“Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills.”
In 1605 the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra published one of the most famous pieces of literature in human history: El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha or The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, or more simply, Don Quixote.
The story is of a Spanish noble who is so enamoured with the idea of romantic chivalry, of knights and dames and kings and queens, of god and quests, that he loses his mind and starts confusing the world for an elaborate fantasy realm of his own construction.
In the book’s most iconic scene, Alonso Quixano (Don Quixote) suffers a particularly delusional bout of insanity and mistakes a series of windmills for giants. Seeing it as his ordained duty to slay such monsters, he charges them with his lance, coining the now famous term “tilting at windmills” which has come to mean “confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against confabulated adversaries for a vain goal”.
I told you that story so I could tell you this one.
To quote the opening to Captain Planet “our world is in peril”. Climate change is real and it is happening. We already have a consensus. The jury is in and the verdict is not pretty. The world is quite literally ending. The most conservative climate change studies give us a handful of years to change our ways before all hope is lost. The more pessimistic studies posit that the point of no return has already passed us by.
We’re stuck right now in what scientists refer to as the “Holocene Extinction Event”. Entire species of flora and fauna are dying off at rates not seen since…well since the last extinction event. Climate change has happened before. Five times actually, and each time it’s bad news for the dominant life forms on the planet. In the last extinction event, known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene, the dominant form of life was the dinosaurs and look how things worked out for them.
The fact is that we’re in an extinction event right now, and right now we’re the dominant form of life on the planet. As the 8-Ball would say “outlook not so good”. We’re standing on the precipice, looking at the end of the world. It is a very real possibility.
(There’s an interesting corollary to this as well. Let’s say the world does end. That the shattered remnants of mankind are forced to scratch an existence in the hellish wastes of the post-apocalyptic Thunderdome. The broken vestiges of humanity, tribal and feral, all technological relics from the before-times lost to them, try to rebuild what once was. They set about to restore civilisation.
Only they can’t.
You see, we’ve mined out all of the more accessible fossil fuels. There’s no more coal on the surface. There’s no convenient oil wells any more. We’ve drained them all dry. The only reserves we have left on his planet are those that we need modern technology to acquire. So even if mankind were to survive the extinction event, they would have no way of returning to anything anywhere near the Industrial Age. Because the resources to fuel that expansion aren’t there any more. We callously burned them.)
This is literally our last shot.
So we need to start changing our ways, and fast. We need to cut carbon emissions and implement renewable energy. One of the more effective forms of renewable energy is wind farming. We set up some big-arse windmills somewhere and natural convection drives them, generating power. We can conjure energy literally out of thin air. We can harness nature herself to power our iPods. In fact last week the Netherlands generated 140% of their national power requirements through wind farms alone.
With no side effects. No greenhouse gas emissions, no negative impacts on health. As a matter of fact there is no legitimate science linking wind farms with any adverse health effects.
So we have a magic bullet here. A solution to the problem that could potentially end humanity. Surely no one in their right mind could be against that, right? Exactly. No one in their right mind.
The Abbott “government” have proven time and time again that they are NOT in their right minds. Far from it. In fact they are actively opposed to wind farms.
And why? Because they don’t like the way they look.
Because that’s an entirely legitimate reason to doom the entire world to destruction. Aesthetics.
Now I personally don’t have a problem with how wind farms look. I like them. All sleek and bright, they look like some pristine vision of a utopia where mankind has learned to live in harmony with the environment. To me they look like hope.
But even if they didn’t, I wouldn’t have a problem with it. If they were ugly as sin itself, I wouldn’t want them gone. If every arm on those windmills was a 40 meter high erect penis, just some tumescent cock, veined like a shillelagh, throbbing and spurting as they idly turned in the wind, I wouldn’t have a problem. Because if those dicks were what stood between having a world to live in and not, then rev up those cocks. It’s much, much prettier than the alternative.
It’s all about the bigger picture. The long game.
Which brings me back to Don Quixote. What we have here is a prime minister who is quite literally, quixotic. He is, in a very real sense, tilting at windmills. So mired in the grip of his own fantasies that he has lost sight of reality.
For 400 years Don Quixote has been a label for someone who has taken leave of their senses. Someone who has become so lost in the pursuit of their own gains that they have become insane. A term for someone engaged in a “vain effort against confabulated adversaries for a vain goal”.
The tale of Don Quixote is equal parts dark comedy and tragedy, a cautionary tale of the perils of suspending rational discourse in the pursuit of personal ideology. It was never meant to be an instructional playbook in how a 21st century government can put their fingers in their ears and ignore the fate of the world in their own pursuit of mammon, lost, as it were, in La Mancha.
“I don’t see how you could be righting wrongs…because you’ve turned me from right to wrong, leaving me with a broken leg.”