Thursday, April 23, 2009

Our big lie

Fortune's Carol Loomis just did a great interview with Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation (which, not being a car-owner, I only just now learned is the country's largest auto retailer) in which he says gas is too cheap, and we need a gas tax to push it up. But what struck me most wasn't hearing an auto salesman say we need more expensive gas - stunning as that is. It was this:

The biggest lie in American politics is the following combination: "I care passionately about America's dependence on imported oil and we must do something about it, and I'm passionate about global warming--and I strongly believe we should have cheap, affordable gasoline."

We see that lie all the time - it's just that the last bit of the sentence changes. Maybe it's "and I strongly believe that America needs cheap food," or "and I strongly believe that we can't afford not to use coal." If we're honest, we all have our own lies - anything from "and Fresh Direct is such a time-saver " to "and I really can't stand a cold house." (Here's my dirty little secret - turning my computer off at night and - even worse - back on in the morning, and then waiting while all my programs, email, and all the rest of it finally make their way onto the screen, just seems like too much trouble.)

The thing that's really scary, though, is that so often the people making a statement like that
really believe both halves of it at once. Sometimes, of course, they're just giving lip service to the first half because it's The Currently Acceptable Thing To Say - but often, I think, they really do mean it. And they certainly mean the second half.

But they've spent so much of their lives honing their talking points that they've forgotten how to even listen to what they're saying, let alone think about it. And until they start thinking about what they're saying, they can't begin to get a grip on the hard truth: that life as we know it is going away. Whether we want it to or not. We can either try to shape the inevitable changes, or we can keep trying to stay where we are. But if we don't shape the coming changes, they're going to shape us - and it's not going to be a pretty sight.

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