survive as an individual and a group predominates. It becomes survival of the fittest and if the majority group regards itself as the fittest then bloody persecution arises.
The key question is, how much has the multicultural influences of the past forty years embedded itself into the psyche of the majority? Are minorities welcomed or merely tolerated while there is an abundance of oil generated goods? When everyone's belly is full, there is acceptance. When bellies are empty, the fight is on for what matters most.
If those who welcome and tolerate are outnumbered by those who do not welcome or tolerate those groupings they class as competition, then multiculturalism is dead on the other side of the oil divide. Peak Oil will have initiated the worst form of paradigm shifts, the politics of racial survivalism.
I propose that the BNP see this coming paradigm shift and are preparing. They know the history of the rise of the Nazi party, they see an opportunity to rise themselves. Given the darker side of human nature, they could well be right. No doubt, their counterparts in the USA and other countries are also debriefed on what Peak Oil could mean to them and will prepare and wait accordingly.
Political parties which are small before seismic shifts become the major parties on the other side. Just ask the incumbent Labour Party in Britain. They first came to power after the privations of World War II with an agenda of social and economic restructuring.
How will the current political parties react? Those who have risen on and adapted to the wave of abundance, will they ban the BNP or in their greedy desire for power, assimilate their policies?
Only time will tell, but if history is anything to go by, it is in the balance.