Doug Henwood recently recalled, somewhere — on his mailing list? Facebook? Twitter? — that years ago, Alex Cockburn (peace be upon him) had said that if Social Security were to be dismantled, it would have to be an inside job — that is, a Democratic president would have to do it.
Of course Alex was right, as he usually if not always was, and I thought it was rather generous of Doug to mention the fact, considering that Doug was often quite critical of Cockburn.
The reference to old Alex brought out the usual pharisaic chorus — they laugh him to scorn; they shoot out their lips, and wag their heads, as Handel says. (Or his librettist, whoever that was.) Aiiee! Cockburn! The climate change denialist! Anathema!
I’ve had some thoughts here before about ‘denialism’ as a category, which I won’t repeat. In brief, the stigmatization of denialism seems like a kind of thought-policing to me, and I don’t like it.
In the case of climate change, however, abusing denialists seems particularly foolish. I say this as a recent victim (in a small way) of climate change.
Climate change is certainly real, as the denialists would mostly agree, though they would add — correctly, of course — that it’s happened many times in the history of the world, long before there were SUVs and coal-fired power plants. What the denialists mostly deny is that human activity has much to do with it.
Well, maybe they’re wrong — I’m inclined to think so — and maybe they’re right. But what is surely clear is that it doesn’t matter.
Anti-denialists seem to be operating on the idea that denial makes it harder to get nice enlightened policies in place that will slow, or arrest, or even reverse climate change. But this is idiocy. Denialists or no denialists, nothing is going to be done about climate change. Propaganda organs like the New York Times are already starting to speak of Sandy and her ilk as the new normal, and wondering what soon-to-be beachfront property might be worth investing in, once the existing beachfront property is washed away. Dig out those contour maps, folks.
The social order under which we live is simply unable — and uninclined — to cast its accounts based on what’s good for the world over the next three or four generations. Our rulers are looking at the next three or four quarters, in their capacity as steersmen of our institutions, and maybe a couple of decades down the road in terms of their own individual retirement.
This is not a mistake, or an oversight, or a betise. Our economy is in essence a Raubwirtschaft. Old Karl was right of course to observe that the capitalists have built amazing things and invented a lot of stuff, but they didn’t do it for posterity’s sake; they did it to steal a march on the competition, and get a bit more of the plunder.
There’s no way to steal a march on the competition by ‘doing something’ about climate change — except for advertising purposes, of course; greenwashing is thought, perhaps correctly, to make a modest contribution to the bottom line.
Therefore, nothing will be done. Unless of course the social order were to change significantly. But we all know that’s impossible, right?