Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat Indeed! (or, Empiricism and Fear)

Jon Stewart, a man whose ambitions I support with a tinge of conscience, has announced that he is going to march on Washington the day before Halloween to remind our elected officials that: everything is okay. Not to be outdone, Steve Colbert has announced that he will march opposite Stewart, protesting that everything is absolutely terrible.

Yes, funny stuff. But there is a point behind their punch line. Americans are afraid. The enlightenment optimism that is one of the most dynamic parts of our country’s heritage has been transformed as-of-late by another hangover of the enlightenment period: blind faith in empiricism. For, as any expert will tell you, the world is about to end and it’s mostly your fault.

One that note, I have a confession to make. I believe Al Gore. And, do you know what else, I believe Sarah Palin. Gore’s math seems quite sound to me: the booming world population HAS dumped thousands of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Despite climate-gate and other conservative groups’ attempts to conspiraize the green movement, it seems self evident, given the number of humans and the nature of our energy expenditure, that the sheer amount of air pollution we’ve created must have some drastic adverse effect on the environment. (NOTE: I’m am NOT supporting the Green Movement’s conclusions, just agreeing with one true premise out of their many false ones).

Ms. Palin’s math is just as convincing. The United States has a ridiculous deficit. There is no way that increased spending will solve the problem. Yes, taxing the rich might put us out of the red by the end of the decade, but what then? If we try to maintain all the federally run programs that the current administration supports, it’s only a matter of time before it will slip out of the black again. (NOTE AGAIN: I am NOT a Tea Party enthusiast. I simply agree with their logical assertion that spending past your resources usually results in debt).

With both the environment and the economy, the math is infallible. Epiricism, after all, doesn’t lie. Put it on a pie chart, a bar graph, research it and record it and the facts are before you in black and white. (Or in multi-color 3-D graphics, if you happen to be reading a news-magazine. [Oh American periodical editors: no one makes catastrophe look as pretty as you do!]) We are doomed.

Yet, what is the real problem. Gore says greenhouse gases and Palin says pompous politicians, but our consciences ultimately implicate ourselves. We are the ones who drive gas guzzlers. We are the ones who demanded a high-price military, education system and social security program. We cannot deny our own greed. And that is the problem with empiricism: that, for all its facts and figures, it can’t silence conscience. The Green Movement and the Tea Party are driven by guilt ridden Americans who’ve been told that political activism can expiate their many sins. Carbon dollars are sold like indulgences. Tea Party members attend quasi-religious rallies where preachers expound like Glenn Beck and Glenn Beck like the preachers. This is escapism at its worst. Responsibility, after all, means beginning the change in your own heart.

So to the Green of heart, I say stop using your iPhone! To the Tea Partier, sell your McMansion! Change your own life, remove the splinter from your own eye, and then tell the rest of us what to do. I believe sincerely in your sincerity. I ridicule not the true principles you stand for. I ridicule your behavior. O, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You drain out the hydrocarbon but swallow the toxic waste. You preach tax cuts for the rich and then become rich yourself. You traverse the world to gain one convert and make him twice as silly as yourself! Trick or Treat indeed!

Ending on a bad note annoys me. Therefore, on Monday, I encourage each of you to celebrate the Holiday of All Saints. If you are looking for the people to change the world, the legion of Christ’s chosen should be more than sufficient.

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