Sunday, August 05, 2018 3:32 PM
Things Change—And Stay That Way (2018Aug05)
New tools used to be the goal, not the threat. Population used to be the goal, not the threat. All-you-can-eat used to be the goal, not the threat.
We used to herald new inventions—concrete, steel, steam, civil engineering, cars & lightbulbs—now, we fear the AI singularity, the Higgs-Boson reaction, the super-flu, the stealth-nuke, the EMP apocalypse—and, what’s more, we find our old inventions are toxic—and we must restrain ourselves, or choke on our own waste.
We have already crossed the red-lines of prevention for global climate disruption. Now, we need to begin to ameliorate the damage and cut back our carbon emissions even more harshly than we would have had to, decades ago. Yet the wealthy and empowered continue to neglect this threat—because its solution requires not competition, but cooperation.
We used to treasure a bumper-crop of babies. Past nations would often call upon its females to reproduce profusely, for the good of the country. (And if that isn’t chauvinist enough, just remember that male children were the hoped-for result—to replace all the young men lost in some recent war, usually.) In a sense, I’d call the Baby Boom of post-WWII America the most prolific effusion of spontaneous nesting, post-war, the world has ever seen.
Now, we have an inflated global population that can only be sustained by the global economic machine that makes it possible. As feral human tribes, humans required acres of land per person for a sustainable diet. Later agricultural techniques would lower that land-per-person ratio. Only modern agricultural technologies and powered systems of transportation and storage make it possible for huge metro-areas to concentrate people by the millions.
If there were a catastrophic interruption of the global economic machine—say a war, perhaps—it would be game over for all the city people. Without a regular influx of food and water—without waste removal—even if the electricity stayed on and the elevators kept working—it wouldn’t matter.
But don’t worry—I’m not advocating population-control—only crazy people think they can do stuff like that. What I’m saying is, the global economic machine needs to be carefully adjusted.
We obviously need major changes in our social structure, now that we are all connected on the internet. Controlling access to the internet is self-limiting, because people’s productivity corresponds to their internet access.
But an open internet is an invitation to disaster—bad actors can tear the whole thing down, if not countervened by ‘good’ actors. I use the word ‘good’ advisedly.
Humans evolved with an instinct to eat as much as we can—because food used to be harder to get to. There’s even an interesting book or two about how early civilizations had different staples, which influenced their development based on their amounts-of-protein and the amount-of-work-to-get-the-food. Early mankind lived a video game called Get The Food. We never had full tanks, back then—except on rare occasions.
We still have holidays. We still try to celebrate by consuming with gusto—but it’s not the same, if a full belly is our nominal status 24-7-52. Human ingenuity has gotten itself tangled up with human nature. Our urges and instincts come from a very different lifestyle—long, long ago. For just one or two centuries, we’ve been playing with our new toys.
Uranium, Petroleum, Plastics, Combustion, and Explosives—they comprise our modern world, with all its blessings and miracles. While we hypnotize ourselves with I-Pads, I think we are avoiding facing the real issue.
We don’t need to hunt anymore. We don’t need to fight anymore. We don’t need to get sick anymore, practically (i.e., relatively). Our lives got soft. It’s good—I’m not knocking it. In fact, as a disabled person, I have a vested interest in a soft, secure civilization.
We need to be raised to function in our society. That involves a lot of teaching by example and correction—we need to learn to wait for the walk light, learn not to lick the sidewalk gum, learn to look at a tiger in a cage at the zoo, instead of running for our lives.
All of this goes against our instincts. So when people say ‘you can’t change human nature’—I don’t buy it. That’s all society does—constrain instinct. And it is long past time society recognized the present threat—we cannot throw out community, just because the wealthy spit out words like socialism or communism.
It wasn’t just our democratic government that held capitalism in check—it had behind it a sense of community. That bond came of the need to work together—which characterized all successful settlements in history. Go back far enough and there’s a point in history where being outcast from a community was virtually a death sentence. Even today, being unpopular in one’s community can be very uncomfortable, even if you don’t know most of them.
The hyper-capitalist fascism we face today is illustrated by two things: (1) Trump’s recent Intolerance Policy that kidnapped children without even keeping lists of contact info—and—(2) Trump’s quote from the other day—that “if gas costs more—people will drive less—and that will be safer”.
If we’re electing people who’ll just sit in Congress and do nothing—while that level of insanity is perpetrated—mustn’t we be electing the wrong people? This era has taken the community out of politics and turned the whole thing into a game show. It has placed politics at a remove from our actual lives. People are being pandered to, with hate speech, and they are lapping it up. What gives?
There’s a lot of atheists out there—I’ve been one since I was eleven. I think it is important to recognize the sense of community and morality that religion helped to channel—it strengthened communities. If we no longer concern ourselves with the religious minutia, and the repressive authoritarianism and misogyny, we should still seek to maintain that communal bond—because it is what makes normal the lack of anarchy.
Rule-breakers, like our current Prez, invite the anarchy. All the quick-buck grabbers are inviting the anarchy. We Americans are so fixed on our freedom—what the hell’s it worth, if it’s the freedom of falling off a cliff? Empathy and community are the only bedrock for society—when money ceases to be a part of that balance, and becomes opposed to it—money becomes a threat. We all used to want the money. Now the people with all the money are trying to kill us all—without meaning to, of course. But does that matter?