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I’m Uneasy Being Green

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.

Upon request, remedy he offered a good swathe of On The Circuit. It’s a beautiful poem and, speaking as it does of an expat writer lost in American hubbub, it was something I suspected he’d love.

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.

Ugh.

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

25 Responses to “I’m Uneasy Being Green”

  1. Rosa Lux says:

    Nay-sayer or just couldn’t-give-a-shit-er?

  2. zags says:

    Loved this- and i admit i am one of those itching for an apocalyptic climax

  3. kenmeer livermaile says:

    It’s only natural that so unnatural a species as homo saps should fear the End of the World. It was doing just fine without our help and since we are inherently unable to mind our business because we don’t know what it is, we have decided to help the world and even save the planet, and since we are human beings, this of course means war.

    And you know how those end. They’re bad enough when group A wants to kill a bunch of group B and subjugate the rest, but when they fight each other in order to save the planet or make the world safe for democracy, going for each other’s throat in the name of higher moral purpose, then it is only the very real prospect of genuine global annihilation that gets them to stop after a few million dead, a few tens of millions wounded, and hundreds of thousands traumatized & dispossessed (a nasty word with serial double ss’s).

    But if we can just keep busy killing each other and re-rubbling parking lots into decent garden plots, the world may yet survive.

    As for PETA/Inuit: anytime anyone points out that homo saps kill lots and lots and lots of living beings, usually in ways that make the Inuit method seem as gently euthanistic as wearing a condom during hetero conjugation, people get… upset… and go out of their way to sound even sillier than PETA.

    I’m not so sure that does anyone any good. It doesn’t make for quite the chuckle one seeks from silly talk, and 99% of the people I know would barf bitter chunks if they witnessed an actual clubbing, because baby seals are adorable soft white furry mammals, and blood’n’brains with bone bits embedded like chips in a salsa dip, aren’t.

    • helenrazer says:

      . Heavens. The very idea of killing an infant seal (although I do suspect Inuit reserve their bludgeoning for older mammals) is sufficient to make me take to the sofa. Once, as a committed omnivore, I tried to kill a fairly unpleasant looking chicken as a test of my will. Couldn’t.
      This “silly talk” is not to affirm the practice of whacking animals on the head. It is simply to reference that it does go sustainably on. And, it many cases, it does not merit critique by a group like PETA who chose (as per link above) an approach that had all the sensitivity of whatever it is you call the thing that Inuit use for the clubbing of (adult) seals.
      And it’s to point out the affecting nature of a lot of GW silly talk.

  4. Wendy says:

    I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic stories. Not the the show-down, but the clean-up afterwards. People forced to actually look at themselves rather than distract themselves with toys and meaningless social intrigue.

    Except it wouldn’t work that way. In reality, people would just go on and on about how Bertha39 in the burnt-out shelter down the poisonous swamp-waste-river is hoarding all the twigs. And a whole bunch of people would be far more concerned finding who to blame for the way things are than actually doing anything else.

    Or maybe I’ve just been watching too much Hollow Men.

  5. Soss says:

    Yay!
    Nothingh wrong with hating the marketing joke that is earth hour.

    If the peoples’ kids that we are “saving” the planet for are so smart and talented (as the one’s I know are always telling me they are), then they should be smart enough to either sort out our mess, or find news ways to get around it.

    As the title of the famous book says: “Sacred cows make the best burgers”.

  6. Anthony says:

    I like Earth Hour, but not exactly for the reason it attempts to promote. I find it a hilarious poke at how tech reliant we are.

    A party I was at on said day decided to participate in said ritual. When someone knocked over a drink in the candle light, I’m sure you can guess how quickly the lights of an electric kind went back on.

    Also an interesting take on the Groucho quote, but I think most are more inclined to nod towards status quo than progress. That’s why sacrificing one hour of comfort per year in a show-and-tell sits so well.

    • helenrazer says:

      Sure, Anthony. I share your general meh-ness where Earth Hour is concerned. We do hear so much of, “”symbolism is powerful.”
      Symbolism is only powerful if this thing the symbol signifies is, um significant. I fear that in this case, the signified is nothing more than, “My friend and I are terribly enlightened.”

