Thursday, February 14, 2008

War on 'War Words' 

Why is it that when some somnambulist thinker wants to pretend to be really serious they call for a ‘War on’ something?
War on Terror, War on Drugs, and now according to Prince Chattering, we need to conduct the actions against global warming on a mental war footing.

I suppose he may be recalling US President Jimmy Carter’s attempt to mobilise public support for his April 1977 energy policy as ‘the moral equivalent of War’

Our decision about energy will test the character of the American people and the ability of the President and the Congress to govern. This difficult effort will be the "moral equivalent of war" -- except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not destroy.

Do people use this war rhetoric because it gives their cause the serious glamour of violence? That it shows how really really serious things are…?

Well, for me violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. Violence-invoking language and imagery and metaphors help close down thinking, makes people frightened, shut down serious thought about options in a difficult situation. Global warming is a complex of horrendous problems with packages of proposed solutions that have real downsides. We do not need a frightened herd of people acting as in a war. We need the intelligent and questioning participation of as many people as possible, people who realise that things are much too serious to fart about with ‘war words’.

OK Milton did flirt with a war image, but in the Areopagitica he said

Behold now this vast city: a city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty, encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching Reformation: others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement.

Musing, searching, revolving new notions... assenting to the force of reason and convincement... tackling the causes of climatic change calls for these arts of peace.

By the way, if you want to recommend a book that goes into the pros and cons of personal energy efficiency without sinking under the weight of technical expositions or fearful exhortation, try Colin Smith's book 'This Cold House: The Simple Science of Energy Efficiency'. A little gem. Every PPC should read it.

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