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Excerpt from Dreams

Water Crisis (p. 476)

From chapter "We Can’t Have It All"

The other day I watched a 60 Minutessegment. I hate that program as much as I hate NPR, and probably even more than I hate Fox. I think anyone with a brain not already oozing out of their ears can recognize Foxfor what it is: an early-twenty-first century version of Julius Streicher’s Der Stürmer, a more highly technological and slightly more sophisticated means of riling up incipient brownshirts into more overt hatred. The reason I hate NPRand 60 Minuteseven more is that they fulfill the same role of propagandizing for this destructive way of life, but they do so with an additional layer of mystification by pretending to be “objective”or to present real “news” or “analysis.”

We should never forget the words of Henry Adams: “The press is the hired agent of a moneyed system, set up for no other reason than to tell lies where the interests are concerned.”

The 60 Minutessegment was on California’s “water crisis,” which is, simply stated, that agriculture and industry have stolen so much water from the region’s rivers and aquifers—oops, damn it, if I keep talking like this I’ll never become a good journalist; instead I should say that humans needso much water for vital purposes like golf courses and almond orchards—that much of the state is experiencing ecological collapse—oops, I did it again; instead I should say that because humans need this water so desperately for their cattle ranches and lawns we must all be willing to make minor sacrifices like some stupid lousy fish that nobody’s ever heard of so we can continue to make money. Much better, right? The approach of this segment of 60 Minuteswas dishonest, and frankly provided the model for my sarcastic comments in the previous sentences.

Lesley Stahl, the corporate journalist, interviewed four people. The first was a farmer who insisted that he, in fact, is an endangered species, and that he is being victimized by fish called Delta smelt, who live in the Sacramento River Delta. Delta smelt used to be, as is true for so many creatures prior to the arrival of this culture, ridiculously abundant. But this culture somehow believes that fish can live without water, because this culture has been systematically dewatering rivers everywhere it goes. Now Delta smelt are nearing extinction, precisely because of this dewatering. Recent court orders slightly slowing the dewatering of the Sacramento River have caused farmers to claim the fish are harming them. Lesley Stahl did not question or do anything but support this farmer’s absurd statements. First, he conflated actually being endangered with having to choose a different livelihood; it’s ridiculous to compare losing your job or business to being driven extinct. Second, she utterly failed to point out that from the beginning, his livelihood, and indeed all of agriculture and industry in the region, has been based on the systematic theft of land from its original human and nonhuman inhabitants, and the theft of water. Him claiming to be victimized by Delta smelt is analogous to me coming into your home; stealing everything I can from you and your descendants for generation after generation; and then, once I’ve stolen so much from you that most of your family is dead, complaining that you are victimizing me because I can no longer steal from you. Once you drop the fundamental human supremacist premise of the cult of the scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial perspective, that the entire world consists of resources to be fed into the industrial economic system, and that members of this cult are entitled to make matter and energy jump through hoops on command (especially in order to make money), then it becomes clear that his claim of victimization is not only absurd but obscene.

Unsurprisingly, corporate journalist Lesley Stahl failed to mention any of this. This is unsurprising because were she to mention this, she would no longer be a corporate journalist. Never forget the words of Henry Adams.

The second person she interviewed was a scientist. He handed her a jar of dead Delta smelt, and she asked him if these were the fish that were causing all of the problems.

Are we seeing a pattern?

She also interviewed another farmer. She stood with him on a road by an almond orchard. Across the street big old almond trees were being pulled out by their roots and pushed through giant shredders. He, too, had been victimized by the fish. Because he was not being allowed to steal additional water—oops, I’m really not getting the hang of this; I should take lessons from people like Lesley Stahl, and say that the fish are stealing water from him and not allowing him to irrigate—he “had” to pull out $14 million worth of almond trees. He pointed toward the standing trees, then to the trees he was killing, and said, “This side is life, and that side is death.” Unsurprisingly, Lesley Stahl failed to point out that if he was choosing to kill $14 million worth of trees, then we’re not exactly talking about him being forced into desperate financial straits. She also failed to ask him why he was in such a hurry to pulp the trees: we can safely presume that if he wants the trees off that fast, he has another buyer for the land. And most importantly, she failed to call him on the obscenity of labeling irrigated land lifeand unirrigated land death. Can we ask the Delta smelts’ opinion on this? How about the Sacramento River runs of salmon (which this year were the smallest ever)? How about the waterfowl who used to darken the skies with their numbers before the region was dewatered? How about the humans who lived there since the beginning of time? How about all those others who rely on the waters? Within this culture of zombies, money is often equated with life, and real physical life is not. Would it be too much to ask for Lesley Stahl to ask these basic questions?

Obviously the answer is yes.

She also interviewed California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He insisted that the Delta smelt are important, and that farmers are important, and that industry is important. He didn’t mention golf courses, but I’m guessing he thinks they’re important, too. And he repeatedly stated that we can save the rivers and also the irrigation and also this lifestyle. Again and again he said, “We can have it all.” It was his mantra. It is, of course, the mantra of the zombies. It is, of course, the mantra of this culture. It is, of course, the mantra of the cult of the scientific, materialist, instrumentalist, mechanistic, managerial perspective, this belief that you can make others jump through hoops on command without destroying them body and soul, that you can make decisions and presume that all other things are equal, that you can consume a planet and live on it as well. That you can have it all.

He’s a liar.

We cannot have it all. We cannot consume a planet and live on it as well. Or more accurately, we cannot allow the zombies to consume a planet and presume we or anyone else can live on it. All other things are not equal.

I understand more how zombies “think.” But I still understand that all other things are not equal.