Monday, July 19, 2004

Vote Wisely, Or Whatever

Here's my latest column for Grassroots Press.

I want to respond to Carolyn Baker’s article, "Why I choose not to vote in the 2004 election," that appeared in the last issue of Grassroots Press. First off, it’s her vote, and she can use it or not use it in any way she wants. She’s in good company -- during the 2000 presidential election, 49% of Americans didn’t vote, and in 2002, which threw both houses of Congress to the Republicans, 61% didn’t vote.

Yes, the game is rigged -- traditionally the choice has been between "corporate lite" (Democrats) and "corporate heavy-duty" (Republicans). Now, with the rightward shift of our once-great nation, the choice is between total corporate control (Democrats) and no-holds-barred fascism (Republicans).

We are experiencing an unprecedented emergency in this country. Not only are the barbarians inside the gates, they have taken control of our government. The upcoming election is probably our last chance to save civilization, as imperfect as it is. (When I use the word "civilization" I am referring to such niceties as the rule of law, and the fact that civilized people acknowledge that there actually exists an objective, verifiable reality, and that accurate information about this reality is as close to Truth as we will ever get.) Not only will I be voting for Kerry (the only candidate capable of beating Bush), I am actually sending him money. For the first time ever, along with millions of other Americans, I am viewing politics as a necessary investment in the future of myself and my children. My pocketbook is open like never before.

I have always considered myself an Ecotopian -- which is to say, I have the idealistic desire to live in harmony with the Earth and all my fellow creatures. As an Ecotopian, I have never been represented by any so-called "representative" of either major party, and doubt if I ever will. Yet the choice this year is so stark, I will without hesitation choose the lesser evil. The greater evil is simply unacceptable.

This country consistently displays such heartbreaking stupidity, it’s hard for me to get enthused about the so-called possibilities America claims to offer. If Kerry gets elected (hopefully along with a Democratic Senate), at least we will have some slight maneuvering room, though it’s hard to imagine Americans making the hard choices necessary to avoid economic and environmental catastrophe. But making such choices is our only hope.

I’m a skeptic about many things, but there’s one thing I know with serene certainty: our present culture of insane consumerism will not last. It will, inevitably, come to a final and definite end. Sooner or later, the global exploitation economy will run out of oil, and debts will come due that can never be repaid. These debts include, first and foremost, our debt to the Earth, our one and only life support system.

It’s easy to focus exclusively on immediate issues, such as "Will Kerry win" or "Will America become a dictatorship." But I have always taken a wider view, and the question that intrigues me most is, "Will the global exploitation economy crash before, or after, the Gulf Stream shuts down?" If the global economy crashes relatively soon, some discipline might be imposed on us, and we might still possibly avoid a lethal cascade of environmental and ecological catastrophes. (This is how the Earth will claim her debt from us.) But once the Gulf Stream shuts down, civilization as we once preferred to imagine it will come to an end.

We are confronted by two main choices:

The first, or stupid option, which now controls our society at the consumer, corporate, and governmental levels, is to live as if there’s no tomorrow. Our national slogan should be "What, Me Worry?" Reason has been replaced by the triumvirate of faith, ideology, and wishful thinking. Like all rich people, we Americans are insulated – (temporarily, as it will turn out) -- by our wealth. "Consequences, shmonsequences! We don’t need to think about no steenkin’ consequences! We’re Americans!" We can buy ourselves out of any situation, or so we like to think. As the tragic, unnecessary, and totally screwed up Iraq War demonstrates, Americans (and especially Republicans) have lost the ability to think things through. We have lost our bearings. We are adrift, lost in the timeless television moment. But like a young child sticking his hand into a fire only to learn that it hurts, Americans will someday learn that there are natural consequences to our behavior. The piper awaits payment at the exit gate. But hey, consequences are in the future, and as we know from our study of metaphysics, the future doesn’t exist! It’s always Now! What a relief! So rock on, dudes, may the party continue!

The second, or intelligent option, would require Americans to actually plan for the future and live within our means. We need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and onto renewable energy sources pronto, like 20 years ago. We need to transform our rapacious, planet-destroying, war economy into something less embarrassing. As skeptical as I am about this actually happening, this scenario has always been my sentimental favorite. More power to the idealists; may they prosper beyond their wildest dreams.
These are exciting times, and the excitement, along with the irony, is already becoming unbearable. Vote wisely -- or not -- as the case may be; it may be your last chance. 


Blogger elpolvo said...


i choose option 2 for 3 reasons.

1) because i don't like to be thought of as "stupid"...

2) i like to be seen as "intelligent" and...

3) the bush administration is killing me

but i'm still going to live in the "now". :-)

great article gordon. keep writin'

9:04 PM  

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