Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Farm living is the life for me...

One of the most amusing, and frustrating, parts of the modern environmental alarmist movement is the disconnect between what they say and what they do. Everyone knows dozens of examples, such as Al Gore's vast energy consuming mansions or the multiple plane flights, limousine trips and lavish parties of people claiming to be fighting for the very existence of man against the ravages of consumption, waste, and technology. What they say and do are rather distinctly opposed.

Recently a man named Geoff Beattie, from the University of Manchester completed and published a study about environmentalism and attitudes. In it he looked at what people said about being "green" and what they actually believed and did. He found that many people who claim to be environmentally conscious and "green" are great at talking the talk, but hardly take a single step. Sean Coughlan at the BBC reports:
Researchers, at the university's Sustainable Consumption Institute, made video recordings of people talking about issues such as global warming - looking at how their words matched their body language, such as hand gestures and expressions.

The study found that while people could control their speech to express green opinions, their unconscious gestures suggested their "true thoughts and feelings" lay elsewhere.

"Explicitly, people may want to save the planet and appear green, but implicitly they may care a good deal less.

"Given it is these implicit attitudes that direct and control much of our behaviour in supermarkets and elsewhere, these are the attitudes that we have to pursue and understand and change."
Now, Professor Beattie is a psychologist writing a book about why we aren't saving the planet and is a consultant on the long running "reality" voyeur show Big Brother, so you have to take this research with a grain of salt. Yet it is true that what people say about "saving the planet" and how they live is almost always at odds, if not so extreme as, say, Prince Charles.

It is not unusual for people to genuinely, powerfully believe in something and yet be less than perfectly consistent in their lives. I would hazard that no one lives perfectly consistent with our stated beliefs, let alone what we say others ought to do. It is part of sinful human nature to hold to a set of beliefs, but when things become difficult, to bend those rules at least temporarily. I am a Christian - I've been one all my life - yet I far too often fail to live up to the standards and laws which my faith call me to live by. In fact, it is a basic doctrine of Christianity that we all have fallen short of God's righteous demands, and all are guilty before Him.

Perfect, total commitment to a belief is not required to display faith and assent to that belief. You can truly and honestly believe that we need to pollute less and yet fail to pick up even your own trash every single time. Yet the disconnect goes beyond forgetting to pick up a cigarette butt or a coke can. The abject terror and hysteria in alarmist rhetoric goes beyond "give a hoot, don't pollute." It is more along the lines of "we must totally halt progress and degrade to the 19th century or we all will die a horrible death tomorrow" which is a bit more pressing.

Failing to sometimes follow this dogma is inevitable. Failing to make much of an effort to make even many of the simplest changes in one's life is another issue entirely. It is a fact that the bulk of the people who hold to this belief are far better at repeating what they've been told and spreading the human caused disaster "gospel" than taking action themselves. In principle, I suspect most if not all of these people believe what they say, but in practice, they do not give much evidence of what they believe.

The fact is, I suspect most people who will repeat the "green" dogma are very skilled at remembering and repeating what they've been told, even able to construct their own arguments based on learned information, but they deep down do not actually believe what they are saying. There is a curious disconnect between what they argue and think, and what they deep down believe.

"Green" issues are hardly the only area in which we find modern culture betraying its stated principles. People are very vocal about homosexuals being perfectly normal, a harmless variation of sexual behavior and so on, but when it comes down to actual action, most everyone finds the practices disturbing and repulsive, the suggestions such as gay "marriage" objectionable and voted against, and so on. I've written about this many times before; young people use gay as a perjorative term, an insult. If you ask a modern western teenager about homosexuals he or she will give you exactly the right politically correct lines and probably even believe every word, as far as that goes. But when they are confronted with two men kissing, they go "ewwww" and make fun of it. What they really believe and think is in direct opposition to what they say.

When you ask most people about consumption, consumerism, and corporations, you will get some negative response - sometimes vehemently so. The crass marketing of holidays, the cheap advertising, the soulless corporations, all of it will come to the top with genuine zeal. Yet even the hardiest anti-capitalist will gladly make money on their actions, and men such as Michael Moore see absolutely no problem with making a movie all about how evil capitalism is, then selling it and making money on the movie. This isn't parody or satire, I suspect he honestly believes what he makes movies about, and honestly acts in a manner utterly opposed to it.

This disconnect is a curious one, because it requires the person in question to be able to repeat what they have been told they should without actually believing a word of it. How can this be possible? Have we become a culture of hypocrites and deceivers, of people who don't believe a word we say?

