We still think of idealists as men in worn coats sleeping on cots in cold basements. Those sorts of men can still be found, but the basements are the old digs of an evicted Latino 7th Day Adventist Church with the paint scraped off to expose the fashionably bare brickwork and go for $2,500 a month on the wrong side of the Williamsburg Bridge strewn with cots from IKEA and kept cold as a statement about Global Warming. Their shivering denizens work profitably at an environmental non-profit as social media managers in the great national and international network of the left.
If they're truly lucky, the dedicated idealist may even earn a chance to ghostwrite Al Gore's next book about the environment. At parties, they'll take out a pristine copy of the New York Times bestseller, a status it achieved through the efforts of social media managers who coordinated mass buying efforts followed by mass returns for zero net profit but maximum status, whose cover features Gore gazing contemplatively at the Earth, and whisper to the person they're trying to impress. "I wrote that."
Idealism is a brand now, and few men have profited from it as thoroughly as Albert Arnold Gore Jr. Where former presidents Carter and Clinton dashed to different philanthropies around the world, Gore, true to his stodgy unimaginative image invested in one brand of idealism. Environmentalism. Carter could have his houses and Clinton could sit in luxurious hotel rooms in Haiti counting all that aid money, but Gore, like the intrepid tobacco farmer he was, bet everything on the whole planet.
In the 90s, environmentalism was just one of many stocks in the rainbow market of liberalism, alongside AIDS, racism, sexism and world hunger. A good MTV VJ could manage to incorporate all five into a hope for world peace, followed by a grunge band, a rap video and a series of seizures. And environmentalism was still limited to saving cute animals and being angry at oil companies for being all about the oil.
Al Gore's environmentalism seemed as boring as everything else about him. It was fitting that a man with the bearing and personality of a tree would spend all his time yammering on about trees. But then a series of Mayan tablets predicting the destruction of the North Pole by 2007 or 2012 or 2092 came into the possession of a humble former Vice President and everything changed.
Racism was bad, but it wouldn't kill everyone. Neither would AIDS. World Hunger was something for the Africans to worry about. But Global Warming brought back Armageddon in a big way. Like the Cold War, cold basements or bungee jumping, it reminded the numbed children of privilege that they could die at any moment. And it stroked their egos by telling them that, just like in all their favorite Saturday Morning Cartoons, only they could save the world.
Al Gore, like many a bearded prophet, had gone to his mansion in the wilderness of Belle Meade (median income $194,016) and returned with pie charts and cockamamie theories made up by other people that would make him extremely rich. Idealism was a brand, and unlike Clinton, Gore seemed sincere, if only because he came off as too unimaginative not to be.
With luxury goods, the brand is also the product, and environmentalism is the ultimate luxury good. Luxury products are at their most profitable when marketing intangibles. Flying over calf leather from Italy is expensive. Giving American leather a fancy name is cheap. Environmentalism is much the same. The real commodity being sold is a particular state of mind and membership in an exclusive club.
Capitalism made luxury hard work by making everything cheap. Suddenly it wasn't enough to just lie in bed and order the butler to bring you exotic pomegranates from the Orient and champagne from the vineyards of France. Those things could be found in any supermarket courtesy of the jet plane. Status stopped being a lazy man or woman's game and became a frenzied rat race. Fat was out and hyperactive workouts were in. Anyone could afford good art, so those with discerning taste chose bad art. Anyone could vacation abroad, so they bought old farm houses, restored them and painted bad art while trying to grow their own food.
Environmentalism was the ur-brand of philanthropy. A philanthropy as big as the planet for a cause so generous that it was completely anti-materialistic. And like all luxury, it was also hugely and obscenely profitable.
While his rival was getting tangled in Iraq, Al Gore was becoming the Giorgio Armani of environmentalism. And environmentalism was much bigger than men's coats or women's shoes. It was a lifestyle, a cause and a movie deal. It was everything.
Causes are like copyrights. A company that believes in a cause, donates money from its profits to the cause. Sometimes that's explicit, as with the Red label, mostly it happens behind the scenes. But the green label is everywhere, on the product and behind the scenes. It's the lifestyle that says you like to buy things, but you also care about the planet. It says that you're a modern sensitive person who loves the peasants of Guatemala and the ice of the South Pole. And just like buying a silver vest covered in diamonds, it says that you shouldn't be allowed out of the house with money.
But environmentalism is bigger than all this. It's not just green toilet paper and recycled rubber shoes, washing machines that don't work and recycling carts with usage meters on them. It's numbers. And the numbers are really big.
Money used to be gold, now it's numbers. The digitization of all things, art, poetry and music are just drops in the great numbersphere. The flood is in the financials where everything is imaginary and has value until the economy is one great numbers game. Environmentalism is one more layer of numbers in a numbers game where social justice sells homes that people can't afford and then sells the debt and then the debt of the debt.
In the post-modern economy everything is stripped down to its definitions, monetized, hollowed out and resold as an investment to funds and persons scrambling to outrun inflation by investing in consensually real unreal investments. Environmentalism, like all idealism for hire, sells out the one thing that it stands for... the right to pollute.
The right to pollute is not a small thing in a world where exhalation is pollution. The right to pollute means the right to drive a car, build a factory, buy non-local produce, eat a burger, fly to Miami and exhale. It is nothing less than the right to live.
Communism criminalized commerce and then legalized it on its terms. Environmentalism criminalizes life and legalizes it on its terms. The terms are paying a tribute to one of the many green companies owned wholly or partially by Al Gore and his merry band of green investors who steal from the rich and give to the even richer, and steal from the poor and give to the Gore..
Idealism is a commodity and when the investment comes due, you sell out in exchange for power and profit. One minute you're standing in front of a spreadsheet of a quarter ton of cow farts a minute being emitted by the livestock of New Zealand which, you claim, spells imminent doom for all the ice on the planet, and the next minute you're opening a business to sell pollution indulgences to the environmentally minded who want to fly to Fiji on a first class moral ticket.
One minute you're warning about fossil fuels and the next minute you're selling your news channel to a Middle Eastern oil tyranny for 500 million bucks. And you're doing it because idealism is a commodity to be cashed in for a tidy profit right before tax season. The longer you allow your idealism to appreciate, in the eyes of others, the more money you can make cashing it out.
Al Gore sold access to China and made campaign calls from the White House because there was no legal controlling authority that said he couldn't. He claimed that he invented the internet because there was no one, except a million comedians, to say that he didn't. He claimed that his relationship with his wife inspired Love Story, because when you lie all the time,what's one more lie?
The Gore lost the election, went into the wilderness of Belle Meade and came out with the revelation that it's time to drop all the little lies and stick to one big one. Forget claiming that you invented the comma and the cocoa bean while on a conference call with Isaac Newton and just focus on warning everyone that the planet is about to explode. A lie as big as a planet. A lie that was too big to fail.
There are idealists who sell out and become hollow men, and there are hollow men who pretend to be idealists. Gore is a hollow man selling someone else's alarmist hollow earth theory so he can make it to the next stage of a career that has no meaning or purpose. Like most professional idealists, Al Gore cares for nothing except money. Having sold out so many times, his only idea is to keep doing it again and again.
The professional idealist is a hollow man. A soulless man who is tasked with convincing everyone of the existence of the thing that he does not have. The left has created an endless number of professional openings for such soulless men, for paid liars and faithless tricksters, who live only to convince the world that they believe just long enough for them to sell out one more time.