Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

My Photo
Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

James Kunstler's New Puritanism

James Howard Kunstler’s Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle is fascinating in its expression of a sensibility that I tend to be sympathetic to at the samed time I also recoil from it. Kunstler is a monomaniac who harps endlessly on the fact that the US’s post-WWII economy and lifestyle, based on cheap oil, is about to come crashing down or spiraling down as the world’s remaining supply of oil is rapidly consumed (one of his books is The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century). The sensibility that alternately gets me nodding in agreement with his apocalyptic forecasts is one I recognize in myself: a streak of Puritanism. You need to read a lot of Kunstler's diary and also his movie reviews to detect an almost vindictive disgust with what he sees as a stupid lumpenprole addicted to a lifestyle of mindless material consumption fueled by cheap energy. His omnipresent, doomsaying forecast of dire things to come has a clear undertone of just desserts being meted out. His writings have the quality of a secular jeremiad against the seven deadly sins. At the same time, there’s also ample contempt directed at our ruling elites for their cluelessness, corporate incompetence and self-indulgence. Throughout Kunstler's writing, I’m reminded of Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." Kunstler feels we have stayed too long at the banquet and are unwilling to leave the table. We have enjoyed ourselves too much, more than we have any right to (can we quantify how much enjoyment we have any “right” to?). The party’s over, and there is an element of glee in all of this. In a way, it seems to be a secular version of the religious fantasy of the Rapture. Those of us who live lives of tasteful moderation (yet probably consume as much as many of the lumpen we despise) but have remorse over our privileged status will finally see them get the rebuke they deserve. Just like fundamentalists who believe in the Rapture, it isn’t so much about salvation as punishment. The immoralists who enjoy themselves and don’t accept God’s moral strictures will get theirs. It’s a fantasy of envy mixed with spite and revenge. If I can’t enjoy myself, at least not without feeling guilty about it, then at least no one else will either. Kunstler’s predicted trifecta of an energy, economic, and environmental collapse will finally deliver a rebuke to those who tried to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No more fun of any kind, says Kunstler, and I think he’s relishes seeing the day when he’s proven right. That's where I part company with Mr. Kunstler.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]