Naturally I have nothing to say to Davis Guggenheim, director of Al Gore’s convenient falsehood An Inconvenient Truth, not after he stole Elisabeth Shue away. But watching Al Gore mug at the Oscars (mugging all the other poor schlub documentarians is what I mean) I realized I have a thing or two to say to that creep. In the geist of Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), let us dub them Thing One and Thing Two.
These are theories to explain how the pros get conned by this sort of baloney. Yes, I know every sort of snake oil has customers. Humanity has a persistent gullible streak. Perhaps reality is too confining. It’s like the appeal of gambling, hoping to bypass the usual rules of cause and effect. Either that or the follower mentality kicks in. The wonderful wizard will lead you to the buried treasure.
All true, part of the standard fare of everyday life. No big breakthrough. And I say that as a man who just ingested a pulpy mess of orange goop made by the Ultimate Juicer-Grinder-Masher-Basher-Lawnmower I bought for $29.99 from the Shopping Network. But global warming is reaching a broader audience of mostly non-religious people, for which I offer those two — possibly complimentary — theories.
Thing One speaks to some human intuition about hellfire and damnation. It might be a truth implanted in the soul that surfaces atavistically when one is not being all one can be. Or it might be a learned response, rooted in pagan warnings about malevolent willful spirits and religious warnings about moral accountability. Either way, mankind is always looking over its shoulder, waiting for the next shoe to drop.
It is even arguable the experience of disaster itself breeds fear of future disaster. Past hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, avalanches, tsunamis and tornadoes impress upon the psyche a sense the earth is an unpredictable place. Terrible things happen randomly. If only we could be warned. The next move, by logic, is to look for warning signs. The next move, by panic, is to project warning signs where none exist. One opinion in the Talmud says the Tower of Babel was built by people who wanted to launch a first strike against God before He could loose another flood.
Most likely it is a religious impulse, either hard-wired into the soul or taught over generations. In an ultimate irony, Gore, Guggenheim and their gory gaggle are seeking out a fire-and-brimstone preachment to place limits upon their lives. Resistant to the notion of religion but drawn to its rhetoric, they are racing ahead of the waves of lava rolling down from a secular volcano. Something to consider: had Pat Robertson publicly announced 20 years ago that a warming globe would consume mankind for its sins, he could have insulated us forever against liberals accepting such a notion.
Thing Two speaks to some human intuition about heaven and paradise. Here, too, this might be preprogrammed by an Almighty Creator. Or it might be the cumulative effect of millennia of religious teachings. Howbeit, clearly mankind has some intrinsic expectation of a state of bliss without work.
The Jewish theology which first taught this idea is straightforward. It says this world is a place where payment is given specifically for work. A person can only achieve rudimentary survival if he works for his subsistence. Beyond that, there may be opportunities to work for wealth, too. Almost without exception, reward in this world is contingent upon labor. This is a microcosm of a larger scheme, in which good deeds in this world are the toil which produces reward in heaven.
The result is that heaven is experienced as a place for reward without actual work. Not quite accurately, of course, because the work was done earlier. Still, there is a human yearning for that end stage of basking without tasking. To stimulate ourselves in that direction, we create miniature versions of this concept. You work hard for five months, we give you a month’s vacation with pay. You sweat for six days a week, you buy yourself a Sabbath. You lecture for six years, you get to enjoy a sabbatical.
The irony is that when people throw off the shackles of religion they cling to the notion of paradise. If it can’t be in a world beyond this one, it has to be here. Thus you get the modern Republican Party leaning religious, believing government’s highest calling is to protect the work-to-prosper scenario, while Democrats lean secular and try to use government to create prosperity without work.
Then the Dem types are beset by persistent paranoiac fear of disaster encroaching upon their heaven on earth. After all, if it’s paradise, you have to get thrown out after awhile. You hear that, Guggenheim? I guess I’m talking to you after all.