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9356Re: [carfree_cities] Pro-Car WSJ perspective (fwd)

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  • kiwehtin
    Nov 14, 2005
      It 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
      > argument
      > 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
      > century)
      > 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
      > decline
      > 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
      > consumption
      > that the US enjoys with the aid of military and economic domination
      > and
      > subjugation.
      > Then again, what would one expect to find in the Wall Street Journal?

      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada
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