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Blog: Brudaimonia | Link: dKos environmentalists

After taking over Congress in 1994 and the presidency in 2000 through strategic alliances, Machiavellian campaign tactics, Supreme Court imbalances, certainly a lot of hard work by grassroots activists, playing on Americans' fears, and other avenues, today's conservative movement - I don't have to tell any Kossacks - is showing many signs of being in jeopardy, a condition even Bob Novak would accept.

The signs are many: the right's bleak outlook for November, GOP-Joe paying the price for becoming the new Cheney, Bush's disapproval ratings over the last couple years, and many more of which we are all well aware.  Credit is also due to the resurgence of progressives through the netroots movement, which has given us the tools to hold conservatives accountable when the mainstream media shamefully won't do it.  But let me pose another hypothesis: today's conservatism is in danger because, in addition to the reasons mentioned above, it is, to a significant extent, based on the availability of cheap oil, and cheap oil is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Cheap oil - along with a lot of open land and World War II production capacities looking for something to do after the war had ended - enabled the massive wave of suburbanization that swept the country in the 1950s.  The hubris of victory was channeled into Americans moving away from the "dirty" cities and conquering the landscape surrounding them.  In a short period of time, millions of people were living in Levittown-style suburbs with at least one car.

I do not mean this diary to be a critique of the suburbs, though I tend to agree with James Howard Kunstler that the suburbs "represent the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."  However, the suburbs instilled in America's collective mindset the individualism that defines our society vis-a-vis the rest of the world.  Nor is this diary a critique of individualism; it is a healthy personal trait to a certain extent, in that we should never discount our individual abilities to accomplish great things in life.  But individualism to the extreme - hyperindividualism - increasingly found a place in American society - to its own detriment - as the modern conservative movement gained strength.

It goes without saying that suburbs - and especially the exurbs - are the strongholds for conservatives in electoral politics.  Suburbanites tend to be conservatives.  Conservatives, in my view, tend to make fundamental attribution errors.  That is, in the formation of their political and social ideology, they tend to

over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based, explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences on the same behavior...a default assumption that what a person does is based more on what "kind" of person he or she is, rather than the social and environmental forces at work on that person.
I am not saying every conservative does this, just that there is a tendency to do so, and this tendency is manifest in the conservative's relative abhorrence of government.  It makes one feel that one has done almost everything oneself, and that the government just gets in the way, and that taxation is little more than "forced labor," as noted libertarian Robert Nozick put it.

The suburbs are ideal breeding grounds for this kind of individualism.  Their living arrangements lead hyperindividualists to believe that their ideology is sustainable and viable.  But the suburbs, as I have said, are based on cheap oil, either directly, because it allows residents to motor to and from them on a regular basis, or indirectly, because the construction of the massive interstate highway system that connects them required large amounts of oil-based inputs.  In an excellent article about the prevalence of anti-social behavior in England due to automobile-heavy infrastructure, George Monbiot wrote that

the new libertarians fail to recognise the extent to which their freedoms depend on an enabling state. They hate the institution which allows them to believe that they can live without institutions.
As the cheap oil's sun sets, we will be forced to build a more sustainable built environment: compact development, walkable communities with more common characteristics (such as community energy generation, community gardens, and so forth).  Our mode of living will be more communal, which is to say more like the interdependent communities that inhabited the earth from the dawn of humankind to the Industrial Revolution.  The social ideology of hyperindividualism will be improbable, and so will its political ideological counterpart of libertarianism.  It will behoove those who now detest government to accept its value, since community is the precursor to government.

The end of cheap fossil fuels requires a transformation to another kind of conservatism, that is to say, conservation.  "Conservatism" here is ironic, because progressives actually display this quality more abundantly than political conservatives.  While progressives are calling for renewable energy and energy conservation, many conservatives are calling for extraction of all of our nation's fossil fuels.  Some conservatives (like Manhattan Institute fellow Peter Huber and former Reagan administration staffer Mark Mills) even assign virtue to waste in peddling the dubious concept that we will never run out of energy.

Such a concept is not surprising since energy shortages (not to mention social injustices) belie the viability of global, unrestrained capitalism, which defines many conservatives' economic views.  All the conservatism that Wal-Mart spawns will disappear once the Wal-Mart retail model, requiring long, fossil-fuel-subsidized shipping routes, becomes completely unsustainable.

So, too, could be the fate of militaristic conservatism, which could be having its grand finale in the Bush administration years.  The neoconservative strategy of militarily invading and controlling countries in order to extract their resources will seem even more farcical than it seems now once those countries have run low on economically extractable resources.  Here I urge you to consider Wendell Berry's thoughts:

The first thing we must begin to teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve. We do need a "new economy", but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving, not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent, and war is its inevitable by-product. We need a peaceable economy.
Even now, it is apparent (even self-evident) that we cannot drill or shock-and-awe our way to energy independence.

To summarize my hypothesis, then, conservatism is, at least to a significant extent, based on cheap oil (and other cheap fossil fuels).  I have highlighted some of its major ideological tenets - hyperindividualism, unrestrained global capitalism, and neoconservative militarism - in order to show that these tenets are only combatible with - and predicated on - available cheap oil and other fossil fuel inputs.  The Richard Pombos of this country may find that soon their ideologies will be as endangered as the endangered species whose protections Rep. Pombo has fought to remove.  Conservatives will find that they will have to change their views or cling to an unsustainable credo that is bound to run out of gas before long.

