Riff Raff, by Michael Tilley
Editor’s note: This essay first appeared Aug. 1, 2009. It runs here again because of Earth Day and we believe recycling an essay will help save the planet.
The urge to save humanity is almost always a false-face for the urge to rule it. – H.L. Mencken
Recently toured several of the fine museums in Chicago. The city of the big pizza is second only to Washington D.C. with respect to the availability of museums. And traveling with a 9- and 6-year old is especially rewarding as they see dolphins, dinosaur fossils and historic treasures for the first time.
The unpleasant surprise of the museum visits was in discovering the pervasive propaganda of man-made global warming/climate change used to ensconce many exhibits. It’s not enough to simply learn about the habitat of the giant Vietnamese catfish, there must be a lesson about what man is doing to damage said habitat.
For the first few in-your-face exhibits describing man’s vicious damage, an attempt was made to explain to the 9-year old that some of this propaganda was nonsense. But the exhibits continued and the politics of global warming/climate change became so ubiquitous that continued explanations proved exhausting.
Apparently, us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-raping Americans are not the kind of folks you’d want to invite over to your planet for the weekend. We’d spill oil in the kitchen, defecate in the closets and eat the house pets.
You, Kind Reader, should know that we are overfishing. We are killing coral. We are putting dangerous chemicals in the water. Polar Bears are living on smaller and smaller patches of melting ice because we are driving larger and larger SUVs. We suck.
And here you thought you’d merely spent the weekend with your butt in the recliner sipping iced tea and watching NASCAR and The Military Channel. No sirree. You and I have damaged the earth’s “water pulses.” The damaged pulses result in big floods and hurricanes. There were no big floods or hurricanes until we built Hoover Dam and began pouring battery acid and french fry grease into the oceans. We suck.
Speaking of oceans, LEAVE THEM ALONE. Don’t even go near them. Desalinization is bad because it encourages people to locate in “fragile coastal areas.” And the big salt-sucking-filtering pumps harm sea creatures.
Each time you wash your hands with antibacterial soap you are destroying the ecosystem. You, you big meanie, are doing your part to “leave our mark on water and the life it supports.” Shame on you.
It’s not just us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-raping Americans who are doing this. Abusing Mother Earth began with Chinese rice farmers back in 221 BC who altered the flows of rivers and streams because they — and I’m paraphrasing from the exhibit language — wanted to eat.
Speaking of rivers and streams, LEAVE THEM ALONE. Don’t even go near them. Did you know that 47,000 large dams were built around the world in the past 50 years? We are a bunch of dam-happy people. We suck.
“Will future generations regret the social and environmental costs?” noted the rhetorical interrogative in big letters above an exhibit showing how removing a dam also is dangerous because it then moves tons and tons and tons of collected sediment down the river. We’re doubly bad people for building a dam that does damage when it stands and does damage when it is removed. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We suck.
The only thing we can do with rivers is place in them water “windmills” to generate electricity from the river flow. (Although it’s likely some save-the-fish group will protest the windmills because they may end up being nothing more than big sushi makers.)
Not all folks are bad when they alter streams and rivers. One exhibit praised the ingenuity of ancient Mexicans (Zapotecs) for the methods they used to manipulate streams and master the land around them. The lesson here is simple. When certain indigenous cultures get fresh with Mother Earth, they are geniuses. When Americans do the same, we are Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers.
Yet another exhibit was devoted to the wonderful organizations bringing clean water and better living conditions to the people of Africa. Exhibit signage noted that “it will take improvements to infrastructure to make permanent change happen.” Again, when certain politically-approved cultures work to seek “improvements to infrastructure,” it’s a good thing. When Americans do the same, we, well, we suck.
Signage in the bathrooms of the museums made it clear we should use the air blowers to dry our hands instead of using paper. It’s possible that each paper towel used is like hitting a baby seal in the head with a golf club. The electric blowers in the museum bathrooms likely use magic electricity, and not regular electricity of which more than 45% in the U.S. is generated from burning coal. And we all know that each piece of coal burned is like hitting a baby seal in the head with a corporate jet.
The point to many exhibits in the various museums is that our insatiable, irrational and inconsiderate drive to achieve the insensitive level of reckless consumption we selfish Americans require will destroy the planet in the very near future — possibly next Thursday around 5:13 p.m., just as you finish that second glass of wine and wonder how you’ll get packed into your SUV the kids and their Nintendo devices, softball gear and the special tools you use to destroy coral habitats and smash Condor eggs.
It was clear the Tilleys of Fort Smith couldn’t go to a museum to simply learn. We had to be preached to because, as noted above, we suck. Straight-forward science and information must now be filtered through the political lens of global warming/climate change to induce guilt for being Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers.
And then there was salvation.
Suddenly lifted from my shoulders was the growing guilt that one of my trips to Wal-Mart may have resulted in the extinction of a unique dung-eating beetle in Papua New Guinea.
There, before exiting each museum, was a clear indication that us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers would prevail. There, in a large area between the ticket counters and list of the Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers who provided the money to build and/or maintain the museum, was a collection of items wholly in conflict with the last two hours of propaganda-as-science.
There, like a shining city on the hill, was The Gift Shop.
“Dad, can we get something from the gift shop?! Please, can we? We won’t get much. Oh, please?!?!?”
It was a proud father who realized the politically-correct exhibits had not extinguished in his young daughters the siren song of Unabashed Consumerism.
Trinkets — snow globes containing cute little penguins, big plastic pens in the shape of dolphins, plastic puzzle pieces of city skylines, baby Beluga whales on Christmas tree ornaments — made in China, Honduras, Hong Kong and just about every place except the U.S. of A. were packed like endangered sardines into each gift shop.
Magnify by 1,000 the impulse item area at Wal-Mart checkout lanes and you have a museum gift shop. Which is to say 99.9% of the stuff in the gift shops is stuff no one ever REALLY needs. I’m sure the production, shipping and handling of the millions of useless baubles in the gift shops did nothing to threaten “fragile coastal areas.” And they likely were not made using hydroelectric-produced power or any earth-destroying chemicals.
My faith in capitalism was restored.
Also restored was the awareness that the over-the-top devotees of Mother Nature are a mile wide and an inch deep in their beliefs. These folks aren’t true believers like, say, Southern Baptists. The food court in a museum devoted to and operated by Southern Baptists wouldn’t serve beer or any food not fried. Its gift shop wouldn’t sell condoms or statues of the Virgin Mary. Its area devoted to the death and resurrection of Christ would not be sponsored by B’nai B’rith.
A few hours later the Tilleys of Fort Smith were transported by a greenhouse-gas emitting taxi to a restaurant just off “The Magnificent Mile” of Michigan Avenue — an area devoted to the insensitive consumerism of us Greedy Capitalist Uncaring Mother Earth-rapers.
The deep dish pizza was hot and tasty. The beer was cold and tasty.
Outside, people were scampering to and fro with their bags of Neiman Marcus, Ferragamo, Victoria’s Secret and Burberry. Beer, pizza, shopping … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
God bless America, and her gift shops.