Novak (novak) wrote,

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Personal: Struggling with Addiction

President Bush is announcing that America is "addicted to oil" tonight. This is something I've thought a great deal about over the last decade: the environmental costs, the impact on urban planning over the last century as businesses spread out--remember your parents or grandparents talking about "neighbourhood grocery stores"?--to accommodate the assumption of automobile possession, the impact on personal behaviour. I have long thought that on the societal level, "addiction" is an accurate description. As an historian, imagining the future (given the potentials, worst-case or not, of what scientists tell us of environmental impact and of the depletion of resources) of how our society might drift in light of this 'addiction' is sobering.

Somehow, I don't anticipate the President recommending my course of action: refusing to own an automobile.

Is it inconvenient? Hell yes. Is it feasible, in a city at least, to rely on public transportation, car-pooling, and just the occasional rental of an automobile? I've made it this far. Will I be able to carry it on through my entire life? I don't know. Let's assume that the odds are against me. Surely ownership with moderation is possible? Or is that the rationalizing of a "pre-addict," of someone whose culture militates against such an "extreme" approach as the one I've been trying? I don't write about this as an occasion to say "Rah! Rah! Me!" It just strikes me that such a serious thesis has always hit me hard: this is what I've done with my situation. Certainly it's been obvious to me that there are lots of areas of the country and lots of professions for which such an absolute refusal as mine is not feasible.

So I'm curious to see how serious a point is made with a serious observation like this. Because it strikes me as a culture-changing reality, but like most addictions, is probably an easier observation to make than it is to do anything about. Cosmetic changes aside, like "the hope of technology" to stretch the resource but leave the habit and structures intact, I cannot imagine America making the kind of sweeping alterations to its dependence on convenience. As a theologian and historian, I've long admired the social revolution that was monasticism. In all its forms, it was and is a lifestyle that seems to have a great deal to offer us today in modeling a way of living that includes both prosperity and balance.
Tags: cultural, ethical, historical, media, personal, philosophical, political, scientific, theological notebook

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