Thursday, April 20, 2006

Uses of Disenchantment...








"The Future is Green: The Moment of Truth," Al Gore's Vanity Fair article on global warming, is something everyone should read.

Yes, my fellow Americans, it is somewhat annoying to read this piece, indeed, when Al, a very learned man, with transcendent love in his heart for all living things, who was vice-president at a time when we were actually beginning, at the very least, to save the gravely endangered environment, writes ever such long, very long, and dramatic (as in: pertaining to drama), sentences with so many, ever so many, asides (which reminds me of a Shakespeare quotation that I won't get into here, or should I, no, methinks not), so that you (as in "one" not just you yourself) can hardly remember, but you will if you try, exactly what crucial idea began the sentence indeed. That said, it is an important piece in the global warming puzzle.

Here's my take: The US and the rest of the world, are enchanted by the American Dream. And by enchanted I mean under a spell, doped up, whacked out, behaving badly, and incapable of thinking straight. It's not surprising that we are destroying our planet, afterall, we hardly know it exists. Our lives here in the so-called first world are manufactured and virtual. The planet is just the substrate onto which we affix our selfish needs and manifest hallucinations. It is time for us to disenchant. To disengage from our destructive ways and wake up to reality as a species. If you believe Al Gore, our future depends on it.

Disenchantment won't be easy. In the case of global warming many have tried to throw cold water in our faces. For those who have seen the effects (those who have pulled drowned polar bears from the sea because the distance from the ice shelf to the land has widened to over 30 miles in places) and have desperately sounded the alarm, imagine their shock when our country's leadership quietly stuffs a wad of newspaper between the clapper and the bell. Why is this? Gore asks. "Are they resisting the truth because they know that the moment they acknowledge it they will face a moral imperative to act? Is it simply more convenient to ignore the warnings?" Al wants the implied "yes" answers to those questions to hang as a badge of shame on the Bush administration. But Gore is missing the point: most of us are ignoring the ill effects of living the American dream, the Bush administration is just echoing this sentiment. The problem is not government, it is human nature.

Later, Gore quotes Churchill who warned a pre-WWII England of a rising Nazi tide by saying that "the era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to a close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences." This is quite possibly true. We may be at the moment of truth with the environment.

But I'll tell you what's really bugging me. It's that niggling human nature thing again. You can stuff all the scientific data and dead polar bears there are up my wazoo and I'll nod my head in agreement with all the bad things that suggests. But before I glue solar panels to the roof and put French fry grease in my engine, I can't help but be stopped in my tracks by one ugly thought: Al Gore, for whatever reason, lost the election in 2000. Is this a man who is trumpeting a cause (and perhaps overplaying the notes) in an attempt to establish some semblance of victory and legacy for his bruised ego? Is this a concerned man or a the "'it' boy of Sundance" politician who's party needs to galvanize its members fast? Trust me, I hate myself for thinking this way. Al Gore seems genuine. The world is in trouble. But once again, the familiar stink of politics casts doubt where action and awareness should be. Disenchanting won't be easy.

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