Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Elizabeth May and the new moral obligation

Mix one part United Church of Canada, one part Green Party, and one part London Free Press. Stir lazily, and voilà!

May preaches green gospel
Mon, April 30, 2007
The Green party leader comes to tears during a London sermon on the climate change threat.

Jonathan Sher's latest article in the London Free Press is a solid piece of devotional reporting — out of twenty-four sentences, eleven contain the phrase "she said" or "May said."
Preaching in London about the threat of climate change, Green party Leader Elizabeth May brought herself to tears yesterday, not for children who will inherit the Earth, but for the God she believes created it.

… "We have a moral obligation to our Lord and Father to ensure we don't destroy the creation that was given to us," she said.

[ insert etcetera, she said and repeat ]

Unless we meet our moral obligation to restore the balance, our children and grandchildren will suffer, she said.

"Through the power of our Lord and Jesus Christ, we can meet this moral obligation," she said.
It may just be me, but I'm starting to think that there is a moral obligation involved in this somehow. I used to think we already had one… or, rather, ten if you like. But one doesn't like, I suppose.

Moral obligations — that is, as they once were — are of decidedly far too small scope to implement an ambitious program to save the planet. In their meagerness, they place injunctions of thought and action strictly on individuals based on their choice of thought and action — half of which impinge on action only indirectly from setting principles for thought instead. But the time for thinking is past ripe now for the planet, we are told, so that half can be summarily dismissed. Action is needed now, and the other half are only incidental to the effort in any case. Moral obligations based on the supposition of free will are problematic for another reason — no individual can possibly save a planet by abiding them on his own. A modern moral obligation must therefore compel other people to meet it instead, so we can clearly see how obligations based on a choice of thought and action are a hindrance to it. A moral obligation to save the planet is, as it were, an obligation to dispense with previous conceptions of moral obligation — numbers 1, 2, 3, 8, 9 and 10 are especially problematic in any case, one can see.

To put it another way, the moral obligation to save the planet is an obligation to feel an obligation on behalf of other people. For the reason that other people must meet it for one to meet it, it is actually far easier to abide by. The modern moral consumer is a busy person with no time for weighing the reasons, merits or consequences of a complex ten-part marketing strategy based on choice of thought and action. The new moral obligation, however, meets the demands of today's consumers in one tidy, all-purpose, consumer-friendly and endlessly recyclable package. Best of all, people are lining up in front of the polls just for the chance to meet it for you! Call it an electoral indulgence.

On second thought, perhaps the old moral obligations were just a bit too ambitious after all.
May has challenged fundamentalists on two fronts, with science in one hand and a Bible in the other.
Contemporizing Karl Barth for the green movement is meant, I suppose, to flatter Ms. May — and the reporter incidentally — but it is an apt invocation nevertheless, especially if Barth was reading the London Free Press. Leaving aside the one hand, it can't help that Ms. May has been reading the United Church of Canada Bible either. Those are the places where words get destroyed:
May was escorted to the pulpit by the man who defeated her five months ago in in the London-North-Centre byelection -- Liberal MP Glen Pearson, who likened her to an Old Testament prophet.

"She is one such prophet."
Addendum:

Dust my Broom has the goods on the most infamous and immediately appalling paragraph in the article:
Borrowing a quote she said was made by a foreign dignitary about Prime Minister Stephen Harper, May said his stance on climate change "represents a grievance worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis."
Happy May Day!

More: Some Catholics are reading Elizabeth May's Bible too!

1 Comment:

jenn said...

I had fun listening to former supporters, on AM1290 this morning, drag her over the coals regarding the Nazi comment.