If you like an occasional straight shot of social criticism, withering satire and fine, hard, funny writing, you could do worse than dip into James Kunstler’s weekly diatribes. Best known for his conviction that America’s love affair with the automobile, suburbia and cheap energy has set it firmly on the path to perdition, he rails against the endlessly unfurling idiocies of much of modern life. While his solutions are sometimes a bit dirigiste for my taste, I find myself in sympathy with their spirit and almost invariably amused by his style.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure, let me offer a taste or two:
One of the farmers who organized the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s annual meeting put it nicely: “The ethanol craze means that we’re going to burn up the Midwest’s last six inches of topsoil in our gas-tanks.”
The American public is in chill mode in more ways than one. We are finally freezing our asses off in the Northeast after a supernaturally mild December and January, and the heating oil trucks are once again making the rounds of the home furnaces (and running down their inventories). But we’re also chillin’ on the concept that there is an energy problem per se. The public is convinced that we are one IPO away from attaining the sovereign rescue remedy that will permit us to continue running our Happy Motoring utopia.
The public is bombarded daily with feel-good news about new bio-engineered bacteria that can turn sawmill refuse into high-test gasoline, cornucopias of miracle diesel beans, lithium batteries that will take you from Hackensack to Chicago on a single charge, and still (despite all the evidence against feasibility) hydrogen-powered SUVs. The public is convinced that we will enter a nirvana of “energy independence” just-in-time — the same way that WalMart miraculously restocks it’s shelves.
Next out is Hillary, who looks as though she is going to jettison her surnames in the manner of Oprah, Madonna, and Paladin. Her kickoff announcement video was all medium and no message. She wants to have a presidency of feelings, and the main feeling is that America needs Mommy. The psychological failure of masculinity in this nation is that acute. Between the millions of lumpen “baby daddys” who impregnate their “shorties” and disappear, and the hundreds of loot-crazed corporate CEOs (not to mention the hapless President Bush), the male ethos has just about lost all credibility in this country. Mommy runs most of the households in the US, so why not the government, too?
In case you can’t tell, I don’t like Hillary. I regard her as a monster of ambition. I voted for her husband twice, but concluded sadly that he had accomplished little in relation to his supposed abilities. Bill Clinton now looks like just another wreck on the shoals of male egotism, and seems fated, in the classically tragic sense, to creep behind in his wife’s footsteps until he is taken offstage by infarction or aneurysm (or perhaps she will just chew his head off, in the tradition of the more powerful female mantis).
Oh, one small warning. If there’s any chance you’ll be offended by colourful language, either don’t go there or approach with caution. While it rarely feels gratuitous to me, Kunstler certainly isn’t afraid to deploy the vernacular.