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Ed Driscoll

I Blame The Frisbee Ion

July 23rd, 2012 - 2:10 pm

While the racial element that the Huffington Post author adds is new, the tone isn’t. It brings to mind a question that an earnest young college student asked when told that the world would be ecologically doomed by 2000, in Tom Wolfe’s 1976 essay, “The Intelligent Coed’s Guide To America.”  That section of the essay carried the subhead “The Frisbee Ion,” after Wolfe observed a college lecturer telling his audience — apparently with a straight face — that aerosol spray use was causing an ion to disappear from the atmosphere that would cause our bones to evaporate. After painting a portrait of once jaunty Manhattanites reduced to boneless globules by the year 2000, Wolfe wrote:

I was so dazed, I was no longer wondering what the assembled students thought of all this. But just at that moment one of them raised his hand. He was a tall boy with a lot of curly hair and a Fu Manchu mustache.“Yes?” said the ecologist.

“There’s one thing I can’t understand,” said the boy.

“What’s that?” said the ecologist.

“Well,” said the boy. “I’m a senior, and for four years we’ve been told by people like yourself and the other gentlemen that everything’s in terrible shape, and it’s all going to hell, and I’m willing to take your word for it, because you’re all experts in your fields. But around here, at this school, for the past four years, the biggest problem, as far as I can see, has been finding a parking place near the campus.”

Dead silence. The panelists looked at this poor turkey to try to size him up. Was he trying to be funny? Or was this the native bray of the heartland? The ecologist struck a note of forbearance as he said: “I’m sure that’s true, and that illustrates one of the biggest difficulties we have in making realistic assessments. A university like this, after all, is a middle-class institution, and middle-class life is calculated precisely to create a screen—”

“I understand all that,” said the boy. “What I want to know is—how old are you, usually, when it all hits you?”

And suddenly the situation became clear. The kid was no wiseacre! He was genuinely perplexed! … For four years he had been squinting at the horizon … looking for the grim horrors which he knew—on faith—to be all around him … and had been utterly unable to find them … and now he was afraid they might descend on him all at once when he least expected it. He might be walking down the street in Omaha one day, minding his own business, when—whop! whop! whop! whop!—War! Fascism! Repression! Corruption!—they’d squash him like bowling balls rolling off a roof!

Who was that lost lad? What was his name? Without knowing it, he was playing the xylophone in a boneyard. He was the unique new creature of the 1970’s. He was Candide in reverse. Candide and Miss Cunégonde, one will recall, are taught by an all-knowing savant, Dr. Pangloss. He keeps assuring them that this is “the best of all possible worlds,” and they believe him implicitly—even though their lives are one catastrophe after another. Now something much weirder was happening. The Jocks & Buds & Freaks of the heartland have their all-knowing savants of O’Hare, who keep warning them that this is “the worst of all possible worlds,” and they know it must be true—and yet life keeps getting easier, sunnier, happier … Frisbee!

How can such things be?

And as PJM’s own Zombie noted in January, the Global Warming Wars (or more precisely, the global warming moral equivalent of war wars) have a certain sense of ’70s-era deja vu about them:

I just finished reading a terrifying new book about climate change. I learned this:

• Climate change is happening faster than we realize and it will have catastrophic consequences for mankind.
• There’s very little we can do to stop it at this late stage, but we might be able to save ourselves if we immediately take these necessary and drastic steps:

- Increase our reliance on alternative energy sources and stop using so much oil and other carbon-based fuels;
- Adopt energy-efficient practices in all aspects of our lives, however inconvenient;
- Impose punitive taxes on inefficient or polluting activities to discourage them;
- Funnel large sums of money from developed nations like the U.S. to Third World nations;
- In general embrace all environmental causes.

You of course recognize these as the solutions most often recommended to ameliorate the looming crisis of Global Warming. But there’s a little glitch in my narrative. Because although the book I read was indeed about climate change, it wasn’t about Global Warming at all; it was instead about “The Coming of the New Ice Age,” and it isn’t exactly “new” — it was published in 1977.

So perhaps that’s why Generation X has tuned out this debate — they’ve heard it all before in the 1970s, either directly or from their parents or older brothers — and they know it’s a broken record. (Or MP3 stuck a permanent loop, or some other phrase since so few people own records anymore…) And the more shrill the global warming proponents sound, without changing their own lifestyles before hectoring others, the more they’ll be tuned out.

Besides, we now know that the Global Warming arguments were merely a prelude to Obama’s crony corporatism anyhow.

So what will be the next argument for the left to control the masses? The answer is as close as your nearest fork.

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