I’m pretty sure they won’t listen, now.
When I first heard bits of Don McLean’s song “Vincent” I didn’t immediately understand what and who he was singing about. It’s incredibly haunting, the refrain, which seems disconnected from anything to actually do with Vincent (Van Gogh) and what we might know about what was in his mind. I don’t know where it came from, but the refrain reached down and touched something in me:
Now, I understand what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now
It comes back to me at times when I encounter willful ignorance, or other forms of advanced stupidity – the worst of which is someone pretending ignorance, in the face of truth and knowledge. In order to do that, one has to know what the truth is, then act like they believe something completely different, sometimes in the face of someone else who knows the truth, which they disregard; it’s a multi-way lie and it’s what politicians do. I suppose they’d say it’s their job.
That all sounds a bit cryptic and roundabout but I can’t think of any other way of backing forward into this topic. Our political leaders are generally playing a great routine of “who’d a thunk!?” with regard to climate change. Back in the day, it was called “greenhouse gas emissions” and then “global warming” but finally the powers that control the world decided on the less intimidating-sounding “climate change.” It lacks the emotional impact of “ecological suicide” and that’s the point.
Al Gore was a representative, then a congressman in 1985, when this was recorded:
Did Sagan, the great educator and communicator, get through to Al Gore, who later went on to achieve some fame for his “An Inconvenient Truth” film? An old friend of mine was part of security the presidential communications detail under the Reagan administration, and he was present (setting up the audio) when Al Gore was getting some briefings – he said Gore was one of the smartest people he had ever seen, he’d sit and doodle and not appear to be listening at all but when the time came for questions, Gore would ask the most probing questions that showed he had a profound command of the material that he had apparently not been listening to. My friend is hard to impress and has been around a lot of very smart people, so I tend to take what he says seriously.
Sagan doesn’t say anything we haven’t heard a dozen times, by now. But that was 1985. 1985 was about the time that the fossil fuels industry began their program of disinformation. There was plenty of time for our elected representatives to do what they are supposed to do – serve The People’s interest, and educate themselves and make changes. I wonder if Sagan knew he was pissing into the wind. Probably – he was certainly experienced enough with the ways of the world, and had probably seen the disinformation program coming a long way off. He delivers his thoughts with the usual Sagan aplomb, in spite of everything.
I wonder what Sagan would have thought of the way the Trumpies handled the pandemic. Would have have tried to keep positive and helpful, like Fauci did, or would he have blown his top? I feel like Fauci had enough experience with public science and American anti-intellectualism that he should never have played along with the Trumpies as long as he did.
It sucks that the best that ‘representative democracy’ can manage is to haul someone like Sagan to give congressional testimony, then ignore them.