More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
If you recall (or have the ambition to click on) my last post, I mused on what I consider to be both a worldwide and national depression. Yep, the lot of us from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe have fallen, and continue to fall, into a deep funk. Especially we here in the United States. Which is ironic considering we’re the richest, most comfortable, most well-fed people on Earth.
If you’d somehow found yourself transported back in time, say to the early years of the 20th Century and told a person alive at the time, a Brit for instance, that there’d be a country more than a hundred years hence, the vast majority of citizens of which have cars, refrigerators, air conditioning, telephones and personal computers in their pockets, machines that quickly and efficiently wash and dry their clothes, that clean their floors, that scrub their dishes, that person would immediately envision a grinning, blissful people.
But we’re not. Far from it.
Perhaps it’s written into our DNA that we’re more comfortable facing dire situations than not, that peril makes us feel alive. That when most of our physical problems and the need to labor at everyday chores have been eliminated, we must thrash about and look for other, often imagined, menaces and struggles.
Then again, the lot of us face the twin perils of global environmental catastrophe and nuclear holocaust. We’re the first species in the history of the world, willingly, blindly, blithely, to set into motion our own collective demise.
But the vast majority of us don’t think about our Homo sapiens gang going kaput, en masse. There’s nothing puzzling about that. For one thing, the idea that we can rub out some eight billion of ourselves before the next time my beloved Chicago Cubs win a World Series is so monumentally alarming that we naturally pretend it can’t be so. If we really thought about how close humanity is to extinction, by our own hand, we’d be lining up to jump off the tallest building of every city and town on the planet. For another thing, the mechanisms by which this speeding train is heading toward catastrophe are complex and not well-understood even by many of the smartest among us.
Who, after all, truly understands what Daniel Ellsberg calls “the doomsday machine”? That’s the hair-trigger system by which the nuclear-armed powers operate, with the slightest miscalculation, rounding error, mentally unstable rogue player, or geopolitical misunderstanding leading to a massive exchange of megatonnage. And, for that matter, think of how easily fossil fuel industry flacks have sown misinformation about human-caused climate change over the last half century.
It’s not as though the threat is that of a masked intruder, breaking into the house, clunking us over the head, and swiping all our aforementioned gadgets. That’s easy to grasp.
The Earth’s average annual temperature rising by a couple of little degrees leading to mass death is not.
So I don’t think we’re funked out because of climate change or H-bombs.
Take a Sunday drive through Trump country and you’ll know that the overwhelming plurality of citizens therein aren’t within a light-year of actually getting how close we are to sea-level rise, weather-weirding, hemisphere-wide storms, or thousands of mushroom clouds sprouting within the next half hour. Yet, they, too, are as depressed as any Bloomingtonian who’s hip to climate change or the threat of the Bomb.
Some 74,216,154 Americans voted for the incumbent president during the last national election. By doing so, they demonstrated either their agreement with him that climate change is the bunk and that we need more, more, more thermonuclear weapons or their ignorance of his stances on those topics, which is just as bad.
Anyway, they’re as unhappy as environmentalists and/or peaceniks.
We’re all unhappy, for different reasons, to be sure, but in the long run it doesn’t matter what has made us unhappy. We all think the whole race/nation/world is hurtling headlong into oblivion.
Fox News tells us transsexuals, Black Lives Matter folks, lesbians and gays, women who seek abortions, atheists and agnostics, Democrats, socialists, communists, losers pathologically envious of billionaires, and aging hippies leftover from the hated ’60s are destroying this holy land. And Fox News’ holy land is the United States of America, circa no year whatsoever, because the nation that they long for never, ever existed.
NPR tells us domestic violence is epidemic, much of the western US is ablaze, the cops are habitually shooting young black men to death, corporate leaders are raping and pillaging the globe, the Republicans are in the pocket of coal and oil companies.
Don’t get me wrong; I buy into all the above NPR viewpoints to one extent or another. Nevertheless, it’s the fixation on the horrible that’s troubling me. And NPR sure knows how to fixate.
The thing is, humans also have loved, aided, and comforted each other since Homo erectus as well. There never has been a time when humans have not killed each other or loved each other. The optimist in me believes we’ve opened our hearts to each other far more than we’ve sunk daggers or fired bullets into each other.
The fact that we haven’t blown ourselves to smithereens as of yet means we’ve made one or two good decisions of late.
But the news is all bad, seemingly more bad than ever. We must want it that way, inasmuch as corporate media news isn’t at all about some vision of Truth, but about clicks and viewers and subscribers.
So, I’m taking a well-deserved, therapeutic, long break from the news. As Boris, the character in Woody Allen’s Whatever Works said:
My father committed suicide because the morning newspapers depressed him. And could you blame him? With the horror and corruption and AIDS and global warming and terrorism and the family values morons and the gun morons. “The horror,” Kurtz said at the end of Heart of Darkness, “the horror.” Lucky Kurtz didn’t have the Times delivered in the jungle. Ugh! Then he’d see some horror.
I’ve had it with the news for the time being. I don’t want to kill myself.