Climate and Clarity
From TomDispatch.com, a post of direct relevance to the warning I just posted:
All summer, there were screaming weather headlines and stories, in part because of the worst drought the U.S. has seen in more than half a century — a continuing drought that is now threatening the winter wheat crop. (“Much of Kansas and Oklahoma, the largest producers of the hard red winter wheat variety used to make bread, are in severe to extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.”) This is a pocketbook issue, globally and nationally, the sort of thing that should be on minds everywhere. After all, any intensification of drought in breadbasket areas of planet Earth ensures rising food prices. And by the way, although it didn’t get much attention, this year tied with 2005 for the warmest September on record globally, while 2012 is in the running for warmest year ever in the continental United States.
Not surprisingly, polls show that Americans — especially drought-stricken Midwesterners — are more aware of climate change than they have been in quite a while and that “undecideds” are distinctly interested in what the presidential candidates might think about our globally warming future. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Which makes this election season some kind of miracle in reverse. After all, we made it through four “debates” with 60 million or more viewers each, and not a single one of the four moderators asked a question about climate change, nor did a presidential or vice-presidential candidate let the phrase pass his lips or bring the subject up. That in itself should stun you. After all, it’s a subject that’s at least been mentioned every debate season since 1988. Consider this as well: in our never-ending election season, as far as I know, there has been but a single significant reference to the subject by any of the candidates, presidential or vice-presidential, between the conventions and today. That was, of course, Mitt Romney’s mocking reference in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention to a supposed Obama promise to slow the “rise of the oceans.”
That’s it. One passing laugh line. The end. Hundreds of thousands of words on events in Benghazi, Libya, and just that one sarcastic sentence on climate change. Someday people will surely look back on this election season with a kind of nightmarish wonder at the fear and denial our leading politicians (who knew better) exhibited in the face of the power and financial clout of the energy industry and its lobbyists. It will be a chapter of shame in the annals of greed, a subject TomDispatch regular Rebecca Solnit takes up today. Tom
Our Words Are Our Weapons
Against the Destruction of the World by Greed
By Rebecca Solnit
In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty was accompanied by “the rectification of names,” a ceremony in which the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again. It was like a debt jubilee, only for meaning rather than money.
This was part of what made Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign so electrifying: he seemed like a man who spoke our language and called many if not all things by their true names. Whatever caused that season of clarity, once elected, Obama promptly sank into the stale, muffled, parallel-universe language wielded by most politicians, and has remained there ever since. Meanwhile, the far right has gotten as far as it has by mislabeling just about everything in our world — a phenomenon which went supernova in this year of “legitimate rape,” “the apology tour,” and “job creators.” Meanwhile, their fantasy version of economics keeps getting more fantastic. (Maybe there should be a rectification of numbers, too.)
Let’s rectify some names ourselves. We often speak as though the source of so many of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I’m not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the resultant starving children, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.
Calling lies “lies” and theft “theft” and violence “violence,” loudly, clearly, and consistently, until truth becomes more than a bump in the road, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage, whether it’s misogyny or racism or poisoning the environment. What protects an outrage are disguises, circumlocutions, and euphemisms — “enhanced interrogation techniques” for torture, “collateral damage” for killing civilians, “the war on terror” for the war against you and me and our Bill of Rights.
Change the language and you’ve begun to change the reality or at least to open the status quo to question. Here is Confucius on the rectification of names: . . .