Over the years I know a lot of people who have asked whether I get frustrated with other people’s denial about energy and environmental issues. I do, but most of the time I’m pretty good at not allowing it to get to me. Yesterday, however, I just snapped. After a phone conversation with a news reporter who has every reason to understand peak oil and climate change but seems to decline to, I lost it. If everyone else – from the media to the president to Joe Bob down the street gets to live in denial and ignorance, how come I don’t? It seems like such a happy place.
I determined that I too needed, for my own mental health, to make use of the intellectual tools that others use to not realize that their own kids are going to be screwed by energy depletion and a warming planet. And I tried to apply them to climate change and peak oil – I really, really did. Unfortunately, I just know too much, and my own capacity for suspension of knowledge isn’t great enough. I still, however, felt that need to float in the river denial, though.
So I set out to figure out a way to be like everyone else without causing permanent brain damage, and suddenly I had a brilliant flash of intuition – I can apply those skill to my domestic life! Home, family, housekeeping, marriage – I can usefully set the skill set used by the American public to prevent themselves from having the faintest idea what is going on or why they should care, and make it part of my daily life. Hey, it might be tough on the kids and the husband, but I’m getting what I need. In fact, I set out in one day to apply every flavor of the skill set used to avoid knowing our ecological condition – and I did an awesome job. Hey, you should try it! Here’s the story of my day, along with the full repetoir of tricks I used:
6am (Tool, total ignorance): There is noise coming from the next room. Using my new skill set however, I choose not to interpret what is self-evidently occurring, and instead of leaping to my ordinary assumption “the kids are awake” I choose to fixate on pretty images of celebrities, while closing my eyes and covering my head with a pillow. I’m doing very well – actually this isn’t that different than my normal mornings – normally I know what’s happening and am thinking about the farm, not celebrities, but the pillow is par for the course. It is good to ease into new things, right?
6:15 am (Total denial): Eric nudges me that it is time to get up and feed the kids. My reply? “Kids? What kids? We don’t have kids. Why would we have something like that?” Eric points out that there are now four little pajamaed children jumping up and down at the end of the bed. I argue that they could just as easily be gnomes, or very small thieves who broke into the house and are stealing stuff, but that I am wholly unresponsible to these gnomes. Either that or Eric might be hallucinating, and he should get up and go feed his hallucinations because they are rocking my bed.
7am (Partial Denial): It would ordinarily be time to start the laundry, but I’m in denial about the laundry – no, I can’t deny that there is laundry – after all, there’s that giant, slightly smelly pile. But while laundry may exist, there clearly is no evidence that implies that I am in any way responsible for the laundry, or that the correct response would be to wash the giant smelly pile. Indeed, it may be a wholly natural phenomenon – it turns out this portion of the house just extrudes stinky cloth, in which case, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to do anything about it. If worst comes to worst, when the whole house is filled with laundry, I could just burn it down and start over, right?
8 am (Partisanship): Time for chores. The goats are calling their desire to be fed, the ducks are quacking, the chicks are cheeping. However, I recently read that President Obama’s daughters do chores, the implication of which is that this is leftist socialist conspiracy to spread the responsibility for necessary work over the whole population. I decide that I cannot in good conscience do any chores, or take any responsibility for the consequences if I don’t, given their strong ideological taint. Given that our family has always spread the work around, also equitably distributing things like food and toys from each according to their need, I find that I can no longer go on with this socialist…nay..communist system.
9am (The application of irrelevant data): Eric supervises math and reading and asks that I begin to plan lunch. I observe that in past years when we lived in Boston, lunch was available for take-out, express a preference for Thai to be delivered (nearest actual Thai take out is in Albany 45 minutes drive from here, and they don’t deliver). I point out that when we lived in Somerville, it often arrived within 15 minutes and assume that means we don’t have to order until 11:15 to make sure we eat before Eric leaves at 11:45.
11am (Attacking the messenger): At 11, Eric wearily notes that nothing has been done about lunch, and counter with the fact that I’m waiting another 15 minutes to order take out. He points out we can’t afford take out – that we’re saving for several other things, and that we have previously calculated that we can’t eat out more than once a month. He suggests that we get out the peanut butter and bread, since he’d like to eat before he leaves.
