Wednesday, May 05, 2010


Making People Angry Since...

I know it is difficult to realize that elections matter, and that there are literally millions of individuals with different cultures, lifestyles, beliefs and voting habits than you. This is the double edged sword of life in a representative republic, like the one we have.

Since Obama was elected, I have been trying to inform my conservative-to-right-wing friends that elections matter, and that an elected republican government is not in fact taking your country away if they were legitimately elected. It is not tyranny, it is not totalitarianism, it is not fascism. If you don't like what they are doing, there will be a national referendum (usefully called "elections") that will happen again before you know it.

You and those who believe as you do can change the government of our nation, but that is the level where you have the least individual affect. Your involvment and ability to affect change is far greater at the local level.

This has been a harder sell than I originally thought, but that's a story for another time. This story is about trying to remind my liberal to left-wing friends that there are literally millions of individuals with different cultures, lifestyles, beliefs and voting habits than them and that affects energy policy in the United States.

Because, as the Macondo disaster continues, I am apparently making people angry by suggesting in the comments section of this post that discussions concerning clean-up, redundancy, safety, and smarter production of oil are more productive than discussions regarding who should be arrested for causing the oil gusher to happen.

And as cathartic as it is to demand the arrest of the responsible parties, is there a way to make the charges stick? Even if you could get to that point, the outcome would likely be similar to any other organization facing arrests, where a few people fall on their swords to protect those at the top, and business as usual is allowed to continue.

There will be cultural shifts because of the Macondo disaster, but it will not cause the whole society of the United States to give up oil overnight, or even in a generation. We're going to keep drilling, and that's going to happen no matter who is President or Governor. Our political choices at this time are not "drill, baby, drill" vs "no drilling ever;" our choices are "drill, baby, drill" vs "drilling is catastrophically dangerous, complicated, and we'd better be very careful about how we do it, and let's see what we can do to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels."

As much as I wish we could get there quicker, I accept the terrible reality of the situation. Pragmatism and realpolitik are frustrating concepts, especially when applied to a society that is divided nearly 50/50 on every issue, and is traditionally, culturally and economically committed to unsustainable, progress-resistant and damaging development.

The long term goal is a more walkable, community-centered, train-connected society that is far less dependent on fossil fuels for power. A lot of the moves to get there will come at the local level where local citizens demand a higher standard of living and smarter development and capital improvements in their communities. That is, consequently, where involved individuals have the most power to affect change. But as that change must come culture-wide, you have to convince people it is in their best interests to make those changes.

Demanding low-probability-though-high-stakes arrests is far more inciteful and divisive than convincing, in my experience.

But that's just me. If you think you can start making those arrests, successfully prosecuting them, seizing assets et al without facing a highly counterproductive (and possibly violent) backlash, be my guest.


1 comment:

The Corwyn said...

What about the desperately needed--and rarely accepted--position of: "reality does not conform to anyone's whim"? It is not hermetically sealed to be controlled and strangled to make sure no one ever gets hurt.
One man's "horrific environmental tragedy" is another man's "who gives a shit? I have rent to pay." Shit happens. Sometimes we choose to label the shit "good," sometimes we choose to label the shit "bad." That's all. It's our perception that defines a particular situation. Accept it, deal with it, then let it go.

The dualistic imperative embraced by, oh, everyone, of good vs bad, right vs wrong, oil bad vs oil good...all of that is nothing but convenient illusion. One that is perpetuated to fuel the machine of fulfilling the personal agendas of the obsessed. Because seldom is any one issue as simple as one's point of view would suggest, but Washington-types make their entire careers based on encouraging single-mindedness of their constituents and dividing onlookers along man-made, illusory criteria. Which is necessary for a two party system where He Who Wins the Most Votes has the bigger penis.

As for "change." Nothing really ever changes. It's all the same shit on a different day. People are all fundamentally self-interested, self-serving creatures, and rarely does anything happen without it appealing to their self-interest or them acting under the belief that it does. Outrage and skepticism are all well and good, but no one's going to bother doing a damn thing about oil leaks and moving to an ideal of quasi-isolationist communities until there are palpable benefits to doing so that outweigh the costs involved.

The end. :)