Tuesday, October 1, 2019

In defense of Greta Thunberg's awful parents

Dear H,

I read in one of Orwell's As I Please articles that Fynes Morrison, an Englishman back in 1601, said melons grew everywhere in Britain -- a statement repeated fifty years later by the poet Andrew Marvell.  Melons, as Orwell noted, didn't grow in England in 1944.  It was just too cold there, and if Morrison hadn't also mentioned grapes being everywhere too, Orwell was disposed to think that by melons he meant pumpkins.  But climate change is real now and has always been real; and the earth, from sometime around the Industrial Revolution, had been cooling.  On the issue of climate, we think we're the centerpiece but we're probably more like the fleas.  I have my doubts, but probably.


In fact the earth had been cooling so much that my dad was told, in school, that the Ice Age was around the corner, and everyone had better get ready to freeze to death.  Now they tell kids the oceans are going to swallow us up; a curious thing, since we know the Atlantic coast existed during England's melon season (we built things on it), and it still exists to this day in much the same form.  I assume the ice caps and the coastline got larger between 1601 and Orwell, but who am I to say?  I read the Book of Job.  God told me I wasn't there and I believe Him.   The only thing that's eternal, besides The Big Guy, is our tendency to scare kids.
 
This is in fact our job.  We got here right before they got here*, were handed a mess we can't fix, and we have to tell them what's coming.  Or at least what we think is coming.  So we throw the possibilities at them: all our worries and fears, the hysterical news articles and the half-baked apocalypse tales, stories about starving, and freezing, and murder, and war; trying to protect them from robbers, and rapists, and swindlers, and traitors -- from the whole gamut of men, from capitalists like Harvey Weinstein to communists like Josef Stalin; hoping that, armed to the teeth with fear itself, they're going to make it -- because if they don't make it, we don't want to make it.  We've been putting children through nightmares since the moment we could tell stories because we don't want them to live the nightmares.  We read them Foxe's Book of Martyrs, probably the most disturbing "family" book in history, when we were worried about the inquisitor.

The great difference between preparing your kid for life and child abuse lies in the probability of your stories.  And belief in the possibility varies wildly between families.  If it's likely to happen you're a a good parent, and if it's too remote or impossible we say you're a villain**.  Either way the parent ends up playing the role of a prophet; and his limited ability to predict the future, even if he's intelligent, leads to a few big successes and a whole g/d slew of neuroses.

This is why I won't call Greta Thunberg's parent's "child abusers***."  They might be wrong about global warming like they're wrong about Republicans; but in the long run all parents are wrong about lots of things****, and at some point we're going to have to deal with the issue of pollution anyway.  After all, we won't be the first species to disappear.  At the rate we're going, we know we won't be the last.  We talk about warming without mentioning choking.  We believe temperature is the big deal but poison is only secondary.  We flush the oceans with filth and then worry, mainly, that they're getting larger.  We say China is the world's worst polluter.  But who are they polluting for?  We point the finger at corporations.  But who's keeping them in business?  Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old with aspergers, gets in front of the UN and shames us for carbon dioxide -- one pollutant.  We shared the videos and went back to driving our cars.

The whole climate change movement is a fraud.  Everyone expects everyone to change except himself.  The richest nations in the world -- in other words, the nations with the most stuff -- blame the poorest nations for making us cheap stuff.  We made the EPA here, and all it did was send the nastiness there.  Capitalism, in the end -- the bottom line -- meant we'd send our money to whoever sold it cheapest.  Whoever sold it cheapest turned out to be whoever made it the dirtiest.  Democracy meant the rich countries would never really deal with the problem of pollution.  Doing so would mean, essentially, in peacetime, through a slew of serious and strangling regulations, that we'd vote to drastically lower our standard of living.  And I remind you we can't even balance the budget.

I personally prefer Thanos to Greta
There is of course a reason nobody's dealing seriously with the environment.  I believe in freedom, but the sad truth is that liberty and human rights and human sustainability are on a collision course.  The resources will last until we kill life off -- and we currently know, due to the rapid disappearance not just of exotic species, but of things like bees, that we are now in the process of killing it.  We are part of an ecosystem and our love of a good time is killing the system.  We aren't villains, but children.  We love our treats and trinkets and easy living.  We spend money where it goes furthest because at the bottom of the matter most of us are poor.  We had a choice between living forever and living and we chose the latter.  I skirt no responsibility here: by we I mean me.  

I want to apologize here but I can't.  It would mean that too many "harmless" and happy little things, like birthday cakes and Sunday dresses and Christmas hams and trips to the mountains and classics in hardcover and warm cocoa by the fireplace amounted to something like genocide; something that might be true in the long run but I just can't equate in my heart.  And beside this I believe that had you been in my shoes, you would have done the same thing.  I would burn down the world if it meant we could save you, for a few years longer, with a good hospital anyway.  And that's essentially what we're all doing.  The whole economic system, as it stands right now, exists to supply the bulk of us and keep us alive and happy.  If I can't save the human race I at least want to be honest.  We are testing something new here -- a man who blows up the world, but who you can trust.

Your father,
-J

*Kurt Vonnegut, a member of the "Greatest Generation," would tell his kids, the Baby Boomers, when they'd complain he didn't fix the world, shut up!  I just got here myself.  I like to remember this when I want to complain about the Baby Boomers -- that they're only a few years older than I am, that I got here just as ignorant and selfish as they did, and I'll leave with a list of grievances from my own children's children. 

**We say it's going to be harder on kids this time around, but the truth is that today we say the oceans are rising and yesterday we said kids could go to hell.  They're both hot, but one has a fast way out -- and it's the same exit everyone's had before us, so I think things are actually easier.  At least on a psychological level. 

***The chief problem with predictions is that we dream something horrible and because we dreamed it, things turned out tolerable.  Then people living in tolerable things begin to question the existence of horrible things. The best thing a prophet can hope for, in the event of a ugly prediction, is that because people listen it won't happen. But this leaves him open to all kinds of critics.

****This is the nature of genius: that everyone else is against you, at least at first. In this respect it's two steps behind the nature of idiocy -- in which bogus solutions oftentimes appear obvious, and thus always secure a sizable portion of the minority.

Like these essays?  Email me at letterssubscription@gmail.com and start your subscription today.

Support the Letters by sending a gift to paypal.me/supporttheletters or www.venmo.com/TheLetters

No comments:

Post a Comment