Glenn Beck doesn’t get it. And that’s a problem for all of us.
The conservative CNN journalist published a commentary on CNN.com on Aug. 8 titled: Drive Naked, Save America.
In it he knocks the smaller efforts that individuals can make to confront the energy crisis on their own – peak oil, record gas prices, related economic woes, etc. – rather than wait for politicians to sort out the mess with so-called solutions such as offshore drilling.
In his commentary, he bangs up presumptive Democratic Presidential Candidate Barack Obama who recently echoed some well-known advice: Keep your tires properly inflated; it enhances fuel economy by up to 3 percent. Those details are touted at fueleconomy.gov, among countless other places.
Beck complains that solutions that require individuals to act in such small ways are inherently flawed because they require so many people following suit to make a notable impact.
His reasoning then is, Why bother? Not surprisingly, his actions then are, likely, nonexistent.
How to Close the Liberal-Conservative Communication Gap
As I continue to mull over the communication gap that divides conservatives like Beck and non-conservatives like myself, I try to figure out how we see the world – and its problems and potential solutions – so differently.
Where is Beck coming from? Why can’t he understand why people are willing to believe that small measures are better than no measures — or big ones that are too suffocated in politics and general bureaucracy to get off the ground?
Here is my current, working theory, based on Beck’s commentary:
Conservatives like Beck are not believers, even when fact substantiates the claim.
He no more is willing to acknowledge that proper tire pressure saves a worthwhile 3 percent of fuel, than he is inclined to acknowledge that 100 pennies equals a dollar.
To Beck, 100 pennies isn’t worth collecting. Never mind that 100 pennies that become a dollar that become $100 is mathematically equal to one crisp Benjamin (one $100 bill). No, Beck believes the only solutions are huge solutions. (Nevermind if they are the right ones for the indefinite future, or merely status quo pushing ever deeper.)
He acts as though his duty as a voice to nationwide millions is to inflict a high-schoolish tactic of mockery upon the public, only to draw chuckles from the in-crowd, rather than to produce any constructive effort.
It’s equal to calling for apathy and indifference, rather than helping to lead a concerted effort to improve our collective lifestyles through more mindful daily actions.
Nevermind that Beck’s beloved America is built on many individuals coming together for common causes by casting their singular voices as part of a larger movement.
One person, one vote, right?
Individual Acts Matter
One of the frustrating problems here is that people who are willing to act are overwhelmed by the portion of the population that prefers to sit on its overweight, collective, apathetic butt waiting for the Big Idea to arrive – and be heralded by the likes of Beck.
People who see the world as Beck does don’t believe that recycling one piece of paper every day is equal to saving 365 pieces of paper every year, no more than they think a jar of change on the bedroom dresser accumulates into dollars.
It’s shortsightedness. It’s lack of confidence and faith that they, a single flame of possibility, could actually impact the world. It’s a perpetual attitude of defeat, fear, distrust, inferiority.
It creates a situation in society where the collective weakest link causes the whole system – or planet – to falter in time.
The Continuing Problem
I can’t recycle enough paper to account for all of the Becks out there. I can’t inflate all of the tires. I can’t do countless things that add up to significant changes when embraced by the majority.
I only get one vote per election, after all. I can only do my part – and hope that those around me will do theirs, so we all can benefit.
That presents a big, big issue we’ve yet to overcome. As long as Beck doesn’t get it, as long as he and I stand so far apart in these issues, as long as he disrespects individuals who see positive growth even in minor actions, then none of us will prevail in the true sense.
The do-nothing crowd – those touting faith but seeming to have none – may win the conflict, but we all will miss the goal.
Petroleum-Based Products Shape Our Lives: Does That Mean We Are Irreversibly Dependent On Oil?
World Naked Bike Ride: Is Anything Gained By Protesting Oil Dependency in the Buff?
Gas Hole the Movie: History of Oil Prices and Alternative Energy
Graphic source: fueleconomy.gov
Here’s something that you can do, that will get others to join with you. Drive your car at or below the speed limit. Everybody behind you will do the same.
Jesting aside, driving smoothly and according to the speed limit can save up to 15% in gas. In addition it makes city streets a safer place for pedestrians (some of whom are walking to buses) and bicyclists. Aggressive, excessive and inattentive drivers are waging terrorism on other road users. You can make them stop, or at least slow down to the speed limit.
Green Diva Meg
thank you. even though mr. beck is a conservative, i sometimes enjoy reading his rants. i was outraged about the one you referred to in this post. i commented on CNN.com, but i really don’t know if it got through . . . really don’t care. i needed to voice my concern about an attitude that so whole-heartedly dismisses that grassroots or individual acts can make a difference. everything i’ve been doing for the last few years – publishing, radio shows, blogging, speakingg, etc. – the message is all about how all these little changes DO indeed add up and while we ALL might not check our tires, if a few more do as the result of Barak Obama’s statement and media frenzy about it – excellent. some folks will do other things. if we all do what we can, the effects will grow.
i absolutely do NOT agree that drilling will solve anything – only continuing to enable our reliance on old resources, when we need to focus attention on the burgeoning new, cleaner more sustainable resources.
