Untenable Options

It would beggar rational thought to deny that mega-industry has done damage to the earth’s climate.

It would also beggar rational thought to deny that mega-government has done damage to the earth’s people.

Nobody has proved that “global warming” is occurring, and many are suspicious of the agencies claiming that it is, as the current scandal about record keeping in England demonstrates.

That may explain why the term global warming seems to be fading away and climate change is gradually replacing it.

Yet the claims of global warming and climate change are dream claims for those who want an abstract morality. I refer, of course, to Hollywood stars, media pontificators, and government officials.

And the people who rely on them.

What I mean is simple. For most people, morality is a question of how to live day to day with their families, neighbors, and work associates.

When you are a star, reporter, or politicians, you have great name recognition and you have influence. The need to validate that influence cannot be escaped as it is woven into the soul.

But stars and politicians in particular are not known for their private morality. To the common herd (folks like me), the idea of being led and governed by people who don’t keep their promises, don’t feel a need to deny themselves, or otherwise disregard the honor of those they deal with, raises concerns.

The same sort of problem arises in gigantic corporations. The people leading them have a certain star quality about them. They are the masters of the universe, transcending the bourgeois morality of the rest of us who are hung up on things like keeping promises and being reliable.

So they experience a tension. They want desperately to be honorable people. But so many of them (and the many exceptions are to be lauded for their integrity in terribly seductive settings) cannot keep their pants on and their hands in their own pockets and they can’t resist the need to be thought highly of by the great abstractions: the audience (make it large and devoted please), the voter, the customer.

In other words, their concrete day to day neighborly morality (apart from being charismatic and nice) leaves so much to be desired (even by their own souls) that they need to turn to something else to show they are “good.”

To that end they need, first of all, a relativistic moral culture. Then, within that relativistic culture, they can easily establish a parallel morality for their public lives –  an abstract morality.

What I mean by abstract morality is that it has to do with symbols and numbers and not their neighbors or the earth under their feet.

They love concepts like “global citizenship” because they borrow value and meaning from other concepts but carry no meaning of their own. In this case, for example, the term citizenship is borrowed from the ancient concept of belonging to a community.

But citizenship is granted by a governing body, such as the Roman Senate or the American courts. By making it global, it becomes a mere sentiment.

Or worse. It could be that some of them actually intend to establish a global government and to give citizenship to some and not to others. Can you imagine a setting that would guarantee a more complete tyranny?

At present, in any case, there is and can be no such thing as global citizenship. It is a merely abstract concept, driven by symbols and numbers (any global governing body would govern entirely with statistics for the simple reason that there would be no other way to do so).

Global warming plays into this same mentality. Nobody has time to love their neighbors any more, so they get about loving the planet. Some have even given her the status of a goddess. What a relief that must be.

Now I can not only ignore my neighbor, I can condemn him for not being as devout as I in the preservation of the mother of us all.

And so the tables are turned. Those who believe that the world turns on love because love embodies itself in concrete acts of kindness, fidelity, devotion, self-sacrifice, patience (all sorts of things that are and require virtue and form) are displaced by those who believe that love is a wonderful feeling – or something.

In fact, if you pay attention it becomes rather obvious that love, to the star, politician, and, to a lesser extent, the reporter, is simply a tool to gain more recognition and praise.

When Paul McCartney reflected on the impact of the Beatles on our culture he suggested that, because they had sung about love, that can’t be bad.

As much as I like and admire Paul McCartney, this was not a wise statement. Redefine love and you have misled souls.

That is where we stand today.  Everybody wants to change the world, make a difference, even save the world.

Global warming and climate change provide an outlet for that combination of fears (fear of annihilation, fear of irrelevance, fear of meaninglessness) while providing a pleasing opportunity to feel contempt for the neighbor who doesn’t separate his plastic from his paper.

Abstract morality, abstract love, abstract crisis: too perfect for those who don’t want to contend with the soul-forming, nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching task of keeping a vow to someone who doesn’t fulfill their fantasies.

God loved the world. That gives us the freedom to love our neighbors and leave the big stuff to Him.

So now we are faced with untenable options. Because of the godless carelessness of the giant industries to the stewardship of their local resources, pollution is an undeniable problem throughout the world.

The solution we are offered is an even bigger multi-government bureaucracy who have as much chance of healing the planet as Hollywood does of healing the family.

The crises of the 21st century is a crisis of scale and of neighborliness. There are no solution to these crises apart from a return to neighborliness and smaller scales.

And that may not be possible for the simple reason that it is of the nature of democratic forms of government to seek ever more centralized rule.

But if it is not possible, that simply does not mean that we should not do it. As I said above, God loves the world. That lets us stop wasting our time trying to make a difference, change the world, and all that abstract nonsense that drives marketing plans.

We can love our neighbors and love the earth beneath our feet and leave the rest to someone who can handle it.

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3 Responses

  1. Right, and there’s no harm in that on this scale. One of the primary ways that we retain information is by organizing everything into categories: I’d say it is human nature, but that feels like an understatement.

    That being said, (and as you said) exceptions are always present. Its generally best that way, I believe, despite the amount of strife it may cause. After all, if people felt no stress, they’d probably do nothing at all.

    Its worth noting that this could bring us into dangerous territory regarding generalizations, but most folks recognize that. I suppose that it comes down to moderation.

    That is very true though, that pattern flow through groups with little resistance. People are more similar than we like to acknowledge, sometimes..

  2. I’m not religious myself, but that aside I think you make some very interesting points here and you are incredibly well-versed. You clearly see through the psychology of many people, but it seems to me that your insight is a bit final and definite. That, in my mind, is not quite bait that I can bite.

    Very intriguing. I’ll be back.

    • I like the way you put that. If you take my comments to be final and definite, in the sense that I think it applies universally across the classes I mention, I would strongly urge you not to take that bait.

      I was speaking in types. Numerous exceptions can be found within any of these groups and only the most crass and superficial of them could possibly tidily fit into the description.

      But because these characteristics define the type, we can see the behavior patterns flow through the groups with little resistance.

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