Christopher Hitchens is a man who can cut you yards of Auden from a cloth of erudition. I know this because I asked for a measure a year or two ago when he agreed to a media interview.
He did. So much, in fact, that he charged me with being, “an appalling witch who has climbed inside my head” when I asked him his opinion of the verse.
“How could you know how much I adore that poem, you sorceress?” he asked. “I’ve never even written about it.”
“Because, Hitch, we were meant to be together,” I said. “Now. Call Gradyon and get me a column and a table at Ye Waverly. Then, we shall retire to your place in Bethesda and I’ll let you Jackson Pollack my chest.”
I made that last bit up. Everything else is true.
Anyhow. For months, I told anyone who would listen that Christopher Hitchens had called me an appalling witch. This provoked two reactions. The first was, “Shut up you wanker.” An order, by the way, I have heard sufficiently in my life to now ignore. The second was, “Well, you should probably be pleased. He was in favour of the Iraq war.”
Possibly because I like Hitchens’ writing so much, I keep forgetting about that indefensible drivel. And, even when I do remember it, I am inclined to forgive the former Oxbridge Trot because he has made me laugh so many times. And, I reason that any opinionated person will eventually be given to a case of Groucho Marxism. I.e. He will abstain from any club that would have him as a member. In this case, the glossier Left.
People often read this quote about not-belonging as a declaration of self-loathing. That is, the Club’s standards must be very low if they’d agree to admit a todger like me. As a Groucho Marxist with dangerously high self-esteem, I can’t agree. It speaks to a fear of inertia. It asks: how can I possibly progress if everyone now agrees with me? It says: I’m not like everybody else. And, just to prove it, I’m going to endorse an unlawful, tedious and dreadful war.
I have little in common with Hitchens. Apart from that brief conversation, a crappy attitude and smoking cessation, we have shared nothing. Save for one other thing. I am about to exit all clubs and begin my own Iraq.
Here we go:
I have started to read the words of climate change deniers.
Unlike Hitchens, I am not going to offer argument and elaborate ballyhoo. First, I am an over-employed and under-resourced writer and I simply don’t have the time to rigorously offend my two-dozen readers. Second, whatever bilge some neo-con with a cheap BSc wrote between pulling his dong to pictures of Ann Coulter doesn’t bear repeating. I value this denial stuff for a single purpose: to quote it at green assmothers who won’t shut up about Borrowing the Planet from Our Children.
Setting by, for the moment, that I don’t have, or want, children: WTF? An argument involving children is almost always fundamentally flawed. Leave the children alone. I don’t even particularly like the little shits as they’re noisy and have such beautiful skin. Even so, it strikes me as entirely unfair that they should be used, without consent, as the rationale for everything from censorship to fast-tracked approval of questionable drugs to Saving The Planet.
Children can turn agendas into altruism. In this way, they function very much like Valium. As such, citizens should be required to seek medical advice before having some.
However. I digress.
Back to the climate change skeptics. I don’t like their pseudo-science, their numb aggression or their Rob Thomas downloads. And what about that Tom Harris chap? His writing ticks over with all the spark and precision of a two dollar watch. Any “scientist” who treats his participles so carelessly cannot be trusted with review of raw data.
I’m prepared to believe those many scientists who predict that our appetite for Tupperware can only end in mischief. It’s not that I have a problem with the anthropogenic theory of climate change per se. But increasingly, I do have a colossal problem with people who bang on about saving the earth.
This is for three reasons. The first two of which derive from a hazy kind of logic. The last of which has its roots in my generally bad mood.
First, I don’t think apocalypticism is very good for our health.
Whether your recipe for disaster was cooked by the Book Of Revelations, Ray Kurzweil or Al Gore, it’s only going to give you indigestion.
Now, I love the idea of an endpoint as much as the next dude. I ache, for example, to believe in the singularity. And back when I was a child, the nuclear threat was very useful to me. This absolute deterrence gave me a set of guidelines and a very comforting fear and hope that the world would change with a great bang.
As I grew into the slow chaos of the adult world, I grew into the idea that there would be no final cosmic conflict.
Not to be snarky; but I do suspect that many people, some of them extraordinarily clever, just itch for a climax where good and evil stand in front of each other. This shit is just not going to happen. There will be no Rapture. There will be no man-made Ice Age. There will be no nanobot to climb inside my face and give me the beautiful skin of a child.
In short, waiting for a catastrophic endgame or a delivery into hope is religious, dangerous bullshit. Give up.
Second, we seem far too preoccupied with The Planet to actually give much of a shit about any of the people who live on it. Our compassion has gone entirely green and we have no room to consider things like an expansionist economy, gender equality or effing starving bastards.
Everything’s gone green. Quite “free thinking” people of my acquaintance have become very reflexive when it comes to Climate Change. They’ll swallow any emissions trading crap my government hurls with the rationale, “At least it’s something.” What sort of something? Isn’t it possible that your ETS is just a rotten new scion of capitalism wrapped up in a Won’t Somebody Think of the Children ribbon?
Sidebar: I do hope Gaia decides to be sick on those twits at PETA at some point. The same “consciousness raising” vegans that used several of the world’s most expensive titties to save a few contaminated rabbits from the furrier were busy earlier this year making fun of the Inuit. Seriously. Who gives a flying fuck if the Inuit club a few seals? They don’t have nationhood, dental care or iPhones. Who in their right mind would begrudge these people a few dozen marine mammals?
Green persons. That’s who. It’s All About The Planet, innit?
Third, finally, and irrationally. I fucking hate Earth Hour. More to the point, I loathe conspicuous under-consumption.
Like the use of hemp shopping bags or the acquisition of Lovely Beeswax Candles, Earth Hour demonstrates nothing but our “good taste” to the neighbours. “Green” has been emptied of all significance and become, almost entirely, a premium brand. It illuminates our “lifestyle” better than any incandescent bulb can. It has begun to reflect nothing more than our membership in a well-heeled, candlelit club.
And I don’t belong to those.
I wonder if Wystan Auden ever did.
Given that he was a pouffe, a poet and every inch as grouchy as his aficionado, Hitchens, I doubt it. But I like to think that as he ascended in his (carbon emitting) jet away from another literary engagement, he did think about his membership, however tenuous, in the only club that matters. And that, baby, is the human race.
Even as he hovered high above them, I know that Wystan felt that he belonged:
Another morning comes: I see,
Dwindling below me on the plane,
The roofs of one more audience
I shall not see again.*
* From On The Circuit, W.H. Auden, 1964