WOID #XV-12. Pixie dust

The high peak drama in Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" comes when Professor Gore explains how a frog dumped in hot water will jump right out, but if you gradually heat the water - at which point a collective gasp goes through the many sub-teen girls in the audience - and then Uncle Al seems to smile out at the kids and tells them, but we don't want the frog to be hurt do we, and the movie cuts to a giant cartoon hand pulling the cartoon frog from the jar and placing it on a lawn chair. Somehow that half-wit frog on his lawn chair, too dumb to thank us, reminds me of George Bush.

That's the strength and weakness of this movie, barely a documentary actually, closer to a well-edited power-point presentation in which Gore expertly sells himself while expertly demonstrating the very real dangers of global warning. And though most of us can live without the Gore part, the rest is useful, clear, convincing, interesting for an audience of science illiterates and even, I'm told, for science literates.

But it's the kids he's out to get. This is a soccer-mom movie with soccer-mom values. It even comes with a web site so the kids can research science projects and figure out how to Save the World, and that's all right. It's all right to tell the kids it's all right to be smart, it's all right to say out loud that the Earth wasn't created 6,000 years ago, it's all right, maybe, to conduct our politics like junior adults and not like screaming, bullying, overbloated titty-babies.

Oh, and it's all right to be a capitalist. Because the second high drama point comes at the end, in the wrap-up, when Comrade Al shows some graphic he got somewhere, in which the Globe is balanced on one side of a scale, with a pile of gold on the other. "Hmmm..., he says, with intended irony and unconscious ambivalence: "Gold!" And then the lights go up, but not before you're shown how you can take public transportation and other cool stuff, and everything will be fine again.

And then the lights go up, and we're back in soccer-mom land, where your mom told you NEVER to ride the subway without a grownup, and it's just another GPV movie (for Good Production Values), telling you to cut down on the AC while you sit in an air-conditioned movie-house, to waste less plastic as you slurp from your mega-drink, and to cut down on driving as you all head back to the car. All fair enough, and in fact that's the movie's point: Doctor Gore shows how the climate has changed before, and then gone back to normal, and now it's off the charts, and it's not going back unless we do something about it on all levels at once: ecological, economic and political.

In grad school I had a neo-con adviser who used to gibe that marxists have been talking about "Late Capitalism" for over a hundred years, and he was right: Capitalism is always late because it lives from pushing the world to the brink, surviving from crisis to crisis. These crises, if they're surmounted as they have been so far, are surmounted with devastating losses in human suffering. Think World War One, for instance; think World War Two. So perhaps this crisis is different, indeed, from the viewpoint of natural sciences. But then again it's not, since the solution, unlike the crisis, will have to be a human solution, in line with human History. Al Gore proposes to send our kids out on a Children's Crusade; but if, as he says himself, he was unable to budge the Congress an inch in that direction when he was VP, how the hell does he expect a bunch of brace-bearing boys and girls to do it? If Gore was so much in love with the democratic process that he couldn't send his own heavies to protect the vote-count in Florida, what will he say to the teenyboppers when they see the next election stolen?

What Marx was really trying to say that Hegel told him is that History reoccurs as it were several times over in the same space, like the tuna you had for lunch coming back along with the chocolate sundae. "An Inconvenient Truth" signals our own Eugene McCarthy moment, when a whole new generation (or rather, several generations or social groups) is being sent out to learn the hard way. It should be interesting to watch the next confrontation between the kids and Kelly-boys in New York City: "But I thought you were my FRIEND!" More interesting, yet, to see the conclusions drawn by soccer moms and kids and hand-shake democrats, the conclusions being drawn right now by those who wonder if consensus and legalities and science projects cut it. As we used to say back then, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. Not even Weatherman Al.

And now, kids, all join in, or else Tinkerbell is gonna die - with a hood over her head and electrodes on her toes.

- Hoipolloi Cassidy

[reprinted from WOID: a journal of visual language]