  7. Million Years of Custards says:

    “I am too crabby to care about the six-degree world, I am forty and will be dead by then anyway”

  8. Million Years of Custards says:

    Then away with you to the soylent-mill!

  9. Clive says:

    There’s nothing wrong with reading the words of climate change deniers. We need to listen to those with whom we disagree, if only to gain new viewpoints or test our own beliefs and opinions.

    It’s just a pity some of them are such complete dicks…

  10. muze says:

    What’s all this crap about saving the planet? How arrogant for little minds to think that humankind could kill the planet. Humankind will annihilate itself by making the world unable to support our life and that of many other organisms. We may even hasten the next ice age, which happens to be a natural cycle of this planet. However, over millennia the earth will recover and regenerate and become home to the next dominant species.
    That may or may not include homosapiens.
    Let’s leave some interesting fossils.

  11. Nick Purtle says:

    There are wheels w/in wheels, check out the interview on RNs counterpoint re thorium reactors, they make yr solar cell seem like a cave dudes leggo. PS, heard an interesting titbit bout stylelish do-gooders, that their green cred gives them license to be cunts in the rest of their lives. Cf doctors et al. Hitchens is worthy of comment, as is any journo without their prom king or queen tongue up their lifestyles arse.

  12. Nick Purtle says:

    Pps, nice writing.

  13. Marius says:

    Why stop at the seals? Innuits should club PETA members for their leathery hides, and make skids for their sleds from their bones.

  14. BPobjie says:

    Lovely. Fuck Earth Hour. Raising awareness of something that everyone’s already aware of is somewhat pointless, I always feel. And I haven’t noticed any tendency on the part of climate change deniers to slap their foreheads in sudden revelation when the lights go out.

    Unfortunately I feel I am constantly trying to gain entry to clubs and would never have the self-respect to refuse membership.

  15. kenmeer livermaile says:

    “In reality, people would just go on and on about how Bertha39 in the burnt-out shelter down the poisonous swamp-waste-river is hoarding all the twigs.”

    Agreed. Further, we would later criticize her carcass for being tough and stringy. I can hear it now: ‘For someone as full of herself as she was, she don’t pack much eating meat.’

    “More to the point, I loathe conspicuous under-consumption.”

    It’s true that ostentation can pique one’s serenity, especially when it appears as moral vanity. At 54 years old and with a head of hair most 20-somethings would envy, I sometimes feel in public like the girl in stielletos waggling her needlessly abundant rack before those less dressed to kill or tressed to impress.

    But we’re almost all of us almost always trying to say *something* with our clothes, decisions, general demeanor. Even in our sleep we worry that we’re under-dressed in church. So I urge us to consider that our loathing of high-minded pretentiousness of haughty-seeming hempsters comes from the same social display instincts as their virtuous vanity, and in the end, loathing is loathsome. (Feel free to loathe me for appearing to speak from a self-consciously elevated perch, but I really only strive to stand aside not above, to detach not detract; and definitely loath me for this florid prose. I wear it with a transvestite’s pride in hir flattering falsies.)

    The loathsomeness of loathing is rather a major angle of my point. PETA finger-pointing doesn’t work outside their particular choir, and all that loathing they project mostly earns them the same in kind.

    “And, it many cases, it does not merit critique by a group like PETA who chose (as per link above) an approach that had all the sensitivity of whatever it is you call the thing that Inuit use for the clubbing of (adult) seals.”

    True but then agitprop inherently aims to be as insensitive as possible. I think there is more merit in examining the perceived *effectiveness* of PETA’s logo-hacking cudgel (that’s what I call it) than there is in decrying the seeming insensitivity of their method for shaming the Inuits for clubbing seals. Assuming, of course, one’s purpose in critiquing has at least *some* interest in addressing the fundamental issues for their betterment. (This sounds snarky but is not meant to be. In amusing ourselves by venting belles-lettres bile, we easily become like that which we criticise. I do it all the time. Hypocrisy is my middle name.)

    I think it’soccasionally useful to vent a little steam about high-minded busybodies whose efforts to save the world at best only annoy those who would save it if they could. But I think it’s also important not to let this override the underlying concern, which is that the world on which we live and depend like fleas on a dog is becoming increasingly unwilling to tolerate our fleaish ways, and that how we treat it ultimately translates into how we treat each other et vice-versa.

