9356Re: [carfree_cities] Pro-Car WSJ perspective (fwd)
- Nov 14, 2005It gets much less exposure, but I think Jim Kunstler's blog today is
a good counterpoint to the WSJ article. What Kunstler's crying in the
wilderness has that you don't find in the WSJ article and its
homologues is a sense that there is a moral measuring stick that
applies to our collective and individual behaviour in the face of
what should be widely known and accepted.
November 14, 2005
Years ago, President Nixon nominated a legal nonentity named G.
Harold Carswell for a seat on the supreme court. Derided by the
newspaper columnists as "mediocre," Carswell was defended by a
conservative Nebraska senator, Roman Hruska, who said, memorably:
"There are a lot of mediocre people in America who ought to be
Now Hruska has been reincarnated in Senator Charles ("Chuck")
Grassley of Iowa, who said the following a few days ago:
"You know what? What makes our economy grow is energy. And Americans
are used to going to the gas tank (sic), and when they put that hose
in their, uh, tank, and when I do it, I wanna get gas out of it. And
when I turn the light switch on, I want the lights to go on, and I
don't want somebody to tell me I gotta change my way of living to
satisfy them. Because this is America, and this is something we've
worked our way into, and the American people are entitled to it, and
if we're going improve (sic) our standard of living, you have to
consume more energy."
Like the true-blue mediocre Americans of the Nixon era,
American consumers (as we like to call ourselves) have the
representative they deserve today in Senator Grassley. He expresses
perfectly the dominant thought out there, which is as close to being
not-a-thought as any thought can be. And this kind of proto-crypto-
demi-thought is exactly what is going to lead this country into a
world of hardship.
Instead of preparing the public for changing circumstances
that will inexorably require different behavior on our part, our
leaders are setting the public up to defend a way of living that
can't continue for practical reasons. The question remains: are our
leaders doing this out of cynicism or stupidity, or some other reason
that is hard to determine?
Cynicism would mean that they know exactly what the score is
with the global energy situation and our predicament in relation to
it, and don't trust the public to deal with the truth. Two weeks ago,
I was on a speaking program in Dallas with investment banker Matthew
Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert, an alarming book about the
state of the Saudi Arabian oil industry. I asked Matt what he has
encountered the time or two that he has had an audience with George
W. Bush. Apparently, the president's reaction to Simmons' message
(which is that we are in big trouble) is a kind of curious
incomprehension, as in the old expression, is that so?
Personally, I don't believe that Mr. Bush or the people around
him do not understand that oil production worldwide has about topped
out, and that whatever oil is left belongs mostly to other people who
don't like us very much. But public acceptance of this reality would
mean the end of many illusions supposedly crucial to our national
life, most particularly that we can continue to be an easy motoring
society, and continue running an economy based on its usufructs.
But the psychology of previous investment is a curious thing.
It compounds itself insidiously, and now we not only suffer from our
misinvestments in an infrastructure for daily life that has no
future, but we also suffer from the political investment in
continuing to pretend that everything is okay. That is, if Mr. Bush
went on TV tomorrow and told the public we have a problem, the public
would want to know why they weren't told sooner, and why they were
not directed to some purposeful adaptive behavior, and Mr. Bush's
team, the Republican party, would be discredited for failing to do so.
While I doubt that the President and his posse are too dim to
comprehend the energy trap we're in, there certainly is plenty of
plain stupidity in the rest of our elected leadership, of which
Senator Grassley's remarks are Exhibit A. To be more precise,
actually, Grassley's statement displays something closer to
childishness than sheer stupidity. It comprises a set of beliefs or
expectations that are unfortunately widespread in our culture,
namely, that we should demand a particular outcome because we want it
to be so. This is exactly how children below the age of reason think,
in their wild egocentricity, and it is the hallmark of mental
development to grow beyond that kind of thinking. But the force of
advertising and other inducements to fantasy are so overwhelming in
everyday American life that they may be obstructing the development
of a huge chunk of the population, something that becomes worse each
year, as proportionately more adults fail to grow up mentally. This
state-of-mind is made visible in Las Vegas, our national monument to
the creed that people should get whatever they want.
What I wonder is: when will my fellow citizens discover that
their thinking and their behavior are unworthy of their history?
That we are entering a time when these things simply aren't good
enough, aren't enough to meet the challenges that reality now
presents. Or are we too far gone? It's possible that we are. After
all, life is tragic, meaning that happy outcomes are not guaranteed
and that people who forget that usually come to grief.
On Nov 14, 2005, at 8:48 PM, Mike Morin wrote:
> The WSJ article was most troubling to me as it was a quite erudite
> in favor of the libertarian pursuit of happiness without giving fair
> consideration to the ethics of sustainability and equity.
> Surely the car culture in the present and recent past (i.e. last
> can appear to be a vehicle of liberty. What the writer does not
> consider is
> that the auto and oil age are a veritable flash in the pan, a super-
> nova of
> the history of man. We must recognize that we are heading into a
> phase with regards to the product life cycle of oil and the
> automobile and
> begin to discuss and hopefully implement plans to move our culture
> away from
> its dominance (i.e. mass transit and relocalization strategies).
> Preying upon the simplistic joys of a cursory freedom, as the
> author of the
> WSJ article does, is a great disservice to future generations and
> to current
> residents of the earth relative to the inequalities of resource
> that the US enjoys with the aid of military and economic domination
> Then again, what would one expect to find in the Wall Street Journal?
Montreal QC Canada
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