The problem with living up to one's ideals is that inevitably one is confronted with a choice between integrity and ease. If you believe that eating meat is wrong, eventually you will face a time when you start wanting a steak, or are surrounded by people who mock you for eating salad. In time, you will realize that the seed/fungus lump you call a burger really doesn't taste as good as you keep insisting, let alone remotely like meat. It is just easier to give in, once in a while, than to fight the good fight. And vegetarianism isn't exactly a brutal, life-threatening fight to maintain, even if it is bad for your health.

When it comes down to a real fight, like the belief that slavery is wrong or that freedom of religion trumps Sharia law, then you are faced with an even more difficult challenge. Human beings are beset with a basic flaw which makes us give up when we ought to fight, which makes us cowards rather than heroes, and which makes us fall when we should stand. It is a weakness in all of us, one called "original sin" by Christians. That flaw chews at our consciences, making us betray what we hold dear and take the easier path when faced with genuine challenge; not always, but often enough to bring us all shame.

That flaw used to be something condemned and shamed, something cultures, religions, and society fought against and taught us to oppose. Over time, that's changed. It was too hard to keep fighting. The baggage built around belief systems which helped us hold fast and fight that weakness became too much for many to bear. The entire structure of society which pressured people to stand up against those pressures was rejected as inhibiting, uptight, and buzz-harshing. Freedom became defined not a state without tyranny but a state without rules or restrictions of any kind.

It is a sad fact that most of western culture has become consumed by a post-modernist attitude which holds a simple, insane, and self-destructive tenet: truth is relative. By embracing this impossible statement, culture came to the conclusion that what was true for one might not be for another, and all were equally true. It became easier under this mad philosophy for people to "compartmentalize." That means it became easier for people to hold contradictory positions, to act in opposition to stated beliefs, and to think one way and behave in another. It was both true to believe we shouldn't pollute, and true to pollute because only a fascist would try to tell me not to. Because if you compartmentalize two contradictory positions (say, "Capitalism is Evil" and "I Like Money") it is inevitable that the position which is easiest to carry out and brings the most immediate pleasure and apparent benefit will be the one you tend to act on.

The result of a culture that rejected all the old belief systems and their structures is one which became reduced to the most brutish, primal level. In the place of virtue, self-sacrifice, and long-term benefit we find hedonism, self-focus, and immediate benefit. Instead of working for a larger, eventual goal of reward or obedience, people do the least work necessary for the greatest benefit in the shortest time; and benefit became defined as only that which immediately impacts me in the most pleasurable manner.

Yet even in this society there are the tattered cobwebs of a system of virtue. What exactly these virtues are change constantly, but they tend to be based on the left's system of morals. Racism and sexism are bad. Judging people is bad. Worrying about the environment is good. Caring about the poor and needy is good. Opposing the old and the established is good (unless that establishment is leftist, but that's another essay). You can state and even think you hold these positions, yet act in a manner which opposes them very conveniently under postmodernist thought. You can think one way, or even several contradictory ways, and act however you wish, its your truth, your narrative, and nobody can judge you for it.

So people will claim to hold these positions, in order to present a correct face to society. To do otherwise means that people will think ill of you - at least your social group and the peers you move and work with. Because it isn't that society's shame and rules were eliminated, they were just shifted to another, different set. Anarchists believe we can do away with all that, but everyone knows deep down it isn't possible for one to have any sort of society yet no rules whatsoever. The rules and shared ideals are what make a society.

Such a culture is at its essence immature and shallow. It can look like a mighty river: vast and imposing; yet at its heart it is like the Platte, only a foot or two deep. The caring of someone who lives by this philosophy is a veneer, because it can be cast aside at a moment's notice when it inconveniences them or presents a real challenge to another, contradictory goal. Like a child who hasn't considered what or why they do and lacks the tools to do so, many people move through life with this shallow worldview. They believe something to be true, for the moment, until it becomes problematic. Such a culture is like a child who believes sharing is a very fine thing while his sister has the blocks yet thinks that sharing is a cruel imposition of outside authority when he has them all.

We've raised kids to both reject authority and seek personal comfort first... and care about the world around them and believe, even obey authority when it comes to hot button leftist issues. How does a teenager respond to that? Gladly - its what comes natural to children. You can tell a kid to close the door a hundred times, and he'll repeat it word for word and remember it exactly. Then the next time he's busy and thinking about something else or a hurry to get to his X-Box or cookies, he leaves the door open. He knows what is right, he understands what you've said, this isn't a complex concept. He just doesn't care about it that much, and he hasn't developed the virtues he needs to do what is right and remember what he must do even when he'd rather not. Raise kids like that, and they'll be geniuses at repeating the things you've told them, then geniuses at doing what they want.

So it doesn't surprise me in the slightest to find that most people can mouth the platitudes of global warming and alarmist dogma, yet don't really believe it and don't hold to it. We're raising generation after generation of kids to live this way and call it not just normal but proper and superior to what came before.

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