Originally posted to Brudaimonia on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 01:02 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  cheap energy, allowed for alot of growth (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evilpenguin, ilyana

    I often opined that I felt low gas prices helped alot with spurring alot growth in the economy during the 90's.  and there was a better job of keeping the brakes on a housing boom that burned so many in the late 80's.  but the FED, the WH and congress have stupendously fucked up.  Conservatism sucks, it's always sucked and for the most part quickly devolves into rich men let their greed run wild

  •  It's Based on Free Lunch More Generally (5+ / 0-)

    Most of our modern notions of government, seems to me, arose in the new-world era of surplus land and resources flowing in.

    Petroluem is just the latest commodity we've focused on as essential to keep flowing at a net wealth profit to the whole system.

    Mangement only needs one more Justice to conquer the Constitution itself, which is very plausible before 2009. At that point they'll be free to make serious cuts toward the masses to afford to continue to serve themselves profitably even as they "fail" in terms of society and the country.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 01:12:08 PM PDT

  •  No... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evilpenguin, Yellow Canary

    ...Conservatism predates the internal combustion engine.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 01:16:48 PM PDT

    •  restate as: modern and postmodern conservatism (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      montpellier, evilpenguin

      Conservatism before the internal combustion engine was an entirely different animal.  Modern conservatism basically rose out in opposition to the progressive movement, which emerged out of the crime and squalor of the industrial revolution, which was about coal, and then oil.

      I would say that perhaps free energy might be the root of conservatism, in the notion that harvesting a resource makes it yours.

    •  'Today's conservatism' (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Note that I mean modern conservatism.  I used the term "today's conservatism" in the second paragraph.

      I certainly don't mean the conservatism that was around before the internal combustion engine.  And I think that that form of conservatism will continue once conservation becomes more necessary for quality of life.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 01:59:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And will outlast the internal combustion ... (3+ / 0-)

      ... engine, but it was not a mass movement. Pre-internal combution engine, conservatism is based on entrenched power and privilage and the idea of everyone known their place in society.

      The "New Right" conservatism is based on the idea of the self-made man, and the suburbs, parasitizing the urban center that they surround, provide an excellent environment for believing that there is such a thing.

      The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

      by BruceMcF on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 08:37:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary (10+ / 0-)

    Many of these topics have been often discussed here, but I think they are critically important to understanding our situation. So a good introductory diary on this topice every few months is welcome for the turnover we have here.

    I've read both The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere, both my Kunstler. I consider his books to be right on the money, if a little glib.

    But I don't think conservatives are alone in blinkered thinking about energy. The problem is they are the ones with a plan: They are following the "post-peak" strategy that Richard Heinberg calls "Last Man Standing." The Democrats have, up to now, had no real strategy for post-petrol policy.

    If I may, Richard Heinberg's two books, Powerdown and The Party's Over are worthy additions to anyone's reading list on these topics.

    I would also recommend Beyond Oil  by Ken Deffeyes, one of the founders of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. Twilight in the Desert by Matthew Simmons, and A Thousand Barrels a Second by Peter Tertzakian.

    For contrarian arguments, I can suggest that you read The Bottomless Well by Peter Huber and Mark Mills (which I think is a total load, but I'm just an interested layman) and The Deep, Hot Biosphere by Thomas Gold, which I do not think is a load, but I think runs contrary to the vast majority of scientists in this field, and whose most provocative theories remain untested. Gold's book is the best case I have seen for the "cornucopian" argument, but I would suggest that both Global Warming, and the fact that irrespective of how oil and natural gas are produced, if our rate of extraction exceeds the rate of production, it makes little difference.

    Gold's theories are the most serious argument that "fossil fuels" aren't fossil, but are produced continously in the deep earth. From my reading, his work remains theoretical. But I think work to test his theories should continue. Even though I think we need to get off oil as soon as possible, if we can find oil in rocks we've ignored up to know, and exploiting that can delay or avert catastrophe, well, that is an experiment worth the cost.

    I'm sure an advocate of Gold's theories can weight in with the latest success stories.

    In any case, getting off oil as soon as possible is a very good idea.

  •  in support of this argument (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    evilpenguin, Brudaimonia

    Is the inverse coupling of Bush's approval ratings and the price of gas.  It's really an amazing trend, if you haven't seen it.  It comes from pollkatz.

    The the CW being that oil prices will drop a bit (as new reserves coming online) it's hard to imagine that Bush won't see a little climb in the approval rating, unless you think there isn't any causal relationshp in this figure.

  •  Pretty much (5+ / 0-)

    the last century of industrial capitalism as well as modern agriculture agribusiness is based on cheap oil.

    the whole thing is a bubble of sorts.

    Given a choice between a real Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, Americans will choose the real Republican every time - Harry Truman

    by tiggers thotful spot on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 01:46:46 PM PDT

    •  All the more reason, then... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Yellow Canary

      ...for progressives, in order to be successful politically, to accentuate their views on energy conservation.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 02:05:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree and wonderful insight here... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tiggers thotful spot

        And I'm peeved because Bill Maher came back from hiatus tonight on HBO to poke more fun at Shrub but failed to even mention/reiterate that energy independence is the most important geo-political issue facing the U.S.

        A solution here is a solution there/everywhere, so to speak.  

