Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's the Climate Stupid

We are a culture that has been denied, or has passively given up, the linguistic and intellectual tools to cope with complexity, to separate illusion from reality.

Today cinematic, political, and journalistic celebrities distract us with personal foibles and scandals. They create our public mythology. Acting, politics, and sports have become, as they were in Nero’s age, interchangeable. In an age of images and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we neither seek nor want honesty or reality. Reality is complicated. Reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle its confusion.

Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

There are less than 70 days to go to the Copenhagen Conference, perhaps humanity’s last chance to come up with a viable solution to avoid catastrophic climate change. Yesterday, the US Senate made public its plan to cut green house gas emissions by 20% by 2020, using 2005 as a baseline. In the UK, British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced his intention of making available $100 billion to help under-developed countries reduce their emissions.

In Canada, we are treated to the Denis Codere show. This week the nation focused its attention on the loose-cannon antics of the Liberals former Quebec Lieutenant who had resigned, claiming that he had lost the moral authority to do his job, and, what the Quebec media loves to hear, his claim that the Liberal Party is being run out of Toronto at the expense of Liberals in Montreal.

Morevover, instead of being present in Parliament to cast his vote on a vote of non-confidence that could bring down the Stephen Harper led Conservative government, he opted to miss the crucial vote in order to attend the taping of Tout le Monde en Parle, the most popular celebrity television talk show in Quebec that has a regular audience of Super Bowl proportions.

Likewise, the most popular newspaper in Montreal publishes on its front page the results of a poll which shows how the Liberals are experiencing, according the head-line, a brutal drop in the polls.

It must have been a boring week. Never mind the economy has tanked. Forget that negotiations leading up to Copenhagen have stalled and Canadian politicians, being in a state of perpetual election, have absolutely nothing to bring to the table.

Instead, we should focus out attention of the personal narrative of Michael Ignatieff, betrayed by his lieutenant and facing comparisons to his weak predecessor at the helm of the party. How will he manage? Will the Conservatives take advantage of his perceived weakness and call an election, hoping to find that elusive majority? What will happen to little Denis? Will he keep his seat or will he, like the former leader of the opposition in Quebec's National Assembly, Mario Dumont, get his own television program?

Essentially, we are being treated to what Benjamin DeMott calls “junk politics.” It does not demand justice or the reparation of rights. It seeks to divert attention away that which is important, and the result is that nothing changes—“meaning zero interruption in the processes and practices that strengthen existing, interlocking systems of socioeconomic advantage.”

So what if we don’t act to make the essential changes to the way we live and we scorch the planet in the process. Pity those passengers of the Titanic that only had an orchestra to listen to while the ship was sinking—we can watch our own disaster unfold with the brilliance of HD.

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