The phrase I use as this article's headline belongs to Bill Moyers. I wish it were mine.
|Journalists' jobs become difficult when questions depart from the realm of reason.|
Moyers was addressing those who had just presented him with the Harvard Medical School's Global Environment Citizen Award. CommonDreams.org published Moyers' full text on December 6, 2004.
Moyers was trying to explain that it is difficult for journalists to present complex issues. Their task becomes doubly difficult when the issue in question seems to have departed from the realm of reason, and when it moves from the edge of society to "sit in the seat of power." He was referring to the supremacy of the Bush White House and the current U.S. Administration's utter lack of concern for the fate of our planet.
President Ronald Reagan's first Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources (make that our environmental envelope) was not important because Jesus Christ was about to return.
Watt said, "After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back." That leaves me wondering whether Christ's return might actually be contingent on total environmental collapse. Watt was speaking over 20 years ago, and things have become much worse (or better, depending on one's point of view).
Moyers' talk hit me between the eyes because I am currently doing two apparently unrelated things. The first is that I am reading a brilliant series in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert, who demonstrates the serial collapse of many societies over the past 4,000 years brought on by environmental exhaustion. Simultaneously, I am organizing and writing a commercial project whose star is Alice In Wonderland, and whose supporting cast consists of the characters she meets in that wonderful world.
A striking aspect of Wonderland is that it appears consistent throughout in its application of logic. (Lewis Carroll was a mathematician.) Familiarity with the text of Alice makes it clear that each one of the players behaves in a baffling, absurd way but, at the same time, manages to justify extraordinary behaviour via "logical" arguments that are themselves complex. If one looks at the world through distorting lenses, one's world is distorted, rationally, and consistently.
A recent Gallup poll tells us that several million U.S. voters believe in something called the "rapture index." This relates back to a curious pastiche of biblical passages that, assembled like a forced jigsaw, show that once Israel occupies the full extent of the Holy Land, the massed armies of the anti-Christ will attack, bringing on the conflict at Armageddon. True believers will rise to heaven; the rest of us will suffer plagues similar to those that once subdued Egypt.
The journalist Glenn Scherer has reported that several million Christian fundamentalists may believe that environmental destruction should be welcomed, even hastened, if it signals the onset of the apocalypse.
Which takes me back to Alice In Wonderland. The final chapter, 12, describes the trial at which Alice refutes: questions from the King of Hearts; a poem offered by the White Rabbit; and demands by the Queen of Hearts for her head to be off. Alice responds that her accusers and the jury are, after all, only a pack of cards. That said, all of the cards in the pack rise up, fly around her face, and Alice wakes up with her head in her sister's lap.
Would that the rapture index were a dream, and the notion itself a pack of cards. And would that I might wake up!
Robert Fripp has been writing freelance for 14 years, mostly in business, IT, engineering and science. Apart from creating, writing and editing IBM Visions for five years, he has been active in television science and wildlife documentaries and spent nine years as the series producer of the CBC's the fifth estate series. Most recently he's completed a four-part screenplay, Edith Cavell, for the Belgian Film Fund. firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.robertfripp.ca