Tuesday, November 01, 2005

George Monbiot on pollution

Query: is there a more sanctimonious 'liberal' writing in British journalism than the morally self-satisfied Mr. Monbiot? An extensive archive search of all the major newspapers would suggest not. Take this piece from today's Guardian, which I read whilst having a pint and smoking gleefully in an enclosed public place this afternoon:
"It was fudged - stupidly and unnecessarily fudged - but at least they tried. The ban on smoking in pubs, though gutted by the prime minister's cowardice, will save some fraction of the bar staff who die every year as a result of passive smoking. The moral case is clear: people are being exposed to a risk for which they have not volunteered. While smokers have an undisputed right to kill themselves, they have no right to kill other people. This case being generally applicable, what does the government intend to do about passive driving?"
Well, first of all the ridiculously illiberal smoking ban was compromised partly by the intervention of John Reid who unusually in this Labour cabinet, knows a thing or two about working-class culture and apparently by the PM - not out of cowardice but because he objected to a total ban on 'libertarian' grounds. This surprised me, I must confess; I wasn't aware Blair objected to anything on libertarian grounds. Anyway, Monbiot seems to think that bar staff are serfs chained to jobs which they can't escape. He says the 'moral case is clear'. I'd argue with that but in any event, it's not a matter of morality but the law. And the function of the law in a liberal polity, as Michael Oakeshott said, is not to take sides with the righteous but to "prevent collisions". Monbiot, like so many fluffy eco-liberals, doesn't even pretend to understand this point because he is a legal moralist - amongst the most insidious of anti-libertarians in my view. The authoritarian tosser goes on...
"Every year, according to a paper published by the British Medical Journal, some 54 bar staff in the UK die as a result of their exposure to other people's cigarette smoke."
I wouldn't use that statistic if I were you, George - it rather undermines the passive smoking argument. I don't have a lot of statistics to hand but I'd imagine off the top of my head that more people are killed in DIY accidents every year. What are you going to do - ban B & Q? Actually, now that I think about it... I digress - whiney eco-boy continues:
"And every year, according to the EU, some 39,000 deaths in this country are caused or hastened by air pollution, most of which comes from vehicles. This is a problem three orders of magnitude greater than the one that has filled the newspapers for the past six months, and no one is talking about it."
Uh huh? I hate to be the one to break it to you Geo but the reason that no one's talking about it is that it's really really boring and pathetic. Now seriously, Monbiot is like so many ultra-greens: he can't quite bring himself to acknowledge that the industrial revolution in general, and the internal combustion engine in particular, might actually be reasonably considered to have delivered one or two benefits to the human race and this willful self-deception leads one to take a fundamentally anti-humanist position. What's the point in counting up the number of people who die from this or that when you ignore the fact that had it not been for the industrial revolution, this planet couldn't sustain anything like the number of human beings it does today? Is so many people a bad thing? If the ultra-greens were honest with themselves, I think they would admit that they thought it was. I've always thought they've taken the liberal self-loathing thing as far as it can go: it's not merely white, Western males this lot despise. There's more, if you can bear it:
"I refuse to own a car, partly because I believe it is wrong to fill other people's lungs with carcinogens. And so, while the drivers breathe their filtered air, I have to sit behind their tailpipes, drawing their excretions - for I am exerting myself - deep into my chest."
You refuse to own a car? How magnanimous of you. Can I ask you a few questions? Are you able-bodied? Live in the city with access to public transport? Thought so. And you're not disabled, or living in a rural area, and I'm guessing from the sheer wankery of your columns that you don't have four kids that you have to transport to school/nursery before you actually have to go and work for a living, rather than writing complete shite for the Guardian?

And to add to your crimes, I see you're a cyclist. Well, it's not that I'm not sympathetic. I'd really hate to cycle in Glasgow for instance. It pisses with rain a lot, and there's a very good reason why just about all the place-names here have 'hill' at the end of them. But that's no excuse for cycling on the fucking pavement when I'm walking with my boy. Someone could get hurt. In fact, someone did get hurt; my niece, who was ploughed down by some mountain-biking moron in London who took to the pavement without regard to the fact that any sort of vehicles aren't allowed on this small reservation for pedestrians. See, when you're talking about health and safety, you need to take the holistic view. Shouldn't you worry about the fate of this cyclist had I been there to witness his fuckwittedness? And what about the health risks involved for people raising their blood-pressure by reading your really infuriatingly self-righteous columns? You just haven't thought this through at all, have you George? I guess that's why you work for the Guardian.

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