Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived
The Forbes magazine article cited here, about the underlying and long term costs and impact of electric vehicles, is interesting because it addresses the very real moral complications of what is seemingly one of the most positively moral slam dunks of our time: the move away from fossil fuels. The inspiration for the article, by the way, is a widely and highly regarded Dutch environmentalist and political scientist, Bjorn Lomborg, who often finds himself at odds with popularly peddled prescriptions for saving the world. Lomberg’s detailed take on electric vehicles can be read here.
The real point of the Forbes article, though, is not that there is no need for cleaner, more efficient energy sources. The point is that every approach to the issue has significant compromises, and it’s not fair or wise to ignore all of the compromises of the prevailing approach just because the media, government, or “experts” choose to ignore them.
In this particular case, the bottom line is that right now, the world doesn’t have nearly enough access to the readily available raw materials needed to meet any more than a small fraction of the emissions goals that all of those influencers mentioned above keep pushing us to embrace. Right now, there’s simply no path to that dream. So let’s hope Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is wrong, and that we have more than twelve years left.
But it’s larger than that. We’re constantly being fed a crisis diet designed to keep us in fear. Climate. Politics. Health. Science. Economics. War. Lather, Lather. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
And almost all of us fall for something in that cycle. Whatever our button(s) are, those influencers, who all stand to make a profit one way or another, will press them predictably and unfailingly to make sure that we’re always driven toward the conclusion that we’re helpless unless we give them more control over our actions, money, property, attention, and information. But what is most at stake is our freedom to even think about, much less practice, what will give us peace and prosperity. Because that interest is not necessarily in their interest.
And what, ultimately, controls our freedom? Our beliefs. They’re after our beliefs, folks. If we give them control of our beliefs, the game is over, and they win for a long, long time. If we give up the beliefs that sustain our freedom to even think contrarily to these influencers, our children, and our children’s children, will belong to them.
Individual freedom will always, always be the enemy of authoritarianism. Ideas come and go, and are fair game — or should be — in the public square. And as long as that is happening, it doesn’t really matter who is in authority.
But when the alarms should go off inside us is when those influencers, the ones who are supposed to be guaranteeing the free flow of information, start to actively suppress some ideas, but not others. When that happens to an idea that we don’t like, we should immediately assume that next will be the suppression of an idea that we hold dear. That’s when we know that those influencers are no longer to be trusted. That’s when we should know that the guardians are becoming our oppressors.
But unless individual freedom of expression is upheld as a paramount value, individuals and cultures don’t have the tools to correct poor choices, whereas authorities have little reason to correct choices that benefit them but oppress the individual. That’s why freedom of expression must rest with the individual, because a typical individual’s influence is, in itself, much less coercive than the typical media outlet or government.
Is climate change real? Is it going in a particular direction? What are its causes? Is it a net harm? Is the danger of that harm imminent?
Is socialism good or bad? Is fascism at hand? Is capitalism oppressive? What is the most beneficial role of government in society? Is slavery over? Who started it? Who ended it?
What are vaccines? What is their full history? Who makes them? What is in them? Who should have them? Who should not? Who should make those decisions?
What is sex? What is gender? What is the difference between the two? What determines their status in each person? What rights should that status specifically convey, or be accompanied by legally? How do those rights impact other rights?
What is “race?’ Are there different races of humans? How is that determined? Are there fundamental differences between different “races?” If so, what accounts for those differences?
As you might have guessed, I could go on. And on. Haven’t I?
I offer those questions because the subjects around which they are centered are contentious and in play in our world right now. But think about it: can we talk openly about these issues? Are we encouraged to speak our minds on them in public forums? Do our influencers encourage open debate about them, or discourage it, giving voice to some perspectives while discouraging others?
And what about you? Yes, 𝘺𝘰𝘶. I understand you don’t want vitriol and constant contention on your virtual front porch, and there’s nothing wrong with that desire. But when you hear an idea with which you expect to disagree, civilly and cogently expressed on television, or in the newspaper, or on a website or some other public forum, do you simply disagree with it, or do you find yourself vehemently wanting it to be banned from the discussion, or its advocates even punished personally and publicly, because you’ve determined that it doesn’t deserve, or even dangerous, to be heard? If you fall into the latter category, then you have become part of the machine that destroys freedom, and you need to reassess why you believe what you believe, and how soon you are ready to have those tables turned on you. You want a safe space? Then go to your room.
Securing individual freedom doesn’t always mean we, as a society, will make healthy choices. Sometimes collective thought goes in a horribly wrong direction. After all, there are some places that we should all be able to agree immediately that we just don’t want to go, right? Whether or not that happens is a matter of foundational values, and that subject is for another discussion. But I’ll touch on it here.
Some of you might be asking if I’m forgetting God in all of this. I certainly hope not. Jesus said in John 8 that if we abide in His word, we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. But how can you know the truth if you don’t ever hear it, and how can you hear it if no one has the freedom to express it? That’s why the First Amendment is the First Amendment.
Thanks for listening. Now it’s your turn. May God bless us all.