(Reprinted from 2005) I have this theory... humans have a finite capacity for psychic pain and outrage. If you're poor and living in Calcutta, the psychic pain you feel may be focused on the fingers falling off your leprous hands and the fact that you have not eaten in a week. If you live in the US, are the beneficiary of the labors of your antecedents, and living a comfortable life without survival needs, then YOU are the target of the biggest American growth industry... those that seek to exploit that vast reservoir of human psychic pain once used for leprous fingers and where the hell am I gonna fee my family tomorrow... and the misplaced guilt of having plenty.... on issues like animal or vegetable rights or stopping the US from producing energy, housing, or infrastructure. It is Self Hate and it is a psychological malady, and largely confined to the haves of the world that have been removed from the labor connected to the creation of their wealth or the infrastructure that supports their very soft lives, in the whole scheme of things. Of course, it is better than worrying about your fingers falling off.
The Environmental Ethic is a GOOD ethic. It has its roots in Muir and the writings of Aldo Leopold, who identified the need to recognize the impact that humans have on the Earth and its habitats. Their call was to create an awareness and an Ethic for this value, similar to that which we have for Profit and Religion to enjoy the myriad of good that came from properly adopting an honorable Ethic. That the Environmental Ethic has been absorbed strongly by our society and incorporated as the law of the land in the last 50 years is without any doubt. We have been the beneficiaries of the real good provided by that Ethic over the last 40 years.
What, then, is the problem? The Environmental Ethic has begotten a MAJOR industry that fights for the increased influence of that ethic over all others. Like any industry or individual, survival is its paramount goal. This industry manufactures and sells Fear of Potential Catastrophe to its market comprised of guilt-ridden, conspicuous-consuming SUV-driving, urban or suburban dwellers who rarely see nature. Its workforce? Our poorly-educated youth; the product of our disturbingly rotten educational system ruled over by union members who value mediocrity over excellence, who don't teach our children to think or reason, but rather indoctrinate our children with concepts about right and wrong, good and evil, that would do Lenin proud. Since our courts have decided that our societal foundations of religiously derived ideas of good and evil are constitutionally non grata in schools, and further derided by our intelligentsistas as corrosive and wrong (what is wrong, anyway?), the embodiment of evil promulgated by those to whom we trust our children and the future of our society is now capitalism, corporations, industry, profit, employment, and the work ethic. The courts are silent on teaching pure balderdash as gospel, apparently, but that's what you get when you get Derridian DeConstructionists in the court system. Sure glad we have turned the keys of society over to attorneys. Good stewards, they!
I, for one, would prefer my kids not adopt eco-warrior monikers like Walnut or Rain and sit around singing "Gentle Warrior" with other fellow travelers. 'Look Who's Coming to Dinner' at my house wouldn't be my daughter with Sidney Poitier, but with Walnut.
Don't think we have a national religion? We do... it even has its own department! It is called the EPA, and it enforces the religious law proposed by churches like the Natural resource Defense Council, presided over by their Lawyer Priests. When called upon to advocate for Energy Security, a senior DOE official told us "We are forbidden by law to advocate". We forgot to ask whether that law was DOE specific or did someone forgot to tell the EPA? Like food or heroin, any one of our Ethics is poisonous in its pure form, whether it be the Environmental Ethic, the Religious (or Secular Humanistic) Ethic or the Profit Ethic. Unlike the others, the Lawyer Priests of the Environmental Ethic have declared war on the other balancing Ethics. They believe they have the one TRUE Ethic. Of course, it is more likely that they are closer akin to the Borgia Popes who could care less about the Ethic, but are just milking that church for the power and wealth they can derive from it.
I was reminded of all of this while driving back from the funeral of my 90 year old great aunt in Val Verde County a couple of years back. She was a tough woman... a childless school teacher who loved her family and despised weakness. She was born in a time where most people had nothing, and, for most, family survival depended upon back breaking work; a world where most families built their own homes, and grew their own food. Her husband, my great uncle, was a kind man whose mother was stowed, at age 3 along, with her brother, under the floorboard of her family's Refugio County ranch house and warned not to cry as Cortinistas, Mexican bandits associated with the South Texas and Northern Tamaulipas strongman Juan Cortina, slaughtered the rest of her family 6" above her head. His father, her husband, died when he was 4 years old, and their family ranch taken away by the man his mother married shortly after being widowed who stripped all of her assets and gave them to his children.
It was a tough, strong family, or at least the women were... like a McMurtrey novel. Weakness was just not tolerated. Shortly before she died, my great Aunt described how she did not care for the new, young Presbyterian minister in her church who would soon preside over her funeral. She thought him weak... "wishy washy" was how she described him... in his faith and in his demeanor. Hugely practical, my people were not strongly political, they believed in doing for themselves and had a strong belief in the work ethic. They gave freely to others when they had extra. I remember my own grandmothers' anger when, after my grandfather died, his safety deposit box contained IOUs from dozens of people to whom he had loaned money over a 50 year period, many of those unpaid IOUs dated during times when his own family had very little for themselves.
I respect these people. Their expectations and values are my guides, not those advanced by worthless teachers afraid to be tested for competency, nor by the Lawyer Priests who preside over the huge environmental industry-church who shrink-wrap package a set of bogus values and fears for modern guilt-ridden consumption. Grandaddy, Abuelita, Aunt and Uncle, I miss you and I thank you.