Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Oh Why Did I Buy this Damned Book, Why?
This is what I took in over a BLT today. See if you recognize yourself in any of it.
Clive Hamilton, in his 'Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change' describes the dark relief that comes from accepting that 'catastrophic climate change is now virtually certain.' This obliteration of our 'false hopes' requires not only intellectual knowledge but emotional knowledge, which requires us to accept that those we love, including our children, are almost certainly doomed to insecurity, misery, and suffering within a few decades, if not a few years, is much harder to acquire. To emotionally accept the impeding disaster, to attain the visceral understanding that the power elite will not respond rationally to the devastation of the ecosystem, is as difficult to accept as our own mortality.
The crisis before us is the culmination of a 500-year global rampage of conquering, plundering, exploiting, and polluting the earth - as well as killing by Europeans and Euro-Americans of the indigenous communities that stood in their way. The technical and scientific forces that created unparalleled luxury and unrivaled military and economic power for a small, global elite are the forces that now doom us. Ceaseless economic expansion and exploitation has become a death sentence. But even as our economic and environmental systems unravel - thirteen of the fourteen warmest years since weather record-keeping began over a century ago have occurred in the opening years of the twenty-first century - we lack the emotional and intellectual creativity to shut down the engine of global capitalism.
Anthropologists, including Joseph Tainter in 'The Collapse of Complex Societies,' Charles Redman in 'Human Impact on Ancient Environments,' and Ronald Wright in 'A Short History of Progress,' have laid out the familiar patterns that lead to the breakdown of complex societies, which usually collapse not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. 'One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,' Reinhold Niebuhr wrote.
The last days of any civilization, when populations are averting their eyes from the unpleasant realities before them, become carnivals of hedonism and folly. Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity assume political control. Today charlatans and hucksters hold forth on the airwaves, and intellectuals are ridiculed. Force and militarism, with their hypermasculine ethic, are celebrated. And mania for hope requires the silencing of any truth that is not childishly optimistic.
...Our major preoccupation is pleasure. Margaret Atwood, in her dystopian novel 'Oryx and Crake,' observes that as a species 'we're doomed by hope.' The mantra is to be positive, to be happy. This mania for optimism - for happiness - leads to fantasy being mistaken for reality. Reality is dismissed when it is unpleasant.
'We hardly dare face our bewilderment, because our ambiguous experience is so pleasantly iridescent, and the solace of belief in contrived reality is so thoroughly real.' Daniel Boorstin writes in 'The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America.' 'We have become eager accessories in the great hoaxes of the age. These are hoaxes we play on ourselves.'