Taibbi was on The Majority Report, another chapter in the continuing saga of “The Whole World is a Scam.” Sam Seder—brand new dad, now of two—sounded like he’d been mugged after the conversation. He laughed at how consistently depressing Taibbi’s visits to the show have been.
Hell yes, I thought, have him back to talk about his favorite novel next week, or something. The poor man.
Taibbi sounded haggard, worn out, seemingly exhausted by what he called “an editorial problem,” i.e. every banking scandal is worse than the last, leading to headlines screaming: “Worst Banking Scandal in History!”—every few weeks or so. No one is crying wolf, mind you. This isn’t a case of journalistic hyperbole. The News is just consistently shocking, wave after wave, each scandal much worse than the one that came before it.
After a few months of this, everyone stops listening, myself included. I mean, what can be done about this bizarre casino world we live in? It’s madness. Sure. But all we ever do, really, and I say this with nothing but respect for all activists, I love you all, but all we ever do is point out the problems and try to shame those with real power into changing things, which will never happen. We’re living in the aftermath of a massive collision: ideology, arrogance, class and/or cultural narcissism—a shit storm—creating a basic inability to admit that a cherished ideology is fundamentally wrong, an inability to change, even while that cherished ideology kills our entire planet.
I don’t know why so many in power often seem so blind. And I’m not entirely sure I believe that I’m not the blindest one of all. Some argue that becoming the President grants you access to a mountain of “Classified Information” and a staff that helps you maintain a daily, 24 hour, global perspective. The decisions you make from that perspective, the thought experiment goes, are doomed to seem nonsensical to even the most literate amongst the “ignorant masses.”
Others say it’s already too late. The race to stop climate change, to reverse it, is over. We lost. The best we can do now, they say, is brace for the impact, because it is coming. Therefore, they rush to make as much money on fossil fuels as they can, so they can afford to protect themselves and their families from the catastrophes their industries created. Screw the rest of us. That’s the thinking of the one percent, some argue. And there’s no stopping them. That’s what some people I talk to have to say about our world. Why bother?
I always thought that was cynical. I always believed that journalists, and writers, and poets, and artists would prevail in the end. When pushed to the wall, when faced with our own extinction, the creatives would let out a roar—wake everyone up, and humanity would change rapidly. That’s our function, we artists—to be the hyper sentients of the species. Truth will out, solidarity, and all that. But lately, I don’t know. Lately, I’m struggling for perspective, struggling with how enormous our social crisis is, with the horrifying big picture.
For example, read the recent article in The Atlantic, “Green Lifestyle Choices Don’t Change the System” by Maggie Koerth-Baker. In it she writes:
Fossil fuels are an incredibly powerful source of energy. They’ve enabled us to build the comfortable, convenient and clean society we enjoy today. And that society has been molded around them. Everything about our energy system has been shaped by fossil fuels. Our homes are run by electric infrastructure that functions best when paired with highly controllable power plants that allow us to create more or less electricity on demand by burning more or less fossil fuels. Our transportation system is designed specifically for gasoline-powered cars. The chemistry behind everything from agriculture to clothing is based on oil.
None of these infrastructures had to be based on fossil fuels, but they were. This fact — not what you choose to do in your personal life — is why it’s so difficult to stop using fossil fuels.
No offense to Maggie Koerth-Baker, it was a great article, a great read, but it left me feeling hopeless, helpless in the face of climate change. And sure, maybe hope is a difficult commodity to come by these days, but maybe that’s just my depression talking, at least that’s what any therapist would say—hopelessly dark inspirations from the heavy rain conjuring images of Irene, of Super Storm Sandy.
It’s been getting humid lately, the air is heavy, the pressure building to early morning, early evening thunder—swollen bolts of lightning jumping from cloud to cloud. The Summer is coming on fast, heat waves soon, flash flood warnings. Another rainy day in New Jersey, the second day in a row—a weird rain that comes in waves like a monsoon season—and my mind is stuck in the mud.