My response is obvious – I attack his selfishness for needing to go to work – just because he pays the bills doesn’t justify his leaving. I point out previous personal and moral failures that suggest I can’t trust his evaluation of what we can afford, and argue that he has fraudulently conspired to deny me Thai food.
12pm (Technology will save us!) – Eric has left for work with considerable relief. I turn to the giant pile of dishes and await the robot servants that will do them for me.
1pm (Excessive Acceptance): Starting seeds for the plant nursery with the kids. Put flats of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant out in the yard (12 degrees, 3 feet of snow) and accept that they will not germinate. Wonder vaguely if there is anything I could do about this, but accept that they are all doomed. Grieve.
2pm (Mocking the Evidence): We’re studying Roman history, and just about at the fall of Rome. I contemptuously announce that those who speak of the “fall” of Rome are foolish alarmists, when in fact, Rome is still there. We point to it on the map, and observe that there are more people living there now than at Rome’s ancient height. What kind of idiot thinks that Rome fell? A few minor ups and downs in 2000 stable, easy years. Ok, that lesson is over. All done!
3pm (Condescension): We are out of toilet paper. When Isaiah complains about this, I tell him that yes, it looks like we are out of toilet paper, and I can understand how he would think that, but of course, he simply doesn’t grasp that we are just keeping our TP down at the local grocery store. We have it, and for those with broader and more enlightened minds, the absence of toilet paper couldn’t possibly pose a difficulty, but if he insists on making a big thing of this, I trust that the laws of substitutability will provide some sandpaper, or maybe a hunk of cold straw. A really enlightened, thoughtful person would hold it until we go shopping again.
4pm (Pseudoscience): I put pasta in a pot of cold water and put it on the stove. Simon points out that this will make the pasta gloppy, but I point out that I recently read a study published in a non-peer-reviewed journal translated from the Armenian that suggested that pasta gets gloppy when we expect a gloppy performance, that it responds to our intentions, rather than to the water. I point out that had Simon not sat their thinking gloppy thoughts the pasta would be fine, since my intentions were pure. The pasta comes out gloppy. I blame my child.
5pm (Partisanship II): Eric arrives home and complains that the price of gas is up again. I blame corporate greed. He complains that the children are cranky and whiny from not being attended to all day. I blame corporate greed and Sarah Palin. He complains that the pasta is gloppy. I blame corporate greed and Simon.
6pm (Apocalypticism): While reading Winnie the Pooh to Asher and Isaiah, i explain that only Eeyore truly grasps the apocalyptic danger faced in the 100 Acre Woods by Christopher Robin going away to school. All the animals in the book actually died horribly and painfully in a terrible flaming Poohsticks accident. “Even Piglet?, Asher asks, shocked and frightened. “Especially Piglet,” I say. “Piglet suffered the most of all.”
7pm (Making a fundamentally meaningless gesture): Faced with a house full of dishes, laundry and chaos, I calmly tidy my sock drawer. Wouldn’t want the argyles to touch the sweat socks!
8pm: (Acknowledging the problem without admitting any responsibility): Eric would like to have sex. I acknowledge that it has been a dog’s age since we’ve had any nookie around here, and that it is perfectly reasonable that he would like to have sex. Indeed, I say passionately, “Sex should be happening!” I express a strong outrage that this situation exists, and articulate my sense that someone, somewhere should do something about it.
8:30pm (Offsets): I offer Eric the $3.83 in my jeans pocket so that he can pay someone else to solve the problem – ie, to have sex with him. Or, I suggest, perhaps we could both pool our resources and pay an entirely other couple to have sex for us, and credit us with their performance.
9pm (Identifying the real problem): It seems like the central issue is that we’re not having sex, and this is making Eric cranky. In fact, I tell him, the central issue is either the way our society has stepped away from its traditional values (Back in the day before the women’s movement, I point out, he wouldn’t have even had to ask me, and I could have just thought of England every night!), that we’ve failed to support innovation (Still no trapeze! How can a girl get excited without a trapeze?!), Gay people (Mooooom…you are ruining my life again!) or perhaps the real the central issue is overpopulation (hard to get in the mood with all those kids around.) Ok, maybe there’s a point to that last one.
9:30(The Market Will Solve It): Trusting that a new demand will result in the emergence of rural hookers and sexual offsets, I head to bed, well satisfied with my day! Seriously, folks, you have to try this!