Monday, March 3, 2008

When Are We Gonna Wake Up?

Sometimes I despair what I perceive to be the "state of things:" a corrupt and underhanded national government that ignores the citizenry in order to pursue the interests of power mongers and corporations; a ridiculous two-party political system that is lubricated with massive amounts of money permitting candidates to effectively buy nominations; voters who believe they are making a difference by choosing between two diametrically-opposed, yet thoroughly sold-out major party candidates; a citizenry that is apathetic, dull, ignorant and unwilling to accept the crucial need for massive modifications to our "American way of life;" and scared, car-dependent simpletons who might otherwise consider themselves sophisticated and progressive, yet will drive themselves and the environment into bankruptcy before they'll relinquish their keys and face their oil addictions. That's just to name a few.

Do you know who I admire? Jimmy Carter. Now I don't know a whole helluva lot about the man and I am sure not saying he's my hero or an icon. But I think he had guts and foresight and wisdom to deliver his "Crisis of Confidence" speech. He sure had more chutzpah than any other president I've known since to tell the American people they were in the midst of a crisis. That speech was delivered on July 15, 1979. Has anything changed in the last 29 years? Not much. In some ways we've become worse -- more hedonistic, more gluttonous, more uppity, more belligerent as a society. A good indication of this slide is the simple fact that we've done nothing as a country to curb our reliance on private automobiles as a primary means of transportation.

Carter hit the nail on the head, mostly. But he did say our political and civil liberties would endure. He bragged about an America that was at peace everywhere in the world. Without a doubt, we live in different times.

And he had some lofty goals, e.g. 20% of US power coming from solar by 2000. He had some worthwhile, if heartily ignored, advice, too: "And I’m asking you for your good and for your nation’s security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense, I tell you it is an act of patriotism." Of course, he mentioned nothing about riding a bike. And sadly, politicians in Washington, in state capitols, in town halls still laughingly dismiss cycling as a viable means of alternative transportation.

But not all of them do. That is partly thanks to folks who cry foul when politicians need to check themselves and citizens who everyday hop on a bike instead of cranking up a car. We're revolutionaries, plain and simple. It might not be an armed and bloody revolution, but everytime you leave your car parked (or sell your car or don't even own one in the first place) and ride a bike or walk (or take mass transit for that matter) you are making a quiet, yet bold, statement in the face of a lazy, self-serving society. These are the braindead fulfilling the status quo -- upholding the frail, unsustainable legacy of the Americans who couldn't stomach Carter's reality check, those who chose to usher in the Reagan era of pomp and false prosperity.

We've had our cake and eaten it too for far longer than we've been entitled. I've about had it with the posturing, trite debates and sensationalist name-calling that go along with the lead-up to a presidential election. I want to see leaders who will lay it on the line -- give the mofos in TV-land a mental gut check and make some jaws drop. But that can't happen when the national political arena is mostly inhabited by two-faced shapeshifters. Before anything can happen I believe we need a populace that is genuinely receptive, not some mob of reactionary lefts and rights whose panties get wadded to the point of gridlock everytime abortion, gay marriage or separation of church and state get mentioned. Or who freak out at the mention of an oil crisis. C'mon, man, the oil crisis happened in the 70s ... right?

Here are a couple of ways to create an environment of receptiveness: voluntarily or out of undeniable necessity. As much as my strong humanist tendencies attempt to sway me, I have no faith in the intelligence nor the progressive motivation of the masses -- i.e. the voluntary route. Change will have to come about of necessity; some external need must bear down on the lazy, slumbering party of pablum and petroleum fed. I have the ultimate faith, however, in the argument of imminent necessity. Oil reserves are finite. Demand is outstripping supply. Do people really care yet? It doesn't hurt enough, yet. Necessity is when filling your tank means you can't pay your mortgage or buy food for your family. Sadly, for some families this is already becoming the new reality. But the necessity will transcend class distinctions eventually. How long can you afford to not re-evaluate your daily reality? How long can you afford to not hold leaders accoutable for wise, sustainable solutions to such crises?

April showed a friend the photos of our little date ride last Saturday. The friend's husband was dumbfounded and basically asked, "Why would you ride a bike somewhere when you can drive?" When April told me the story I immediately realized how my reality is completely different. My operative question is always: "Why would I drive somewhere when I can ride or walk?" It's about reality, folks. Reality is perceived differently by each and every one of us. If you never work a muscle it will atrophy. If you don't stretch your brain by flexing your perception of things, much the same thing occurs.

Many Americans are carrying on as if their reality is some sort of happy, whimsical lucid dream devoid of accountability. The alarm is going off, it has been for decades. It's high time for American society to wake up.


bikingbrady said...

When I see the girl next door DRIVE to the high school that is literally out her back door (I'm NOT joking) I hold little faith in people waking up. Any chance that I get to bed the ear of my three kids about being "resource conscious" is never wasted. I just hope it stays with them. Maybe in turn they can teach others...before it is too late...

Andy said...

good. now, read this:

and think of it the next time you're in Super America snarfing down some mini dogs and tornadoes.


Dark Hero

Snakebite said...

Good post. Like it. Well put.