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but we will not stop before collapse itself stops us

depressingly substantiating anecdotal article:  

When she moved to the United States from Germany seven years ago, Angela Neigl brought with her the energy-conscious sensibilities of life in Europe. You drove small cars. You recycled every can, lid and stray bit of household waste. You brought your own reusable bags or crate to the market rather than adding to the billions of plastic bags clogging landfills, killing aquatic creatures on the bottoms of oceans and lakes, and blowing in the wind.

    But, alas, there she was Friday morning, lugging her white plastic bags from the Turco's supermarket, like everyone else, figuring there was no fighting the American way of waste.

    "When I was first here, I brought my own bags to the market, but they would stuff the groceries in the plastic bags anyway. Finally, I gave up," she said. "People are very nice here. It's more relaxed. But the environmental thing is a little scary."

You could have learned a lot, I guess, about the politics of global warming from the lukewarm response President Bush received last week from skeptical delegates at his conference on climate change and energy security. But in the most micro of ways, you can learn plenty any day of the week at the Turco's or the Food Emporium in Yorktown Heights, the Super Stop & Shop in North White Plains, the A.&P. or Mrs. Green's Natural Market in Mount Kisco or just about anywhere Americans shop in Westchester County and beyond.

    And the lesson for now pretty much seems to be that no matter how piddly the effort, no matter how small the bother, well, it's too much bother.

    "I know," said Vicki Strebel, another Turco's shopper, when asked about bringing a reusable bag rather than taking home the throwaway plastic. "I should, but I don't. I'm sorry. I'm too busy. Things are too crazy. If I got the bags, I'd probably forget to put them in the car."

Industrial capitalism has promised its subjects a Life Without Bother:  a life like that of an aristo surrounded by slaves who whisk away every possible inconvenience before it impinges on the Master/Mistress's triumphal parade through this world.  Even if the consumer culture can offer only a cheesy ersatz version of royal luxury, it does offer mental and physical laziness on a grand scale:  no planning or forethought or ingenuity required, we can be as scatterbrained as we please and still function.  

And it looks like we've fully internalised the idea that work -- effort, planning, thinking, ingenuity, labour -- is somehow primitive and beneath us, that we are "better off" than our grandparents precisely because we are more helpless, dependent, ignorant than they were about our basic life support systems.  How else to explain the "difficulty" of remembering to bring a shopping bag to the store?

Epitaph for a civilisation:  It was all just too much bother.

The other day I was flipping through a mind-numbing consumer gadget catalog that had showed up in my mailbox, and my jaw dropped almost painfully when I saw this:

"Smart Shopper" -- an electronic gizmo that "organises your shoppung list" -- you speak into it and its primitive VR does a S2T recognising item names and, on demand, printing out a shopping list on thermal paper.  I think this customer comment says it all:  

This is the best "gadget" I have ever bought. I love it!! It really does make shopping easier and faster. The help site is great, and it was easy to order more paper. Which I had to do becaues I use it so much." -Gwen

Just what the affluent West needs -- a tool to make that essential patriotic activity of Shopping even Easier and Faster.  Wow, I had never realised what a gruelling chore it is to jot down a few items with a pencil on the back of a used envelope and stuff it in my pocket as I head out the door.  And how nice that it's easy to order more paper for the gizmo so you can spend even more money (Mr Kodak was right -- or was it Mr Eastman?)...

And people wonder why the elderly prematurely lose their memorisation and mental organisation faculties (from disuse, if you ask me) -- and then they market little gadgets like this:  Memory Trainer so that you can "improve memory and brain efficiency."  On the one hand we sell you the tools of mental atrophy, and on the other hand we sell you the tools of artificial stimulation.  Hey, it's a win-win situation.

The GNP, the GNP, the measure of our wealth --
infallible barometer of nations' economic health!
emerging countries all desire to raise that magic figure higher,
economists as one aspire to boost the mighty GNP!

so here's the plan:  abuse your land, exhaust the ancient soil --
buy some petrofertilisers, what the heck, there's lots of oil!
that makes things worse, now you need more, but every sale ups the score,
and what do you think farming's for, if not to boost the GNP?

half your population can be dying by degrees
of accident and murder and industrial disease;
their aches and chills and doctors' bills, the little pills they take until
the lawyers charge to read the will, it all inflates the GNP!
 -- Unfinished lyric, 1996 or so, by yrs truly

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Oct 1st, 2007 at 08:56:53 PM EST
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