        Then we still face the task of convincing the "majority" (i.e. Wall Street) that pumping that last $100 trillion of black gold is the worst possible choice -- i.e. that the rich burn and blow up with the rest of us.  Hey it (eventually) worked for the bomb, sort of!

        Finally, the gunfigher/rock-star, hotrod and Mcmansion have far too much [illusion of surplus] in common not to notice.  Brud, thanks for your insight in this regard.

        Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

        by neoconsuck on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 12:40:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Infinite economic expansion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Superpole, offgrid

    ... is not possible on a planet of finite size. It is therefore reasonable to ask what are the limits of expansion, and whether we have reached or even passed those limits.

    Couple of good books to add to those cited in other comments:

    One With Nineveh by Paul and Anne Ehrlich: a comprehensive synopsis of the state of the planet and the human enterprise. Peak oil is only one of the limiting factors.

    Beyond Growth by Herman Daly: an academic economist destroys the assumptions of those who prefer not to think that there could be limits to growth.

    End Game Vol. 2 by Derrick Jensen: argues that any society that takes more from its environment than it restores will eventually degrade its landbase past the point of livability.

    The question I keep coming back to: what kind of politics, economy, and society can we have in a contracting economy?

  •  The GOP is the party of 'growth' (read business) (3+ / 0-)

    and "growth" is based on cheap energy and cheap resources in general. The Rethug hidden agenda is to provide cheap energy (read oil) and cheap natural resources to US business. So the military is a free prtection service for the oil industry, and the mining and gas industries get to loot US natural resource for just about nothing.

    Get rid of dependence on oil and you don't need to spend half a trillion dollars a year on the military. Factor that into the price of a gallon of gas. We're all paying for it through taxes.

    The end of cheap oil, the specter of global warming and the health threat of pollution is spelling the end of the growth economy.

    There is now an energy alliance forming agains the US, which bodes ill for cheap energy also.

    Russia spins global energy spider's web - W. Joseph Stroupe

    If not now, when? When they come for you, then it will be too late. Shout it from the rooftops, take it to the streets.

    by tjfxh on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 03:32:05 PM PDT

  •  I have heard this argument before (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I still find it compelling.  As soon as we start to decentralize our power grids, in favor of residential solar cells, windmills on every farm and prison, etc--modern "conservatism" will die.  Unfortunately those who profit in the tens of billions from the current system will fight that process to their deaths.

    Real Patriots Love Freedom

    by greasymadness on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 08:48:39 PM PDT

  •  One thing that resource-intensive growth ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobinson, Brudaimonia, conifers

    ... permits is material expansion without intensive design at the community level. There is little clear incentive to design solutions to problems if it seems to be cheaper just to throw more material resources at the problem.

    And that really does underpin suburban sprawl. Throw a massive amount of resources into "providing infrastructure" for big single-use zoned blocks of land - industrial parks, retail, residential - and then sit back as the "development" proceeds.

    For an idea how much resource deployment is required to kick start a good old-fashioned, "the market did it" suburban sprawl, "Your Tax Dollars At Work" looks at the case of Garfield in Northern Michigan.

    However, in addition to how much public resources are used to subsidize this kind of sprawl (which is the question for which I originally deployed it), what you bring to my mind here, Brudaimonia, is how little design goes into this kind of sprawl.

    We cannot pursue intelligent design solutions at the community level and ignore the essential public element of what many conservative suburbanites think of as "private" wealth.

    "More" gas, "more" cars, "more" McMansions ... those are things that "the market" can deliver without requiring community collaboration. However, when the "more" gas part runs into an obstacle, the system really does start to unravel.

    We are only seeing a squeeze today but, after correcting for inflation, gas cost more in terms of purchasing power at the end of the second OPEC price shock. However, when gas reaches $5/gallon, the benefits to communities that are designed to allow less transport with a smaller share of that transport by car will begin to show a compelling cost-of-living advantage ...

    ... and gas at $8/gallon will require a total retrofit of suburban communities.

    The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

    by BruceMcF on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 08:54:14 PM PDT

    •  We can, but we won't (0+ / 0-)

      We are able but not willing to design development in a responsible manner that accomodates public needs (and goods) with market solutions. (I am not sure conservatives consider the public goods as good when it does not deliver immediate and direct benefits to them. ) However, many solutions exists at the community level, and folks with vision, skills, and will power take it upon themselves to challenge their communities to come up with viable solutions.

      At the national level, our leaders all talk about energy security, but are complete ninnys in ways to get us there. They lack vision in the sense that they are looking at the next 20 years when they could look at the next 200, and throw in new industries, new areas of expertise, new jobs, and a new future for many, many Americans.  

      No wonder conservatives believe so strongly in private industry, they suk in public office.

      •  The thing about markets ... (0+ / 0-)

        ... is that they cannot design complex systems. They are great institutions for all sorts of things, but as designers, they suck.

        There are people that own stock and push "market solutions" for every problem of public governance, and yet are never engaging in constant proxy-wars to break up the corporations they hold shares in ... somehow, for private governance, all of a sudden there are limits to "market solutions" ... some things have to be done "in house".

        One thing that commodity markets are great at, though, is jumping around on the whiff of a rumour, so the financial advantage of owning property in communities that design responsibly will continue to rise.

        If the "market can do everything" crowd is undone by demand and supply in crude oil markets, they are being hoist on their own petard.

