Sunday, 4 December 2011

Nothing special

Two stories this week tie together for me.

First we have Jeremy Clarkson, a basically foolish television presenter who presents robustness of thought as larky eccentricity and so helps to neutralise it still further in the general culture, apparently embroiled in another of those boring controversies the media like to invent when they can't fabricate a 'race row'.

This time it's interesting, though, because it shows how popular attitudes are reversing, and therefore what does now qualify as provocative and tasteless and what does not.
Discussing people who commit suicide by throwing themselves under trains in a newspaper column, he wrote:

I have the deepest sympathy for anyone whose life is so mangled and messed up that they believe death's icy embrace will be better...
However, it is a very selfish way to go because the disruption it causes is immense. And think what it's like for the poor train driver who sees you lying on the line and can do absolutely nothing to avoid a collision.

According to AOL, "the comments have sparked criticism among suicide and mental health charities".
Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, described the piece as "extraordinarily tasteless in its tone," adding that "people who have contemplated suicide... will think it is in extremely bad taste.
"It stands out like a sore thumb from what is increasingly a more supportive approach to suicide by the media."

The suggestion that suicide, especially when performed in public in circumstances that cannot fail to traumatise large numbers of people, in all likelihood including very young children, is selfish and wrong is now a controversial one. To suggest it forcefully is "extraordinarily tasteless", people who have "contemplated" doing just that appalling thing "will find it in very bad taste" and - most telling of all - "It stands out like a sore thumb from what is increasingly a more supportive approach to suicide by the media".

Well, that more supportive approach to suicide, along with the more supportive approach to abortion and the more supportive (read: coercive) approach to euthanasia may at least help us all to cut down on our fuel bills.

Anyone else remember this, which crept into the New Scientist a couple of years ago:

Victoria University professors Brenda and Robert Vale, architects who specialise in sustainable living, say pet owners should swap cats and dogs for creatures they can eat, such as chickens or rabbits, in their provocative new book Time to Eat the Dog: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living.The couple have assessed the carbon emissions created by popular pets, taking into account the ingredients of pet food and the land needed to create them.
"If you have a German shepherd or similar-sized dog, for example, its impact every year is exactly the same as driving a large car around," Brenda Vale said.
"A lot of people worry about having SUVs but they don't worry about having Alsatians and what we are saying is, well, maybe you should be because the environmental impact ... is comparable."

Now we have this (hat tip to Darrell):

In Durham, England, corpses will soon be used to generate electricity.
A crematorium is installing turbines in its burners that will convert waste heat from the combustion of each corpse into as much as 150 kilowatt-hours of juice — enough to power 1,500 televisions for an hour. The facility plans to sell the electricity to local power companies.
Some might find this concept creepy. Others might be pleased to learn that the process "makes cremation much greener by utilizing its by-products," in the words of cremation engineer Steve Looker, owner and chief executive officer of the Florida-based company B&L Cremation Systems, which is unaffiliated with the Durham enterprise.
In Europe, tightening regulations on crematorium emissions, coupled with the high price of energy, will lead more and more facilities to go the way of Durham in the future, Looker said.

Remember those poor soppy plane crash survivors, stuck halfway up a mountain fretting for days about whether they should have eaten their dead comrades in the Andean air disaster? What a bunch of big girl's blouses! By this logic they should have tucked into Mrs Moskowitz before the chocolate bars ran out.
What is a corpse after all if not meat, what is a person after all if not meat - or a brilliant means of powering 1500 televisions for an hour? Well, it's good to know my life had an ultimate meaning: he gaveth his life so that 1500 cretins could watch The X-Factor. This is what we are charging now for humanity.

