This article is Ancient (archive 2011)

Apropos the Wet Snow / It’s winter in Chicago

A brief break from a more brutal spell this season, but from the window the scene does not seem atypical: The streets are white with salt, an old and frozen snow coats the grass and rooftops, and the sidewalks seem as lifeless as ever. I suppose I look apprehensive from the cold from habit. Some twelve degrees Fahrenheit; “So much for global warming” is the topic of conversation at the local Border’s Bookstore cafeteria. A corpulent and balding gentleman resting his coffee on a closed accounting textbook and his wiry counterpart lead the discussion among a diverse group, regulars, it seems, of all ages, or else a study-group affiliated with the local community college. “Better stop breathing or all that carbon dioxide will destroy the planet” et cetera.

I would have expected the controversy of any debate over the collective response to assertions of global warming’s validity to center on whether the government should respond or let the free-market handle it rather than the validity of the assertions themselves, esp. considering that the free-market argument holds its own in this debate as well as it ever has in any other. [It will not surprise me when the dust clears and if history judges climate change advocates the winner some conservative critic astutely asserts that the debate over the validity of the scientific argument in fact stifled the free market’s mechanism for effectively dealing with climate change, making the case for (unnecessary) government intervention easier.]

But the free-market argument has very little relevance in the debate thus far (except as a corollary to “if someone believes in global warming and wants to do something about it, that is their responsibility as an individual but only as an individual”) because ultimately the policy question has little relevance to the ethical question, which is the center of the debate.

The conservative argument skirts engagement in the scientific debate in general discourse by conflating the scientific debate with the political one or rather conflating the scientific community with the political community in opposition and the authority of the political opposition with the authority of the scientific community, and thus attacks the authority of the scientific community as a proxy for the authority of the political opposition, a purely phatic ipse-dixit that serves only to acknowledge that the debate takes place. Neither side can approach the other’s paradigm with arguments from its own, a corner that conservative discourse has deliberately painted itself in.

The conservative position approaches the argument as if it has already lost in order to emphasize/validate its fundamental axiom that we live in a world/environment fundamentally hostile to our security under a government fundamentally hostile to our freedoms. The debate, the discourse on climate change demonstrates, has already been lost, but we talk about scientific “controversy” in order to demonstrate political conspiracy. That global warming justifies the expansion of government authority over industry and, by extension, individuals suffices to prove it false or at the very least dubious, but, because of the ubiquity of government control, any effort to challenge the scientific evidence in the scientific community will be suppressed.

This is the same manner by which conservatives deal with all issues that they place under the larger tent of political correctness, and their reaction against political correctness demands that the government and its agents respect their right to oppress people with their language by acknowledging the governments ability to deny this right. This depicts the government and its various arms as oppressive.

Which brings us back to the corpulent gentleman in the Border’s Cafe. We see the same vain of humor expressed in Russia during the Soviet Era. Hopeless in the face of government control and incompetence, dissenters laugh at the absurdity of their situation despite its hardships. Granted, this doesn’t reach the level of dissidence that gave us jokes like “there are people who collect jokes, people who tell jokes, and people who collect people who tell jokes,” but the joke still serves to highlight the authority of the party line and the danger of dissent, real or perceived.

‘Under communism, everyone has what they need. That’s why the butcher put a sign up that says “nobody needs meat today.”’ We recognize that we have to both maintain the pretense of global warming despite knowing that it is only a government hoax to justify further regulation and oppression and despite clear evidence that it doesn’t exist: snow, for instance.

‘A Briton, a Frenchman, and a Russian are standing and staring at a portrait of Adam and Eve.

“Look at their calm, their reserve” says the Briton. “Surely they must be British!”

“Nonsense!” replies the Frenchman. “They are beautiful. Surely they must be French!”

The Russian finally speaks, “they have no clothes, no shelter, only an apple to eat, and are being told this is paradise. They are Russian.”‘

In most other debates, conservatives find democrats’ incompetence and lunacy to be sufficiently humorous in themselves. ‘Bad economy? Raise taxes? Hardy-har-har.’ Though as the tenor of the debates becomes more paranoid and less… rhetorical… I suspect this particular tic will spread, particularly if the mainstream/state-run media charge keeps its pace.

Just the same, conservative rhetoric framing itself as an oppressed [minority?] class, has a certain level of validity, insofar as it is their interests, investments that will bare the burden of regulatory costs, and, really, who are we to put the lives of the many before the livelihood of a few [this pun works much better in Russian].