        The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

        by BruceMcF on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:18:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes but is it the market or ... (0+ / 0-)

          is it the accounting?  As mentioned already here, your price at the pump is highly subsidized (Navy to protect shipping lanes, tax incentives, etc.) and is therefore not the true market price.  Bad accounting.

          When a tree is cut, the wood and pulp trades in a market that does not account for the lost oxygen, aesthetic value, etc.  Bad accounting.

          Markets are fine, but they must be wholistic AND free/unsubsidized.  Milton Friedman was a pig -- a brilliant pig -- but a pig all the same.  We need to get beyond his overly simplistic, bottom line economics where the formulas are fundamentally flawed.

          Finally, not every facet of an intelligent society/economy can be commoditized.  Clean air/water is not a commodity.  Education [all levels] is not a commodity.  Public transportation and basic shelter are not commodities.  Electoral office is not a commodity.

          And a good place to start toward funding this "greater society" is inheritance.  Wealth must be recycled too.  When you die, what you made should revert to society.  Gates and Buffet figured this out on their own -- and at least deserve credit for that.  Be a robber barron if you want -- but there should never ever be another George W. or Jenna Bush.  Inheritance has broken our Democracy.

          Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

          by neoconsuck on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 08:23:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, for this, its the market ... (0+ / 0-)

            ... think about a fairly simple problem ... designing a market to make offers for plots of land in order to accumulate the plots required for a transport corridor ... or if that is not green enough, a wildlife corridor.

            The value to the corridor of the individual plot available for sale depends on the likelihood that a complete corridor can be formed that includes that plot. It depends not on the intrinsic features of the plot of land, but in its relationship to a contiguous sequence of plots between the two end-points.

            The market has a useful role to play, but it can't play every role. Trying to accomplish everything with market mechanisms and nothing with groups of people getting together in an organization to design complex systems is like trying to build a car that has steering and transmission, but no engine.

            Of course, except for the lunatic fringe, those who push "all market solutions" don't really mean "all market solutions". What they mean is that the people getting together in an organization to design complex systems will be occuring within commercial corporations, and not at the community level.

            The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

            by BruceMcF on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 12:53:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Sweet! (0+ / 0-)

      We cannot pursue intelligent design solutions at the community level and ignore the essential public element of what many conservative suburbanites think of as "private" wealth.

      Now that's just plain commie talk.  And OH how I love it so!  Do it some more, please!  It's like sex for the intellect.

      Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

      by neoconsuck on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 12:51:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Essence of Cities (0+ / 0-)

      I'm glad for your comments and others, Bruce, because they strengthen the point I was trying to make in my diary.

      The essential benefit of (well-planned) cities is that their very design creates capacity to generate wealth and well-being, as you inferred in your fifth paragraph.

      A city-as-community is the physical manifestation of the public good: humans form societies because we can enahnce our lives by socializing with others in ways that we simply could not if living in solitude.

      The suburbs artificially and temporarily make us believe (through the constant influx of new resources) that we can live without community.

      All of this is an affirmation-through-reiteration of what you just said.

      And let's be thankful for New Urbanism, smart-growth advocates, the U.S. Green Building Council, and other groups and schools of thought that are trying to restore the viability of communities across the nation.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:01:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  evangelical Chrisitianity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    As I wrote in a diary a few weeks ago, I think the influence of evangelical Christianity on neoconservative politics, at least at the grassroots level, is waning.

    That's another factor, besides petrochemical depletion, that mitigates against continued neocon dominance in American politics.  

    •  Could be... (0+ / 0-)

      I have heard some anecdotal evidence of evangelical epiphanies on environmental ethics (ok, getting carried away with the e-words), which doesn't bode well for the cut-drill-mine-and-kill "ethic" of conservative environmental policies.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:03:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Makes perfect sense... (0+ / 0-)

    although I never really thought of it before.  The Goldwater/Reagan/W brand of Sun Belt "conservatism" does rely on cheap gasoline.  Now that cheap gasoline is dead, I wonder what will happen to that political brand.

    Some men see things as they are and ask why. I see things that never were and ask why not?

    by RFK Lives on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 09:09:55 PM PDT

  •  Tie in with the mega churches (4+ / 0-)

    One aspect of suburbia is that it is isolating.  When I lived for a year in Dallas Tx I lived in The Village.  It was a suburban tract that attempted to create community.  They even created walk paths, fountains, and swimming.  That said, the design of the apartments was incredibly isolating.  I barely knew my neighbors.  You couldn't walk anywhere off of the village.  Even though Half Price Books Flagship shop was only 100 meters away, it was across the 6 lane NY highway.  For safety reasons, I often had to drive.  Six other grad students lived in the village "near" me but they were far enough away that I ended up driving to their places as well.   I did ride my bicycle to other areas but getting out of the village involved crossing NW Highway to the North, Greenville and I75 to the West, and Skillman to the east.  The experience on a bicycle was often Hair-raising.  And walking was clear out.  Thus, the village was a dormatory and not the community it was advertised as.

    My point is that I never developed a sense of community and I think that others felt this too.  The problem with suburbia is that you are required to drive everywhere to get out of the single use zone.   You may know the neighbors in the cul de sac, but do you know anyone else in the area?  Suburbia is designed to keep the neighbors at 3 arms length.  And what if you don't like the neighbors.  Parents are regularly driving 30 minutes one way to take their children to friends.  Going back to my experiences in Dallas, 2 of the 6 grad students were friends.  My other close friends were 30 minutes to the north, 40 minutes to the west, 20 minutes to the south. and 25 minutes to the northeast.  Getting the gang together was an exercise in planning.

