December 04, 2007

Don't Be Afraid Of The Snark

As I mentioned, there's a new House Energy Bill out. Comments that pointed out its inadequacies, like this post by Adam Siegel really, really irritated David Roberts of Grist. As Roberts said,

... You know what nobody likes? Nobody likes people who do nothing but judge and condemn and enforce in-group purity and piss on everyone's shoes, including their friends' shoes. Nobody wants to make any effort to please those people. Nobody even wants to get stuck in an elevator with them.

Of course this bill is not enough. Nothing will ever be enough, I guarantee you. But it's a victory, and you know what people do like? People like winning. They like being on the winning team. They like winners. They want to hang around the winners, and act like them, and date them, and name drop them. ...

Yes, it's always a shame when unfortunate realities intrude even upon the pleasure of mutual congratulation. Because, c'mon guys, this is it! Our chance to be popular! Our chance to be welcomed as liberators the winning team!

Fear of unpopularity isn't an argument that washes well with me. In addition to feeling silly, it seems ... misplaced.

We're up against a rapidly destabilizing climate that will have the Arctic for lunch and pick its teeth with the temperate zone. Because the planet doesn't give a damn about us, and it isn't going to pat us on the head and say, "Aw, I'm sorry those energy executives were just so powerful, stubborn and mean. I can see you tried. You meant well. You verged on plucky at times, and I was touched. Poor dears. Have a cookie and 20 more years of Holocene climate."

No. It's going to say, "Curb those emissions and change your land use patterns or Florida gets it."

You probably know that, and more. If you're reading this, you probably know plenty enough about our global climate crisis to be concerned about it. I also suspect that Pelosi and Markey get it. I've read Roberts' other writing, I'm pretty sure that he could tick off a list as long as I could or longer of alarming indicators. But it isn't about what facts we know. It's about what compels us.

When I was a kid, I was multiply cursed with unpopularity. I talked like a dictionary. I was a fantasy and science fiction fan. I was indubitably geeky. I was bad at all the sports there were, so bad that I failed P.E. And I was a very devout Jehovah's Witness.

I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about the popular kids, I was usually too busy reading. I'm not really sure I ever knew who they were. They lived in an incommensurable universe. High School happened eventually, of course. I discovered other geeks to hang out with, and boys. Fascinating.

Then I ran away from home. I'm sure I mentioned this at some point previous on the blog. When I came back the first time, the congregation Elders arranged to meet with me at our home. It was no surprise. I'd flouted my parents' authority. It had been discovered that I'd had a boyfriend. I'd been running around unsupervised and alone with all kinds of morally questionable people.

And yet. I'd always before been very innocuous. Except for all the weird books, I didn't have a reputation as a troublemaker. My stepdad was an Elder. My father, before he died, had been a very well known and respected Elder even though he was younger than usual. They were prepared to be lenient. They would only Disassociate me, which would mean that during a probationary period, I'd still be able to talk to other members of the congregation besides my family at the Kingdom Hall before and after services.

When you go to church three times a week, and you aren't supposed to have friends outside the faith, that's a big deal.

The only thing I had to do was tell them that I was truly repentant. And I thought about it, because it was surprising to me. I hadn't expected to get offered the theological equivalent of a plea bargain. It was just that I wasn't repentant. Not even a little bit. And this is where the example of their own teachings, which I had faithfully soaked up my entire life, came to be the sticking point.

They'd always taught me that I shouldn't be afraid to be unpopular for the truth, that I should consider it a badge of honor. The truth was, not only did I not repent, but somewhere along the way, I'd stopped thinking that their opinion of me was worth any more than those of the people who laughed at the way I talked or what I read. I wasn't afraid of what they thought, either. In that moment, when it would have been so easy to avoid what I'd been taught was the Worst Punishment Possible, I couldn't find either fear or remorse. So I told them the truth.

I told them that they should go ahead and Disfellowship me. Which meant that no one in the congregation, or any other congregation, could talk to me at all until I was off probation, if ever. And that my family could only talk to me if 1) they lived in the same house, 2) they were talking about matters religious, or 3) they were talking about necessary family business.

The night they read the announcement of my Disfellowshipping at the Kingdom Hall, I'd come in one of my sharper outfits. They read it at the end of the service, then closed with the customary song. And I asked my dad for the keys, walked right outside without looking back and sat in the car until everyone was ready to go home. I left home not long after that, for good.

It can't hurt more to be unpopular than seeing someone you knew from church at a mall, have their face light up with recognition and then go blank as they walk past. Especially not if it was someone you really liked and admired.

But you know what? I survived it. It didn't even turn out to have been the worst thing that ever happened to me by a long shot.

I found other friends and other people to spend my time with. I didn't always make the best choices, that's what happens when you get entirely ripped out of your usual circles. We're social animals and we need other people to give us feedback about the world. But we're also individuals who have to choose if those people in our lives will get to own us through our fears or if they're going to be real companions for what can be a bumpy ride.

Our choice as a movement, and finally, as a society, is about whether or not we're going to be more afraid for the goodwill of influential individuals or for the preservation of our habitat.

I admire Speaker Pelosi. But I'm more worried over the melt of Greenland's glaciers. I get that you, dear reader, know that those glaciers are on a steep decline. I'd just like to ask that you take it a step further and realize that those glaciers are more important to your future well being than the Speaker of House of the United States of America. To realize that they are a good deal more scary than the worst thing she would ever in a million years be able to do to you, presuming that she was so inclined, and she doesn't seem the type.

More than that, Pelosi seems like someone to whom it wouldn't have to be explained that without a constituency malcontented over some thing or other, her hands are tied in what she can do. It's precisely our discontent, organized and magnified, that has the hope of giving her the latitude she'd need to write the energy bill that we all truly need.

Lastly, so as not to be a complete downer, I will tell you a funny story. I was sitting and having a beer with a professional political speechwriter and he told me what he thought was a really wild yarn. That he had this friend who was a total geek, who went to a science fiction convention and ... wait for it ... got laid! Dude! (Excuse me while I crack up, yet again, remembering his astonishment. BTW, you, and you know who you are: Nice boots.)

Roberts, though it may go against all you've been given to believe is true, the shocking fact of the matter is that even the 'unpopular' date. So please, be afraid of the right things, because there's life after everything that leaves us breathing at the end of it. After Florida gets it, maybe not so much.

Posted by natasha at December 4, 2007 03:45 PM | Activism | Technorati links |

Fascist disaster in Belgium widens

Posted by: ccoaler at December 5, 2007 06:08 AM