With all the flap about Obama’s speech Tuesday night (good) and the response by Jindal (he’s surely clinging to anyone who might say it was merely bad), the convergence of greenwashing and politics gets wrapped into a neat bundle: talking to people like they’re children about very complex issues produces self-fulfilling prophecies of extraordinarily difficult-to-solve problems.
We can link this to many things, but much of the immaturity begins with advertising, where the sort of punkish, laughing at someone getting hurt or because something sounds funny is a bankable quantity. It’s adolescent appeal is its value, or so we’re told over and over. ‘People remember it because it’s stupid’ is also a mantra, even if its not on the side of a coin. This is the fertile, buy/sell marketing ether so far from reality that it almost begins to make sense, where super rich athletes eat soup from a can, a car has the name of a vanishing, nomadic African tribe and Exxon/Mobile is building the energy future. From here, the stupid=legit, intelligent=questionable paradigm can appear to be a sensible option.
Politicians take their cues from advertising norms – from their media training to their look to their belief in the wisdom that flows from a fictional heartland to the language the employ to describe it. But whatever its stripe, much of this amalgam goes back to an unflinching belief that Americans are children that should be treated and spoken to thusly; this suspicion-of-seriousness flows directly into policy positions and soon enough, policy itself. This is one of the reasons that Obama is such a breath of fresh air: despite the details of the bad news he’s sharing with us, at least he’s speaking to us like adults. [Including the costs of our wars in the deficit projections? Who knew you could even do that?] Our delicate sensibilities aside, suddenly everything’s on the level, even if that level is where it is.
This is opposed to the Kenneth the Page* take of our Republican brethren. It would be really funny, and much of it is, if we didn’t have to still imagine these people as legitimate negotiating partners with whom political horsetrading is a necessity. Elder stateman Newt Gingrich is all you need to know.
But even the resulting dissonance about green is a result of the caricatured responses to the climatic cataclysm. In advertising land, the only tools we have left are to keep doing the same things over and over again and hope for a different result.
* In another obscene coincidence, the brother of the guy who plays Kenneth the Page lives in our town, and is a twisted, comic librarian (and friend) in his own right.