    The Inuits suffer by association with us and by being a definable culture distinct from our own. I wonder what would be the reaction to PETA working the industrial meat industry into a hijacked, majorly mediated, icon? To do so, they would probably have to depict slaughterhouse workers performing harsh acts on livestock, for we consumers are rarely offended by depictions of us consuming the end product: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GlEgG5BEwI

    Picking on slaughterhouse workers would be like picking on Auschwitz Jews for not killing themselves, thereby ‘making’ the Nazis do it. Lord knows how we’re forced to eat meat in our society, and how the Bill of Rights specifically forbids veganism.

    So, while I feel the PETA ad may have been ineffective( as such agitprop often is), I don’t think it’s because of their insensitivity to the Inuit’s hands-on relationship with small aquatic mammals.

    On the one hand you have the following, which seems for the most part to describe commercial sealers rather than aboriginal subsistence seal harvesting (emphasis mine:

    “The Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada, also known as the Malouf Commission, claims that properly performed clubbing is at least as humane as the methods used in commercial slaughterhouses, and according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), these studies “have consistently proven that the club or hakapik is an efficient tool designed to kill the animal quickly and humanely.” Another study, conducted by the IFAW, an anti-sealing group, disputes these findings, however, detailing “42% of cases where there was not enough evidence of cranial injury to guarantee unconsciousness at the time of skinning, and 79% of cases where sealers did not check to ensure that the seals were dead prior to skinning them.”

    On the other hand, we see this:

    “Canadian Inuits from Nunavut territory have opposed the ban and lobbied European Parliament members against it.[108] The legislation banning seal products is likely to come into effect before the beginning of the hunting season in 2010.”

    Insufficiently distinguishing annoyance w/ self-righteous green-faddists from annoyance with hard-core PETA zealots is as ineffective as insufficiently distinguishing between large-scale commercial sealers from small, local, subsistence level, traditional, aboriginal seal hunters.

    A man with impeccable credentials both as a conservationist and celebrity, Jacques Cousteau, opined awhile back Wiki quotes him thusly:

    “In 1978, Marine ecologist Jacques Cousteau criticized the focus on the seal hunt, arguing that it is entirely emotional. ‘We have to be logical. We have to aim our activity first to the endangered species. Those who are moved by the plight of the harp seal could also be moved by the plight of the pig – the way they are slaughtered is horrible.’ ”

    But, for the most part, we don’t pay much heed, and I don’t much blame us: modern consumer agrindustry is a behemoth, and changing a lifetime of conditioned habit is easier said than done.

    I hope you don’t think I believe you’re “Wrong”. I’m just addressing your modus operandi — wonderfully well-wrought wit — with a similar attempt. In so doing I have failed to be funny, and I feel the shame, believe me. I could do better, and so the blame is fully mine. If it will reduce my sentence (I hope never again to spend 30 days dangling by my participles), I’ll add this lame but true story: friend of mine wanted to open a raver club called Club Seal.

    P.S. “hakapik” = hackerpick. Phonetically, that is far worse PR for sealers than any PETA meme misappropriation.

  16. DexX says:

    Helen, sorry for the off topic comment. I sent you an email via your web form here and didn’t get a response, so I figured I’d try a blog comment. :)

    I’m one of four Melbourne guys doing a new video gaming blog called GameTaco. We’ve been trying to get an interview into every episode (looks like ep 4 might go without) and we’d really love to interview you.

    I read your pro-gaming article in The Age a year or two back and it was rather awesome.

    Anyway, if you’re interested, please drop me an email: dexx@gametaco.net

    Thanks for reading!

  17. ARGould says:

    Thank you for articulating the argument of folks like myself, in words better chosen than any other could.
    In the best from a friend of a friend evidential sequence I heard that PETA kills the most domestic pets of anyone in the US, maybe they could spend some of that lovely filthy money on an adopt a puppy campaign?
    Just gave a friend a copy of “Gas smells awful…” today, It’s a great book, and helped me a lot durning some very difficult times,
    Thanks for the words.

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