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Greer - Alternatives To Nihilism, Part 1 - A Dog Named Boo - Energy Bulletin

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-14-11 12:43 PM
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Greer - Alternatives To Nihilism, Part 1 - A Dog Named Boo - Energy Bulletin

What he or she was suggesting was that the conservation and alternative-energy technologies I discussed in last weeks post were the products of an aspect of American popular culture that flourished in the Seventies, and died a wretched death in the decades that followed. The homebuilt solar panels, hand-typed guides to insulation and weatherstripping, basement-workshop inventions, lively little nonprofits running on raw enthusiasm and shoestring budgets, and the rest of the landscape of the Seventies appropriate-tech scene drew on the same cultural current that made "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" a hit, and also, however briefly, had quite a few Americans thinking about living with a lot less energy and a lot fewer resources as an adventure rather than a fate worse than death.

Its easy to make fun of the excesses and eccentricities of the era: the air of well-scrubbed, fresh-faced innocence, say, that was so assiduously cultivated by the exact equivalents of those who now cultivate an equally artificial aura of sullen despair. Still, the 15% drop in Americas petroleum consumption that took place between 1975 and 1985, coupled with equally sharp declines in other forms of energy use, might suggest that the John Denver fans of that time, with their granny glasses and dogs sporting brightly colored bandannas in place of collars, had something going for them that todays supposedly more sophisticated culture has not been able to match so far. The shift from the one to the other set of cultural themes may have more to do with that difference in outcomes than is often recognized, and that possibility is one that needs to be explored.

That is to say, we need to talk about the roots of the contemporary American cult of nihilism. I dont think that last phrase is too extreme a description. For the last few decades, its been hugely fashionable in America to believe, or at least affect to believe, the cynical notions that all ideals are frauds or delusions, that those who try to live up to them are either posturing liars or simple-minded fools, and that we might as well enjoy ugliness because all beauty is by definition fake. Watching this weeks idols dragged down to the lowest common denominator by yet another wretched scandal has become Americas most popular spectator sport. Meanwhile, and crucially, the notion that the American people might face a challenge, any challenge, by rising to the occasion, much less might reasonably be encouraged to do so, gets dismissed out of hand by pundits, politicians, and ordinary people alike when its mentioned at all. This wasnt always the case, and as this nation and the industrial world as a whole lurches blindly toward a set of challenges right up there with anything in the last five thousand years or so of recorded history, it bears asking why a rallying of the nations will and potential that would have been an obvious part of a response to crisis fifty years ago is so unthinkable now.

Its useful, in making sense of this cultural shift, to remember that there are at least two kinds of cynicism. Theres the kind variously weary, amused, hurt, or icily dangerous that comes naturally to those who have too often seen others betray their ideals. Then theres the other kind sullen, jeering, brittle, and defensive that comes just as naturally to those who betray their own ideals, and makes them lash out angrily whenever anything too reminiscent of that betrayal flicks them on the raw. Its the latter kind, Im convinced, that shapes the mood of America today; the disquieting sounds that murmur through the crawlspaces of our collective imagination, waking us abruptly at night, are the echoes of a profoundly troubled national conscience.

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XemaSab Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-14-11 02:06 PM
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1. .
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freshwest Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Apr-14-11 07:45 PM
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2. Love it, thanks. Unfortunately the next generation knows little about it. Time to inform them.
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