10/31/2006 08:54 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Flavor of Fear

All of us have out own way of describing it predicated on our own experience with it.

My own memory is the taste of copper, like having a penny in your mouth. But that is more the species of fear that goes with the sudden awareness that one is no longer in control in a situation with a high likelihood of dying... pretty much right now.

For those situations where criminality is about to be exposed, the flavor of fear might be more metaphorical... and it is more protracted. At a loss for the moment, I invite other commentators to suggest their own analogs.

Whatever it is, I suspect there is a lot of it in Washington these days. They have shown the maturity of the average acid-popping, alienated, suburban adolescent over the last five years... no capacity to imagine the emergence of Dire Consequence when things seem hunky-dory for the moment.

But then our whole society is like that in many ways. A pampered adolescent society, still thinking the earth revolves around MeMeMe, still tuning out any mention of consequence, still fantasizing about futures that are not possible, still treating the earth like it is not finite, still homogenizing and objectifying everyone else on the planet as if they don't matter... and will never get mad.

So the crash that will come in Washington if the 2008-motivated Democrats capture one of the Congressional redoubts -- and with it, the weapon of the subpeona -- is a foretaste, if you'll forgive my sensory pun, of what we will all eventually experience when the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics shows up to arrrest us for our energy profligacy, and our vicious Energy Wars to delay the inevitable.

The fear of the Republicans right now, as their wanton criminality is subject to exposure (if the Dems have the sand in their craw... a real question), is not the last act, but the first. It is the Preface, and every act afterward will star that acquisitive Piper.

Now the news is full of Panglossian drivel about "carbon trading" as a way our of our energy impasse, as if financial derivatives -- like the belief in a technological fix before it -- can operate outside the boundaries of the physical universe. All these carbon trading scams will accomplish is to further immiserate and disempower the Global South to extend our party a few hours, and we'll never see -- until it is too late -- the actualization of all that ocean of latent fury outside the 'burbs.

Carbon trading is an attempt to finally commodify and privatize the very atmosphere, and it is proof, for anyone who wants to see, of the hellish decadence to which we have all become -- like the proverbial frog in the boiling pot -- accustomed.

The curtain will fall, in any case, decisively on Hydrocarbon Homo Sapien in my own lifetime, in all probability, and I'll be 57 when Al Gore makes his next run at the White House.

Meanwhile, we'll spend a third of our lives in our cars or working to pay for them, maintain them, and feed them gasoline, never understanding that these machines... this vast agglomeration of technomass in the overdeveloped West is the greatest parasitism in history.

Better, it seems, we taste that copper-tongued variety of fear in risking the end of this system, in the leap of faith required to relocalize, expropriate the rich, and begin the process very very soon of de-industrialization and banish the Almighty Market to museums alongside medieval war artifacts.

If the current regime loses this election, and I sincerely hope they do, it will not be time to rest on our laurels. When the Democrats crawl back into the light, it will not be time to throw them flowers. It will be time to build alternatives on the ground as the basis for divorcing them... unless we want to blithely accept, not for ourselves, but for our children, a future in which everything, including the air we breathe, is for sale... until the Second Law comes a'callin'.