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July 9, 2008

EDITOR'S NOTE: The doctor will see you

I got glasses a couple weeks ago. It was the first time I can remember going to an ophthalmologist, and I hadn’t had an eye exam since grade school. But seeing at reasonable distances had become a problem for me, a person who for years has observed the world with stunning accuracy. 

The office made me nervous, and I’ve never been a spectacular test-taker. But I found some comfort in the fact that we — the doctor, her assistant, me — were approaching the situation from the same basic point of understanding: I can’t see very well anymore. I was expected, on some level, to fail the test. Using that as rationale, my poor performance fulfilled every expectation, even though I spent probably an inordinate amount of time squinting and turning back on my first answers, desperate to keep hold of my, well, dignity. 

So glasses I got, some modern frames and what the doc called a “weak” prescription. I briefly considered challenging the notion on its face: Shouldn’t I know my own body better than this woman? If the human mind is an alchemist capable of self-correction and eventual physical adjustment, then could I will my eyes back to sublime sight? 

I maintain an up-to-date medical insurance policy so that I may consult professionals who don’t think up existential crap like this to explain physical ailments, and my better instincts suggest I listen to them rather than investing in my own science. I am not a scientist, nor am I a doctor — well, not that kind. And now, despite the frames burrowing into the bridge of my nose, I can see. I’m spottin’ dimes left and right. 

This came to mind Monday evening, when I found in my e-mail a link to a column from The Wall Street Journal (July 1) called “Global Warming as Mass Neurosis.” In it, WSJ commentator Bret Stephens argues that global warming has become the equivalent leftist movement to the extreme right’s evangelicalism. He writes: 

“And surely it is in keeping with this essentially religious outlook that the ‘solutions’ chiefly offered to global warming involve radical changes to personal behavior, all of them with an ascetic, virtue-centric bent: drive less, buy less, walk lightly upon the earth and so on. A light carbon footprint has become the 21st-century equivalent of sexual abstinence.” 

Stephens also asserts that, mountain of scientific evidence notwithstanding, global warming is actually … well, he doesn’t much say what’s happening, other than it’s something that is not global warming. Global cooling? A change in atmospheric balance that is shifting the patterns of major ocean currents which is, in turn, manipulating our weather? 

Not sure. As far as I can tell, Stephens is not a scientist. And, as we’ve already addressed, neither am I. That’s why I tend to listen to the consensus opinions of the world’s most respected scientific communities on such issues, rather than blithely tossing out Psych 101 explanations and then attaching them to a homogenous political movement that has been demonized so many times over the words used to describe it barely even mean anything.

In global warming’s case, that community is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations to provide an “objective source of information about the causes of climate change, its potential environmental and socioeconomic consequences and the adaptation and mitigation options to respond to it,” according to its own website. 

The IPCC says we need to change our ways before we wreck the planet. And the doc told me I need glasses. Should I reject her professional judgment because I’m not prepared for the financial and social burden of having glasses with me all the time? Or, perhaps I embrace it on some base level, set aside my criticisms of the glasses industry and its adept price gouging, or my disagreements with the state of healthcare in this country, so that I may achieve what is — according to the professionals for whose opinion I am paying — a more essential objective at the moment.

Stephens says the left uses global warming to justify a socialist agenda and those “radical changes to personal behavior” that suggest an alternative to the morbid consumption culture of now-America. As do many who take this line of argument, though, Stephens playfully ignores his own global-warming agenda: the defamation of personal responsibility. 

It’s another boring lecture about the pride we should take in our capitalism. That’s not nearly as fun as sexual abstinence. 


Contact the writer at 

sgeorge@leoweekly.com