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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Green thoughtcrime

The voluntary participation of thousands of right-minded citizens in last month's Earth Hour is turning out to be not so voluntary after all. I kept all the lights on in my house during Earth Hour (as did many other people in my neck of the woods), and sure enough this Letter to the Editor of the local weekly, The Community Press, appeared a week later, written by a certain DJ Sproat:

Dear editor:

Many thanks to those of you who participated in this past Saturday's Global Earth Hour. Your honourable effort, concern and statement were noticed. Congratulations!

Stirling's performance in general, however, was nothing short of dismal. And embarrassing.

As 8 p.m. approached and I turned out my lights and lit my candles, I was pleased to note the windows in some neighbouring houses also going dark. Excellent, I thought. Good for them! I proceeded to unplug unnecessary appliances (coffee maker, toaster oven) power bar of the TV, VCR, stereo and computer, even shut off the furnace and the light in the aquarium.

At 8:30 p.m. I decided to take my dogs for a walk, so I could see how other people were doing and see how the downtown might look somewhat darker. As we stepped outside, I could see lights in some houses farther up the road. Oh well, I thought, perhaps they forgot or were unaware. It happens. The dogs and I turned and headed towards the downtown.

In some places, you could see the glow of a television. In others, the flicker of candles. A few seemed to have one light visible - perhaps for safety? A number of houses were darkened, but this was because no one was home. Fair enough. Yet, as we proceeded, lights were visible in more and more houses. Some people appeared to have gone out of their way to turn on every light they had. I almost wanted to knock on their door and ask if I could help them find any they had forgotten.

Still, I was sure the situtation would be different downtown. I had faith the businesses of Stirling would do us proud with their participation and show of concern for the principle behind the activity.

Was I in for a disappointment! It did not appear as if even one had made any effort at all. A couple of stores were darkened, but they normally are anyway. Most others were lit up like proverbial Christmas trees, even ones I had definitely expected to participate. External signs, internal lights, the works. One store even had all the lights inside its deli counter fully ablaze. Sure wouldn't want those cheeses to spend the night in the dark.

Our public buildings were little better. Did you think no one would notice? Did you think your interest (or lack thereof) doesn't matter? Do you truly not care at all?

Certainly, in the larger scheme of things, the actual impact of the Earth Hour action on our energy use and environmental impact is irrelevant. That wasn't the point of the event. The point was to make a visible demonstration to governments, corporations, and to each other that we recognize there is a problem, we think it is important, we care, and we want to do something. Evidently, many residents, business people and public officials in Stirling do not fall into this category.

Shame on you.

DJ Sproat

OK, I get it. We now have self-appointed posses of concerned citizens who consider themselves the Conscience of the Community roaming the streets in righteous indignation, prepared to publicly shame their thoughtless neighbours into compliance. I knew it would come to this, and it was for this reason alone that I kept my lights on during Earth Hour. You know what, DJ? It's not that I think that saving energy is a bad thing, but I really resent sanctimonious twits like you (and your ilk in various government agencies & NGOs) telling me that you know what's best for me. Excuse me if I think that the whole Earth Hour hysteria was getting a little ridiculous and I didn't feel like participating in the Global Group Hug. It was voluntary, after all (at least for now).

I agree with blogger Eric Scheie at Classical Values:

I'm not so much into Global Warming denial as I am Global Warming Defiance. That's because the [anti-Global Warming] political campaign is the largest attempted power grab I've seen in my life, and if there's one thing I do know, it's that bureaucratic attempts to solve problems are worse than the problems the bureaucrats attempt to solve. Basically, we the people emit carbon, and they the bureaucrats want to squeeze us and punish us any way they can, and tell us how to live. Nothing in the Constitution gives them such power, but they'll try to grab it anyway.

George Orwell understood how this works. In his novel 1984 he explained how citizens are kept under the thumb of the state by the Thought Police:
A party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone. Wherever he may be, asleep or awake, working or resting, in his bath or in his bed, he can be inspected without warning and without knowing that he is being inspected. Nothing that he does is indifferent. His friendships, his relaxations, his behaviour towards his wife and children, the expression of his face when he is alone, the words he mutters in sleep, even the characteristic movements of his body, are all jealously scrutinized. Not only any actual misdemeanour, but any eccentricity , however small, any change of habits, any nervous mannerism that could possibly be the symptom of an inner struggle, is certain to be detected. He has no freedom of choice in any direction whatever. On the other hand his actions are not regulated by any law or by any clearly formulated code of behaviour. In Oceania there is no law. Thoughts and actions which, when detected, mean certain death are not formally forbidden, and the endless purges, arrests, tortures, imprisonments and vaporizations are not inflicted as punishment for crimes which have actually been committed, but are merely the wiping-out of persons who might perhaps commit a crime in the future. A Party member is required to have not only the right opinions, but the right instincts. Many of the beliefs and attitudes demanded of him are never plainly stated, and could not be stated without laying bare the contradictions inherent in Ingsoc. If he is a person naturally orthodox (in Newspeak a goodthinker), he will in all circumstances know, without taking thought, what is the true belief or the desirable emotion.

Which brings me to David Suzuki. He appears in a series of annoying commercials where he pops up at various times to lecture poor slobs about their wasteful beer fridges or their drafty windows. However, there's one called "Club House" which is truly creepy:

In this video, Suzuki is in a treehouse with a bunch of cute little kids. There is a sign on the door saying "No (Wasteful) Parents Allowed". The kids are all tattling to Dr. Suzuki ("Please - call me David" he tells them) about their parents and their energy-wasteful ways. At one point one little urchin says "David - I have a friend and his parents don't believe in conserving. But it's OUR future!" David kindly replies while a halo of beatific light radiates from his saintly face "And YOU have the power! It's up to you to say 'Hey - remember!'"

Wow - has it come to this? The Suzuki Foundation is enlisting kids in the Suzuki Youth to spy on their hapless parents and report them to the Green Police? Here's Orwell again on the subject:
With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organisations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable little savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the Party. On the contrary, they adored the Party and everything connected to it. The songs, the processions, the banners, the hiking, the drilling with dummy rifles, the yelling of slogans, the worship of Big Brother - it was all a sort of glorious game to them. All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, thought-criminals. It was almost normal for people over thirty to be frightened of their children. And with good reason, for hardly a week passed in which the Times did not carry a paragraph describing how some eavesdropping little sneak - 'child hero' was the phrase generally used - had overheard some compromising remark and denounced his parents to the Thought Police.

So, my neighbours are spying on my house during Earth Hour and writing letters to the editor denouncing my thoughtless treatment of Mother Earth, and David Suzuki is enlisting the little kids in the area to turn me in for Enviro Crimes. Isn't this getting a little out of hand?


Charles said...

I read the same article last week, and had a good laugh when the writer complained about how certain houses had all their lights on without cause.I thought the same as you did; why is this person so concerned with how we live our lives? My wife and I own the Madoc Motel (the little one on 62),and the house beside it. We put all our lights on and did the laundry on Earth hour.Its nice to know we are not alone in thinking that the enviroMENTAList have finally lost their minds.

hunter said...

Yup, we are creating a generation of green spies. Until they get old enough to drive and want that muscle car, not the smart car.

Anonymous said...

rabbit said...

The point was to make a visible demonstration to governments, corporations, and to each other that we recognize there is a problem, we think it is important, we care, and we want to do something.

Perhaps some of the people who left their lights on were sending a message of their own.