Each day the headlines shout a new story: Hong Kong, Epstein, Trade War, El Paso…
The stock market leaps or plunges, a heat wave wilts half of Europe or the US. Our attentions are yanked this way and that, each event instantly transmitted across the globe and magnified in importance. At the same time each event is instantly diminished, dwarfed by the next super-duper life-changing event.
And life goes on in its mundane manner, people talk and shop, they eat and make love and die.
We all live, not in a Yellow Submarine, but rather in a vast collective schizophrenia factory, in which each of us, in more or less everything we do, make our offering to the god of Thanatos, though most of us are blissfully unaware of it. We flick on our computer and go on-line. It seems effortless, and some make the argument that it is so much more efficient, more “ecological” as we don’t need to chop down trees to make paper to stick in an envelope to put in a box to go in a truck to go in a plane back to a truck to your front door. Nope, more or less at the speed of light you can have the world’s best library at your finger tips. And indeed you can, and like most human bookkeeping the real bill is kept well out of sight.
The real bill for our convenience is that we are – well, probably it is already past tense, but we can’t see or admit that – that we have already destroyed the little planet on which we live.
The above map indicates places in the world under severe water supply stress, places which in a few years will either have to magically find some other water source, or be abandoned. There will be no magic. One will note that many of these areas are among the most densely populated in the world (India, parts of China, the US southwest, parts of Europe.) Lack of water also equals lack of food. Great migrations will occur as those living there are forced to leave, or die from famine. This has already birthed serious political forces, giving rise to authoritarian regimes to fend off immigrants. In the coming decade this will become far more severe, and there will be a mass human die-off (to join the other mass extinction of other living creatures already well in process), of billions of people.
What we humans do, everyday, is what is responsible for this drastic change in the world. It is our mix of religions, born in other times, which prompts us to reproduce, adding to the biological base-line which does so anyway, but religion socially sanctions it, even in the face of the obvious evidence of our over-populating the globe. There are, plain and simple, way too many of us.
It is our intellectual wizardry which birthed science and its technological off-shoots, which has given us powers far in excess of our ethical capacities. We are profoundly clever, but not wise.
And then our more recent religion of mercantilism and capitalism, which requires a belief in endless growth, and to which most humans these days subscribe. It is as irrational as other belief systems, requiring a cinematic suspension of disbelief. A virgin birth? People with wings? Sacred cows?
While powered by science which produces technological wonders, capitalism is as irrational as the metaphysical beliefs which governed humans earlier (and in many parts of the world, still do). Detached from an intimate connection with the real world – the one of the earth and the biological processes of life and death in its cycles – our modern world has ravaged its own soil; it digs, extracts, and destroys the given world, taking its raw materials and making of them new elements, spewing these heedlessly about, poisoning the vast oceans and skies with toxins. A great extinction, this one provoked by human actions, is already well under way. We are drowning the world in the poisons of our cleverness. Along with most mammalian species and many others biological organisms, we will also be among its victims.
Uniquely, we can say we are responsible, for it is what we have done, collectively, over our long history (but a blip in deep geological time or even biological time), that has brought this upon us. In the west the Greeks long ago gave this a name: hubris.
Of course, humans being what they are, we always look for a scapegoat, someone else to blame. It is those people who over-produce, it is those people who are different, who are to blame. It is those people who look different, speak a different language, have different beliefs – they are to blame.
America is 4.4 % of the world’s human population; it occupies 7% of the world’s landmass. And its society consumes 25% of the world’s resources. It doesn’t do this out of some mystical capacity for innovation and invention and such: it does it by having, since the end of World War Two, a monopoly control over the global economy through economic extortion and blackmail in having a strangle-hold on trade through mechanisms which have made the US dollar the de facto means of exchange. It has used this to force others to follow its dictates, and where the raw economic force does not produce submission, the USA maintains the largest, by far, military, with which it enforces America’s political diktats with violence.
The truth is we are all to blame – some surely more than others, with Americans and Europeans especially, owing to their history, but finally it is all of us. I suspect it was evolutionarily fated, and that in many other places in our universe the same experiment has been replicated and arrived at the same conclusion.
Consciousness coupled to the basic requisites of evolutionary survival would always arrive in the same place. We live, today, in a world which we are told is normal, the only possible world, and yet which is, with more or less every act we do – eating food brought from far away, receiving our convenient Amazon delivery, putting the garbage out in a plastic bag, driving here or there, turning on the light, or reading this – committing collective suicide.