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<nettime> Re: delusional no longer marginal/bill moyers (fwd)
Alan Sondheim on Tue, 21 Dec 2004 09:42:38 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Re: delusional no longer marginal/bill moyers (fwd)



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Please send this out. This is what we're up against here and it's a=20
walking nightmare -

Alan


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 2004 20:16:16 -0600
From: Lawrence Sawyer <milkmag {AT} COMCAST.NET>
Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group <POETICS {AT} LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU>
To: POETICS {AT} LISTSERV.BUFFALO.EDU
Subject: Re: delusional no longer marginal/bill moyers

please forward this to everyone you know....
_______________________


"The Delusional Is No Longer Marginal,"
Bill Moyers, upon receiving the Harvard School of Medicine's Global
Environmental Citizen Award, December 10, 2004

I accept this award on behalf of all the people behind the camera whom you=
=20
never see. And for all those scientists, advocates, activists, and just pla=
in=20
citizens whose stories we have covered in reporting on how environmental ch=
ange=20
affects our daily lives. We journalists are simply beachcombers on the shor=
es=20
of other people's knowledge, other people's experience, and other people's=
=20
wisdom. We tell their stories. The journalist who truly deserves this award=
  is=20
my friend, Bill McKibben. He enjoys the most conspicuous place in my own=20
pantheon of journalistic heroes for his pioneer work in writing about the=
=20
environment. His bestseller The End of Nature carried on where Rachel Carso=
n's=20
Silent Spring left off.

Writing in Mother Jones recently, Bill described how the problems we=20
journalists routinely cover-conventional, manageable programs like budget=
=20
shortfalls and pollution--may be about to convert to chaotic, unpredictable=
,=20
unmanageable situations. The most unmanageable of all, he writes, could be =
the=20
accelerating deterioration of the environment, creating perils with huge=20
momentum like the greenhouse effect that is causing the melt of the Arctic =
to=20
release so much fresh water into the North Atlantic that even the Pentagon =
is=20
growing alarmed that a weakening Gulf Stream could yield abrupt and=20
overwhelming changes--the kind of changes that could radically alter=20
civilizations.

   That's one challenge we journalists face=97how to tell such a story witho=
ut=20
coming across as Cassandras, without turning off the people we most want to=
=20
understand what's happening, who must act on what they read and hear. As=20
difficult as it is, however, for journalists to fashion a readable narrativ=
e=20
for complex issues without depressing our readers and viewers, there is an =
even=20
harder challenge--to pierce the ideology that governs official policy today=
=2E=20
One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusiona=
l is=20
no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of p=
ower=20
in the oval office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideo=
logy=20
and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts=20
propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world=
=20
view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. W=
hen=20
ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they a=
re=20
always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivi=
ous=20
to the facts.

   Remember James Watt, President Reagan's first secretary of the interior? =
My=20
favorite online environmental journal, the ever-engaging Grist, reminded us=
=20
recently of how James Watt told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural=
=20
resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. =
In=20
public testimony he said, "after the last tree is felled, Christ will come=
=20
back."

Beltway elites snickered. The press corps didn't know what he was talking=
=20
about. But James Watt was serious. So were his compatriots out across the=
=20
country. They are the people who believe the Bible is literally true--1/3 o=
f=20
the American electorate, if a recent Gallup poll is accurate. In this past=
=20
election, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believ=
ing=20
in the rapture index. That's right-the rapture index. Google it and you wil=
l=20
find that the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the=
=20
"Left Behind" series written by the Christian fundamentalist and religious=
=20
right warrior, Timothy LaHaye. These true believers subscribe to a fantasti=
cal=20
theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers w=
ho=20
took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that =
has=20
captivated the imagination of millions of Americans.

Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre (the British writer George Monbiot=
=20
recently did a brilliant dissection of it and I am indebted to him for addi=
ng=20
to my own understanding): Once Israel has occupied the rest of its 'biblica=
l=20
lands,' legions of the anti-Christ will attack it, triggering a final showd=
own=20
in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are=20
burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lif=
ted=20
out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the r=
ight=20
hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer=
=20
plagues of boils, sores, locusts, and frogs during the several years of=20
tribulation that follow.

I'm not making this up. Like Monbiot, I've read the literature. I've report=
ed=20
on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They a=
re=20
sincere, serious, and polite as they tell you they feel called to help brin=
g=20
the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That's why they have=20
declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up th=
eir=20
support with money and volunteers. It's why the invasion of Iraq for them w=
as a=20
warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelations where four angels 'which =
are=20
bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part =
of=20
man.' A war with Islam in the Middle East is not something to be feared but=
=20
welcomed--an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The last ti=
me I=20
Googled it, the rapture index stood at 144--just one point below the critic=
al=20
threshold when the whole thing will blow, the son of God will return, the=
=20
righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellf=
ire.

