Daniel B. Markind, Esq.
Weir and Partners, LLP
Dan Markind reflects on the answers he posed to some philosophical questions he asked here about the challenges of energy development.
I want to thank so many of you for the interesting and insightful comments in response to my prior piece on religious and philosophical underpinnings relating to energy policy. I’ll summarize some of them here and add personal perspective.
The questions I raised related to energy policy, but this election shows they can be applied to most aspects of 2016 American life. In my last post to those on the normal list, I called this election a “train wreck” in which both parties were in conflict as much with themselves as the other party. Unless you live in one of the battleground states, as I do, and have been subject to the full force of the ugliness these last few weeks, you can’t truly appreciate how revolting this has been. Game 7 of the World Series was practically unwatchable because of the disgusting campaign ads airing after each half-inning.
Judging by our Presidential political discourse, we’ve completely lost the ability to talk to each other. Instead we just hurl insults. Whoever wins the Presidency may find that he or she will be so compromised by the campaign that the new President will be crippled from Day 1.
Just ten blocks from my office, the Founding Fathers (and there were no Mothers unfortunately) met in 1776 and 1787, talked through incredibly difficult issues, hated each other on certain things (no safe spaces there) but nonetheless conceived the foundations of our great Nation. This was even as they themselves were unwilling or unable to live up to the lofty language they provided.
These were men who both revered yet feared religion, making sure to include references to “Divine Providence” in the Declaration of Independence yet also including the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting the establishment of a State Religion. They made no secret, however, of the fact that they used as their foundation the Judeo/Christian Ethic.
Their achievement, which has lasted nearly 250 years, was to take one religious creed (Christianity), with a clear dogma, add another religious creed (Judaism) without such dogma, synthesize their principles and create guiding laws and precepts that allow all the peoples of the world to try to live together. Now we are trying to layer on a third religion, Islam, which is not Western in orientation and started without substantial dogma yet soon split into a schism (Sunni/Shia) so deep it has impacted every development of the religion over 1,300 years. This is not any easy task, but if anyone can do it I bet on us.
Returning from the philosophical to the practical regarding energy policy, the overriding concept that appears in all of the responses I received is that of “Stewardship of the Land”. As one person mentioned, it reminded him of “Stewardship Week” that many churches used to observe but seems to be less frequent over the last few years (why?). Another reader, the son of two Protestant ministers, mentioned the exact same phrase of “stewardship”, stating that the term is widely used in both the Old and New Testaments yet is poorly understood in the 21st Century.
One person felt that the argument really was with history itself. In his words “(h)umankind has spent thousands of years seeking to counteract and adapt to the indifference and cruelty of nature’s forces. It was only with the production and harnessing of hydrocarbons at industrial scales within the past two centuries that mankind has been able to achieve controls that have allowed for its prosperity and advancement in many fields such as medicine, transportation, and housing to name a few. We can’t have constructive conversations or ask the right questions if energy itself (an underlying premise) is somehow perceived as villainous.”
Finally, I’ll add this from one person who stated clearly that her view is based on her deep and abiding faith in her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She believes that the choice we have is “letting the blessings God has given us (in this case, natural resources) free us (energy independence) or enslave us (energy dependence that cannot be sustained over time).”
Perhaps most disappointing has been the lack of responses from those in the environmental or “green” movements. It is true that most people who get my posts are involved in the energy industry, but there are enough “greens” (and elected officials at all levels who support them) that I would hope they engage. We can’t possibly make the best decisions for our society if we don’t hear from people reflecting these views.
The same goes for all of the issues facing our country in late 2016. Be it energy policy, race relations, the status of our infrastructure or stagnant wage growth, we need people of all views to converse – and listen. Too much of our country appears locked into predetermined positions on any subject that border on religious truisms. We would do well to remember that religion exists on a narrow plain between faith, hope and comfort on one hand, and relentless mind control on the other.
The same mental techniques that cause people to go out of their way to provide hope and comfort to their fellow humans in times of need also cause others to strap on suicide vests and blow up restaurants. Our tradition is entirely different. We have used religion as an anchor and a guide, a starting point for discussion and not an end. Unless people are willing to hear each other out and recognize that it’s no sin to change one’s mind or respect different opinions, we will go nowhere, in energy policy, tax policy, university classrooms or anywhere else.
Tomorrow, our country goes to the polls. Equally as important is what happens the day after. I submit both major political parties have abrogated their responsibility to the body politic, and this is likely to continue after the election. Therefore, it will be up to us – individual citizens – to reorient the country and start moving it forward again. We can do great service by lowering the temperature, recognizing our own individual fallibilities, returning to our nation’s religious and philosophical roots and talking to each other with respect and dignity.
Editor’s Note: I titled Dan’s original article as “A Philosophical Reflection on Energy Development.” For this Part II, I changed “perspective” to “reflection” for obvious reasons. Let me also say again Dan has it about right as far as I’m concerned. I encourage people who disagree with our view to comment on this site and occasionally get respectful comments from at least one such person, which is great. More often, though, I get vulgar rage in the way of responses from the other side. I still try to publish them after editing out the trash, but it would helpful to get more thoughtful opposition and less in the way of attempts to bully away any disagreement with their own views.