Monday, September 28, 2009

"I feel a disturbance in the Halacha."

Fasting gives me a headache and messes with my blood sugar. It turns my brain to mush and makes me do things like sing in public. Tonight was no exception. Later, I was seated next to the president of the local Chavurah, with whom we had chosen to daven the closing prayers of Yom Kippur and join the break the fast pot luck. She also happened to be a professor at the local university, in computer science. Apparently, fasting doesn't affect her so badly, because she was looking for intelligent conversation - and unfortunately I wasn't up to it.

She asked me "what do you read" and I thought she meant which siddurim we use, and I answered "Artscroll," (don't laugh - I have heavily edited mine with white out, paper strips glued to the pages, and barrels of ink, whatever color pens or pencils happened to be handy at the time. It's very meaningful to me, now that it isn't what they wrote anymore - but that's a blog for another time.). She looked at me oddly and said, "I don't understand what you mean," and I replied "It's Chereidi." And she looked oddly again and said, "I mean, what do you read for pleasure?" And I had to laugh, and replied, "Oops, I think we're not having the same conversation!" My husband told her, "Don't worry, that happens to me a lot." Sigh.

So after trying to pull my brain together for a minute, while she quizzed my middle son about what sci-fi books he liked, and she mentioned what fantasy series she had begun reading recently, I finally added, "I read non-fiction, mostly - I guess lately I've mostly been reading economics."

I've also been reading up on Buddhism, but I didn't feel like mentioning it right that minute. I have enough heresy to my credit without getting into trouble on only the second time we've davened with this group. So I stuck with economics.

"Oh, why?" She asked. I replied, "Well, it guess it mostly has to do with peak oil." And she gave me a really blank look and said, "I'm not familiar with that."

Oy, veh.

How is it that the best and brightest minds in Judaism are still so in the dark about the economic realities that face us? I realized I was too tired, brain dead, and out of my depth with a PhD sitting next to me to give a good answer, so I gave the 1-2-3 idiot's guide explanation. I mimed a bell graph in the air and then placed my finger at a point on the top of it and said, "Back in the 70s when conservation was first getting started, the scientists at the USGS realized that sometime around 2010 we would hit peak oil. All the stuff on this side of the peak (indicating the left of the imaginary curve) is the easy to get to, high quality, cheap stuff. What's left is the hard to get to, low quality, expensive to refine stuff."

So far so good. I then went on to talk briefly about the US with 5% of the world's population using 40% of the world's resources every year and how the growing middle class in developing nations meant that couldn't last - something has to give. She seemed bored. Finally I mentioned that within my middle son's life, before he has kids his own age, automobiles using gasoline will no longer be viable as transportation. My husband was listening to all this, and when we had parted company with the professor he said something to the effect that I had fluffballed her a lot, and lowballed the seriousness of the problem.

He was right - but seriously, would it really have done any good to tell her within 5 to 10 years the city where we live will be economically collapsed because the local government refuses to invest in electric rail mass transit now? That we won't be able to rely on imports for our food and household goods? That all the "service economy" retail and food service jobs are going to continue vanishing into thin air along it the living wage management jobs in the "service" industry that our city depends on for revenue? She's never heard of peak oil. It just wouldn't work. She probably already thinks I'm nuts.

And that's the crux, pardon the expression, of the problem. No, not the part about me being nuts - everybody knows that already, LOL. The part about our economic reality and how out of touch the leaders in our community are as to what is happening and what we need to do about it. The Chavurah service took place in a suburb some three miles from the "beltway" (such as it is) in our county - far away from the center of town. Everybody had to drive there. There is no other way to get to and from that suburb - not even gasoline powered buses, much less anything resembling sustainable mass transit. The president of the Chavurah herself lives even further out of town - and not a shred of public transport goes out that far. And it doesn't even cross their minds that this could be a problem, now or in the future. It's bad enough they are resigned to ignoring halacha, but when gasoline is $4, $6, $8 or $10 a gallon, there won't be any ignoring the problem.

Nor will there be any ignorance about it, either - but by then, it will be too late to do anything about it.


On a completely unrelated note, the title of this post comes from my middle son, who is a very big fan of Star Wars and has a vast collection of spin-off novels, which he mentioned to the Chavurah President. I promised him I would use it. First, you should know that the boy's pre-bar mitzvah learning was all done in an UO environment, under the direction of Rabbi ******* and their older brother who attended Yeshiva. So his statement came about in this manner: this Chavurah is very progressive and egalitarian, so much so that it's almost comical listening to everyone try to remember to say "Our Parent" instead of "Our Father" and "Our Ruler" instead of "Our King," and so on as the prayers are read. So earlier this evening (somewhere after Neilah but before Havdalah) my middle son turns to me and says: You know what, Mom? It's strange listening to the very "feminist" reading here (his words, not mine) when you're not used to it. I agreed we would need to adapt and learn the group's preferred interpretations to fit in. And then he said: And you know what else? Somewhere, right this minute Rabbi ******* is sitting somewhere in a service in New York, and saying to himself, "I feel a disturbance in the Halacha."

I had to laugh. "I'll bet he was."


Maxiebaby and Wife said...

"but seriously, would it really have done any good to tell her within 5 to 10 years the city where we live will be economically collapsed because the local government refuses to invest in electric rail mass transit now?"

Good old alarmism, it never gets old.

Ahavah Gayle said...

It's only alarmism if you can tell me where 20 million people are going to find living wage full time employment with benefits in the next two years. If you can't, then I suggest you start taking the problem more seriously. Wally-wort and burger-flipping jobs are not going to sustain this society and make gasoline affordable in a world where the other 95% of the world's population demands their fair share of the world's resource production each year.

Since our 5% is now using 40%, that means we will be losing 35% of the world's resource production. Going from 40% down to 5% is a steep and catastrophically disruptive drop in resource availability for Americans, and price the vast majority of Americans out of the market.

Where's your solution to this problem, or are you just blowing smoke out of your rear end in denial?