Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Apology for Our Way of Life

Fosco was generally a fan of Obama's Inaugural Address, especially his inclusion of "non-believers" in the list of people who make up this country (Fosco's friend Todd was pleased with this as well). And as for the Bushies who were offended by Obama's obvious repudiation of the previous administration? They can suck it.

But now, two days later, Fosco remains a bit troubled by one line from the address in particular:

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.
There are (at least) two ways to read the defiance in this sentence, depending on what you think Obama means about "our way of life."

If this phrase means things like sexual and racial equality, free speech, something like democratic representation, and some level of tolerance for difference, then sign me up. Those are good things and there is no need to apologize for the social benefits of a liberal democratic society. However, who is actually asking us to apologize for these things? Other than maybe a few mullahs? If this is what the line means, I like it; but it's not really a line with very broad application.

However, there are plenty of things about our "way of life" that we really ought to be apologizing for. Our CO2 emissions. Our addicted consumerism. Our economic exploitation of the Third World. Our consumption of an obscene amount of the world's resources (per capita). Our narcissism and exceptionalism. Cultural imperialism. SUVs, hedge funds, high fructose corn syrup, and celebrities. Now Fosco is not speaking to you as someone who is above these things; he is as much caught up in this "way of life" as the rest of us (well, except for the SUV part). But there is a lot about our way of life that is indefensible. And even though it can be hard (very hard) for us to change how we live (to live more simply, more sustainably), that still doesn't make our current way of life right.

So yeah, maybe when it comes to some things about our way of life, we do owe the world an apology. And we also owe a commitment to make things right. And I wish Obama had been more clear about this.

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