On my way to meet Samizdata’s own Perry de Havilland and Adriana Cronin this morning, I treated myself to a few chapters of Parliament of Whores by PJ O’Rourke. I first read this superb book when I was 13, but it won’t surprise anyone who’s read it to learn that I appreciate it much more as a beleaguered taxpayer.
I wouldn’t advise reading Parliament of Whores on public transport, though — one would have to be made of stone not to giggle (if one is a giggler) or laugh out loud at some of O’Rourke’s turns of phrase. Perry suggested that I post some of these, and who am I to disappoint? From the chapter on environmental moonbats (“Dirt of the Earth”) comes this passage — see if it reminds you of anything affecting the current global political climate.
Mass movements need what Eric Hoffer — in his book The True Believers, about the kind of creepy misfits who join mass movements — called a unifying agent.
“Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all unifying agents,” said Hoffer. “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.” Hoffer goes on to cite historian FA Voigt’s account of a Japanese mission sent to Berlin in 1932 to study the National Socialist movement. Voigt asked a member of the mission what he thought. He replied, “It is magnificent. I wish we could have something like it in Japan, only we can’t, because we haven’t got any Jews.”
Business and industry and “their friends in the Reagan administration and Congress” make easy and even appropriate targets. Nobody squirts sulfur dioxide into the air for a hobby, after all, or tosses PCBs into rivers as an act of charity. Pollution occurs in the course of human enterprise. It is a by-product of people making things, things like a living…
Business and industry — trade and manufacture — are inherent in civilization. Every human society, no matter how wholesomely primitive, practices as much trade and manufacture as it can figure out. For good reason. It is the fruits of trade and manufacture that raise us from the wearying muck of subsistence and give us the health, wealth, education, leisure and warm, dry rooms with Xerox machines that allow us to be the ecology-conscious, selfless, committed, splendid individuals we are.
Our ancestors were too busy wresting a living from nature to go on any nature hikes. The first European ever known to have climbed a mountain for the view was the poet Petrarch. That wasn’t until the fourteenth century. And when Petrarch got to the top of Mount Ventoux, he opened a copy of Saint Augustine’s Confessions and was shamed by the passage about men “who go to admire the high mountains and immensity of the oceans and the course of the heaven…and neglect themselves.” Worship of nature may be ancient, but seeing nature as cuddlesome, hug-a-bear and too cute for words is strictly a modern fashion.
The Luddite side of the environmental movement would have us destroy or eschew technology — throw down the ladder by which we climbed. Well, nuts (and berries and fiber) to them. It’s time we in the industrialized nations admitted what safe, comfortable and fun-filled lives we lead. If we keep sniveling and whining, we may cause irreparable harm to the poor people of the world — they may laugh themselves to death listening to us.