Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Whorled Around Us

It's easy in the confusion of the oil spill and the concerns of the environmental impact to lose sight of something even more distressing, that this tragedy only serves to highlight.
We live in a toxic soup. Every morning we wake up in our beds, the "fresh" scent of fabric softner on our sheets fills our nostrils. The coffeemaker finishes perking, and the scent of "fresh" coffee wafts thru the house. We get up.
We go to the loo, and the deodorizer masks any smells that might linger from the night before: the mildew in the shower, the bit of waste that didn't flush, the mold under the rim of the bowl. We brush our teeth with toothpaste manufactured from things that would seem unlikely to clean our teeth. Indeed, we end up bleaching those to rid ourselves of the caffeine and tobacco stains.
We step out of the shower, "freshly" bathed with lovely little oils and soaps that leave our skin feeling soft and supple and smelling wonderful. Maybe we slap on a little deodorant to make our pits smell "fresh". We step out into the "freshly" painted bedroom and inhale the vague scent of paint, also know as volatile organic compounds. Nothing like the scent of "fresh" paint, is there?
We walk out to the car or the bus or the subway. We breathe in the fumes of cadmium from passing vehicles, the asbestos brake dust of an old ambulance, the metal shavings of the train wheels grinding down the tracks. We get to the office and sit in our plastic-and-fabric chair, raising a cloud of dust. We turn on the computer and the fan kicks up molecules of whatever heavy metal du jour Dell or Apple or HP saw fit to put into the manufacturing process.
And we do all this, and much much more, without giving it a second thought.
I suppose this issue has taken on new meaning for me since September 11. Altho I was never really exposed to any of the airborne crap of that day and the subsequent weeks before the fires and smoke were doused, there were one or two days when the wind shifted onshore and the smell and fumes drifted up my way.
I remember specifically September 17. I was walking with a co-worker and was instantly struck by the acrid smell of the air. When I was a kid, I grew up across the river from a fat-rending plant and the smell was nearly identical, and as eye-watering and oily and noxious as I remembered it.
Ever since that event I've battled seasonal allergies, something I never had before those attacks. Causitive? Maybe. Or maybe it was just irritating enough to trigger a dormant condition. I can't know for sure.
It strikes me odd what we humans will do to ourselves. We'll bathe in poisons, inhale carcinogens, ingest chemicals that would grow our breasts or kill us in sufficient quantities. That, we can't unite on to fight and assess responsibility and punish the culprits for.
An oil spill? Yea, that we can get our knickers twisted over.
Liberalism and libertarianism, the correct kind of libertarianism, go hand in hand. Liberals fight for the individual right to be safe and secure in their environment. Nanny state? Perhaps, but that same protection allows the individual to flourish, to use his mind and his talents to the best of his ability on a fair and level playing field. Liberalism allows libertarianism to exist.
Is it nannystatism to insist that everyone has a vote and that every vote matters? No, but it is liberalism. Is it nannystatism to see a large chunk of our population dying unnecessarily and trying to do something about it? No, but it is liberalism.
You see, the core of libertarianism is the freedom of the individual to behave as he wishes, but that implies the individual can survive to use that freedom. Libertarianism as preached by the teabaggers is strangely silent on this point.
Lately, this form of "glib"bertarianism has gotten its feathers ruffled over some health news: the possible regulation of salt and sugar content in our foods. How dare they (the government) tell us what to put into our bodies?
Leaving the whole illicit drug issue aside, why wouldn't the government do this? Indeed, why shouldn't it? If the government's job, even by the definition of the teabagged is to protect the people of this nation from "enemies foreign and domestic" and the enemy is defined not by bullets and bombs but also by chemicals and diseases, is it not in the national security interest for the government now to protect the health of its citizenry?
No one is taking the chemical soup that these jackasses wish to bathe in away from them. They're making that soup optional. In other words, is it not an infringement of my rights as a consumer to not have to make my health optional? And yet, that infringement by the so-called "free market" is wordlessly allowed to pass while even the slightest hint that the government might be concerned about it raises a hue and cry from the Bachmann-Turned-Over-drive that the din practically has a decibel level.
Let's turn the free market argument around, the one that always get lobbed at us: if you want chemical free stuff, buy it, and someone will make it.
Yea, but here's the thing: the government subsidizes the research that pays for the development of those chemicals, which means the price of the frankenfood is lower than it should be in a free market.
So, given that, why not give real food a price ceiling, and as in a restaurant, if you want MSG on your hamburger, by all means, you can have it, but you'll pay a dollar extra for it.
Or, you could just go buy a shaker of the stuff and put it on yourself. Meanwhile, the rest of us will have reduced odds of cancer and better odds of bankrupting Social Security.