I saw Al Gore interviewed by Charlie Rose last night at the 92nd Street Y in NYC. Here's what I took away from the evening (in addition to my autographed copy of his new book): Al Gore knows that We The People are going to have to think differently if we are going to get out of the mess we are in. And he knows that this is a systemic challenge, not just the result of a few bad people who are "doing it to us" from their positions of power in Washington.
Al Gore has -- I believe -- transcended the victim mentality that so many people (to the delight of the legal profession, which encourages this kind of thinking) have bought into here in America. He knows that we have a socio-political system which is designed to work, but that there are a great many factors -- not just some "bad people" -- that are preventing it from working the way our Founding Fathers intended it to.
This is not to say that Al doesn't think that bad people sometimes do bad things which effect the rest of us. Charlie asked him about the Supreme Court's decision regarding the Florida recount. I loved Al's response. He said that in America the only alternative to going along with a final decision by the Supreme Court is armed rebellion. Al knows it was a bad decision. But he also knows that the only option -- other than going along with that decision -- available to him was not a viable option.
Here are two things I took away from what Al said last night:
(1) The vast majority of the American people are being hugely misdirected away from the subject matter that counts by the demands of our modern communications system to make money and the knowledge by that system that emotion-driven stories lock people into a mindset that allows them to be "sold to" better than stories that force people to think (my way of summing up this point), and
(2) The America people have it within their power to redirect this system so that it gives them the information they need, once enough of them wake up to the danger posed by the continuation of the current system's emphasis on "emotion" rather than "reason" (again, my way of summing up Al's point).
In writing The Assault on Reason, Al hopes to wake us all up to the danger of continuing the anti-fact and anti-truth, emotion-driven thinking habits we have slipped into since television became a dominant part of our culture. (Last night he mentioned the Nixon -- Kennedy debate of 1960 as one of the early markers of this journey, when image began to be as important to the public as substance.) He realizes that unless we regain the ability to focus on facts and truth (I would call it science instead of pseudo-science), we will fail to address the challenge of global climate change, something we are rapidly running out of time to deal with. Al said that he wrote this book because he knows we won't change how we deal with the environment until we -- as a culture -- start to think differently.
My little contribution to the case Al is making is this: If we start to think differently... if a critical mass of Americans starts asking questions like "What do we really, scientifically know how to do?", "How much better could things be if our political and business leaders did what's possible rather than what's easy?", and "Is it true that one of the root causes of war is scarcity of food, water, shelter, and education... and that mankind now has the ability to provide all of those basic needs to everyone on Earth?"... we can get to that better world that - great "wonk" that he is -- Al Gore knows is possible. There are scientifically-proven methods -- many of which have enormous money-making potential as detailed here, by Amory Lovins, and here, by Bill McDonough - for getting us not just out of this mess but to a much, much better future. It's possible. We have the technology!
"Thinking differently" is a critical part of the solution. Using reason and logic -- rather than emotional manipulation and "vote for me and I'll protect you" daddy-ism -- is the route to the future we all say we want.
In honor of the work Al Gore is doing to get us to think differently, here's the wonderful commercial Apple ran many years ago in celebration of all the "crazy people" who have changed the world.