I bought my husband a new book for his birthday. I’d read a pre-release excerpt from it during a long flight, enjoyed it, and found it would be available by his birthday. How Not to Act Old arrived just in time.
Item #93 is “No History.” It opens with, “History, don’t you know, is for old people. If it happened before, say, 2001, who really cares.” And ends with “If you want to not act old, you’ve got to live for today, forget the past, and believe—since you have no evidence to the contrary—that everything will be better tomorrow.”
Despite that, I am going to act old. I know that everything will NOT be better tomorrow. I know this because I know history. I also know that it will probably all work out.
In the opening of CARE’s May newsletter, I wrote this: “Yesterday afternoon after assembling all the articles…all I wanted to do was take a nap. I was tempted to just curl up in the office chair. Instead of being energized, I was enervated.” If I had no knowledge of history, if I was living for today, I’d still be feeling that way.
We are at a major crossroad in America where energy and freedom are intersecting. From here the view ahead is not pretty—if we only look at today.
But when we review history, it gives us a sense of comfort. Not that it will all be better tomorrow, but that it will get better—eventually. We, here in the summer of 2009, are not the only ones who have been down this road.
When you know the history, you can have confidence in the future and console yourself with the fact that the doomsayers throughout history have been wrong. Human ingenuity solves the problem.
Fire was one of man’s earliest inventions. Humans discovered that wood would burn—generating heat to stave off the cold and allow for cooking. Then, man discovered the whale as a source for oil with which he could generate heat and light. Later, settlers had nearly stripped the local forests of wood in their attempts at heating and cooking. Coal was discovered in the 16th century, saving the forests. The whale was nearly extinct when oil from the earth was found and used to light lamps.
More than 100 years ago, doomsayers feared England’s industrialism and global might would erode due to a limited supply of coal. (England was one of the leading providers of coal.) Today, England has yet to run out of coal. Other fuels were developed, replacing coal for industrial boilers and electricity generation: oil and gas. Additionally, advanced technology allowed for the discovery of new reserves.
Just like the prognosticators are warning that we will run out of fuel, many are shouting at tea parties and townhall meetings out of fear that freedom is in short supply. While I share their concerns, a look at history tells me that Americans will not allow freedom to be killed. We will fight for it.
American freedom has been under attack before. 1776 represents the first great fight. While the Declaration of Independence was produced then, Thomas Payne wrote “These are times that try men’s souls.” In 1777, he wrote about the “winter of discontent.” Horses starved to death and the army nearly did. But American freedom survived.
We’ve fought against slavery, motivated by liberty. American freedom survived. We had the depression, the “New Deal,” and World War II. About the New Deal, it was said, “It’s not true, as some people say, that the New Deal is like fascism. The New Deal is fascism.” About the war the following was said, “I cannot help feeling this will be the end of the American way of life.” Despite 1943’s horror, it launched the modern freedom movement. American freedom survived.
And now, American freedom is under attack again. It is easy to get discouraged and let the overwhelming sense of loss stop us. But it did not stop those before us and it must not stop us.
Like wood and whale oil, energy changed. Naturally. Through Human innovation and discovery. I believe energy will continue to make America great. I believe it will change, but it will not change because government forces change upon us.
Like the attacks before us, American freedom will survive. Like the attacks before, we’ll have to take risks and fight for it. Energy will continue to make America great and American freedom will continue to survive.
Speaking of old, that reminds me of a song…
By Marita Noon
Executive director of the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE), a nonprofit organization advocating for citizen rights to energy freedom. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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