Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Crisis Crisis

Crispin Sartwell over at Eye of the Storm has commented on something I've been thinking about for a while. The way we remain in a constant state of crisis:

so it's well past time we started tacking intensifiers on 'crisis,' which now refers to the normal or run-of-the-mill state of affairs in any given sphere. 'crisis,' in other words, has become synonymous with 'reality,' and just as something could be really real, a crisis could be critical. 'crisis' has lost its ability to mobilize, which was all it was ever actually used for anyway. well, i think now you're gonna need actual clubs and body armor to motivate anyone to do anything. during the next presidential campaign, for example, i think we should refer to american education as a "world-annihilating conflagration" or an "apocalypse."
I may be misplacing it, but I would argue that this started in the 80's with the rallying of attention for the famine in Ethiopia. It was the time of Reagan when greed and selfishness became social virtues and those who longed to be hippies and empathize with someone came together around hungry children in Africa...for a while.

The successful attention was then transferred to domestic homelessness, but Apartheid in South Africa and the hole in the ozone started to compete. Soon, every good cause saw the opportunity to be the next one and an empathy arms race began. You needed to be more of a problem, a bigger tragedy, a greater concern to deserve your Wembley Stadium show with a reunion of a defunct classic rock band.

And so started an endless succession of crises. Sartwell is absolutely right that it is not crying wolf, these ARE crises. The world is filled with misery and suffering that we should be doing something about. But the constant state of alarm is like the Bush administrations raising of the terrorist threat level. We ignore it. As a society, we've built up a tolerance to crisis.

This is exactly what set the groundwork for apathy and antipathy towards concerns about global warming and has forced scientists into the arms race of doom. As a result we are not worried whether the sky is falling and it makes no difference whether it is shown in the data. We have crisis fatigue.

As a result, there is only thing that could possibly bring the planet together to combat carbon-emission-based climate change...if Peter Gabriel would agree to rejoin the members of Genesis for a show the Royal Albert Hall.