    The mega churches are products of the suburbs.  I think is many ways the ferverance that the members feel is a result of a lack of community.  Noam Chomsky notes that America is awash with Fundamentalist Cults.  The only parallel of a fundamentalist state with an educated population in the developed world is Iran.  He notes that when people feel impotent and isolated, they turn their eyes upwards.

    When I was living on the North Side of Milwaukee near the University, an evangelist (from the Brown Deer suburbs, surprise, surprise) once asked me if I had a "God sized hole in my heart" because I was not a member of her religious sect.  I said I had humanity and the world.  Maybe that is my substitute for all encompassing religion.   For her, the church was everything:  her family, friends, and peers.  But I wonder if she had a community sized hole that she was filling with her branch of fundamentalism.

    I do not intend this to be bashing religion.  But I do find it very interesting that in surveys, people state that they feel isolated and feel a lack of community in the suburbs, that these conservative megachurches have their strongholds in the suburbs, and that their members often state that they were "lost" and that the church fufills not just there needs of faith but of community as well.


    •  Rabbi Michael Lerner... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Says much the same thing in The Left Hand of God.  I'm an atheist/agnostic not much in agreement with Lerner's "solutions" but do agree that physical, emotional and economic isolation - i.e. lack of community and little more than a jingoistic "national" identity -- are huge social problems the neocon cults have exploited.

      Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

      by neoconsuck on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:06:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  As a born-and-raised Milwaukeean... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...I'm ashamed of the Brown Deer evangelist, and would have no doubt given her a response similar to what you gave.

      I have had similar biking perils in cities like Minneapolis, St. Petersburg, and others where I drifted into the suburban collector road network and had to deal with SUVs barreling within a few feet of me at 50 mph.

      One of the greater ironies I have thought of with regard to Christianity and the suburbs came to me after reading C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, which is a thought experiment book about the nature of heaven and hell.  (I'm not a Catholic in the ideological sense, but I think the book contains a lot of wisdom.)  Anyway, Lewis's description of hell is not a pit of fire patrolled by imps and demons with bifurcated tails and pitchforks, rather it is a dark place where people are always quarreling with each other, and, as a result, are continually moving away from each other, like objects in the universe.

      The irony is that Lewis's description of hell accords in a way with my perception of the suburbs - everything and everyone is spread apart; there is little sense of community.  And it also reminds me of mega-churches, not only due to their suburban locales, but due to the polarizing nature of the sermons therein.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:16:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Megachurches (0+ / 0-)

      You are absolutely right.

      What many people don't realize about "megachurches" is that they really don't preach much doctrine at all. What is taught is very basic and often watered down. I would describe it as "fundamentalism-lite".

      However, they form a community in the suburbs. One thing you have missed about the suburbs is how often many suburbanites move from one community to another. Mainline Churches are often dominated by people who have lived there for a while, and there usually aren't too many in the suburbs either. Megachurches provide community to the new residents and often provide forums for more intimate communities in the form of small groups.

      Community is the real thing that people are missing and this is what the megachurches provide.

      Let's make Tommy Moore our Governor.

      by wayward on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 04:05:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmmm... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Thinking, bobinson

    Look, I know that the era of cheap fossil fuels is over, one way or another. Humanity may be stupid enough to mine all the coal available, turn it to gas, and increase our CO2 load to a point we haven't seen since the Permian. Bad for humanity. But the notion that we're 'running out of energy' is silly... there's a huge nuclear furnace nearby which, if even a insubstantial fraction (say .00001%) of its energy were harvested, would be enough to melt the earth.

    Certainly the suburban lifestyle we've built is unsustainable, using current technology and energy sources. But I have hope (not faith, and indeed the only hope I can find) that we will learn to feed off the present, not the past, and use our big brains to make sure that the Earth gets enough energy to make our  future lifestyle sustainable.

    •  Conservatives Don't Need Cheap Oil (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ptah, Superpole

      There's plenty of energy, the problem is shifting to a new infrastructure. The end of cheap oil won't end suburbs, since we can move to other sources and infrastructure and it won't change the dynamic of whether people live in town or out, in the long run.

      But more fundamentally, community is no longer tied to physical proximity. The dKos community isn't bound by county lines. With global communication, everyone can be part of the community they want just by getting online.

      Liberal Thinking

      Think, liberally.

      by Liberal Thinking on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 12:33:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, but you still need more clean/efficient... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        transport of goods -- and obviously -- simply less consumption of goods and raw materials in general.  

        But globalization = long distance transport.  Think of how much is spent on a Navy to protect the shipping lanes (e.g. Straits of Hormuz).  So here we go again, increasing distance because it looks great on the balance sheet, but only because the balance sheet (economic model) is stupid to ignore those ancillary costs/impacts.

        So while I can (and do) live in Montana and be (not yet unfortunately but one day mostly, hopefully) off the grid with a plug-in car, I can't manufacture my own chips and plasma screen.  Those commodities need to arrive at my doorstep somehow.

        The digital community is a fine community.  But it won't dial 911 if your house catches on fire or a doctor if your latch-key kid crushes his pinkie in the screen door while you're still at work.

        So I think better, denser communities/cities are the answer, but it's going to take a lot of rethinking to get there.

        Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

        by neoconsuck on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:26:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm Not Against Denser Communities (0+ / 0-)

          I detest the way our environment is being chewed up by unmitigated sprawl. And I also think that the whole global shipping thing is a travesty because it puts additional carbon into the atmosphere.

          But I don't think cheap oil causes conservatism so much indirectly by separating people as by enabling them to be materialistic. Frankly, tightly knit communities tend to be conservative, not liberal. Everyone knows everyone else's business and there's a lot of pressure to conform.

          I don't have kids (because I cut down on kids when I learned the appalling truth that the earth was already overrun with 3 billion humans, back in the 60s when I was making that decision) and I don't worry about the neighbors calling 911 if there's a fire because the house calls the security company if there's excessive smoke or heat. I've found a thousand times more liberal friends through the Internet than I ever found by talking with people locally. So, I don't think denser communities are the answer. I think electronic communication has already superseded that.

          As for globalization and the shipping, I've long said that we need to pressure our government to build into the international trade agreements a suitable minimum wage, workplace standards and environmental standards that force countries that sell products to us to work on the same, level playing field. By doing that, manufacturing jobs will move slowly back to the U.S., reducing global shipping and improving national security. (See Frameshop: International Trade Agreements for more.) The U.S. has lost one quarter of the manufacturing jobs it had at their peak in 1979. This should be taken in the context of the enormous expansion of goods sold, so that we have probably lost fully half of the jobs we could have had in that sector. This was done by big business to hold down wages and increase their profits. It's completely craven and we should have organized and put a stop to it.

          So, while I think that cheap energy may have helped conservatives somewhat, I really don't see it as the main force driving this. If it were, maybe high prices would drive people into smaller, denser communities and they'd automatically become more liberal. Unfortunately, the argument just doesn't hold together for me.

          Liberal Thinking

          Think, liberally.

          by Liberal Thinking on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 11:41:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  disagree a bit (0+ / 0-)

          there's nothing more energy efficient than shipping thing over the ocean or over mostly flat rails. There are far too many things our current technology level requires to allow localization or moderate globalization.

    •  Energy (0+ / 0-)

      We're not running out of all sources of energy, of course, but rather the types of convenient energy which have built our modern societal structure.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:20:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Aha, but to get 24/7 reception from that ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... furnace, undiluted, we need to hit the high frontier.

      Otherwise its output is very decentralized when accessed directly down here dirtside ... certainly there is not enough free fusion energy available on the roof of the standard McMansion to plop batteries in a pluggable SUV and run on that.

      However, the key problem for a sustainable equation is that "halfway sustainable" is as coherent as "halfway pregnant". There has to be sustainable energy source, plus sustainable material throughput, plus sustainable material waste and by-products, and if any one is unsustainable the whole system fails.

      The core problem of the energy-intensive is that it is based on more wealth per person through more stuff per person, and the only long term sustainable solutions involve more wealth per person through better and more efficient stuff.

      The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

      by BruceMcF on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:48:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  agreed completely (0+ / 0-)

        Sorry for the hidden assumption, but I have as an axiom of future human survival the domestication of the high frontier. Otherwise we're just stewing in our own excresence, and sooner or later the critical lack of some utterly necessary element is going to hose us... there's a recent conference on the role of (believe it or not) SELENIUM in our biochemistry.

  •  'Conservatives' of the late '50s (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Superpole, Magnifico

    Back in the old days, water conservation meant that a river could not flow to the ocean. If a drop of water reached the ocean, it was wasted. For instance, the Colorado river which flows through the Grand Canyon dies in the desert about 50 miles from the Sea of Cortez that it flowed into 200 years ago. It's water now serves LA, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, the Imperial valley, and the farms around Calexico, Mexico.

    This water "conservation" led to several dam projects in the 50s and 60s in the rivers on the west coast. Water that now reaches the ocean  has to travel through several dams at the expense of the wildlife and fisheries. The wild salmon on the west coast is all but doomed due to the Bush water policies in the last couple of years.

    Newest GOP slogan: Keeping Voter Turnout Low So That the Corporate Criminal's Grandchildren Never Have to Work.

    by bobinson on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 11:09:50 PM PDT

  •  You gotta read this book by Greg Palast (3+ / 0-)

    Armed Madhouse The first hundered pages talk about how the Whitehouse had two different plans for the Iraq war. One developed by the 'Free-market' neocons and one developed by the oil industry.

    The Neocons are total free-marketeers who wanted WalMart and Sears and Home Depot to open multiple locations in Iraq after the liberation. They also wanted to sell off the oil fields to three different owners to encourage competition and higher oil output.

    According to Palast, the ex-CEO of Shell Oil went to Iraq to force Paul Bremmer (head of the Iraq provisional govt.) to keep some of Saddam's guys in charge of the oil ministry to stem flow of oil thus driving up the world price.

    It seems there was a war within the White House a couple of years ago to see who's economic experiment would play out. The oil guys won and the free-marketers lost. That's why Tom Friedman and other NeoCons are now against the war.