Who's the atheist here? It's me, remember? So why is it that I'm constantly having to defend the sanctity of human life?
We all know that the future Hitler planned to impose upon is now just around the corner through our own free choice, and between the abortions at one end and the euthanasia at the other - not compulsory, you understand, merely encouraged with all the 24-hour blanket subtlety the media class can muster - we will soon have a good twenty or so years of Soylent Green sandwiches before our bags are packed for us, provided we're perfect in the first place of course. Or what passes for perfect these days: incredibly uninformed and fashionably dressed.
I don't believe in pixies and elves but I do know ideas have consequences, and that pragmatism in matters once deemed spiritual - the application to social policy of the Darwinian fact that we are evolved animals that invented morality - leads to a kind of universal Auschwitz, where there is no purpose to living and so no right to it, without the consent of a council of technocratic bigots wearing Richard Dawkins masks.

Now that the Monopoly money has run out, and the people are taking to the streets to protest the prospect of having to first earn what they spend, this is going to be increasingly sold to us as a regrettable necessity, a sensible and pragmatic solution for pragmatic times.
Of course we don't want to use corpses for fuel, but hard times call for hard measures. The idea that it could work the other way: that we could avoid the conversion of one dead person into mere commodity simply by turning off 1500 televisions for an hour... well, there's regrettable - and there's just plain crazy.

And of course we don't want you to voluntarily shuffle off when you cease to be of any practical use to anyone, and God knows we'd never force you, but isn't it just a teensy bit selfish, eating all that food and occupying all that space, when you could be powering somebody's television somewhere?

Make no mistake and allow no exception: we are the worst generation that has ever lived.


Darrell said...

...we are the worst generation that has ever lived.

Well maybe not the worst ever, but in the past we always had Rosie the Riveter putting together planes and ships to pound the crap out of people like us. Had Hitler been Greener, Prince Chuckles would be handing out AH carbon hero awards today. I am only assuming he isn't, by the way.

Cheese Messiah said...

One of your most chilling but truthful blogs ever, venerable one.

Recusant said...

"Make no mistake and allow no exception: we are the worst generation that has ever lived."

But haven't you heard? Steven Pinker says that these are the best of times: the 'better angels of our natures' have come forth and all is sweetness.

Well it would be if you could have any faith in his statistics, cf:

Why is it that I always get the impression that evolutionary psychologists start with a conclusion and then work backwards?

Cheese Messiah said...

Here's an article right up your alley, appearing in the Torygraph:
No doubt the venerable one will be applauding the end of guitar imperialism. and the recognition of potty-mouthed girl group Stooshe, as well as marvelling at the melodic invention of Bass Canon, a huge hit apparently, although he might raise an eyebrow at the appearance of Skrillex, the most hated man in dubstep (a narrow victory in a tightly contested category).

The Venerable Bede said...

CM -
Oh, you're right, I did enjoy that blizzard of an article. The comments were good too.

R -
Oh God, yes I did see that book, but I haven't read it yet so I can't go too far. I do actually like Pinker; I think he's basically sound, compelled though he is, like Dawkins but not as egregiously, to draw silly conclusions from uncomfortable data.
Evolutionary psychology is the only psychology that pays its way, the problem is that its practitioners got their wings scorched in the seventies, and so now they have to lie to live. But the data is all there, and Pinker offers at least as many anti-consensus truths as consensus-massaging absurdities. This does look to be the first book of his with a basically absurd premise though. I don't know; I suppose he's talking about material comfort, and medicine and the absence of wars and stuff like that, oblivious to the fact that a) these are not the stuff of personal happiness, and b) their golden age is now over anyway.
But I'd have to read it, which I look forward to doing.

The Venerable Bede said...

Darrell: name a worse one!

The Venerable Bede said...

Just read up on the Pinker a bit and it looks like he's just playing the numbers game, which is depressing indeed. When people start talking about 'murder rates' declining you know they're just fartarsing about. As if merely the relative number of corpses can correlate the distinction between fatalities amongst 13th century peasants, and the most prosperous and pampered generation in human history torturing people for pleasure.

Recusant said...