What confuses me about some conservatives like Glenn Beck is why does he oppose or make mockery of the small things we can do as individuals to lesson our dependency on oil from other countries? A huge government-backed solution seems to go against the motto of conservatives of “small government, no taxes.”
Shawn Wright | ReSolutions
I think both of you have it wrong. In almost all cases, small acts make a difference only if they are part of a coordinated and sustained effort, which is a huge project. Lets continue with tire pressure as an example. Getting a large portion of the people to properly inflate their tires is a legitimate short-term contributor to the solution of oil prices, but what is to get people to turn hearing about it in the news into action and to continue tire pressure maintenance in the future? We quickly see the effort turn into potentially everybody down to a small population which will not save enough oil for people to notice. What’s needed is an information campaign and perhaps a system of compulsory enforcement to motivate people to participate.
Another example with some track record is recycling. Just about everybody says they would like to recycle more, but the inconvenience level is so high. When recycling is made more convenient via actions such as providing curb-side or comingled pickup programs, rates of recycling increase. If we were to legislate container materials we might improve recycling even more. The point is that these are big solutions to encourage individual action.
It is very rare that, without a large organizing act, large numbers of people start doing the right thing. It takes community organization–with or without government–to raise motivation above hindrance in a population and make change on the scales we require.
Thanks for each of the great comments. I hope we see more people get into the discussion.
@ mothlos — I absolutely agree with your comment.
I seem to have come up short of making clear my larger point. The more specific point I was going for with this post is that individual efforts matter. That’s it: They matter.
But, again, I fully agree that to matter in broad, significant ways we need campaigns to get people into the same boat with their actions.
Thank you Al Gore for being an influential who is stepping up to that plate. No thank you Glenn Beck for being an influential who shoots a hole in that life raft.
As I said above about Beck’s influence to dissuade the public from seeing value in individual efforts: “It’s equal to calling for apathy and indifference, rather than helping to lead a concerted effort to improve our collective lifestyles through more mindful daily actions.”
I do believe it’s necessary to have a united effort of individuals, and that making it a second-nature lifestyle to recycle, etc. is what we need.
I think we’re on the same page. Next time I’ll try to do a better job of making that clear.
Thanks for your comment.
What Beck represents is the true hards facts of the situation. Sure, if everyone made sure that their vehicles were properly maintained (including tire pressure), then we could all save some oil, but isn’t there enough monetary incentive for people to do this, that they should be doing so already?
Conservation is only a temporary measure, anyway. What do you expect, that our economy and culture are simply going to stop growing until someone comes up with an alternative to oil?
Oil prices rose on speculation. As soon as the president announced that he was lifting the presidential ban on off-shore drilling, oil prices dropped precipitously. This is how the market works. I would have thought this would be obvious to so many highly educated people, but I guess basic economics is too much for all you MBA’s to understand.
Peak oil is a myth, and the Russians have proven that oil is abiotic and probably unlimited, if the oil companies chose to invest in the technology to get it. Fat chance if many on this forum have their way.
On the other hand, the luddites who want to take our culture back tot he 19th Century continue to drive the media and their Democrat lackeys.
People don’t want the truth, just a lie they can believe. Move-On, Al Gore, the UN, and the Democrats are happy to oblige.
It is ironic that so many conservatives.. that normally tout “personal Responsibility” then deride actions that individuals can make to change the world.. or at least improve it a bit.
It is hypocritical.
Beck and others condemn BIG govt and huge buracracies.. yet support huge monopolies like big oil that control so many people’s lives. We are so tied to petroleum, all of us are! Yes.. our lives have been extremely “cushy”. I think Beck and others are scared to DEATH of losing their materialistic lifestyle and realize that their lifestyle requires people to consume and waste. They don’t want to recycle.. because gee.. they would have to use something OLD .. or they can’t buy that shiny new toy.
They used to praise small town values now they criticise them. They used to support local and now they say No we need BIG solutions like BIG oil. How is that any different from their fears of alleged Big Govt? Why is it ok to have big controls by corporations but not ok to have Govt solutions? Call them on that?
Truth is.. Relocalizing economies IS the better way to go. The individual (collectively) can have a lot of power. Just like the scrap metal drives of the WW 2 war efforts.
glenn is the most sick person I have seen in my 54 years of my life. I studied political science and, I have never,ever seen a person so selfish,racist and so uncapable to understend how the the society works.Congratulations to CNN to find such a thing called Glenn Beck.
You have made some wonderful points. I have experienced the same feelings regarding Beck’s comments. In several of the Republican speeches recently, they have mocked Obama’s statements about tire inflation and tune ups. I mean if everyone followed suit and kept the proper maintenance on their cars, even beyond those two things (which I know many don’t), it would make a substantial difference. Much less gas would be pumped over time, and people might even realize how much less money they are spending filling up.
And I think that’s what gets many people’s attention more than anything. The little differences they make add up collectively, just like the pennies they save every day. That was another good analogy you pointed out. Little differences do indeed add up!