    Newest GOP slogan: Keeping Voter Turnout Low So That the Corporate Criminal's Grandchildren Never Have to Work.

    by bobinson on Fri Aug 25, 2006 at 11:36:19 PM PDT

    •  I'm not so sure ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... The free marketers were all over Iraq after the invasion swept into Baghdad.  They rushed in with heads aburst with ideology and duffels stuffed with that green blood of capitalism, cash.  Then the great fuck-up began.  Which is to say that the oil people didn't win the battle in the White House -- they benefited from factors beyond the White House's control (and to some extent from the failure of the NeoConMen hawking greed like old-time religion at the corner of Shock Street and Savior Alley).

      W taught Pfc Green everything: One planned and enacted the rape of a girl and the murder of her family. The other raped a country. Eerily parallel crimes

      by Yellow Canary on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 06:45:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm not sure... (0+ / 0-)

    ...if the argument completely holds.  If cheap oil (or, as you generalized, resources) were really a defining characteristic of conservativism (particularly the new brand of conservativism seen today), then wouldn't that mean they would want a cheaper fuel than oil?  There is research going on all the time to bring us cheaper, or at least alternative, fuels (WorldChanging, as besieged by bush already mentioned, is a good site to look at for more info), from battery-powered cars, to ethanol, to fuel-cells, and so on.  I know that if we could find a way to cheaply and efficiently extract hydrogen from unfiltered or undistilled water (or even better, un-desalinated water), especially in a vehicle, we would have access to a very cheap and easily used fuel source.  Imagine running your car on your own urine.  (I can't say whether the fumes would smell all that great, but I'm running with a concept, here.)  And with one of the byproducts of burning hydrogen being water again, that would make for an increadibly cheap resource.  According to your argument, conservatives should prefer this over oil, yet I see almost no mention of these sorts of things among conservatives, and in those rare cases when they are mentioned, it's in a very passive manner.  They seem to treat any alternative resources as curiosities (at best) rather than viable options.

    (Interesting note on hydrogen power, you may want to see this report.  A quote from the report: Klein says that, "on a hundred mile trip, we use about four ounces of water."  Of course, they don't mention if the vehicle used for that measurement was set to run purely on water or was the water-gas hybrid as it's "currently" configured, so take it with a grain of salt.  But even if it uses the same amount of water as gas per gallon, it's still cheaper.  And yes, that's Fox News reporting on this.  I'm cynical, so assuming it's not all bunk to begin with, I don't hold out any hopes it'll ever see widespread adoption, or any adoption for that matter, but I can dream.)

    So I guess my question is, if cheap resources are really important to conservitavism, then why aren't conservatives the ones actually pushing for cheaper resources?  In my experience, even when I meet a conservative who really thinks some alternative fuel source is great, when it comes to voting on the issue, they prefer to go with the politicians who favor the oil companies (which tend to largely be Republicans), and with oil becoming more expensive, especially now, this seems to be a self-defeating choice.

    Similarly, in my experiences, it seems that many conservatives are Free Market types, who feel that if the "market" wanted cheaper fuels, companies would offer it, and they fail to take into account the vested interest oil companies have in preventing any such offerings from being developed, much less making it to market.  (And if you ever try to make that point, some may even call you a conspiracy nut.)  Thus, they "logically" assume that because there are no other offerings, oil is the way to go.

    I think that you do have a point about suburbinization and suburban sprawl being an enabling factor in conservativism, but I don't think that's the only factor, and I would like to see a lot more evidence before considering it to be the deciding factor.  After reading through the first three parts in the Cracks in the Wall series (haven't read Tunnels and Bridges, Part I: Divide and Conquer, yet, which was actually supposed to be Part IV in CitW, but I'll be reading that next after I post this), that description of the patriarchal model rings very true with my own (admittedly unscientific) observations, and I believe it ties in well with the conservative idea of limited government and their ideal of the individualist.  Even the majority of conservative individualists, I think, realize that they can't do everything on their own, but because of their nature, they don't wish the government to interfere, and so the only other people they have to turn to are friends and family.  This may be individualism on a societal level, but not on a social level.  I think that as liberals, we tend to be individualistic on the social level rather than the societal level, which would explain why a liberal blog such as DKos can exist but similar attempts by conservatives are likely doomed to failure.  Liberals I think tend to view the society as a cohesive whole which requires discussion and eventual consensus, but that on a social level, it's not only acceptable to have views that may run counter to others', but often it's even encouraged.  We like diversity for the strength it provides us, and that diversity is only available if we allow for social individualism.  Or another way you could put it is that the liberal "family" is the entire society in which we live rather than the smaller social group of which we may be a part.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post, and I do want to make it clear that I am by no means an expert in studying conservativism.  I'm just writing down my own observations and thoughts, and I hope I've presented them in some semblance of coherency.  The only thing I think I can really say for certain about conservativism is that it has perverted the very meaning of "conserve", and that, IMO, is a very sad thing.

    •  To answer your question... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      So I guess my question is, if cheap resources are really important to conservitavism, then why aren't conservatives the ones actually pushing for cheaper resources?

      Alternative energy, however wise it may be that we switch to it, is for the most part not cheaper - yet - at least as traditional economics defines them.  Or else the infrastructure and capital investment is not yet in place to distributed them cheaply to end users.

      Alternative fuels, like biodiesel and hydrogen, will never match oil in powering our auto fleet, so even if they are developed, we will still have to revert to a more community-dependent lifestyle, in which, as I mentioned, hyperindividualism will be improbable.

