Thursday, June 28, 2007

Storm Clouds

The latest authority to acknowledge our impending crisis, based on finite resources that we nevertheless continue to plunder without reserve or foresight, is the chief economist of the IEA (International Energy Agency), Fatah Birol. In essence, as reported here, "the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (i.e. the intergovernmental body created after the oil shocks of the 70s to coordinate the West's reaction to energy crises) effectively says that peak oil is just around the corner, and that without Iraqi oil, we'll be in deep trouble by 2015."

While one wishes to think well of the leaders of one's nation, the level of cynicism that arises - based on the utter lack of seriousness with which our leaders are addressing this unavoidable gathering of stormclouds - mounts without halt. Then again, perhaps the evidence of their deep concern is hidden in plain view. If truth be told, the most reasonable and best explanation lying behind the invasion of Iraq was to allow us all to continue our charmed if reckless lifestyle. All those critics of the invasion - and they are now legion - need to ask themselves about their complicity in the perceived grounds for the invasion: the "non-negotiable" American way of life. While we damn the invasion, we continue to build out the suburbs, to drive without pause, to shop without bothering to calculate our income against our debts, and to count our winnings in the stock market roulette. Viewed in the most charitable light, the war in Iraq was undertaken to allow us to continue our unsustainable way of life, if even just for a few more years.

Many now widely acknowledge the folly of the invasion without further recognizing the deeper folly of the motivation that underlie it and its continued presumptive authority. We decry how the invasion was conducted without momentarily questioning whether our conduct and efforts of our leaders to facilitate this conduct contributed to the belief that there was no other course. On the one hand, Americans have shown little capacity or desire to be told the truth, above all, that we must do with less, that consumption and waste are not our natural birthright. There was, for instance, no outraged rejection of George Bush's suggestion that the patriotic response to 9/11 was to go shopping. This immaturity has been facilitated by our political leaders, who have told us for the past thirty years that we could have tax cuts without worrying about deficits, that we could have economic growth without concern for its effects on future generations, and that we could transfer the wealth of the nation to other sovereign nations who do not intend our good.

The simplest explanation for this widespread irresponsibility is that such pandering helps politicians win elections: Ronald Reagan, for instance, won in part by decrying Jimmy Carter's purported un-American calls for conservation and acknowledgement of limits. While Jimmy Carter had and has many faults, telling the truth in 1979 was not one. The more malevolent explanation, and one not mutually exclusive to this first, is that our continued recklessness benefits the plutocrats of our society who have greatest access to our politicians. Our plutocrats once believed that what was good for our corporations was good for America. This is no longer the case: they now believe that what is good for their bottom line is good for themselves. The smart money is moving offshore, and our business leaders hire lawyers to advise them how not to hire American workers. The business class comes daily closer to being a treasonous class, but that's the glory of globalization. It is deeply ironic how the liberal professoriate's praise of cosmopolitanism and globalization plays so well into the anti-patriotic profit motive of our plutocrats. Our so-called intellectual class are philosophic enablers to the corporate class that they purportedly decry - but this relationship was present at the creation of liberalism.

While the pandering of our leaders and the temptations of our plutocrats may have seeped deeply into the citizenry - and, by all appearances, most of our fellow citizens are not well-disposed to hearing the truth - nevertheless, it is within the realm of possibility to imagine a leader who would have the capacity, the prudence, the patriotism and talent to deliver the hard news to the American citizenry, and thereby appeal to the better angels of their nature. The nation once accepted the sacrifice of the flower of a generation that men should not earn their bread from the sweat of another man's brow. Surely our nation has the fortitude to reject again this temptation born of Original Sin, to earn our bread instead through proper forms of work and acknowledge limits on human efforts to master nature and one another.


Bob said...

Well said!

I should like to send a related essay to you that I wrote. Is this possible.


Patrick Deneen said...

Sure - there's an email link on my profile page. PJD