Well, exactly, Bede. Almost all the fall in murder rates touted recently can be ascribed to the incredible ability of modern medicine to keep people alive who, until very recently, would have certainly died from their injuries.

Darrell said...

I'm kind of stuck on the idea that The Greatest Generation may have been the worst generation as well. First, we have that body count that may extend to the billion mark if you look closely enough. Secondly they begot us and didn't put us in a burlap sack and throw us in the river.

Now if those "sustainable" population weenies ever do cull 5.5 billion to reach their 1.5 billion mark, I'll have to reconsider. If I can.

The Venerable Bede said...

But body count is misleading... the point surely is the extent to which it is tolerated by the general culture. Any era that centres on so biblical a confrontation between opposing worldviews, and sees the good guys win, has to ultimately land face up.
It was up to us what we did with that legacy, and it's our fault, not theirs, that we chose to defecate on it.
And as Ann Coulter pointed out, even Chamberlain is nobler than our present day cowards and appeasers, in that he didn't have himself as an example.
Today, there is no excuse for ignorance, whereas their utopianism was more understandable.

But having said that, by generation I really meant generations, kind of twentieth century and on, with the seeds of despair already growing in the thirties for sure, but the real tipping point being the 1960s, when the pact was decisively signed in blood, and the Beatles became more popular than Christ.

Darrell said...

You convinced me--we really are the worst generation ever.

Now let me get back to my President saying that Capitalism never worked. I think he may mean himself, but I have to listen anyway.

The Venerable Bede said...

I hear that Cain fellow has pulled out of the running and you're all poised to go for Gingrich? That's what Ann tells me, anyway.
Is this wise?

Darrell said...

Gingrich doesn't have much of a chance. People will remember the years spent making nice with Democrats and the Media after he left the House. So did McCain, but these folks will shiv Newt just to keep their narrative in play (evil Newt and his contract ON America).

Last I heard, Miss Coulter was telling us about the inevitability of Mitt. That is more likely once the primaries actually start. Conservatives have little to cheer about, and only a couple of dark horses in the race. Gingrich and Romney are not them, btw.

Darrell said...

Ann rips into Gingrich today ---

I knew we'd always remain perfectly synched after I met her in the 1980s.

The Venerable Bede said...

That was my source. (You mean you don't get her columns emailed to you the day before publication? For shame!)
She seemed to be implying that the Republican base was ready to go Gingrich, hence her counsel.

Did you really meet her in the 80s? Tell me more!

Darrell said...

I don't think she believes that there will be any great groundswell to Newt. Her column was a reminder to those with short memories. She could do a half-dozen if she had to. I don't believe that she actually supports Mitt in any way, either. She was just calling it as she sees it. Both of them would have to sit in front of a camera and state emphatically that they no longer support Cap and Trade, anti-business EPA rules based on shoddy in-house studies, and other Leftist "solutions" that they have embraced in the past before I will ever pull a lever for them. And perhaps explain why they ever went down that path in the first place. Mitt will have to check into a ten-step program to break his compulsion to shout out "I can work with them!!!" even when "them" are proposing policies that will destroy the Nation.

Thursday will always be Ann Coulter day in my house. She'd have to send me another if I cheated and read it on Wednesday. Or stop by. And we know that ain't gonna happen.

It was a short meeting (a couple of minutes)--surely one she wouldn't remember. And she would have no reason to throw my name around-- even if she ever knew it.
Me, on the other hand, thought "Wow!" And I still do. I also met Glenda Jackson around the same time. That was a more eventful couple of minutes. But I rarely tell that story. And there are no Glenda Jackson Days at my house now.

Cheese Messiah said...

Some views you may find interesting:

1389 said...

Suicide is a genuinely hostile act. The person contemplating suicide is either too self-absorbed to be aware of its effect on others, or the person actually wants others to suffer and feel guilty.

The Venerable Bede said...

Absolutely. Yes.