Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Looking in The Tea Stained Mirror

I want to sound a note of caution about laughing at the inanity of the Tea Party Movement. Matt Taibi has very clearly eviscerated self-identified Tea Party members in this very thought provoking article.

Those of us outside are nodding our heads in recognition, agreeing that Tea Party members are "..full of shit. All of them." I do not disagree with this assessment, and neither do others. But at looking at the heart of Matt's argument, are the rest of us really that different?

"At times, their desire to withdraw from the brutally complex global economic system that is an irrevocable fact of our modern life and get back to a simpler world that no longer exists is so intense, it breaks your heart."

"The world is changing all around the Tea Party. The country is becoming more black and more Hispanic by the day. The economy is becoming more and more complex, access to capital for ordinary individuals more and more remote, the ability to live simply and own a business without worrying about Chinese labor or the depreciating dollar vanished more or less for good. They want to pick up their ball and go home, but they can't; thus, the difficulties and the rancor with those of us who are resigned to life on this planet."

"The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them."

Two constant themes emerge. Fear of change, and fear of losing what they have. Well I'm going to go out an a limb and say that 99.9% of humans share these basic fears.

For example, those of us advocating (and yes I include myself) for action on the environmental front really want others to do the acting. I'll replace my light-bulbs, but I still want my house and car. We are afraid of the coming enviro-apocalypse, but we don't rationally do anything about it. We leave it for others. I really do not want to change the way I live. I don't, I like my life the way it is. Do you? Call me hypocritical, but there it is. (I have a constant sense of dread that change will find me, and I will not like it.)

The changes many people advocate for are changes for other people to do. The left rails at the right and wants them to be more accommodating, the right rails at the left for being unrealistic. But quite often we are not advocating for the changes we (in the inclusive sense) have to make. It is always others, however altruistic we think those motives are.

And many of us do feel under constant attack. Governments and corporations throw money around like children playing in a sandbox, and those of us in the middle class are constantly feeling squeezed as a result. It isn't hard to start a conversation anywhere with anyone about how you and your family are feeling boxed in. We all feel it.

Fear, anxiety, uncertainty. It is all around us. Now the difference (I hope) for most of us is that we don't overreact in the irrational manner of the Tea Partiers. We constantly guard against the reaction to withdraw into a "Me first" siege mentality. And that is harder then we think it is, when really pressed our first reaction is to cover our own asses, and then lookout for others.

Tea Partiers are already in siege mode, they are cowering in fear at the changes happening around them and lashing out at the real and perceived threats. Maybe we need to look inside a bit more in order to understand how to reach out.

Or maybe somebody slipped something into my morning coffee.


The Mound of Sound said...

It may be a small minority but there are some of us who are focused on solutions and, yes, in some cases sacrifices.

Lovelock refers to it as "sustainable retreat" and, once you get into it, it isn't all that unpleasant.

I got into a considerably smaller house and I find it just as enjoyable as the former abode. I changed the windows and in the summer they turn the house into one giant breezeway. I don't need a fan much less air conditioning.

I've given up on fossil fuel heating. Instead installed a high-efficiency, low-emissions wood-burning fireplace. I get firewood that's the salvaged leftovers from local logging operations. That stuff was going to be burned anyway to clear the land for replanting.

I went from a gas guzzler to what used to be a fuel efficient compact. It's due for replacement but I'll wait for the next generation technology. In the meantime I rarely drive the car, preferring instead my much more fuel-efficient motorcycle. I even use it for shopping trips. After 46-years of riding you learn how to make-do with a bike.

Next up will probably be solar. A team at Western Washington U. has achieved a breakthrough. Basically they're able to harness the entire light spectrum which allows them to capture up to 10-times the same energy as a conventional panel for the same cost. If that works, solar becomes very economical.

This is really nothing more or less than adaptation and remediation. Five years ago I gave up jet travel and I do miss holidays abroad. I just convinced myself that I've had my share of those sorts of luxuries, more than my share. When you reach that perspective these things become unjustifiable. In fact, I haven't been off the island for 18-months, not even for a trip to Vancouver. I have, however, found no end of delightful spots to explore right here at home. German tourists pay thousands of dollars to see the very same things I can experience almost for free.

We've got it good - really, really good. All we have to do is realize just how much we have and we can shed that "me first" mentality that can only hold us back.

Catelli said...

That's is awesome. Well done. There's many things I want to do as well, but like many people, finances are tight for some of these projects. With 90% of the income going to feeding and clothing the kids, that 10% is hard to spread around. (I'm not saying that to garner sympathy, its just a reality).

Having said that, I do see that at some point I/the rest of us will be pushed into a corner of high energy prices/scare resources at some point. The trick is to see it coming before the crunch hits.