Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Green Right

Love him or hate him, Thomas Friedman has a major new piece in the NY Times Magazine today calling for America to unite under the green banner. Friedman is a pro-business grandstander, who, to me, represents another strand of the new right, lets call it THE GREEN RIGHT.

For what it's worth, I'm happy that all these conservative thinkers (McCain, the Govenator, Friedman) are turning (in some way or another) green. That's great for everyone. It's absolutely parallel to the corporatization of organics, which I have discussed here and here. And, I'm an optimist. I think that the tide has already turned. That greening is inevitable. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the conservatives splashing into the green waters one by one, spurred on (predictably) by the Bush Administration's incompetence and simple inability to get a grip on reality. For the 90% of Americans who have a realist or rational bone in their body, going green looms as a simple fact of the future. We have to do it. It's not a choice.

Therefore, I resist all these calls to rename the environmental movement under the capitalist umbrella. Specifically, Friedman and Schwarzenegger are involved in a media frenzied hostile takeover of the term Green. Friedman out-and-out admits that he want to "own" the term green. (The capitalist spin couldn't be more clear!):

In the world of ideas, to name something is to own it. If you can name an issue, you can own the issue. One thing that always struck me about the term “green” was the degree to which, for so many years, it was defined by its opponents — by the people who wanted to disparage it. And they defined it as “liberal,” “tree-hugging,” “sissy,” “girlie-man,” “unpatriotic,” “vaguely French.”

Well, I want to rename “green.” I want to rename it geostrategic, geoeconomic, capitalistic and patriotic. I want to do that because I think that living, working, designing, manufacturing and projecting America in a green way can be the basis of a new unifying political movement for the 21st century. A redefined, broader and more muscular green ideology is not meant to trump the traditional Republican and Democratic agendas but rather to bridge them when it comes to addressing the three major issues facing every American today: jobs, temperature and terrorism.
First and foremost, Friedman and Schwarzenegger are free-market capitalists. This makes them men of progress, of perpetual growth, of boundlessness. However, science (again and again, even if you are an English teacher, you have to defer to science) tells us that progress is a myth. Until we stop measuring progress in terms of GDP, we will still live in an unsustainable world; a world where going to war is actually good for the economy and living simply is actually bad, where shopping for endless knickknacks is good and bartering back and forth with your neighbor is bad.

My point is, again, this: That the true blue people on the left (that 10% who didn't want to go to war in Afghanistan, because they preferred actually looking at the root problems associated with terrorism and thought that conversation and dialog were actually more effective than bombs) should be very weary of adopting the language of the new green right. Throwing out countercultural ideals and ideas will only slow the inevitable shift toward real sustainability. Think about it this way: is Al-Qaeda better off today than it was 10 years ago? If you think it's better off, then you find yourself in agreement with the far left of 2001. How long ago that seems!

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