2005-05-29— Posted by: allegra
The stuff last night was quite wonderful. As always we went a little insane on the food quantity, but it was nice to sit down with the folks – everybody in the family except John, and Glen and Marilyn – and break in the new barbecue (the old one got left at Tom and Peggy’s because Paul got bored with hauling it back and forth from their place, because it’s too big to go in anything except the van, and blah blah blah).
Katie’s off at the non-boyfriend’s again.
Mike said hey-o let’s beach today but I observed when I awoke after the single worst night’s sleep I’ve had in six months that there was absolutely no blue in the sky and decided to finish reading Michael Crichton’s State of Fear. Very interesting and very persuasive, although if I read the expression ‘pulse-pounding action’ in a blurb again I’m gonna hurl. Is the word exciting somehow no longer … exciting? I am in complete support of his (through a character) analysis of how the language and metaphors of fear have been altered to serve the political-legal-media complex, but other aspects of the book are disturbing. At one point in his appendix he notes, huffily, that nobody had to tell people to stop using horses when cars came into general usefulness (implication being that nobody will have to tell people to stop using cars when something superior comes along). I remember responding mentally, “And when colonial politics forced Chinese peasants to starve, nobody had to tell them about how they could eat babies to stay alive a week longer.” And I remember the Saudi proverb. “My father rode a camel. I drive an Audi. My son flies a jet plane. His son… will ride a camel.”
Sometimes the ‘better’ isn’t, much. And, worse to relate, sometimes there is no better.
So, Michael Crichton has made a wonderful case for global warming being an example of Lysenko-ism in science, where science is forced to serve political ends rather than being, to paraphrase Feynmann “What we do to figure out when we’re fooling ourselves.” Has he made a case for global climate change being a fraud? No. And now I have an understanding of why Mt. Kilimanjaro is losing its glacier, which I have to admit was troubling me (along with every other friiiiikkkkin thing that troubles me). Crichton, through a character, says it’s caused by deforestation at the base, which affects both air movement and moisture close to the mountain. I will investigate but I bet he’s right.
I have a lay person’s understanding of climate change. I am not NEARLY so worried about climate change as I am about the end of fossil fuels.
Crichton, in his jeremiad about how everybody has always been wrong about the end of the world, seems to be under the impression that technology will save us. I believe with a perfect faith that technology – freed from ideology beyond the simple search for truth and knowledge – could do just that, because whatever your ideology, unless you are freaking nutbar, a sociopath (the ones that aren’t ‘technically’ crazy) or childless, you want your grandchildren to at least have a world to live in (and I’m not slagging childless people, I envy them). But I don’t believe for one New York second that technology will do much else but serve really shopworn and actively dangerous ideologies as we nose our way into the future, and unless LARGE numbers of consumers in first world countries start rearranging their spending habits and their debt habits and their consumption and reallocation of existing entitlements, science will slide into one of three troughs – it will be serving the military – it will be serving large corporations avoiding social & political accountability – and it will be serving fundamentalist ideology (and I’m not going to name religions or political stripes). If it’s possible to have high tech dark ages, we’re smacking into as them fast as they graduate more lawyers than scientists in the US.
On one point, Crichton was bleakly correct. He says, through a character, that the biggest cause of environmental degradation is poverty. Then the character pops off about how billions of dollars fly around in litigation and taxes and legislation to prevent trivial events from occuring in North America while babies starve and children go blind and women are enslaved and poorly educated indigenous men are handed AK-47s and told to harass the ‘enemy’. (Yes, I’m paraphrasing more than somewhat).
I note that the Political Legal Media complex has been telling first worlders since the end of WWII that we have the RIGHT to be independent, to do what we like and go where we want; that we have the OBLIGATION to find ourselves; that all of the old structures are breaking down and good riddance; and that the most important thing in life is LOOKING GOOD and SPENDING MONEY. So busting up family ties and getting women out of the house when their kids are little to work in the salt mines (discreetly disguised as malls and office towers) and encouraging automobile ownership and getting ‘the biggest house you can afford’ and travel and ox carts full of debt to do it all has done an amazingly effective job of ensuring that everybody is too effing busy to pay attention. And the second you say hey waitaminute the media says “JLo!!!! did she have a bum lift??!!!!” and you settle down with ET and play channel roulette rather than follow the narrative of self improvement, which is HEY WAKE UP what we’re here for…. And I’m not talking Tony Robbins. I’m talking about all that old hard Stoic stuff that is SO dreadfully out of fashion, like not being in debt and not making messes for other people to clean up and to giving attention to cultivating your mind and body, and taking good care of the things and people that are entrusted to you, all that lame ass stuff that no self-respecting hipster gives the time of day to, cause it’s like so old and cranky-tired.
So I recommend the book, State of Fear – it was a good read and thought provoking. But I also recommend a few other things. Quit watching network TV. Spend more time with your family. Make eye contact. If you’re going to drink out of the milk jug, buy your own and label it. Reduce your commuting time if you can. It is better to give two dollars to a homeless person you can see than fifty to a charity that you can’t (and don’t worry about whether you’re ‘encouraging’ them. Between business, government, crappy childrearing, bad education and bad medicine, the homeless will be with us always anyway). Reduce your ecological footprint if you can. Get hobbies that are non-trivial – that produce things you can eat, or wear; or expend energy in ways that build the world. Don’t get into any sport more expensive than soccer. When you have to spend hundreds of dollars to play, thousands to compete and hundreds of thousands to compete internationally, it’s the wrong sport. Try to enjoy your hobbies locally. The only reliable information we have is our DNA, and even that appears to have been dictated by a God with an atrocious stammer. And remember in your most trying moments that in a billion years none of this crap will be remembered, let alone matter.