Just don't 'tell' me what to do, OK?
The trouble with Earth Day (or ‘Dirt Day, as we used to call it at a newspaper where once I worked) is that it, like everything else, is that brings out a vast array of both the self-righteous and the agenda-driven. The self-righteous I can take, because everything attracts that smug, holier-than-thou crew, but the agenda-driven, or the suspected agenda-driven piss me off. Mainly because these are the folk who are not graying hippies or the painfully young who might tut-tut in my direction but do nothing more; no the agenda-driven are the ones who seek legislation to ‘tell’ me or you what we must or, more importantly, must not do.
My problem, I think, is that I was reared in a family with a tyrannical father and an aloof mother, and I always balked at being ‘told’ what to do. Consequently, I have spent too much of my life reacting to directives. Sometimes (often) this has been counterproductive and I’ve ended up denying myself that which might be good for me. Doesn’t matter what the thing might be. If somebody attaches a ‘should’ to a thing, or especially a ‘must’, then I’m outta there. I’ve never read any books in the Lord of the Rings series, for example because too many people have said, “You ‘should’ read them because you’d really enjoy them.” In the first place, how does another know what I’d really enjoy, and secondly, and more importantly, you have killed any thoughts I might have had of perusing the opus of Tolkien, because you have directed me there. No, I must find it on my own.
Anyway, back to Earth Day in all of its both sensible and nonsensical ramifications and meanderings. One of our local newspapers ran a feature page yesterday outlining the 100 touchy-feely things we all can do to make for a happier planet. At first I wasn’t going to read it because it was going to be, in effect, telling me what to do, and also finding me lax in all the holy things I wasn’t doing. I’m big on sins of omission. But, I glanced at it nevertheless.
To my surprise I found that I wasn’t doing too badly. I recycle faithfully; I switch off unneeded lights; I hang clothes out on the line in balmy weather (because I love the fragrance); I drive an economical vehicle; and I don’t buy new appliances for the sake of having the trendiest models. Our TV is a decade old and it works fine. The sexy new flatscreen ones are ever so pretty but, as I said, the old one works fine. When it quits working fine I’ll get a new one.
But, one of the suggestions really stuck in my craw. That was because it was one of those agenda-driven directives I mentioned earlier. It was calling for the exclusive use of those twisty-looking fluorescent light bulbs. You know the ones that cost eight times as much as ordinary incandescent bulbs.
Then my hackles rose up. I am supposed to replace all my current bulbs with these? I hate fluorescent light. It gives me headaches and depresses my mood. It’s harsh and makes people look stark. Added to which, for the lovers of the earth, there is not much environmental soundness to fluorescent lights. They contain PCBs and they also contain mercury. What do you do with them when they finally burn out after 87 years, or whenever?
Then I read further and learned that the province of Ontario (a place that is essentially a foreign land to those of us on the west coast) is going to legislate mandatory use of these things by 2010, or whenever. In other words they are going to ‘forbid’ people to use regular bulbs. They are going to ‘tell’ people what they must do. Screw that.
If my own bailiwick should try the same thing I’ll man the barricades and be the last incandescent bulb holdout. Take me off to the joint, but I’m not going to be ‘told’ how I must light my lamps. Basically, it is none of bureaucracy’s business, and especially when the alternative they are 'ordering' the people to acquire is of dubious worth at all levels. How precious. How arrogant.
Many years ago there was a drive in assorted large North American cities to do away with street railroads. “Rails to Rubber,” it was called, and was presented as a wonderful alternative to those clunky old streetcars. The end result was, of course, city gridlock, and the loss of some fine and environmentally-friendly transit systems that cities are now trying, at huge cost, to replace. They already had them, goddamn, and they chucked them due to an agenda driven by automobile manufacturing and tire manufacturing industries. Something in this directive smacks of the same sort of thing.
So, excuse me for being skeptical. At the same time, I do love Mother Earth, and I’ll do my damnedest to help her. Just don’t ‘tell’ me what to do. I like to be asked.