Monday, May 31, 2010

Good Guys vs Bad Guys

Americans are accustomed to having complex realities framed in a cowboy movie fashion, so that they can easily be swallowed without thinking.

Whenever the US military kills someone, be it bombings, drone assassinations, or old-fashioned kick-down-door-and-kill-everyone-inside, the victims are always the "bad guys". Because, of course, we all know that the US is the "good guy".

We also have things personalized for us. Financial speculation isn't systemic to capitalism, it's that evil Bernie Madoff. Energy speculation? Kenny Lay. War profiteering? Dick Cheney.

This simplistic way of looking at problems is in full view in the ongoing disaster of the oil gusher in the Gulf.

The right blames Obama, although the really far out ones blame North Korea, or environmentalists. The left blames BP, or if they're really radical, Halliburton.

The posturing continues. Bobby Jindal holds press conferences and demands that the government DO something. Obama announces sternly that BP will be "held accountable". (Just like he's "held accountable for the civilian deaths in Afghanistan? I bet BP executives are shaking in their boots!)

I will quote right wingers when they're correct, and my co-worker told me something his Green Beret Vietnam veteran Dad told him when he bought a motorcycle.

"Some mistakes can't be fixed".

Damn straight! This unshakable belief held by the right and the left that SOMETHING could fix this mess is another typically American axiom.

If we can send a man to the moon, we can certainly.....fix this gusher, cure cancer, provide free energy, etc., (or my personal favorite "why can't we send all of them?").

I used to work in a rehab hospital, full of car crash survivors who were now paralyzed. The paraplegics would sit around all day and discuss when science would find a cure for their paralysis. The quadriplegics couldn't discuss anything, being unable to speak because of their endotracheal tubes. That was many years ago, and there is still no cure.

Some things can't be fixed.

This is why we had a moratorium on off-shore drilling. George H. W. Bush, who was also a veteran with a bad experience, one that couldn't be fixed, signed an executive order banning off-shore drilling, which was allowed to lapse by the Democratic Congress in 2008. It was recognized that an oil spill would be an unfixable disaster, and the only way to avoid it would be not to do it in the first place.

Now we watch the posturing, the finger pointing and the fervent beliefs that the gusher can be stopped, the environment can be "made right", and that someone will pay.

No. The gusher will stop when the pressure eases. The environment is damaged, and cannot be made right. The only ones to pay will be the wildlife that pays with their lives for the spoiled demand by the American people that their "lifestyle", as they like to call the car centered, cheap agribusiness-supplied fast food consumption, air-conditioned, plastic-wrapped way of living that has evolved over the last 60 years, continue unchanged.

But if you point out that our infrastructure must be changed, people scream "Impossible".

Yes, the same folks who are quite sure that a oil geyser a mile undersea can be stopped are equally sure that the American "lifestyle" is written in stone. Never mind that each zoning decision, each marketing decision, each federal pork decision has gone to make the mess we're in, and each COULD BE UNDONE!

People like lights at night, that is true. And the whales were about hunted to extinction before we switched to electricity. Do you hear anyone screaming today that they prefer whale oil to coal? No. As long as the lights come on, people are satisfied.

Do we really need every cheese slice wrapped in plastic? Do we really need every piece of trash we toss to be wrapped in plastic? Do we really need to continue "stimulating the economy" by widening roads and building McMansions?

Just like "good guys vs bad guys", the "economy vs the environment" is a false dichotomy.

The environment is real. It is the natural wealth that we evolved to live in. We breathe air, we drink water, we eat food. The capitalist economy that produces what we call wealth by turning the natural wealth of our Earth into consumable, disposable products for sell is man made, and can be changed.

Nay. It must be changed, or we will find out the hard way that some things, like destroying our ecosystem, can't be fixed.


Anonymous said...

Exactly. It was an accident and things can go wrong - that is why I hate all this newfound love for nuclear energy. I thought I was the only one who thought street lights were a stupid waste. Love this post of yours. In books and the movies, everything always works out and good wins - that is why they call it fiction.

wagelaborer said...

Last year, after our inland hurricane, the electricity was off all over the region.
I drive home from work at night and realized how much electricity we waste lighting empty buildings and billboards, etc.
Everything was dark!
Except for my neighbor, who had a generator running a "security light".
That really cracked me up. The only light for miles around!
They were basically advertising "We have a generator"!
If there had been thieves around, they could have easily taken the generator!

Anonymous said...

And then there is Las Vegas to attract the in-duh-viduals (thanks Scott Adams) who love excitement, lights and noise.