Tuesday, December 2, 2008


GREEN WITH ENVY: When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, legendary satirist-songwriting Tom Lehrer said the event “made political satire obsolete” and so he gave up on trying to outdo reality.

But we persevere since in the intervening 35 years those kinds of nuggets have become so overarching that we’ve become attenuated to it and seldom even realize the bizarre nature of what we’ve just heard.

Last night we were barely paying attention to a network news piece on the pervasiveness of “green” products these days where a reporter at a trade show of these everyday consumer goods was telling us how all how corporate America is “going green”.

Suddenly everything you buy is “green”. From environmentally sound internal combustion cars to “clean coal” to Sierra Club endorsed Clorox every manufacturer with a product to push has jumped on the “sustainability” bandwagon.

And how did they do that- why by advertising their new found concern for “mother earth” and “the children”.

That same toxic product we former eschewed has been miraculously transformed, not by changing the contents but by changing the perception of it.

The reporter, in a wishy washy attempt at “exposing” the “greenwashing “scam- which nowadays involves little more than a raised eyebrow and a sneering tone of voice on the part of the TV correspondent- ended the piece with a short quote from what appeared to be a “spokesperson” for the new green industry.

He apparently WAS worried about the future- the future not of the human race or the planet but of this “environmentally conscious” form of product promotion.

Was he afraid people would catch on to the lack of sustainability in producing mass-market environmentally-sensitive products with none of that messy environmental sensitivity?

No. He said the real problem for green product makers was that ”this whole sustainability thing is probably just a fad.”

And that’s how big business sees it- it’s just a “sustainability fad”- the oxymoronic phrase of the decade.

The notion of creating a planet that won’t kill us all will eventually just be a passing fancy like the hula hoop or the pet rock. Soon we’ll be back to our good old profligate ways, stuffing out faces with deep-fried candy bars and our pockets with iphones and credit cards.

A. blue tooth in every ear and 1000 channels of digital. flat-screen, remote controlled circuses in front of every eyeball.

And you know what- the spokesperson may be right because at this very moment we are teetering on the cultural and economic precipice of a see-saw and one way or the other, it’s all downhill from here.

And our bet’s on the fat guy.

It’s almost impossible to underestimate the depths of depravity of American consumerism.

Despite 30 years of consciousness raising through things like the last Friday’s “Buy Nothing Day” movement and the Reverend Billy’s boisterous bullhorn-blasted “sermons” at the Times Square Disney Store, people are still willing to stampede the Wal Mart doors and trample clerks to get a good deals on random small appliances.

When you ask the average European- or even the jihadi-on-the-street- what they really find odious about the U.S. is our worship at the altar of the shopping mall- not the products themselves but our decadent avariciousness for them.

With our economy finally returning to reality in recent months, cutting back on the purchase of crap we don’t need- and will throw away in a matter of months to get another one we don’t need- anti-consumerism in general has become a concept people are finally embracing, if not intellectually, out of necessity.

But not if our new “green” advertising executive and the sycophantic “business news” cheerleaders can help it.

Because as they become aware of people’s bent to examine our disposable culture they seem intent on convincing us to eschew this opportunity to dial it back a notch and encourage us to spend even more... all to “save the economy”.

Who hasn’t seen one of those little PR pieces disguised as economic “news you can use” espousing the cockamamie notion that the only way our economy will improve is if we go out and spend more money we don’t have- just like we did during the recent EZ credit era.

And just in case you didn’t quite get the memo, interspersed between those news pieces are ads for “0% interest until 2010 when you use your credit card” or “no payment until after the holidays” from the same credit card people who brought you this mess in the first place.

Just ignore that recent notice that your default rate was going up to 29.99%.APR.

Yes the problem in all this is not that we’ve all got more debt that we could ever hope to pay off but the fact that we aren’t quite deeply in debt enough to “get the economy rolling again”.

So buy another flat-screen TV for the bathroom and order a few more pizza’s with double-everything – the more you spend the more you’ll have when this sustainability fad is over.

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