John Michael Greer at the Archdruid Report, constructs a tour de force analysis of what plagues the US. He believes that the grassroots sustainability movement of the sixties and seventies marked a moment of truth for us as a civilization:
During the Seventies, a great many Americans came face to face with the hard fact that they could have the comfortable and privileged lifestyles they were used to having, or they could guarantee a livable world for their grandchildren, but they couldn’t do both. The vast majority of them – or, more precisely, of us – chose the first option and closed their eyes to the consequences.From Christian fundamentalism, to the ineffectualness of the environmental movement, to today's child-safety paranoia, the root of our dysfunctions has been the need to preserve our deeply lived denial.
A great many of the flailings and posturings that have defined American culture from the Eighties to the present . . . unfolded from what Jean-Paul Sartre called “bad faith” – the unspoken awareness, however frantically denied or repressed, that the things that actually mattered were not things anyone was willing to talk about, and that the solutions everyone wanted to discuss were not actually aimed at their putative targets. The lie at the heart of that bad faith was the desperate attempt to avoid facing the implications of the plain and utterly unwelcome fact that there is no way to make a middle class American lifestyle sustainable.I almost never agree with historical-cultural analyses of this scope, but in this case I think he is exactly right. It's worth reading in its entirety.
Let’s repeat that, just for the sake of emphasis: there is no way to make a middle class American lifestyle sustainable.
One thing I would add to his analysis. It is not that this "bad faith" as he calls it, is there present in all of our actions. On the contrary, it has been set off far to the side for the most part. But it is at its most destructive when we move (even momentarily) away from the quotidian and banal and move toward the best of what we can be. That is when the price of this willful blindness is paid. When we reach out spiritually to embrace the Earth and its creatures in all their fullness; when we try to include all the people of the world in our empathy; when we try to picture in all truthfulness the world that we can create for our great-grandchildren; when we try to live without any veil of self-deception. That is when a true reckoning of the privileges that we enjoy, the things that we take, the damage that we do, threatens to emerge. That's when the reckoning for this bad faith is paid and it cripples us at our best and our most vulnerable.