01/09/2013 01:17 pm ET Updated Mar 11, 2013

Moderation Is for Hippies


It's true, isn't it? Moderation is a joke. Moderation is un-American. Moderation in any healthy, compassionate sense in this year of our extremely hot and imminently riotous 2013 is nothing short of a goddamn modern miracle.

Don't you think? Have you noticed? No one believes in it anymore. Fewer still actually practice it. Anyone on any side of a given debate or social issue shun it like it reality TV shuns good taste.

Even the planet itself agrees: Extremism is in. Extremism is the new black, which is also the new blood red, which is also the new, merciless way to deny anything bad or dangerous might be happening as a direct result of our unchecked growth or God-drunk ideology.

Where do you want to look? Popular culture? Here Comes Honey Boo Boo just earned record ratings by going to new extremes of trashiness, mental incompetence and borderline child abuse. Sports? Extremes of machismo, scandal and homophobia abound. Violence? Please. A 20-year-old massacres 20 elementary school children with a rifle he swiped from his mom, and what's the response? Let's arm up even more! Meanwhile, the top-selling video games are screamingly juvenile, ultra-violent first-person shooters for 10-year-old males who never go outside and twitch themselves to sleep.

Extreme postures, extreme politics, dogmas, piercings, sex, degradations, styles, sounds, wealth, resource annihilation, antagonism -- for millions, the message is clear: Radical positions and hardcore reactions are the only thing that "work" anymore, that shock or inspire feeling or action, that get you noticed, make you money or get you your own embarrassingly awful TV show.

Is it the slightest bit true? Not at all. But you'd never know it, given how jaded we've become, believing the world is detonating all around us. Accelerated tech, exploding populations, uncertain futures. Who has time for nuance and thoughtfulness? Who has time to make careful, heartfelt distinctions over a glass of wine and a soft caress? The gays are coming to eat all the white Christian babies!

The message rages forth: We cannot slow down. We cannot scale back, cut down, stop driving or birthing or purchasing. Zero growth? Don't be ridiculous. "More" is the only true American maxim. Have you seen the photos of the Alberta tar sands? Do you know to what appalling extremes we now must go to feed our energy needs? How deep we have to drill, how much we must frack and tear and pulverize, how much money and power are at stake?

What about food? There is a reason you do not ever see footage shot inside America's nauseating industrial slaughterhouses. There is a reason you will never go anywhere near the toxic clouds of factory exhaust and pig feces floating over entire Midwestern farm towns like a middle finger from the devil. Industrial agriculture is, arguably, both a salvation and a surefire sign of doom.

Extreme opinions? We're drowning in them. While not necessarily new, wildly lopsided stances, hate speech, arguments that lack all nuance, thought, subtlety or respect -- not to mention humor or kindness -- have become ingrained and commonplace. Can you name the single worst invention of the last ten years? Nope, not Facebook. Not Lady Gaga. It's anonymous commenting. Look below. You'll see.

Do you know what awful thing sucks the very life-force from the entire universe? Your new iPhone 5! Oh wait, I mean your new Galaxy S III! How do I know? Because this one guy over at Engadget or maybe Slashdot or Gizmodo just switched from one to the other, and he wrote 2,500 words explaining why Apple sucks and Android rules because, um, the camera takes slightly better backwards pictures and, uh, its 4,000 miraculous technologies can do two things slightly differently than Apple's 4,000 miraculous technologies. Chew on that, haters!

But of course, that all pales in comparison to the grand champion of extreme, hostile posturing, the GOP, who shamelessly take untenable positions on everything from the economy to God, rape to calling the president a Nazi. Science is a hoax! Gays are repulsive in the eyes of God! Rich people should never be taxed! You win, GOP. No one is better at taking the messy, wondrous tapestry of the human experiment and stabbing it with the ice pick of monochromatic fear. Well done. You've changed the conversation. For the worse.

Meanwhile, the earth is responding in kind, matching and then easily surpassing us, one extreme example at a time. Forget Hurricane Sandy -- did you read that it was just 95 degrees in Australia? At midnight? Have you heard that the heat wave now underway down under is so dangerous, Australia's bureau of meteorology actually had to add an entirely new color to the heat map -- a dark, ominous purple? When they finally add black, it's all over.

Extreme weather is the new normal, in direct response to our extreme gluttony and unchecked growth. 2012, to the surprise of no one with an even passing respect for science, was by far the hottest on record in the contiguous United States.

Will it ever result in serious environmental legislation? Don't be naive. Carbon dioxide emissions set another record high in 2012. Would you like to know the title of an actual presentation by Brad Werner, a respected, albeit mildly radical complex systems researcher from University of California, San Diego, speaking at the huge American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco? He called it "Is Earth f-cked?" Hey, in this climate, who has time for subtlety?

Maybe the problem is tragically shifting definitions? Maybe it's the bizarre falsity, spurred largely by these same extremist right-wing politicians, that "moderation" has come to mean a sort of mealy wimpishness, a lack of willingness to "be tough on crime" or stomp out terrorism or waste more billions on our bloated, absurdly disproportionate military?

Too broad? Fine. Take it down to the human level...

Read the rest of this column by clicking here.

Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He's also a well-known E-RYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...