Friday, January 15, 2010

Myths of the noughties

David points out some of the ways in which capitalism – usually viewed as the great enemy of greenism – co-opts green ideas for its own moneymaking ends. David’s examples: Hotels now try to guilt guests into reusing their towels, relieving the hotel of the cost of doing its laundry and Supermarkets now sell reusable grocery bags, relieving them of the need to provide bags, paper or plastic, and making the shopper do the work of schlepping their bags to the store.

If you prefer, you could say that these are examples of how businesses and greens can find themselves in a win-win situation (at the expense of the consumer). That capitalism and profit are the enemies of the planet and of all good in the world is, of course, one of the sustaining myths of modern times. But myths, usually driven by idealism or marketing or both, permeate everything we do, say, buy and think. Here, in no particular order, are a few notable myths of the noughties:

1) Organic food tastes better (“organic” is such a broad church that this can’t possibly be meaningful)

2) Blueberries (or whatever) are ‘superfoods’

3) Gordon Brown is the safe and steady one (obviously that one vanished as soon as he became PM)

4) Global warming will mean that by 2010 we’ll be wearing shorts and having barbecues in January. I don’t know who said this back in the early noughties but someone will have done. However, as Peter B has pointed out, our days of sniggering at such things are probably numbered, since the gradual slippage in terminology from “global warming” to “climate change” means that literally any meteorological circumstances will be consistent with millenarian predictions.

5) Anything that is normally expressed as a chemical formula is innately bad

6) Yes we can.

Got any more?


malty said...

'There are 10 million alcoholics in Britain' conclusions drawn by the powers in charge from the ridiculous notion that any more than six units – that is three pints or one bottle of wine – a week. makes us wineos.
I repeat, don't give the bastards an inch.

Brit said...

And don't get me started on "relative poverty"...

Willard said...

Blogging is the new publishing.

Anonymous said...

Weren't the noughties the decade that carbs become a devil's potion, supplanting fat from the 80s-90s and sugar from the 70s-80s? It looks like it may fruit's turn to take a tumble. ( Brit, never mind the blueberry, what about "All hail the pomengranate!") Obesity replaced malnourishment as an indicator of poverty. The States split into two completely foreign and hostile nations called red states and blue states. Religion went from a milquetoast comfort blanket for the simple to an incubator of terrorism and death. The Anglosphere came and went. The center of philosophical determinism moved from psychology, economics and biology to neuroscience. "Evolved" became a synonym for "changed" and "weather is not climate" for "We were wrong".

Mark said...

The car in front is a Toyota.
Ricky Gervais is a comedian.
Market regulation is socialism.
You can rely on our predictions.
What goes up does not come down.
Bryan Appleyard is God.
Warren Terr is winnable.
Happiness is the key to life.
Religion is bunk.
There's nothing so bad that therapy and counselling can't cure it.

Meet the new myths, same as the old myths.

Brit said...

Great stuff.

I wonder how much of our thinking is based on the mass delusion that we have, at last, in this generation, thanks to our scientific cleverness, conquered mass delusions?

worm said...

some more:

You need to buy special things in order to 'Detox'

Bottled water is some kind of new 'energy drink' for people with 'lifestyles' (according to all the adverts)

It doesn't matter that they contain more sugar than normal soft drinks and very few vitamins - innocent smoothies must be in some way good for you

-see also 'yakult' type drinks

Banksy is a great artist

martpol said...

Ah, now - Banksy is a great artist. It's Hirst that's the worst.

Buying organic food has its good reasons - animal welfare, environmental benefits in some cases - but is an embarrassing pursuit because of its association with ill-informed upper middle-clss snobbery. That's why to do it, one simply most shop at Waitrose - no-one bats an eyelid there.

Anonymous said...

A lot of our modern delusions surround the Net and high-tech communications, the effects of which we are just beginning to glean. If I hear one more guru say they will make us better informed, help us understand one another and bring us all closer together, I'm taking out my gun. As far as I can see, they are atomising and campartmentalizing us, and making our minds work like software programmes. Today's teens are becoming introverted, anti-social cynics who can't plan two hours ahead, are frightened by the notion of unorganized recreation, abjure reading, court/"hook up" by texting (the noughties were the decade the house phone was liberated), think Twitter is an intimate social club, etc. Nonetheless, we still must suffer ponderous, progressive brights who begin essays with "Man is a social animal".

Also, can anything anyone does be blamed on excessive self-esteem?

Brit said...

Banksy is a great graffiti artist because he makes people laugh when they spot one on a wall, but when seen in the context of a gallery he is obviously not a great artist, though some of his art is quite good. About a 1 in 20 hit rate. For the most part, once you get each gag you move on, unmoved.

Hirst's cow, shark and diamond skull are all as good as conceptual art gets.

David said...

And the number 1 delusion of the Naughties is:

We've ended the business cycle!

Gaw said...

The abolition of the business cycle for sure. But there's probably at least one other big one out there that's not visible to us yet and will make fools of us all.

Remember how 9/11 suddenly gave the '90s a wholly new character? See you here in 2020, once the owl of Minerva has reached cruising speed, and we'll see.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, David, wasn't the number 1 delusion of the noughties that China would overtake you folks in power and influence? Just like the Soviets did in the sixties, the Japanese in the seventies, the EU in the eighties and the Asian tigers in the nineties? I have to say that nobody can stretch out decline like you folks.

martpol said...

Peter: I share your horror at the notion that online 'social networking' is somehow helping us all progress.

Brit: I'm afraid I find Hirst's art completey unmoving and uninvolving. Maybe I need to see it in context or something. For conceptual art, I found Gormley's fourth plinth project genuinely interesting; and that giant spider thing they had in Liverpool during its Capital of Culture year.

Sean said...

Probably started at the end of the nineties with the matrix movie, the idea that reality is not real everything is just a narrative.

Yup Post-modernism was around long before that, but add in the euphoria of the millennium and the brave new end of history economic world, stuff every ones wallets full of cash and away you go.

From the conspiracy theories around 9/11, and the moral relativism that followed, to NuLabs "not us guv" response to the credit crunch, and Climate science's bid to exclude contrary voices and views, the battle for the narrative is the only war that seems to count.

malty said...

Peter, you touch a raw nerve, decline as in the British version is, was, vertical. Not a gradual slide down a twenty degree slope but a hurling into the abyss. From master race to without trace in fifty years From the sun never setting to everybody shitting on our poor British empire.
From being in charge of the fuzzy wuzzys to being in charge of the empties.

Sad, man, very sad, bring back gunboat diplomacy, send the Amethyst back up the Yangtze. Rule Britannia, Europe's chapati state.

Anonymous said...


I presume as in here.

Forget the subversive left, my theory is that the Empire was the first one in history to fall due to an excessive ironic sense of humour. It would be interesting to track the growth in collective doubt about the imperial mission and the steady withdrawl against the path from Gilbert and Sullivan to Beyond the Fringe to the Gong Show to Monty Python, etc. It's not easy to keep the Huns and natives in check by day and delight in biting parodies of it by night.

Fortunately for the Americans and the rest of us, they don't get irony.

Brit said...

We made the tactical error of winning a World War.