Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Hour, Another Useless Ritual

Yesterday, Saturday March 29th. I posted a short notice on Earth Hour which was from 8 to 9 pm in which everyone around the globe was supposed to turn off all their lights in order to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions which would supposedly be a benefit to planet Earth. As I visited various websites, I noticed many bloggers promising to turn on all the lights in their house as a counter protest. As symbolic protests go, I thought it was a good idea.

Many bloggers correctly pointed out that the so called Earth Hour blackout was utter nonsense and would have zero effect on the planet. Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame points out that "Incidentally, the believers who will replace light bulbs by candles should know that a candle produces as much CO2 as a 20W light bulb powered by average energy sources during the same time. Five candles replace the CO2 output of a 100W light bulb." Obviously, this is not about reducing emissions of CO2.
While the average citizen would be justified in ignoring the event completely, thinkers should not trivialize or dismiss it out of hand entirely. As Ayn Rand once advised, don't bother to examine a folly, ask only what it is designed to accomplish. In this vein I have a few thoughts.

My first thought is: the pushers of environmentalism's ideas-the university professors and other leaders of the movement-may want to know how many people, users of these ideas in the world, are willing to make little sacrifices, i.e. agree to take a 'little' poison with their food on the grounds that it won't hurt much. This can tell them where the principle of sacrifice-to-the-wilderness has been seeded and thus where to apply pressure to expand that principle by virtue of its own merit. By the same token, it shows where there is resistance to said sacrifices and thus indicates where more effort is needed. (Happily, my own city of Detroit declined to participate in Earth Hour. A rare spike of rationality? I doubt it. Con artists don't like to make sacrifices. They prefer to collect them.)

A second thought that occurred to me was: this could be an indication of how many people are still under the influence of the Kantian idea that everything in reality is 'mere appearance' and so to them appearance, like performing an altruistic ritual of shutting lights off, is everything. I for one am curious as to how many people turned their lights out last night for that hour then later went to bed thinking they did something that would nobly and virtuously help the planet. This is the same mentality we see in G-8 meetings where every year the planet's leaders gather and promise to loot their citizens' tax dollars and give them to the starving people of Africa all the while refusing to identify and correct the causes of said poverty. They then go to bed believing themselves to be righteous people. But I digress.

A third thought is that modern society has digressed from the real meaning of sacrifice--the surrender of a value for a non-value--to naming as a sacrifice that which is, in effect, a trade. It is common today to hear people refer to the exchange of a value in return for a greater value, a sacrifice. Of course, such an exchange is precisely what a trade is. Each person in a trade believes the value he is trading for is of greater value to him than is the thing he is willing to trade away.

By referring to trades as sacrifices in order to make them sound virtuous, one removes the concept trade from the realm of morality. It then becomes impossible for trades to be considered virtuous. At best they are considered amoral.

So now we have a situation where people are actually making trades but calling them sacrifices in order to feel moral. But this cannot sit well with those who know that the real meaning of sacrifice,--the surrender of a value for nothing in return, which means, to be virtuous, a sacrifice must include suffering,--is not actually being practiced today thus people are not really being virtuous. The question then becomes, in the minds of the sacrificers, how do we get society back to the morality of true sacrifice, i.e. suffering as a way of life? ( Now do you know why Africa is a not-to-be-developed continent? They are already living the environmentalist's ideal lifestyle.)

They, the sacrificers, get to this ideal society piecemeal. A little at a time. They try to get people used to the idea of giving something up and getting nothing in return. The way to do that is by inventing moral rituals which when performed, will make one a moral person. One must make sure however, that the ritual provides nothing in return to the sacrificer except the idea that he, the sacrificer, is being moral.

Some rituals of this kind include recycling, which does nothing for the planet and costs more that it saves. Switching light bulbs from incandescent to fluorescent is another ritual which will cost way more than it's worth and does not help anyone, shutting off lights for an hour will have no affect on the planet except to return humans to the dark ages for an hour. In each of these cases the sacrificer gets nothing in return except the feeling of being moral. Later, even this will be removed when the pushers of sacrifice gain political power, i.e. the power of force. Then sacrifices will be forced as they were in Stalin's Russia and Mao's China where about 20 and 30 million people respectively were sacrificed and they didn't get to feel moral.

Expect to see a lot more of these useless rituals in the future as Americans are ceaselessly urged, cajoled, bribed and otherwise nudged to accept the real meaning of sacrifice, the surrender of a value in return for a non-value. This will continue until people realize that sacrifice is a primitive concept invented by savages and has no place in a civilized society. Today, people have a choice between altruism which causes men to regard every other man as a threat to whom he must sacrifice his values, or Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand in which Egoism, the morality of rational self interest, which requires men to respect his fellow man by respecting his rights, and provides man with a non-sacrificial way of life.

The question then is would people rather live in a society that regards men as sacrificial animals or one that requires men to respect each other?
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