      And like you said, oil companies, whose interest is to keep the market dependent on their product, have fought the development of new fuels (even as they have incorporated token alternative fuel projects into their greenwashing strategies - see, for instance, this George Monbiot article), and they primarily fund conservative political candidates.

      broo-'dye-mo-NEE-uh | Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race. - H.G. Wells

      by Brudaimonia on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:52:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, there may be a key to the ... (0+ / 0-)

        emergence of the "New Right" right there. In the 1950's and 60's, oil companies, as heavily capital intensive firms that wanted the economy to be kept ramped up, tended to support Democrats.

        Perhaps there was something about the US passing peak domestic oil that started to change the priorities of oil firms so that they could more easily get what they wanted from the "New Right" than from the Democratic party.

        The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

        by BruceMcF on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 02:04:57 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  But movements don't think like people think. (0+ / 0-)

      People did not wake up one morning and say, "let's invent a political movement that depends on cheap oil".

      People trying to push a concept or a program or an ideology talk to each other, try to make common cause, some efforts fail, other efforts work, when efforts work the news spreads and others imitate their success ... often with innovations of their own ... and every once in a while, a movement takes off.

      Now, there is constant "inventing" going on, but there is also a lot of accommodating, where members of the movement with different goals in mind find they are each able to pursue their higher priorities if they make allowances on things that are less important to them.

      When a movement emerges, it will be only loosely tied to some aspects of current conditions, and be able to adapt fairly easily to changes in those conditions. On the other hand, it may be heavily dependent on other aspects of current conditions.

      So the "New Right" movement did not decide to be dependent on cheap oil. However, if it happened to develop in a way that it is dependent on cheap oil, its in trouble.

      The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

      by BruceMcF on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 01:59:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good Diary, But Incorrect Basic (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yellow Canary


    firstly, the question of proper or elegant resource allocation and useage cannot be framed by the "conservative vs. liberal" model. gimme a break.

    the proper frame is class.

    the stage for the hoggish and brutish situation we now find ourselves in was in fact set decades ago, and it was set by a handful of rich and powerful business men with connections to rich senators and congressmen.

    thus, the wealthy class here decided the sort of country the United States was going to be in the future. fifty years ago, these guys set the stage for urban sprawl by enacting legislation responsible for building thousands of miles of new highways, including the transcontinental superhighway. of course, the military was involved in this legislation.

    if you want to posit most wealthy businessmen claim to be "conservative" politically and vote for republicans-- I can agree with that tho there are exceptions such as George Soros.

    included in that discussion would be the obvious fact the wealthy class supports politicians and legislation which benefits them financially, often to the detriment of the non wealthy classes and to the detriment of any real long term planning for a stable and secure future.

    this has little to nothing to do with political ideology or "party loyalty". the clear proof here being the fact that many large corporations donate millions of dollars to BOTH political parties.

    they don't give a crap which "party" wins-- they simply want an "in" with the party that does win-- again, because it will lead to financial benefits for them.

    "Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice." Spinoza

    by Superpole on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 06:34:52 AM PDT

  •  Cheap Oil (0+ / 0-)

    Why is "screw you I've got mine" considered conservatism. It seems to me that whole concept of the American Dream has run amuck. Suburbs morphed from affordable housing for the middle class into insulated worlds of consumers who feel this is their God given right and that if slaves produce their goods and the world suffers and dies from their need for SUV's and anyone questions their life styles well kill em , they treaten their way of life. Replacing the energy that fuels this system doesn't seem the solution. Why should the world pay for this madness? Community is indeed more than proximity. Suburbs foster nothing more than gross materialism, the never ending feeding by the world of a dream tha thas nothing to do with individualism and everything to do with blind self gratification on a purely material level.

    •  You are correct... (0+ / 0-)

      But it seems to me alternative energy is at least a better step -- even if not necessarily (yet) in a better direction.  You have to start somewhere.

      I think we mostly agree here that the real problems are national sovereignty, corporate sovereignty and individual sovereignty [class], but could we at least start by disempowering those whose only purpose is to widen the divides.

      Give 'Em Enough Rope... the Clash

      by neoconsuck on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 07:58:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Agree with this diary (0+ / 0-)

    I read Kunstler too.

  •  The Essence of Conservatism is: (0+ / 0-)

    Things were always better before; things are going down hill; we have to maintain our traditional way of life; change is bad - unless it's a return to the proven ways of our fathers.

    IN other words, Reality Sucks. Deny Deny Deny.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 10:35:18 AM PDT

    •  I reckon when you overstate the essence ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... you underestimate the appeal of the position.

      The essence of conservatism is that change is more likely to be a change for the worse than a change for the better.

      And political action without a health dose of genuine conservatism somewhere along the way is in danger of setting the bar too low in terms of how urgent is the problem being addressed, and how likely unintended and unwanted consequences. But of course, if conservatism were to dominate for an extended period, then all sorts of urgent problems would accumulate that require something more than cautious trimming and tuning around the edges.

      But that is a hypothetical, because we are faced with a political movement that claims the label of conservative without bothering with being conservative.

      As I see it, the "New Right" is by no means conservative in any coherent sense of the word. They are, rather, radical reactionaries, who are trying to push through dangerous and disruptive changes by harnessing the reaction of various groups to changes taking place in society. Actual conservatives are "included" in the same way that the Ol' Dobbin was "included" in the buggy ride to the community picnic.

      The Bush regime is like the kid who calls in a bomb threat because he didn't study for his mid-term

      by BruceMcF on Sat Aug 26, 2006 at 07:35:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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