A brief interlude as part of the story. I’m about ready to start the next cycle.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Why Are We Still Here?
It’s a nice spring afternoon out here today. I’m sitting out front with the laptop. Stuff is growing, the sun is shining, the windmill is turning slowly… I’m not exactly feeling gloomy, but I’m not nearly as sunny as this day has turned out to be. I guess the word is “introspective.”
The right-wing spins one way or another these days, like an old Chevy stuck in the mud, looking for traction wherever they can find it so they can get back in the race. They end up slinging mud everywhere, spinning their wheels, and sliding around. Their talking points still work with the most delusional among us, but not even their old crazy base is safe territory anymore. The opinion polls that came out after the bill to kill heating assistance last winter, for example, showed a 3-point drop in support for the goplets.
Even the most un-evolved knuckledraggers seem to have accepted that “they” just can’t pump more oil now, or enough more to make a difference. Therefore, rationing makes sense — nobody gets all the gas they want, but everyone gets some and there’s a way to get more if needed (on the exchange). They accept not driving the SUV unless they need the cargo capacity, and that their beloved NASCAR is changing their format to reward the most fuel-efficient vehicles. They’ve even (on the whole) accepted climate change and the need to address it, although many believe that declining fossil fuel usage will do the heavy lifting.
So it’s been a rough couple of years for the Spewers of Spin. The latest attempt to gain a little traction goes, as Shotgun Sam put it yesterday: “We’re interconnected, more than we’ve ever been in history. Push on one thing, and you create a ripple of push one way, and a ripple of pull the other. And this so-called ‘peak oil’ is, if you believe the liberal liars, is a mighty big push. They tell us that oil is the lifeblood of our economy, and we have to do all these Big Brother type things — rationing, h– [I think he barely managed to catch himself before saying heating assistance, which would have turned off his listeners big-time] mortgage relief for people who weren’t responsible enough to live within their means, tax hikes, draconian regulations on our automakers, all that. It’s killing jobs, it’s killing your jobs, and if we’d just let the free market handle things, we’d be fine.”
Predictably, this didn’t exactly resonate with the listeners. You can’t train people over the years to not think very hard about what they’re hearing, then hit them with something that complex. All the callers were nit-picking about whether the free market would have supplied enough gasoline for everyone, or why it was so bad to keep people in their houses, and completely missed the first point about how everything is interconnected.
Sam’s was a classical tactic: start with the truth, say “therefore,” and then tell a pack of lies that have little or nothing to do with the first part of the statement. Yes, this is a highly interconnected world — and yes, dwindling oil supplies gave it one hell of a push. But every time I hear the word “interconnected,” I think back to the good ol’ days of the Y2K wars. Among those who were paying attention, there was a pretty solid rift between “doomers” (Y2K is going to kill us all) and “pollies” (Polyanna, maybe a few disruptions but nothing earth-shattering). It would have been easy — but facile — to put right-wingers on the doomer side and lefties on the polly side. As it turned out, there was some weighting in that direction, but you could find plenty of people representing the entire political spectrum on both sides. I met CPR after I came over to the polly side, and he was a bulldog & a major Bush-league supporter. I participated in the endless flame wars, and watched and listened to arguments on both sides, and finally identified the dividing line:
Y2K doomers considered interconnections to be a weakness.
Y2K pollies considered it to be a strength.
Of course, it turned out the pollies were right — a domino falling was caught and supported by its neighbor, rather than knocking that neighbor into the next domino. But we’re not dealing with a fixable bug in a computer’s date programming, we’re dealing with something much deeper and more far-reaching. Fuel shortages have knocked over a bunch of dominoes. Fortunately, there’s still enough resilience in the system to keep things (mostly) upright — most people really didn’t feel a direct pinch until we had to give up almost a fourth of the fuel we used to consume back in Y2K days.
What’s falling, is falling slowly — small comfort to those who froze to death last winter, or died of less direct causes — but it’s up to all of us to make sure those people didn’t die in vain. Go look up that “Coming Together” article that ran on Time’s website last month — unemployed people went around to check on their neighbors, offering to “share the fire,” or brought chunks of a dismantled house to people who couldn’t get firewood for whatever reason. Some lives were saved, probably thousands more than what the media wrote about. Others pooled their grocery money, sent one or two cars to get groceries for the entire neighborhood, and made sure everyone had food. From what I’ve seen and heard, the bonds forged in winter’s cold furnace aren’t being broken now that spring is here — in what’s left of the 'burbs, they’re starting community gardens.
That’s a huge difference nowadays: people are getting to know their neighbors and make sure they’re OK, then work together for something — anything — instead of whining about someone painting their house the wrong color or having too big an antenna on their rooftop. When energy was so plentiful that anyone could drive their own car, nobody needed anyone else and the far-right was able to exploit our selfish streak to their own ends. But now, people know they have to depend on each other to get by… and selfishness has gone out of style. Way out.
One of the major chains down in Atlanta has started a “neighborhood pickup” program — the neighborhood picks an abandoned house and leaves it intact. People pool their grocery lists, and the store delivers to the pickup house. Then everyone walks in, pays the driver, and collects their food. It’s proving to be wildly popular, and the other chains are trying to get in on the action too. (How many people live within walking distance of a supermarket?) A lot of large developments are encouraging dwellers to park their cars near the road and leave the interior streets to bicycle and foot traffic now. You don’t have to convince the kids that it’s a good idea, and the parents are slowly coming along. One of the stories in that Time article talked about some kids who realized a particular geezer wasn’t chasing them off the sidewalk; they told the parents, who ran over to find the guy fighting for his life with the flu. He lived, and the kids were heroes. Doesn’t mean the geezer is any nicer to them, though. :-)
So in the long run, I still have a lot of hope. That doesn’t mean I don’t expect major trouble ahead, or that I’ll get through it personally, but things will be OK in the future for our descendants. Speaking of which, Daughter Dearest wants to “vacation” with us this summer after school’s out. It’ll be nice to see her here again.