Dateline: August 17, 2010, Washington DC. In a white paper released today by the American Exceptionalism Institute, analysts identified a quartet of potentially disastrous notions that the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could allow to gain a foothold in US public awareness. “Of course the danger is always there, but this time the calamity went on for so long and the damage was so immediate and graphic, we’re concerned one of more of these ideas may go viral,” said Stan Esquo lead author of the study. “Ever since FDR identified fear as the only thing we have to fear, economists have understood that the single biggest factor determining the health of the nation’s economy is how we feel about it. Consumer confidence is a fragile commodity and our enemies could see this as an easy target; any one of these pernicious concepts could bring the country to its knees.” The institute has been battling one of these ideas, namely that we are blindly destroying ourselves by the heedless use of fossil fuels, since the early 70’s. “Global usage has more than doubled since that first scare,” said Esquo with noticeable pride, “If we’d have gotten serious about conservation we might have missed the whole 'muscle car' period, which most people regard as the apex of American culture.”
Esquo believes that the second most threatening concept is the idea that the largest consequences of our actions are the unintended ones. “We intend to make the desert bloom but it turns out we are also dotting our grandchildren’s landscape with enormous mud wallows, we think kudzu makes a lovely house plant and giving antibiotics to cattle helps to grow a quicker sirloin. ” he said. The study predicts a 6 point drop in industrial output for every million Americans this dawns on.
A third major risk, Esquo pointed out, is damage to the delicate but absolutely critical belief people possess that it is Not Their Fault. The importance of citizens not making the connection between their own habits and the ruin of the gulf ecosystem cannot be overstressed. “We need people to keep idling their Escalades for an hour in a 115 degree parking lot with the air conditioning on, we need people screaming around on jet skis and 'hunting' with a one-ton dually and a trailer full of four wheelers, generators and a gas barbecue. Our system is predicated on the thoughtless use of infinite resources and nobody needs to know any different,” said Esquo, “That oil would have done about as much damage to the planet if it had been pumped into a tanker and burned like it usually is. Except nobody would notice. The worst thing about this spill is it’s so hard to ignore.”
The fourth member of these menacing quadruplets, Esquo said, is a possibility that populace begin to question growth as the ultimate panacea. There is not a single economist, politician of either stripe or public figure who doesn’t hold it as the holy grail of national well being, as if it were wholly beneficial, productive and possible. “It’s not possible. Not forever or even much longer,” said Esquo. “An economy driven by consumer demand and predicated on growth is like a snake that can gain weight eating its own tail. It is critical that nobody gets this or the whole thing might unravel.” he said. “Our job is to keep people from thinking things through. There is a natural tendency to avoid unpleasant thoughts but a disaster like the gulf spill can really shake a person. We are planning to produce a series of one hour prime-time specials about 'Octomom’s Five-Minute Slops for Twenty,' 'Lindsay Lohan’s Bimonthly Makeovers' and the 'Crisis of International Puppy Slavery' to take people’s minds off it.”
As an adjunct to the fearsome foursome, in a chapter entitled “Pivotal Preposterous Principles,” the paper identifies several other key fantasies that keep the economy afloat. “We can fix it,” is what everyone from from Barack Obama to BP genuinely believes. “The idea that we can somehow backtrack to initial conditions when we screw up the world cannot be questioned,” Esquo stated. “That might be the end of the tremendous progress we have made screwing up the world in the largest and most rapid world-screwing epoch in earth’s history,” he said. “We can’t actually fix it. No way. It took a jillion years to make. Our powers are almost entirely disruptive. We can’t make a worm. I’m concerned that people might notice.”
“The commonplace belief that the world is the dominion of mankind as planned by a wise and benevolent supreme being is also a strong force in our corner,” said Esquo. “ You’ve really got to have your head under a bushel or some other dark place to swallow this one, but luckily, there’s plenty of bushels and other dark places.”
The study also indentifies the notion that “we know what we’re doing,” as an important illusion. Esquo wrapped up his presentation by saying “All you had to do is watch BP flounder for a month while the Gulf of Mexico was poisoned to choke that idea like a crude-breathing porpoise. We’re performing an inadvertent global experiment on the only planet we know of in the universe that contains liquid water and I, for one, can’t wait to see how it turns out, because, as far as the outcome, we’re clueless. Be sure to check our special on 'Cloning Jonbenet Ramsey.'"