No Vision

No Vision

Like a moth to a flame, here I go again. Sleep beckons … but instead, I’ve got other plans. I want to quick comment on some things I saw in yesterday’s New York Times. I’m hoping I can do this fairly quickly.

Every Sunday, for quite some time now, in the main news section of the Times, I come across a couple of pages that are mostly blank, but say something or other about Truth. I never read it. (I do roll my eyes, though.) I wish they would stop doing that. Yeah, I get it. This is a response to Trump. But please, just stop it. It’s wasted space. I can’t imagine it accomplishing anything. Anyone inspired by such simpleton stuff isn’t worth inspiring in the first place. If you want to devote two full pages every Sunday issue to something, why not just show an image of the Earth and a simple “Thank you!” (for example) because the Truth is, that’s what’s always missing (substantively speaking). Some examples …

There’s an article (Sydney Ember, “New Yorker’s Firebrand Socialism Plays in Heartland”) in this same main news section related to the candidacy of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist whose surprise victory in a Democratic primary in New York, recently, stunned many. Joining her onstage at an event in Wichita, Kansas, Bernie Sanders, another Democratic socialist, delivered this great line (which is included in the article): “Whether you live in Vermont or the Bronx or Kansas, we share common hopes and aspirations that are much greater than the superficial differences that may separate us.” This is also a good example of how you don’t need two full pages in the Times to state a Truth. Just state it! That’s all.

The article also states that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez “has championed a progressive policy agenda that includes Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, ending private prisons and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.” I circled that and wrote at the top of this article: “I don’t see any of that as being in any way whatsoever ecologically transformative. And by not making progress on that front — making progress towards transitioning to an ecologically sustainable paradigm, for example — we cannot really say that we’ve made progress on any front.”

I saw another article (“Teenagers Fight Climate Change, From the Front / Meet the Leaders of a National Movement Called Zero Hour”) — probably the most inspirational (ecologically speaking) article in this week’s Sunday edition of the Times — but jotted down in the top margin of the paper: “No big, transformative ideas. None. It’s all small stuff, followed by a back-slapping Kumbaya-like chorus of ‘Though we still have far to go, look how far we’ve come.’ ” Think about it. Even if you have hundreds of thousands or millions of people locking arms and chanting “We care about the Earth!,” that, plus two fives, will get you a ten. We need nothing short of real, substantive and transformative change, the magnitude of which virtually no one is ever really willing to discuss.

And lack of a deep, substantive sense of eco-consciousness, on the part of most people (!), goes a very long way toward explaining why that is so, in my opinion.

As another case in point: the cover story of this week’s New York Times Magazine, “The Billionaire’s Losses.” This piece, by Michael Steinberger, concerns the billionaire George Soros and how “his decades-long effort to spread liberal democracy has never been in greater peril.” I intended to skim through it very quickly, just to verify the point I wanted to make about how here you have a story about one of the world’s wealthiest philanthropists and there’s not a single, solitary word in the entire piece about any environmental issue. Instead, I ended up reading the whole article, rather intently. But I was right. Literally, there’s not a single, solitary word related to environmentalism. I think that speaks volumes. After all, as Steinberger points out in the article, Soros announced in 2017 that he was going to transfer “the bulk of his remaining wealth, $18 billion in total at the time,” to his philanthropic organization. And that, according to Steinberger, might make Soros’s Open Society Foundations “the second-largest philanthropic organization in the United States,” in total assets (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the largest).

I believe the article made mention of a total of $1.4 billion in charity distributed by either him or his charitable organization. For example, $250 million went toward revising Russian textbooks and training teachers “to promote critical thinking”; a $250 million initial endowment went toward creating Central European University; $5 million went towards providing free breakfasts for Hungarian schoolchildren; more than $20 million went toward John Kerry’s unsuccessful presidential run; more than $25 million went toward funding Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run and for other Democratic candidates and causes; he has spent at least $15 million on the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, so far; more than $300 million went toward “combating discrimination against the Roma and providing them with greater education, employment and civic opportunities.” But again, not a penny seems to have gone toward  any environmental causes.

Another article in The New York Times Magazine this week (Beverly Gage, “Red Flags / For more than a century, people have been unsure whether American ‘socialism’ is ascendant or moribund. This year is making the question more urgent than usual.” July 22), concerning the topic of ‘socialism,’ states that “Actively embracing the ‘socialist’ label conveys a certain left-wing ambition and commitment — a willingness to think big and imagine a wildly different future.” But one still devoid of ecocentrism, I notice. Because while the article  makes specific mention of things like inequality, wage insecurity, the corrupting force of money in politics, labor rights, affordable public education, a vibrant welfare state, robust maternity leave, universal health care, stable jobs, union power, and a collective investment in human welfare, as all being Democratic socialist-friendly terrain, I see no mention in the article of anything environmentalism-related. Not a single, solitary word.

Another article that appeared in the Times yesterday, also helps make my point. As soon as I saw it’s headline — “The Trouble With Vacations” — I began thinking “FINALLY! … FINALLY! … FINALLY!”  I was ready to do cartwheels! But, it turns out … the article had absolutely nothing to do with what I thought it was going to be about. I thought it was going to be making the point about how we shouldn’t be flying all over the world, without the slightest concern about what air travel is doing to the planet. It’s ecologically indefensible, for example, to fly thousands of miles, just to lay on a beach, and most especially if you live very close to a beach in the first place. It’s ecologically indefensible, for hundreds of people to fly thousands of miles to a “destination wedding,” when that wedding could have been held much closer to home. It’s ecologically indefensible, to travel to the Galapagos, unless maybe if you happen to be a scientist doing research there. It’s ecologically indefensible, to fly up north, just so you can witness the glaciers melting.

But the opinion piece had a different bent to it, entirely. Ecological considerations don’t really enter into the picture at all. Not a whit. Honor Jones, for example, instead, at one point in this opinion piece, asks: “What if I had taken all the money and enthusiasm I’d put into the past 10 years of vacations and devoted it, instead, to making my own life, the real one, a little bit better? What would that look like?”

The slogan for Newsday — a regional newspaper I subscribe to — is “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Nowhere is that more true and germane than where it concerns how we’re treating the Earth and how we’re living on this planet. For how goes the Earth, so goes mankind. Where there is no ecologically-appropriate vision, the people perish.