Some [many] people want to do away with the social safety net, and especially any generosity remaining therein, to rely instead on the goodwill and support of charities to take care of those in need. There’s a cognitive dissonance about the reality that government-funded programs to help people are somehow perverse, yet giving to charitable organizations is not. Not that these fine citizens care about the lack of harmony between their world view and their actions.
But individual personal virtue can never displace collective action, particularly on the scale of a country the size of Ecuador, much less the United States. And the very same concept holds with regard to environmentalism:
Environmentalism-as-personal-virtue was a bad route. It isn’t a substitute for collective action. People don’t like being told how to live their lives, especially as you don’t have to understand this stuff all that well to get that we’re almost all big hypocrites. We make some easy choices and ignore the rest. We can make slightly better choices, but there’s no solar powered plane to fly me to Europe.
Yes, you can do things – live closer to work, own fewer cars – but not on the scale that’s needed to turn the tanker! Sprawl creates culprits of us all. Vote against it. Don’t move out there. Campaign for carbon-pricing, rail, renewable energy infrastructure and more affordable housing – built in the right places. Massive progress on things we’ve already figured out is what’s needed. Plus, less vehicles means fewer bumper stickers and perhaps, perhaps! even the need for them.
What else would it be for?
Now that scientists have disproved the theory that fingerprints serve to improve the grip between people’s hands and the surface they are holding, they are wondering just what fingerprints are for. Really. We get all CSI about everything just as we realize several of our grand strategies are failing at once, and of course the goal of evading responsibility becomes key. This sort of all just happened to us – the auto-realized logic of self-justifying greed – and now we’re mostly wet-behind-the-ears again/still. And we don’t know what fingerprints are for.
There a section in One Hundred Years of Solitude when an insomnia plague causes the people of Macondo to lose their memories and forget even the names of commonplace objects, such that they have to label even chairs and clocks. They even hang a sign on a cow:
This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk.
Kunstler writes that we’re just too stupid to survive, and he’s right that we tend to get hypnotized by the (:our) glimmering reflection in the cutting edge, never imagining that it has perhaps been sharpened to come down someplace/anyplace that could well be our own tender nape. We’ve grown tepid even about the possibility that technology will save us. But as that enthusiasm wanes, what do we fall back on? God? guns?
All of this is about a re-visualized self-realization, to sound perfectly po-po-mo about it. Inner freedom, as some have distinguished it – but to discover this requires a great amount of self-knowledge, which itself is predicated on getting to know as much as about what we’ve done to ourselves and our world as possible. And all of this in the very short time that is the average lifespan. Not after work – it is your work. And your only pay is the world you help create and make free. It’s only called a civilization as long as it flies along a soaring arc, right? It’s not as though comets struck our grade schools or made our universities into banal, value-added credential mills and started us down this road.
Maybe we should label our fingerprints.