December 18, 2013

China Says Smog Rules!

I’ve heard of PR spin before, but this is ridiculous.

American politicians take note; you have officially been out-played.

This morning I read a fascinating little article in The Chicago Tribune by Rex Huppke—well a parody, really, on another fascinating little article printed for China Central Television’s website.

Here’s the gist: China, having buried itself alive in poisonous gas in the name of commerce, is desperately grasping at straws with which to make sense of the mayhem. The China Central Television statement on why smog is really a good thing reads as follows—and remember, as hard as it is to believe, this was issued with a straight face.

1) It’s a common enemy, and that unites people.

2) It makes people more equal because rich and poor must breathe the same air.

3) It makes people more aware of the price the nation pays for its extensive manufacturing.

4) It boosts people’e sense of humor, as everyone jokes about the smog.

5) It makes people smarter because they have to learn about pollution and the history of haze.

What the…?

Excuse me while I grab a flight to China and buy a factory where I can bottle this magic elixir and import it to the United States—we could use a unifying agent with the power of smog.

Huppke cracks wise that we should adopt a similarly dogged positive outlook on our troubling national issues including childhood obesity, the national debt, and our ineffective political system. But when I finished laughing at his well written response, I had a sad epiphany. As much as we Americans give lip service to the issues of our day, we are no more committed to changing them than the Chinese.

Just because we haven’t actually run headlines like; Childhood Obesity: “Bigger is better, thus our children are the best in the world, and that builds national pride!” or “The complete incompetence of American congress makes almost anything regular Americans accomplish seem, by comparison, impressive. This includes managing a bank account, walking without falling down, and speaking to another human without lying” doesn’t mean we wouldn’t if we could.

I am certain that if our governing forces could sweep our troubles under the rug with a few well chosen words rather than try to actually resolve them, that is the path they would choose. Why? Because it would be the path of least resistance, and that’s what people really dig. It lets us live another day in the bubble of our own illusions, and hopefully live enough days that we ride that bubble until the day of our death, at which point our problems become someone else’s problems.

Out of sight, out of mind, as my mother used to say.

Mind you, I’m just as guilty as the next guy. I don’t do all that I should, not even close. I drive a big car, I’ve got enough electricity running in my house 24 hours a day to fuel a small island, I shop at Target, I use drugstore cosmetics and I feed my dogs something that seems to keep them alive but clearly is not food.

Feel free to throw your slings and arrows at me here. The facts that I recycle, that I barely put any miles on my car, that I also shop at the farmer’s market and local stores, that I’m mostly vegan and that I turn off the water as I brush my teeth don’t come close to evening the playing field.

What I’m taking away from this odd moment in pop culture today is that I need to try harder. Being lazy and pretending I have no control and hiding behind denial isn’t doing anybody any good. And if you think one person can’t make a difference, I have a few examples for you.

Nelson Mandela

Mother Teresa

The Dalai Lama

I’m not saying I will ever have an impact as profound as theirs, I’d just rather be more a part of the solution than the problem.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: elephant archives

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