So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? Go to Grist t=
o=20
read a remarkable work of reporting by the journalist Glenn Scherer. Read i=
t=20
and you will see how millions of Christian fundamentalists may believe that=
=20
environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but actually=20
welcomed--even hastened--as a sign of the coming apocalypse. As Grist makes=
=20
clear, we're not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or ar=
e=20
beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half the U.S. Congress before the recent=
=20
election=97231 legislators in total, more since the election=97are backed b=
y the=20
religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th congress=
=20
earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential=
=20
Christian right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill=
=20
Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick=20
Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker De=
nnis=20
Hastert, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt.

The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian coalition was Sen=
=2E=20
Zell Miller of Georgia, who recently quoted from the biblical book of Amos =
on=20
the Senate floor: "the days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will sen=
d a=20
famine in the land." He seemed to be relishing the thought.

And why not? There's a constituency for it. A 2002 TIME/CNN poll found that=
  59=20
percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the book of=20
Revelations are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible=20
predicted the 9/11 attacks. Drive across the country with your radio tuned =
to=20
the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations or in the motel turn some of t=
he=20
250 Christian TV stations and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. An=
d=20
you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent=20
prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, "to worry about the=20
environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and=
=20
pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foret=
old=20
in the Bible? Why care about global climate change when you and yours will =
be=20
rescued in the rapture? And why care about converting from oil to solar whe=
n=20
the same God who performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes can whip up=
  a=20
few billion barrels of light crude with a word?"

Because these people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will=
=20
provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, America's=20
providential history. You'll find there these words: "the secular or social=
ist=20
has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie...that needs =
to=20
be cut up so everyone can get a piece.' however, "[t]he Christian knows tha=
t=20
the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resource=
s in=20
god's earth......while many secularists view the world as overpopulated,=20
Christians know that god has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty =
of=20
resources to accommodate all of the people." No wonder Karl Rove goes aroun=
d=20
the White House whistling that militant hymn, "Onward Christian Soldiers." =
He=20
turned out millions of the foot soldiers on November 2, including many who =
have=20
made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.

I can see in the looks on your faces just how hard it is for the journalist=
  to=20
report a story like this with any credibility. So let me put it on a person=
al=20
level. I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a=20
confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it=
=20
about. So I have always been an optimist. Now, however, I think of my frien=
d on=20
Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?" "I'm=20
optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answere=
d:=20
"Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I agreed with the Eric Chivian and the Ce=
nter=20
for Health and the Global Environment that people will protect the natural=
=20
environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the hea=
lth=20
and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't wa=
nt=20
to believe that--it's just that I read the news and connect the dots:

I read that the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency h=
as=20
declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This=
  for=20
an administration that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water =
Act=20
and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and=
=20
their habitats, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act that requi=
res=20
the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resource=
s.=20
This for an administration:

   * That wants to relax pollution limits for ozone; eliminate vehicle tailp=
ipe=20
inspections; and ease pollution standards for cars, sports utility vehicles=
  and=20
diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment.

   * That wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep=
=20
certain information about environmental problems secret from the public.

   * That wants to drop all its new-source review suits against polluting=20
coal-fired power plans and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal=
=20
companies.

   * That wants to open the artic wildlife refuge to drilling and increase=
=20
drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undevelo=
ped=20
barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America=
=2E

I read the news just this week and learned how the Environmental Protection=
=20
Agency had planned to spend nine million dollars--$2 million of it from the=
=20
administration's friends at the American Chemistry Council-to pay poor fami=
lies=20
to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been li=
nked=20
to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their=
=20
use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970=
=20
each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pi=
gs=20
for the study.

I read all this in the news.

I read the news just last night and learned that the administration's frien=
ds=20
at the international policy network, which is supported by Exxon Mobil and=
=20
others of like mind, have issued a new report that climate change is 'a myt=
h,'=20
sea levels are not rising, scientists who believe catastrophe is possible a=
re=20
'an embarrassment.'

I not only read the news but the fine print of the recent appropriations bi=
ll=20
passed by Congress, with the obscure (and obscene) riders attached to it: a=
=20
clause removing all endangered species protections from pesticides; languag=
e=20
prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon; a waiver of environment=
al=20
review for grazing permits on public lands; a rider pressed by developers t=
o=20
weaken protection for crucial habitats in California.

I read all this and looked up at the pictures on my desk, next to the=20
computer-pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age 12; of Thomas, age 10; of=
=20
Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the future looking back =
at=20
me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know now w=
hat=20
we do." And then I am stopped short by the thought: "That's not right. We d=
o=20
know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust=
=2E=20
Despoiling their world."

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy?=
=20
Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain=20
indignation at injustice?

What has happened to our moral imagination? On the heath, Lear asks Glouces=
ter:=20
"'How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see =
it=20
feelingly." I see it feelingly.

   The news is not good these days. I can tell you, though, that as a journa=
list=20
I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth th=
at=20
sets us free-not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. And the =
will=20
to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer =
to=20
those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. What we n=
eed=20
to match the science of human health is what the ancient Israelites called=
=20
'hocma' --the science of the heart.....the capacity to see....to feel....an=
d=20
then to act...as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does.
--0-1260143110-1103608187=:4895--


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